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The Kitengesa Team joins Beyond Access

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Kate Parry writes:

Beyond Access is an initiative of the Gates Foundation, Irex, EIFL and others, which aims to put public and community libraries on the development agenda. Its first major activity was a conference that took place at the beginning of October in Washington DC, preceded by a camp for teams representing twenty libraries from all over the world, from Bhutan to Uzbekhistan.

Uganda was the only country to have two libraries represented, and FAVL's Kitengesa Community Library was one of them. Our team was comprised of Dan Ahimbisibwe, the Kitengesa librarian, Brenda Musasizi, the coordinator of UgCLA (Uganda Community Libraries Association), and Ssenteza Yusuf, our ally in local government (a professional civil servant who was stationed in Masaka for many years and was enormously helpful when we were buying the land for our new library building). The other library was the National Library of Uganda, with which UgCLA works closely, its Treasurer, Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa, being the Director of the NLU.

For those of us who work with libraries, the camp was probably the most instructive part of the event. We had an opportunity to showcase our work in the form of a poster--Kitengesa produced two, actually, one focusing on our Library Scholarship scheme, the other on the work of our Women's Group--and were helped to draw up another as part of a competition for five awards of $10,000 each. The Kitengesa library did not win one, alas, but the National Library of Uganda did, for a project providing health information to young pregnant mothers. Other libraries produced other interesting proposals, for a tool lending library in Ethiopia, for instance, and for a project promoting indigenous languages in Brazil. Those didn't get awards either, but our partner group in Kenya, Maria's Libraries, did for a project involving reading with mothers and young children (similar in principle to what we're already doing at Kitengesa, actually, but with more use of technological gizmos). See the Beyond Access website for details. Apart from these activities, we also picked up some useful tips on approaching donors and identifying the outcomes and impacts of our projects. The conference on the third day was less informative for us, reasonably enough, since its main purpose was to inform donor organizations and other potential partners of the importance of what libraries like ours do. Best of all, this camp-plus-conference has resulted in what looks like becoming an ongoing network. I've been getting a flurry of emails from other library teams with questions and comments arising from the event. The main problem will be to keep up with them all.

On a more personal level, it was wonderful to have Dan, Brenda, and Ssenteza here in the US. Dan and Brenda came back to New York with me afterwards, and we had a terrific party for them on the Saturday. We also arranged some sightseeing for them, including visits to several libraries and to the United Nations, the members of whose 1% Cent for Development Fund have been among our greatest supporters. We're all tremendously grateful to Beyond Access and its sponsors for providing us with this opportunity.

Traffic at Kitengesa Community Library

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Kate Parry writes:

I have just returned to Uganda, and Dan Ahimbisibwe, the librarian at Kitengesa, has been briefing me about what is going on at the library. The place has become busier than ever. Three classes from the neighboring primary school, P4, P5, and P6 (equivalent of Grades 4-6), come every week for a scheduled period. Since there are about 50 children in each group, Dan puts them in the newly opened hall, and when we have volunteers from Canada, as we do for about six months of the year, the volunteers work with the children. Three classes from Kitengesa Comprehensive Secondary School, S1, S2, and S3 (equivalent of Grades 8-10) also come to the library for a scheduled class period, and again the volunteers work with them--yesterday, when I arrived, a couple of volunteers were helping the students read a newspaper article and look up in a dictionary the words they did not know. Best of all, children are coming to the library on their own. Yesterday when I arrived some 15 children from the nearby primary school were there even though it was not a scheduled library period for them. Apparently their classmates were busy rehearsing for the Education Week celebrations next week, but these particular children were not involved so were spending the time in the library. They were sitting round the table with a pile of books in front of them and each was reading one. One of the volunteers commented that they often come like this and immediately grab books to read.
In addition, the volunteers are now taking books to another school, Hillview Primary School, and have recently taken to visiting regularly the nearby school for the deaf. One of these volunteers knows some American Sign Language, and they are all busy learning Ugandan Sign (I had lunch with them at Dan's house yesterday, and much of the conversation was about particular Sign words). This relationship with the deaf children is quite a breakthrough, and we'll follow it up with a special Children's Day for them.


UgCLA hits 100!

