The EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) has awarded grants to eleven public and community libraries in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. The new services will improve lives and livelihoods of farmers, health workers and their patients, and vulnerable children and youth.
Through providing grants and building libraries’ capacity, EIFL-PLIP aims to show how, with limited additional support, libraries can be dynamic development partners. The new Africa grants follow a six-country research study into perceptions of public libraries in Africa, which found that libraries were highly valued for their traditional role as providers of books and space for study, but were not seen as modern technology service providers or active community development partners. EIFL-PLIP works to shift this perception.
To implement the new services, librarians are entering into partnerships with government and NGO development agencies. They are using information and communication technology (ICT) in innovative ways and transforming their libraries into dynamic institutions, focused on and responsive to community development needs. For example – Busongora Rural Community Library (BRIC) is using smart phones to combat plant diseases; Northern Regional Library in Ghana is setting up a mobile phone text messaging service to improve maternal health; Kenya National Library Service and Busia Community Library are using tablet computers to help children pass their school exams.