A Visit to the Library (Moklobong wa dibuka)

As soon as I got to my new village, I wanted to visit the Library.  For those who don’t know me, I love libraries.  My wonderful mother took me and my siblings to libraries in every town in which we lived.  In Montrose, I served on the Library District Board of Trustees and was its President until 2006 when I resigned to become the District’s Development Officer to raise money for various efforts, including construction of the Naturita Public Library.  Most recently, I was President of Friends of the Ridgway Public Library.

On my third day on the job, I asked Ausi Stella if we could see the library.  So, after a meeting of the District Health Management Team about their efforts to increase HIV testing, we headed across the street to the Public Library.  We met Colin Keeditse, the Senior Library Officer and he led us on a tour.  First, he showed us the bookmobile, which has sat unused for three years, due to no funds to operate it.  Originally, it provided internet access, books, and library programs to outlying villages in the District.  Back inside, he showed me the public computers (they were provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but only two are functioning now), and the periodical and book collections (they’re in need of some weeding and enlivening), The newspapers are current and receive a lot of use.

The public computers

There were many people at the Library, mostly studying or meeting.  My NGO has a partnership with the Library to offer toddler play groups.  The Library provides the venue and my NGO provides personnel, food, and materials.  The toddlers learn early literacy skills, hygiene, and colors.  They can’t offer the play groups at this Library, because it requires a separate room which they don’t have.  Colin said that lack of space and funding are his biggest challenges.

The children’s area

The Library is funded by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, but Colin explained that some of the villages operate “Village Reading Rooms” that are funded by their Village Development Committees.  I’m eager to visit one.  He said that they are “community libraries” and some of them have playgrounds and others offer classes, such as traditional cooking and computer skills.

So much of this visit reminded me of my first visit to the Naturita Public Library…the lack of space, the outdated collection, the eager but overtaxed staff…  I’ve got many people to talk with and much research to conduct, but I’m hoping that I can spend a few hours a week on resource mobilization for the Library.  My first step is to get a library card.  Colin gave me a form to fill out, and I need to present it and three passport photos, and then I can get a card to check out two items for two weeks.  I’m hoping they have some Setswana children’s books so I can work on my language skills.