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Digital Libraries In Public Spaces –Addressing Community Needs
Joan Mwachi-Amolo

Last modified: 2016-06-13


Library service in Kenya is changing. Addressing evolving community needs has rapidly led to adoption of new formats. Technology plays a major role in providing instant access to information. Librarians are moving away from their desks to engage patrons in activities that suit specific local communities. Librarians are addressing development agenda by actively reaching out to communities, brining them on board mobile learning by integrating traditional librarianship with mobile platforms.

For the past five years Worldreader has worked to deliver the largest culturally relevant library, currently at 31,901 digital titles, to the developing world. E-readers are cost effective while mobile phones are commonly found, even in rural households.1

E-reading programmes reach over 127,865 families and patrons in Worldreader’s school and library2 programs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, Ghana. Information on health, agriculture, education, other subjects, reading for pleasure, reaches as far as mobile phones can go. Since 2010, Worldreader has reached 20 million people on the mobile phone App.

E-readers are an-easy-to use device, increasingly available inexpensively, downloading books using either 3G technology or Wifi. The long battery life, ruggedness of the device, ability to charge using solar power makes it compelling technology to adopt, even in harsher environments.

Building on school-based programs that have continued to show significant positive impact on children’s reading skills and literacy acquisition in both English and local languages,3 Worldreader piloted Project LEAP (Libraries, E-reading, Activities, Partnership), March to December 2014. Funding was by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, implementation by Worldreader and Kenya National Library Services.

The LEAP pilot equipped eight libraries in Kenya with 250 e-readers creating immediate supply of 50,000 books of varying genres, suitable for patrons of all ages. The pilot attempted to answer questions such as how libraries adopt services and spaces to meet patron needs.

From the pilot’s learning, Worldreader in partnership with Kenya National Library Services, is scaling LEAP across KNLS’s network of 61 libraries.

This presentation will discuss the potential for digital reading programmes in communities through libraries.





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