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Kate Parry writes:

Recently Brenda Musasizi, UgCLA's coordinator, sent me the Association's recently updated membership list. There are 106 names! Of these, four are partner organizations that don't actually offer library services, and two others are definitely inactive; but the rest are all in the business of disseminating information and promoting reading, even if some forty haven't yet paid their subscriptions for this year.
These institutions are tremendously diverse. Some, including the FAVL-managed Kitengesa Community Library, are well established, with collections of several thousand books and ongoing programs for women, children, and other sectors of the community. Some have only just started, having buildings but no books or books but no buildings. We have had dramatic success stories with some of the poorest. When I first visited the Bunabumali Good Samaritan Orphan and Needy Project in April 2010, it had no building and virtually no books. Now it has both and with the help of Hawk Children's Fund of UMES is setting up a Health Education Centre. The URLCODA Community Library and Mpolyabigere Community Libraries have likewise been able to put up buildings thanks to Hawk Children's Fund (see earlier UgCLA posts). Now, UgCLA is implementing a project for Book Aid International through which ten libraries are receiving 700 books each and refurbishment grants of about $1500--for the Randa Community Library this again will mean a new building.
Since it was launched in 2007, UgCLA has channeled grants to 31 libraries, and some have received two or three. That leaves seventy still to be served, and more will doubtless join us before we can reach them all. So the task ahead is enormous; but UgCLA is already a strong network with tremendous potential for providing information and entertainment to impoverished Ugandans. When will such networks be established in other African countries?

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UgCLA's 2nd Annual Conference, January 2012

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Kate Parry writes:

When UgCLA reached more than sixty members in 2010 it established a practice of holding an annual conference to which all paid-up members are invited. The conference is organized around a theme, but it is also an occasion for reporting on earlier projects and for holding an Annual General Meeting.

This year's conference was on the theme of "Libraries for the Environment". Participants heard presentations from three member institutions about environmental projects that they are engaged in; through a World Café activity, they examined and critiqued written materials on the environment; and in regional groups they brainstormed and came up with proposals for projects that they might themselves implement. They were most inspired by a presentation by Margaret Kemigisa about the New Nature Foundations use of its Science Information Centres to distribute seeds for fast-growing trees for firewood lots and to demonstrate the construction and use of fuel-efficient stoves, and these ideas, with many others, showed up in their group discussions. Our plan now is to incorporate these ideas in proposals for funding.

Other conference activities included brief presentations by UgCLA's partner organizations by AfriPads ( and the Maendeleo Foundation ( . A number of libraries distribute AfriPads' products, thus helping girls stay in school and making a small profit for themselves, and many have received visits from the Maendeleo Foundation's mobile computer lab. Libraries that had received funding for Health Reading Camps from Hawk Children's Fund and for the Children's Book Project from Pockets of Change also reported on these activities.

The final session of the conference was devoted to the Annual General Meeting. There members demonstrated their commitment to UgCLA by agreeing to a substantial rise in their subscription--so that we can afford to hold another conference next year.

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UgCLA produces picture books for children

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Kate Parry writes:

Last year (2010) the Uganda Community Libraries Association was given a generous grant by Pockets of Change in New York to enable us to buy packets of locally produced children's books for some of our member libraries. So we went shopping and were able to buy some pretty nice books, especially from Fountain Publishers and the Children's Writers and Illustrators Association in Uganda and from Heinemann's Junior African Writers Series, which is imported from Kenya. But these were books for older children; we could find hardly any that were appropriate for the very young.

So, inspired by the wonderful picture books that Kathy Knowles has produced for the Osu Children's Library Fund (, we decided to produce our own. At our workshop in July 2010, our member librarians worked to classify photographs that I provided according to the themes covered in Uganda's curriculum for the first year of primary schools; they also wrote captions for the photos. Then, after some editing and with the help of a grant from Hawk Children's Fund at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, we persuaded Fountain Publishers to print four little books: Let's Eat!, Let's Go!, Let's Look!, and Let's Play!



The covers of the four books

Here's what we wrote on the back of each book:

"The Let's ... books are designed to help children in Africa to enjoy reading and to see its relevance for themselves. Every page features a photograph of an activity, scene, or object that is familiar to African children. With the picture there is a short text that includes a question.  There is no right or wrong answer to the question: its purpose is to encourage conversation and to stimulate children to think about the pictures. 

"Adults can read and talk about the books with young children, while older children will want to read them for themselves or with their younger siblings. Each book reflects a theme in Uganda's new thematic curriculum for Primary One so that pre-school children who talk about it will be preparing themselves for school work later on. For older children, the books will encourage thinking, will reinforce the vocabulary that they learn in school, and may be used to stimulate their own writing."

Each 24-page book will cost about 6,000 Uganda shillings - that is, less than $3.00. Our grant from Hawk Children's Fund enables us to buy nearly 200 complete sets so that we can give one to each of our member libraries and still have many left over to use for family literacy projects. We also hope that the books will inspire our library people to take their own photographs and put together their own books. If any blog readers would like to buy the books, they can be obtained from Fountain Publishers ( in Uganda and from the African Books Collective ( in Europe and Commonwealth countries.

