Equitable Access for All

When I considered the question, “Should libraries in economically developing nations rely on donations and weeded books from more economically developed nations?”, I immediately thought of Chimamanda Adichie’s (2009) TED talk where she describes growing up in Nigeria reading stories from Europe or North America about children who eat apples and always talk about the weather.  Her talk made me question the value of sending weeded books from our school libraries to Africa, as was the practice for many years in our district.  Boxes of discarded books were sent to the Afretech Aid Society (2013) without consideration of their appropriateness.  Instead of receiving boxes of old books, shouldn’t children in developing nations have access to current technology?

In researching the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) website, I discovered the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Libraries are in a unique position to be able to have an impact on all of these goals in developing countries around the world.


Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of IFLA – CC BY 4.0

After searching the Library Map of the World link, I found one of the SDG stories that intrigued me.  Coding for Kids in Libraries in Romania was a pilot project set up in 2017 to develop the coding skills of 450 Romanian children.  The project focused on using public libraries to help highschool students learn coding.  The results were impressive: “a significant improvement in kids’ skills, a decrease of time they spend on internet as consumers of entertainment and an increase of time they spend for educational purposes, librarians are more confident in working with youth and, due to better communication, services they offer to kids are more diverse” (Progress Foundation, 2017).  These children were learning valuable skills that would help them get jobs in the future.

Another story that highlights the use of mobile devices is the Lubuto Literacy Partners (LLP) of Zambia that developed curriculum materials that were accessed on mobile devices to teach children to read in one of the 7 major languages.  The youth participants used the low-cost, durable One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops that were available in the Lubuto libraries to learn to read in their mother tongue.  This initiative had profound impacts on teaching literacy to vulnerable children and youth (Meyers, 2016).

Both stories highlight how ensuring children from economically developing nations have equitable access to technology benefits their societies in many ways.  Children can learn new ICT skills as well as build stronger ties to their own communities.  Sending our used books to other countries, although a noble intention, does not appear to meet the needs of developing nations; rather technology, accessed through libraries, has a far greater and more meaningful impact on people’s lives.

Adichie, C.N. (2009, July). The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Afretech Aid Society. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.afretech.org/

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/

Meyers, J. K. (June 10, 2016). LubutoLiteracy: Use of Digital Technology to Teach Reading in Zambia. Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/node/10521

Progress Foundation. (August 19, 2017). Coding for Kids in Libraries.  Retrieved from https://librarymap.ifla.org/stories/Romania/CODING-FOR-KIDS-IN-LIBRARIES/20

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