Thursday, April 21, 2011

SLA Presentation: Lubuto Library Project

Lubuto is  a Bemba ( a language of Zambia) word meaning enlightenment, knowledge or light. To celebrate International Special Libraries Day, Jane McKinney Meyers spoke to the New York City Chapter of SLA  at  the Baruch College library about her organization, founded in 2001.Lubuto Library Project, is dedicated to creating libraries in Africa and providing a model to help vulnerable children throughout the world. 

Jane is a professional librarian who spent many years working in Malawi and in Zambia. In Malawi, she developed research libraries for the Ministry of Agriculture in the 1980's. During the 1990's, she worked in Zambia developing projects for the American Library and Johns Hopkins University. In Zambia, she worked with  street children through services  provided by Fountain of Hope, a drop in center in Lusaka, the nation's capital. Her work with Fountain of Hope grew into the Lubuto Library Project.

The Lubuto Library Project provides more than books and a place to read. It provides programs that include: performing and visual arts; literacy; read-aloud; storytelling; motivational mentoring; One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops; HIV/AIDS and Health and environment.  All these programs are essential to improve the lives of street children in Zambia,where there is a high rate of orphans under the age of 14. .

Lubuto relies on African customs, not western education, so the children can learn through oral tradition. To reinforce African culture, Lubuto libraries are built in the local style of round buildings with conical thatched roofs. Each library(so far there are two) consists of three buildings: insaka(central village meeting place); arts and activities center and the reading room. Insaka is used for meetings and performing arts. In the arts and activities building, children can describe their lives through visual arts. 

The reading room houses a core collection in English, which is the official language of Zambia. This 4,000 volume core collection has been developed by children's library specialists and cataloged in the U.S. to be shelf ready in Zambia. Local language books are added.  One of the Lubuto objectives is to rescue out of print indigenous language children's books. Some of these books have been found in the  Library of Congress. Staff are volunteers trained in library management and services which encompass the psychosocial needs of the children. These reading rooms serve as more than an educational space but also a safe haven for children and teenagers.

Lubuto Library Project is an evolving entity based on community feedback, hoping to scale to at least 100 libraries in Zambia. A TV channel for Zambia is planned to tell stories and read aloud. There is continuous staff training, collection development and updating arising as new needs are discovered. Please visit to learn more about this fascinating organization. There is also a youtube channel. Any donations  through the website will be greatly appreciated.