Friends of African Village Libraries is committed to long-term financial and management support for small community libraries in rural Africa. Our goal is to establish long-term relationships with community libraries, rather than provide an initial donation and move on to another village. This is why the number of libraries in our network is small, as they are carefully managed to ensure their continued success. Burkina Faso alone has thousands of villages with primary schools and no libraries; the needs are immense, the means to address the need are limited.
We believe that every child and adult should have the opportunity to pick up a book and read. FAVL is dedicated to increasing access to reading material and other information in rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa. FAVL-supported libraries serve all members of the village community. One core public is the local community of readers- schoolchildren, adult learners, and other persons committed to reading. Most children, particularly in rural areas, have little access to books. While they may go to school, they will probably have little opportunity to read age-appropriate material. There are very few books available in rural schools. FAVL emphasizes books that are highly demanded by local readers: African novels and storybooks, children’s books with village themes, and local language materials for the newly literate village reader.
Children, young adults, farmers, weavers, traders, and others in very poor villages should have similar access to information- through books and other media- as people in developed countries. FAVL operates under the belief that true development can only happen when people are empowered by access to information and the habits of reading and critical thinking. FAVL strives to include in every library collection as much relevant, useful information as is available- whether about building a compost pit, a chicken coop, or treatment of dysentery.
How does FAVL work?
Village libraries are established when donations are sufficient to cover the long-term commitment to support a library. Communities in our program area establish a local management committee and provide a building or a building site for the library. FAVL will then help the village to refurbish an existing building, or build a new building, usually with solar power. A local librarian is hired and trained and the library is stocked with a selection of books. Village libraries typically hold a collection of one or two thousand books, with titles in English, French, Arabic, and local languages. The typical library has a reading room, a community space and an office for the librarian. In addition to paying the librarian salaries and on-going maintenance of the library, FAVL also helps train library staff to implement reading programs and other activities at their location.
An important determinant of our success is the development of counterpart leadership in the countries and the villages in which we establish libraries. FAVL either partners with existing non-profit organizations or assists in the creation of local non-profit organizations, recognized by the government, that oversee day-to-day library operations. In Uganda, for example, FAVL has helped create the Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgCLA). In northern Ghana, FAVL works with the Center for Sustainable Rural Development (CESRUD).
FAVL conducts regular monitoring to minimize the risk of misappropriation and waste. FAVL requires monthly financial reports prepared by a local library oversight committee and conducts regular checks of library accounts and operations. Libraries and books belong to the village collectivity where the library is located. FAVL’s commitment to help manage the library and ensure continued progress in expanding book collections, reading programs, cultural activities and other library operations is for the long-term.
Where does FAVL operate?
FAVL has established and continues to manage and improve upon 38 libraries, 34 in Burkina Faso, 3 in Ghana, and 1 in Uganda. FAVL also supports the Uganda Community Library Association, with 50+ member libraries.
Joining Our Network
If you are a donor committed to assisting a village library or network of village libraries in other countries in Africa, please contact us.
If you are thinking of starting a community library, please read our current policy regarding how FAVL supports community libraries.
If you have been supporting a village library or community library, and would like to join our network, please contact us.
Board of Directors
Too many development projects fail because they do not have a vision for where their initiatives will be in thirty years. Our board of directors is composed of people with experience, who are committed to a long-term vision of sustainable development.
- Valeda Dent is Dean of University Libraries at Long Island University. She is an expert in information literacy and the role of technology in learning, and has conducted research and published on community libraries and reading in Uganda.
- Deborah Garvey, Ph.D. taught economics at Santa Clara University and served for nine years on the board of the Friends of Willow Glen Library in San Jose. She has been involved in non-profit activities for many years. She has been FAVL treasurer since 2007.
- Michael Kevane, Ph.D. is Co-Director for West Africa. Michael is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Economics Department at Santa Clara University, and has published numerous scholarly works on economic development issues in Africa. He has consulted for the World Bank, Freedom from Hunger, and the private sector.
- Hélène Lafrance is a librarian at Santa Clara University where she is head of research services. She participated in the 2009 inaugural year of Reading West Africa, the study abroad immersion program in Burkina Faso jointly organized and run by FAVL and Santa Clara University.
- Kate Parry, Ph.D. is Co-Director for East Africa. Kate is Professor of English at Hunter College, City University of New York. She co-founded Kitengesa Community Library in Uganda in 1999.
- Lori Zink has directed education and training programs for a number of non-profit and governmental organizations. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger for two years.
- Brian Washburn, with special thanks to Hillar Higman for the initial web design.