Some colleagues and I organised a motivation session for Nyangwa Boys High School early last year, something we do annually under the education pillar of the Embu County Professionals Development Association.
Among us was this information management expert who worked up the boys about the importance of developing a strong reading culture.
And she went on to remind them that they are pretty privileged that they can now borrow their preferred books right in school. Because the Embu branch of the Kenya National Library Service now operates a mobile book lending service.
Provided that institutions are pre-registered, commit to take care of the books and abide by the lending rules.
As we fell back, I reached out to the officer for specific details. I’d interest in registering some two schools near my home town of Runyenjes. They later got registered.
Learners in these rural schools now enjoy borrowing books delivered all the way from Embu town, the county headquarters. But Jemimah, the library boss, further indicated that they could do with more reading materials rich in local content.
This is content in resonance with the context, culture and contemporary realities and circumstances in our country. And she has been on an aggressive drive to obtain such material in partnership with the library’s stakeholders and well-wishers, to complement what’s available. The deficit sounded familiar, given the biases we have been contending with in our film and music industries.
Listening to her, it was easy to appreciate that through the mobile platform, books held in the county library impact more schools.
This arrangement scales up readership and improves equity in accessing knowledge products. The need to target support at the county library level is, therefore, rational and compelling. Such books easily reach even the schools in the far-flung parts of the county. For this reason, some local professionals are currently busy exploring options to help this library stock up.
I managed to reach out to Prof Kimani Njogu of Twaweza Communications, a scholar who has written several Kiswahili and English storybooks, and Ng’ang’a Mbugua of Big Books Ltd, author of many English storybooks.
Each of them graciously donated several books rich in local content. I purchased some too. The package was delivered last week in a short ceremony attended by a few pupils from some select primary schools, students from the University of Embu, a representative of our association and Mr Mbugua.
From the interest with which the pupils and students sampled the books, it was evident that this support was deserved and timely. Indeed, one could also support such a library with e-products.
But it helps to note that poor rural neighbourhoods have mundane challenges with e-environments.
The Kenya National Library Service has libraries countrywide. I suspect that they all have content gaps. It’d be noble of well-endowed Kenyans to help seal them. These libraries are playing a basic and transformative role.