Books For Africa remains the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 58 million books to all 55 countries on the African continent since 1988. In fiscal year 2023 alone, Books For Africa shipped approximately 4,029,000 books, valued at over $32.6 million, to 32 African countries, the most books ever shipped by Books For Africa in a single year.
Late last year, Books For Africa (BFA), with the help of the Department of Defense Humanitarian Assistance Funded Transportation Program, sent 110,000 books to students in Malawi. A little more than half of those books went to Kamuzu University to provide the school with post-secondary medical materials.
The other half, about 50,000 books, went to the Malawi National Library Service and they were processed and distributed in the branches of the National Library Service, community libraries, schools, and universities throughout the country where they had an impact on thousands of students of all ages.
“There’s been a great impact,” said Joyce Ntchafu, a Librarian in the Extra Mural Service Department whose role is to coordinate the establishment of libraries and distribution of library materials. “In Malawi, most parents cannot afford to buy books for their children, hence with the coming of Books For Africa shipment, many learners have access to books through their school libraries,” she explained. “Some learners can borrow books and read at home with their families. It is only through reading books that learners gain confidence and improve their reading skills.”
Bonney Sangole, the Acting Director of the National Library Service, agreed with her colleague and said “the shipment from BFA has had a great impact on the users. Books are very expensive and hard to find; therefore, the shipment will enhance stock in the National Library Service branches, school libraries, and universities. For school libraries preference has always been curriculum-based books, but still these supplementary books will assist learners to acquire knowledge and reading skills that will make them excel in their studies.”
She said that “teachers and learners are always excited to receive the new consignment.”
Mrs. Sangole stressed that National Library Service is a public library that serves a diverse group of people with different information needs, and therefore it is imperative to have libraries that are well-stocked with relevant information materials. Having a partner like Books For Africa that provides the Library Service with different reading materials is a great opportunity and the institution is always grateful for the donations, she said.
Mrs. Sangole said that the National Library Service has plans to increase the number of libraries in the country and is hoping for more support from BFA to be able to achieve this goal. “If the National Library Service establishes more libraries where people have access to books and other reading materials, it will improve literacy and promote reading culture in the country,” she said.
When asked what they would want Books For Africa to ship in the future, Bonney and Joyce both mentioned e-readers with pre-loaded books for children and also braille books and equipment to aid the visually impaired persons in accessing the materials. This is one way of making the library more inclusive as it provides to access information to the general public, they said.