Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Why doesn't FAVL...

In Burkina Faso...
Have all the librarians wear snazzy polo shirts, cleaned and pressed everyday, and upload the statistics from each days checkouts, visitors, events into a cell phone that uploads to a website, interfacing with an MIS system where library "friends" could then suggest books to young readers, and even get some feedback from them,... "I liked it! What else should I read?" and also make the library super modern and super clean, with formica countertops and air conditioning all solar powered and glass windows and bottled water in a little refrigerator.

Why instead, are the librarians from the village, usually pretty nervous about doing anything in public (like reading a storybook), more likely to scowl than to smile when a "client" enters the library (very typical Burkinabè "affect") and the library is made out of mud bricks and tin roof with a thatch paillote outside, and the record-keeping is in old notebooks and somewhat imperfect?

a) We don't have enough money to make it all "modern".
b) We hate the thought of a library "franchise" where we train the librarians, after having them go through rigorous selection process so that the smartest most motivated villagers are selected, to shout 'Welcome to the library, HOW MAY I HELP YOU" to every person who walks in the door.
c) We honestly never thought of making the library a kind of branded modern franchise thingy.
d) We knew if we went that route the board would never agree on whether the polo shirts should be red or yellow.
e) We thought villagers would make fun of the librarians behind their backs.
f) The villages don't have glass, refrigerators, bottled water, electricity, web access through their cellphones, etc.

Those of you who have traveled extensively in Africa know what I mean...

1 comment:

Ryan Richards said...

This is great! I really appreciate your local-context-grounded push-back against outsider perceptions of how things ought to be done. Not that outsiders don't have good ideas or can't learn the local context, just that they (we) don't have all the answers, or even most of them, and I think it is useful to have that asserted once in a while.