Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UgCLA forms agreement with UTRT

UTRT (Under The Reading Tree) is an organization based in Vancouver that, like FAVL, promotes community libraries in Africa. It is already supporting three libraries in Uganda and is just about to take on a fourth. Also like FAVL, it is conscientious about keeping in touch with its libraries and making sure that the funding it provides is sensibly used. Two of UTRT’s directors, Nate Lepp and Jonathan Nikkel, were here in Uganda last April, and we at the Uganda Community Libraries Association spent a lot of time talking with them. The upshot was that UTRT asked us to help supervise their libraries, in return for their paying Grace Musoke, our coordinator, for two days’ work a week. UTRT has just formalized the deal, and we expect the first installment of funds early in July. We all win from this arrangement: Grace can at last earn a living wage since she will be working nearly full time; UTRT will get better reporting from its libraries; and the libraries will receive their funds more regularly and will have more advice and support. Even UgCLA’s other member libraries, though not directly supported by UTRT, will benefit. Grace will be able to do work for them in combination with her UTRT work, and we are already developing reporting instruments and mechanisms for UTRT libraries that can be extended to others. So thank you, Under The Reading Tree! And please visit their website at www.underthereadingtree.org.

The fourth library mentioned above is the Randa Farmers Library about which Mukhobeh Moses wrote to FAVL, as well as to UTRT and OCF, three or four months ago. I went to visit last April, as we all agreed I should, and recommended that OCF give it some books and UTRT some support for a librarian. The books will arrive in August when my friend Valeda has agreed to bring them, and our agreement with UTRT includes a part-time librarian’s salary for Randa. I’m going there tomorrow with Mukhobeh so will be able to give the farmers the glad news and hand over a children’s dictionary that I bought with the first installment of the book grant that UTRT has also budgeted for them. This is a terrific model, I think, of cooperation among organizations interested in libraries.

The weekend’s travelling will also include a visit to a school in Manafwa District, near the Kenya border, where the director, a friend of Mukhobeh’s, proposes to set up a library. Then I’ll visit the school in Bududa town where Emily Soeder, another person who’s been corresponding with FAVL, has also set up one. That’s a school rather than a community library, but we’ve been corresponding quite a bit since she’s been asking me for advice on library organization etc.. Unfortunately, she’s away this weekend, but I spoke to her on the phone, and she’s arranging for others to meet me. Then, on the way back, I’ll visit Busolwe, where the first library in our Library 2 Library scheme is located (it’s one of the two that Espen visited), and I will drop in on two of the recipients of our small grants – one, at Kamuli, because I’ve never been there, and the other, at Njeru, because it, alone of all the recipients, had not when last visited spent the grant as it was supposed to; I trust I’ll find that it has done so by now, since otherwise I will have to ask for the money back.

Update from Kate: I’ve just visited Busolwe, which is the first library (and the only one so far) in our Library 2 Library scheme. They received their grant at the beginning of this month and, as it happens, a group of volunteers from the University of British Columbia. The librarian and volunteers together are effecting a wonderful transformation in the place. They’ve opened up a new reading room and have decorated it with a beautiful mural; they’ve instituted a reading club; and they’re still taking books round to primary schools. Since the workshop that we had there last April primary school teachers have been coming much more often to the library – though the number of actual members (i.e. who’ve paid their subscription) remains small.

6. My UN friends are proposing an Event at the UN at the beginning of October on behalf of the Kitengesa Community Library. I’m hoping that it will raise enough to complete our building project. The computer centre and library room are now almost complete, with only windows and a ceiling to put in. Then we must buy the necessary solar equipment, most of which should be paid for by the grant that we expect any day now from the University of British Columbia’s Go Global Program. My friend Eric Morrow of the Maendeleo Foundation (www.maendeleo.org) hopes to be able to contribute some computers from the grant that he has got from Intel.

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