Thank you, Hawk Children's Fund and Fountain Publishers! And thank you, Cornelius Gulere, Sophia Klumpp, Enoch Magala, Joseph Nizigiyimana, and Charles Wolf for contributing photographs.

Goodbye, Grace. Welcome Brenda

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Kate Parry writes:
The Uganda Community Libraries Association has only one employee: a coordinator who does everything from looking after the accounts to taking packets of books to libraries. We were extraordinarily lucky when UgCLA was launched in 2007 to recruit Grace Musoke to do this work, a trained librarian with experience working with NGOs. With her help the organization grew from 14 to 71 member libraries, and it was Grace who wrote the proposal that has recently won UgCLA a grant from Book Aid International of more than 17,000. So we were very sad when Grace told us in June that she would be
leaving UgCLA, though happy that she expressed
a wish to keep in touch and a willingness to help
the new coordinator find her feet.

Brenda1.jpgAnd we have been lucky again: before Grace left for her new job, we met and recruited Brenda Musasizi as her successor. Like Grace, Brenda is a trained librarian, although she has not actually been employed as such but has worked as a volunteer on development projects supported by the Prime Minister's office and in the Ministry of Gender. UgCLA is offering her her first full job, and she has risen to the challenge magnificently, spending many more hours in the office than she is paid for and eagerly going off to visit libraries. She has also turned out to be brilliant at shopping, coming in well under budget when purchasing the equipment for our recent Health Reading Camps.

So we welcome Brenda warmly - and we have every intention of keeping in touch with Grace. Best wishes and thanks to them both!

UgCLA wins a Book Aid International grant

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Kate Parry writes:

In January last year the Uganda Community Libraries Association's then coordinator, Grace Musoke, went to a conference in Tanzania sponsored by Book Aid International (and organized, incidentally, by our good friend Sarah Switzer). There she met Karen Sharkey, BAI's program officer, and at Karen's suggestion wrote a proposal to enable ten of UgCLA's member libraries to improve their facilities and provide better services for children. Last month we received final confirmation that the proposal had been accepted, and when Karen visited us on July 27, Kayaga Mulindwa and I discussed with her the final details of how the grant would work.  (UgCLA of course is closely affiliated with FAVL.)

Under this project ten libraries will receive a book donation of some 700-odd books each, to be delivered in two batches; and each will  receive a grant of about 1000 pounds (yes, pounds, not dollars), to be used for "refurbishment" - which includes purchasing furniture and local books as well as repainting and repairing the building. UgCLA's Board has identified some forty libraries that could benefit from this (we excluded those that have no building to refurbish and also those that have recently received substantial benefits through UgCLA), and we have been urging those that have not paid their subscriptions for this year to pay up so that we can invite them to compete. The competition will be on the basis of written proposals, and with BAI's support we are organizing a two-day workshop in the middle of September for the representatives of all those libraries that are eligible. Our aim is to have them write the proposals while they are there, and we have prepared a "Proposal writing guide" to help them do so. The workshop will be held at the Kabubbu Community Library and will be facilitated by the Kabubbu librarian, Augustine Napagi, UgCLA's coordinator, Brenda Musasizi, and Espen Stranger-Johanessen, who is a volunteer who worked with UgCLA in 2008 and has now returned to help us again. We are extremely grateful to Espen for offering us this help.

The first batch of books is expected at the end of October. The National Library of Uganda will store them for us until we can arrange for a team of volunteers to sort them out into packets for each library and the libraries can pick them up. The winners will be announced at UgCLA's National Conference in January.

We are all very excited about this project, especially since, if we do it right, there's a good chance that the funders, Pearson Longman, will extend the grant for two more years to cover twenty more libraries. So, thank you Grace!

UgCLA's Health Reading Camps

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Kate Parry writes:

Four members of the Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgCLA) hosted Health Reading Camps from August 15 to August 19 this year: twenty children of between twelve and fourteen years old were invited to each camp and looked after by three facilitators, one the librarian, the second a teacher, and the third a health worker. The camps followed a defined curriculum with a range of activities: both reading aloud and silent reading, of course, but also games, drama, lots of discussion, and counseling sessions. The children also got a good lunch every day, and the curriculum provided for discussion of the lunch's nutritional properties.

