With Love from Lesotho Library Project

  • Education
  • Youth
  • Women & Gender
  • Lesotho
This project is led by Zoe Trager, a Volunteer from Washington

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With Love From Lesotho Library Project is a project designed by my community, for the greater community with the goal to create a library space that empowers students and teachers, as well as youth and adults outside of the school community, to develop their literacy skills, support a lifelong commitment to reading and learning, and interact with resources to help further their goals. The project has four components in order to reach this goal. First is to build shelves, tile the floor, paint, and install burglar bars and have all checked by a contractor in the community. Second is to establish a system for running the library based on the guidelines identified by the African Library Project. Once the library is finished, a library opening event will be held to bring the community together, celebrate everyone’s hard work and dedication to the project, introduce them to how the library works and runs so they feel welcomed into the space and are aware of what is has to offer, and raise funds to pay a community member to serve as a librarian. The final and most important phase is to improve literacy, access to knowledge, and confidence in youth, especially young girls, through use of the library. In many places in Lesotho, including in my community, there are not enough safe spaces for girls to gather after school where they can work on schoolwork, study, or even just relax on their own or with friends. After school, girls in my community are expected to walk home so that they are not out alone late, and help their families with housework once home. With a completed library space that was safe and inviting, the girls would be able to stay after school to finish their work and study, and families would be reassured that they had a safe place to do so. Girls aged 15-24 the most vulnerable population in Lesotho, and giving these girls a safe place to be will limit their opportunities to engage in risky behaviors or get caught in an unsafe space, instead giving them opportunities to learn and expand their knowledge of opportunities that await them outside of a traditional role as a woman in the home. This library will fill the need in the community for increased literacy by supplying resources that will engage the community in learning, and work to combat the communities greatest challenges of student dropout rates and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lesotho.

My community and the surrounding villages have been the driving force behind the development and progress on the library project. Teachers along with community members were instrumental in the planning process from the beginning, and designated the deputy principal as the project leader. This team designated a classroom to be converted into a library, and transformed the space into an open room with shelves along the walls on one side, and desks and tables on the other side. The community, with support from a previous volunteer, applied for books from the African Library Project, which were received in the fall of last year. A neighboring school donated another 15 boxes of books, which were added to the library collection in May. The books sit upon shelves made from wood donated from my village as well as nearby villages, where most of the students come from. Men in the community built the shelves, and they did their best with the resources they had gathered together, including planks from old doors and other scrap wood that has not held up under the weight of the books. Most recently, to fix several broken windows in the library building, the school had a cultural day fundraising event to raise money to buy new windowpanes, which were then installed by a parent of two learners. The community is dedicated to the completion of the project, and there are many hands available to help get the library finished and running.

The library at the primary school will be sustained with physical maintenance completed by community members, routine checking and organizing of stock by the library committee, and library operation maintained by a community-appointed librarian. There are a few key community members who also hold positions on the school board or within the community, who have been instrumental in the development of the library. They will be responsible for routine maintenance and support of the library. Just last week the keys would not work to open the library door, and they came to support in finding another key and getting the door open. The library committee is made up of the project manager, two teachers, two community members, and four students. These people will be trained on how to take stock of library books, be responsible for fixing or removing damaged stock, and otherwise keeping the books clean and organized. As students graduate from the primary school and continue their educations at secondary school and beyond, the library committee will train a new group of students to take over. This shared responsibility and dispersal of accountability will help to ensure that the library continues to be used and taken care of for many years to come.

A challenge in our community has been finding a librarian who will take over the position full time, as a teacher is unable to do this and manage a classroom simultaneously, and there is not currently money to pay someone to take on the role. After discussing this extensively with the principal, teachers, the school board, village leaders, and community members, an idea has surfaced to hold a “Library opening event” when the project is complete. We will invite the community to the school, and have the contributors to the project address the audience. The event will give an opportunity for the community to come together and see what they have created, interact with the library, and feel empowered to use the space to help them accomplish their goals. This event will have a fundraising component, and through it we hope to find a few individuals who would be interested in supporting the library in the role as librarian, and use the funds raised to provide small payments to them for fulfilling the role. For the long-term position of librarian, the community will either need someone to volunteer, or they will determine a way to raise funds to pay for the librarian position. This can be done through school fundraisers or through selling the cabbage and spinach that grows in the school’s garden. The school library committee will be responsible for library maintenance including sweeping to keep the floors clean and books from getting dusty. Burglar bars will be installed for security, and this along with the repaired windows will keep any moisture out, helping to keep the shelves and books in good condition for many years.Higher quality materials from the start will help to make this project sustainable.

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