Community libraries in Uganda

From Emmanuel Anguyo, trained librarian and Coordinator, COLAU: In this world where information is required by everyone at all levels, community libraries in Uganda have gone ahead to serve all categories of persons in different communities including children, youth, adults, and the elderly. Majority of these community libraries are managed by non-professional librarians. Need identification becomes a challenge and therefore teachers, users and parents have to be involved in the selection and acquisition process to help identify the best information resources for use. Library services are offered to schools, business communities, women’s groups, farmers, refugees and many more. Community libraries are a haven for most people and the Community Libraries Association of Uganda (COLAU) continues to coordinate resources or activities on behalf or together with the members. With now 150 registered members (COLAU annual report, 2022), COLAU continues to offer support through identifying partners that can support the works of members, administer grants from donors to members, mobilise and allocate information resources to members, monitor and evaluate performance of projects being implemented through the Association as well as create networks and linkages. COLAU does not work independently while doing its work. It partners with like-minded organizations and individuals to perform its duties to meet goals and objectives.

Community libraries scattered all over the country do offer free services while some charge a minimum fee of 500 shillings and a maximum of about 1,000 Shillings as a daily membership to support the maintenance of these spaces. People flock to the libraries to get access to information from books, Newspapers, Magazines and the internet. Libraries serve 3 to 10 schools near and far, and receive about 40 to 80 users per visit from schools. The highest peak of users depends on the location of each library and the target groups. The community libraries have a unique niche in the category of people they serve. Most users are reached through outreach programs using mobile libraries; book banks, books on bikes, books in backpacks, books in vans among others. One way of fighting illiteracy. However, there is much need for training of community librarians in basic library management skills, provision of relevant information materials which best suit the needs and wants of users, creating awareness about the importance of libraries and their services, equipping libraries with user friendly furniture; chairs, tables, storage cabinets and shelves for convenience while using the library and also refurbishing the library spaces to make them more attractive for users.

An example is the Centre For Children And Library Foundation (CECLIF) Community Libraryin Abwanget village, Osukuru Town Council, Tororo district, Eastern Uganda with currently 2,000 books in stock serves 4 schools and over 6 villages.

Photo by Denis Okir, Founder CECLIF,