Monday, 31 July 2006

ZLS receives 35,000 books from the USA

There is a book famine in Africa, but not just for any old books...

ZLS has just received over 35000 books from Books For Africa to be distributed to educational libraries across Zanzibar. As we do not have the space to store such a large shipment, we are using a classroom at the local Teacher's Centre for a month to try as best we can to sort and pack up boxes of books that will be useful for schools and colleges here in Zanzibar.

Libraries in Zanzibar would not exist if it weren't for the generous support and donations we received from organisations such as Books for Africa, but shipments of this size are very difficult to manage, especially when most of the materials are in English and many of the staff members sorting the stock are not confident working in English. Some of the shipments we receive include books that are damaged, old, out-of-date, irrelevant or culturally inappropriate to the Zanzibar context. These essentially unusable books are being sent at considerable cost, from places with decent paper recycling facilities, to a small island nation without...

Many suppliers of donated stock are working hard to improve their systems so that there is a better match between the information needs of local library users and the books provided. (For more information about how book donation programmes (should) work, read CODE's publication 'Book donations for development' available at

But what libraries in developing countries are really missing is the money to buy locally published books. Grants to buy indigenous materials would not only enable library services to buy books that are appealing, relevant and easy to read for local communities, but it will also help to strengthen and improve fledgling local publishing industries.

If you are thinking about donating stock to libraries in Zanzibar, PLEASE consider working with local publishers and library services to provide mother tongue materials and locally produced textbooks as these are the materials that are most sorely needed in our libraries at present.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Sorry state of school libraries on Zanzibar Island

Staff from Zanzibar Library Services visited all 164 government primary, secondary and mixed (primary and secondary) school on Unguja (Zanzibar Island) over a 10 week period from May – July 2006 in order to evaluate the current state of library provision to support learning and teaching on the island. ZLS intends to use the results of this survey to develop programmes to improve access for students and teachers to library services across the island.

Sadly, most school libraries do not resemble the well-stocked library at Lumumba Secondary in Stone Town (pictured above). Instead, nearly 60% of schools currently have no form of school library, with the absence of libraries in primary schools and schools in North A, B and Central districts being particularly notable. Current school libraries differ greatly in terms of form and functionality, with only 25 school libraries at present able to provide basic services to students.

Key challenges facing schools with libraries include:
  • inadequate, disorganised library environments;
  • inappropriate library stock;
  • insufficient and untrained library staff;
  • lack of integration of library usage into classroom teaching and learning;
  • school communities’ lack of interest in libraries;
  • lack of support for ongoing library development from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MOEVT)
Issues facing those schools without libraries include:
  • lack of funding for building, converting, equipping and / or stocking libraries;
  • school communities’ lack of interest in library development;
  • lack of leadership from MOEVT in encouraging schools in the development of new libraries (as outlined in the Zanzibar Education Policy 2006)

Based on the findings of this survey, ZLS prepared some recommendations for the MOEVT to consider, including:

  • Establishing cluster libraries for neighbouring schools to share;
  • Encouraging libraries at Teachers Centres to work more closely with students and schools;
  • Setting up mobile libraries for primary schools in rural districts;
  • Sponsoring regular training workshops for teacher-librarians to improve existing school libraries;
  • Assisting schools without libraries in drawing up project plans for the development of new libraries.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full survey report or are interested in learning more abot how you can support school library development in Zanzibar, please email Zanzibar Library Services

Saturday, 1 July 2006

Welcome to Zanzibar Library Services' blog

Help Zanzibar to build
libraries for learning,
libraries for life.

Books are something of a rarity in Zanzibar, as are libraries. Many schools and homes are without books and most people live far from the nearest library. Those books that are available are usually donated generously by charities in the UK and USA but are often old with out-of-date information or irrelevant to the culture, context and education system in Zanzibar.

Providing children with books that reflect their context, written in their own language, is the surest way to promote reading but when schools do not even have funds to buy desks for their pupils, finding money for Swahili storybooks and locally published textbooks is a pipe dream.

Zanzibar Library Services (ZLS) is committed to promoting libraries for literacy and lifelong learning in Zanzibar, by:

  • Managing the two public libraries in Stone Town (Unguja) and Chake Chake (Pemba) in line with the needs of local communities.
  • Supporting the development of educational libraries in Zanzibar through the provision of training and the distribution of library stock donated by library donor agencies such as Book Aid International, Books for Africa and Books Abroad.

In an environment with little history of any reading culture and very limited resources for education and culture, developing relevant libraries is no mean feat. As this weblog demonstrates, ZLS is constantly trying to come up with new ways to promote reading and libraries, and to help the people of Zanzibar to access the information they need to lead free, informed and productive lives.

If you would like to learn more about any of the projects mentioned in this blog, or would like to find out about projects in the pipeline and how you can help ZLS to get books into the hands of children and adults in Zanzibar, please DO contact us - we are always looking to build new partnerships, with individuals and organisations from around the world:

Zanzibar Library Services
PO BOX / SLP 4270
Tel: +255 24 2236414