 The camps were a new venture for us, so we did extensive preparation. Brenda Musasizi, UgCLA's coordinator, and I bought a set of children's books about health for each library, mainly storybooks about the HIV/AIDS and its effects, with titles like I will Miss Mr. Kizito, Monde the Courageous Girl, Just Me and My Brother, and I'm Positive: Botswana's Beauty Queen (the books came mostly from Fountain Publishers Junior Living Youth series and Heinemann's Junior African Writers Series). We also bought games equipment for each library--a football, a volley ball, skipping ropes, and indoor games such as Snakes and Ladders (with an HIV twist--you land on a snake and pick up a card which tells you what risky thing you have done), a quiz game based on Uganda's Primary Leaving Exam, dominoes, and sets of letters for word-making games; the indoor games were supplied by Mango Tree Educational Publishers, a long-standing supporter of UgCLA. We took all this equipment, together with flipcharts, marker pens, etc., to one of the host libraries (the Caezaria Public Library Complex in Buikwe District), for a workshop on August 8. Each host library sent at least one of its facilitators to the workshop, and together we went over the curriculum and discussed methods of evaluating and reporting on the project before we finally distributed the goodies.

The formal reports haven't come in yet, but the informal conversations that I had with the camps' facilitators have been most encouraging. Enoch Magala, from the Mpolyabigere Community Library in Numutumba District sent an e-mail at the end of the first day:
Hello Brenda and all friends,
greetings from Mpolyabigere! we managed to have on this first day all the 20 participants although with delayz on reporting!! we managed to have our chicken today and we have two participants who are fasting and they will carry their meal home to break their fast!!!

see you tomorow!!!
that is our news!!! its fun!!!!

At Kitengesa, the librarian Dan Ahimbisibwe told me the participants had so many questions that they had to adjust the curriculum to fit in a special time for them; and although people were a little late showing up on the first day (it was raining), the following days they always arrived early. The Caezaria and URLCODA libraries were similarly positive.

The funder for this project was the Hawk Children's Fund at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES). My correspondent there has asked me for extensive evaluation so that he can use it (if it's positive, of course) to raise more funds for an expansion of the project to more libraries next year. So we have given each library detailed instructions about evaluation procedures (including a before and after test for the participants and reading report forms for the participants to fill in on each book read) and are awaiting the results. Meanwhile, I'm attaching a picture of the beginning of the second day of the camp at Kitengesa.

 A participant asks the nurse a question

Letter from Katumba Jimmy

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Kate Parry writes:

One distinguishing feature of the Kitengesa Communiity Library is its Library Scholarship scheme. Seven students are selected from the neighbouring secondary school to work in the library, keeping it clean and tidy and helping look after the children who come in. In return their school fees or other educational expenses are paid out of Library funds. They also have access to the Libraryís computers and, of course, the books.

Katumba was a Library Scholar from 2008 to 2010, when he reached Senior Four and took his School Certificate (ìOî level) exams. His results were unusually good for a student from a poor village school: he passed in Division One and is now studying for the Advanced School Certificate at the government secondary school in Masaka town. I asked him to write about his experience, and the other day, when we were both in the Library, he handed me this letter. I have typed it without editing.


Dear Madam Kate Parry,

I would like to take this golden opportunity to tell you that I appreciate for all the good things I have acquired from you and the library at large. You enabled me complete my ìOî level course successively and it was after your help that you funded for my school fees. During my time I have been a library scholar I acquired a lot of things from the library for example. I got chance to use any book of my wish at any time which helped me pass my exams very well. I also got chance to access computer literacy from the library which was free of charge and it is an important think in thick world of technology.

Before I had got the library scholarship, thing were worse in a way that school fee at my side wasnít easy to get and I were usually sent for fee every time it was to be. I thank you because the moment I got the library scholarship I were able to be at school every time which helped me get all the concepts from the teachers and this was the best of like that I wanted. This helped me concentrate on books without fear that they will send me to day or tomorrow for fees. I were able to read my notice that way given to me by the teacher plus the books that are in the library and this provided me a lot of knowledge that I added to that I got from the teacher.

After all I had every think I needed to study I used that chance to make it out. I passed my UNEB [Uganda National Examination Board] exams 2010 quite good that I got a ìfirst grade of aggregates 25î. [The aggregate is the sum of all the grades obtained over eight subjects, the highest grade being 1, the lowest (failing) grade being 9]. The day for the return of our results I were filled up with joy and excitement as I appear in the new papers of BUKEDDE [the Luganda language newspaper] 9th Feb. 2011. The library also helped me get courage from the Librarian that is Mr Ahimbishibwe Daniel who is a good man and a social one.

It is from the bottom of my heart that I thank you in particular that you arranged for the set up of Kitengeesa Community library which has been a very important place the community at large and me in particular. I pray to God that he gives you a better life and keep you alive for more many year for you good heart and fair treatment you offer to the people.

I remain yours faithfully


UgCLA and AFRIpads

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more pics...

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Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, Peace Corps volunteer Emilie Crofton, Krystle Austin, Elisee Sare, and Monique Nadembega.

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