|"The Lubuto Library Project, Sharing Books and Hope with Africa's Most Vulnerable Youth," hosted by Baruch College’s Digital Media Collection.|
Two things were accomplished when the Lubuto Library Project founder and president, Jane Kinney Meyers, (SLA-DC) visited with New York Chapter members on May 14—she was able to thank members for supporting the project and New York members were able to learn more about the libraries and their programs being built and operated for vulnerable street children and youth in Zambia.
In recent years, proceeds from the SLA-NY Global Outreach Committee's raffles have been contributed to the non-profit, incorporated in 2005. In her introduction and throughout her talk, Kinney showed how the skills of special librarians—bringing information, expertise, transparency, accountability and a measurable impact—apply also to some of the "most marginal people on the face of the earth." "Lubuto" in Bemba, a language of Zambia, means knowledge, enlightenment and light. The Lubuto Library Project is showing that a library is one door that is open to all children, she said.
Kinney’s talk began with scenes from the November, 2010, dedication of the second Lubuto Library in Lusaka, Zambia. Construction was financed by Dow Jones & Company. Among the dignitaries attending were the first Republican President of Zambia, Kenneth D. Kaunda, and the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, Mark C. Storella. Kinney said this is the first Lubuto Library built in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Education. The library is operated by the Ngywerere Basic School, located where many street children and youth are found. Kinney said that many of the children and youth, orphaned from AIDS or other events, or young girls who are mothers lack money for school fees and, in the past, have not been welcomed at existing libraries. When she lived in Zambia, she began reading books to street children, through the Fountain of Hope and started a small library there. After returning to the United States, she started the Lubuto Library Project, which led to the construction of the first library, which is operated by the Fountain of Hope, a shelter for boys.
The three buildings of the libraries follow traditional Zambia architecture and have thatched roofs. One building has space for outside gatherings and performances and a sink for washing hands before using a computer; the second holds the 4,000 book collection and also has a reading room with a talking circle, for group storytelling, carrying on the village tradition; the third holds rooms and desks for computer use, literacy, drama and art programs. The computers have been donated by the One Laptop Per Child Program. Kinney spoke of the importance of these outreach efforts in helping the children to express themselves and to build up their confidence. She mentioned that one teen, who led everyone in dancing at the November, 2010, library dedication, had originally been very shy and withdrawn. Some of the artists have been able to sell their work. The Stella Jones Art Gallery in New Orleans will display their work during the upcoming ALA Conference.
Although English is the official language in Zambia, the Lubuto Literacy project, with support from the Zambia Ministry of Education, has teachers and students working together to create programs on the One Laptop Per Child computers using open source software and Etoys that will teach Zambia’s children to read in the country’s seven major languages. This is being funded by an EIFL grant. Another example of a public-private partnership is Lubuto’s work with the Zambia Library Association, to found a Zambian chapter of IBBY, the Zambia Board on Books for Young People (ZBBY). They will work together in future years to promote the creation of illustrated bilingual Zambian children’s books. Some existing Zambian children’s books, long hard to locate, have been digitalized and made available by librarians of the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room of the Library of Congress. This contribution to the preservation of Zambia’s culture has been recognized by many, including Mulenga Kapwepwe, author and playwright, who has been the chair of the Zambian National Arts Council and Minister of Sports, Youth and Child Development in Zambia. She and actor Danny Glover, who was educated as an economist and began acting at age 30 were among those who attended a Lubuto Library fundraiser at the Zambian embassy in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
What’s ahead for the Lubuto Library Project? Continuing the projects and services already mentioned and discussions are underway, with the Zambia Ministry of Education, to build three libraries in the southern province of the country. The possibility of televised reading of stories is being investigated as well. Other African countries have expressed interest in starting projects similar to the Lubuto Library Project. So, this small nonprofit has big plans.
To follow the Lubuto Library Project, visit its website: http://www.lubuto.org