FAVL co-director Kate Parry sends the following useful summary of what kinds of books are useful in her experience working with Kitengesa Community Library in Uganda:
The most popular genre of all in the Kitengesa Community Library is Traditional Stories, and Fountain Publishers, in Kampala, produces a nice series of them called African Heritage Series; but what we call Modern Stories--stories set in modern times, generally with African protagonists, are also popular and are much easier to find. One should also try to get at least one complete set of textbooks in each subject at both primary and secondary level (the primary books for Tanzania will be in Swahili); and reference books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and atlases are much appreciated. Dictionaries are especially important, and Kitengesa students have found the Cambridge International Dictionary most accessible, but I think the later editions of Oxford's Advanced Learner's Dictionary are also good, and that one can be bought at a subsidized rate. Those two are monolingual English dictionaries, but for Tanzania one should also get one or two bilingual ones in English and Swahili. East African Educational Publishers is a good source for novels and also for textbooks -- and the short simple story books that are most popular cost much less than $5 here in Uganda they are more like $2 or $3. People keep saying that they also want practical books about rural occupations and concerns--horticulture, animal husbandry, skills such as carpentry--but our experience at Kitengesa is that these books are not actually borrowed much. Nevertheless, if people say they want them they should have them. A Catholic organization, Pauline Publications, produces many small books, mainly in English, about health education (from the Catholic point of view, of course, but the advice is sensible for everybody), social relationships, etc. We classify these books as Health and Morals and, apart from the story books, they are the most popular--girls, in particular, appreciate having simple books about the "secret" matters of sex and reproduction. Pauline Pubs. also produce a very good English Bible, the African Bible (the text is based on the American one but there are notes that are directly relevant to Africa), and in studies of adult villagers' reading in East Africa, the Bible also ranks high. So get that one, if many of your population are Catholic, and also, of course, get one in Swahili.