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Libraries Of Love Enriching Lives In Uganda

Libraries of Love Enriching Lives in Uganda with Donated Books

Libraries of Love, a nongovernmental organization based in Austin, Texas, continues to expand its work with public schools in Uganda, opening four libraries this summer and establishing a support group of Ugandan school librarians.

"Many people send items to Uganda, but very few bring them here so that we can meet face-to-face, and begin to know the donors. Fewer still take the time to train us as to how to use the gifts, and how to become proficient with them," the Mengo senior school PTA president said at the grand opening of Mengo Laurel Library in Kampala in June.

"The library is truly a gift that gives hope and not just a gift that will get consumed," the PTA president added.

Mengo Laurel Library is one of six libraries that have been provided for public schools in Uganda since 2004. Libraries of Love hired a Ugandan teacher, Henry Ketandwe, to act as coordinator of the libraries, which serve more than 9,000 students. He recently held the first librarians' meeting, sharing successes and talking about how to make improvements.

The nonprofit group ships books prepared with cards for library checkout to Uganda each January. In 2007, about 20,700 books were shipped.

In June, 19 volunteers from Texas, Kansas and Illinois, including three Libraries of Love board members, traveled to Uganda to provide libraries for two schools in Kampala, and two in Mbale. The volunteers built bookshelves; arranged books in correct library order; set up computers; decorated; and trained students, teachers, and administration in how to use their library to its fullest potential.

At a meeting with the administration and staff of the first Library of Love at Namirembe Infant School in Kampala, Jane Semugoma, the head of the school, said students' scores have risen each year in reading and writing since the library was built in 2005. She attributed the success to the students having access to reading materials and various types of writing.

Books also are touching the lives of extended families. A mother and son smiled widely as the mother spoke with volunteers about the books her son brings home to read to her. Another student standing in front of her small mud home, which she shares with nine siblings and her mother, said her favorite book in the library is Good Luck - Bad Luck. When asked what her good luck is, she said, "Learning." She said she does not have any bad luck.

Each summer, volunteers and board members visit all the libraries. After the volunteers return to the United States, Libraries of Love Executive Director Trudy Marshall stays behind to spend time in each library working with the students and librarians as they learn the process of borrowing and returning books. She also works with teachers in coordinating curriculum with library resources.

Libraries of Love started as a way for students at the elementary school where Marshall is head librarian to reach out to children their age in Uganda. In 2008, the nonprofit plans to nearly double its student reach by providing libraries to two schools in Mbale. Mbale Secondary School and North Road School have a combined enrollment of about 7,000 students.

"It has been amazing to watch this school project grow into a year-round effort supported by the whole community," Marshall said. "The children in Uganda are our inspiration. It is a privilege to be able to give to those who have so little, but deserve so much."


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