Lessons from Lubuto

Article excerpt

While budget trimming and economic unrest may be causing a collective angst for many industrywide, Jane Kinney Meyers is keeping a spirit of giving alive this season. In fact, her "season" lasts year-round for Africa's street kids, many of them orphaned in the HIV/AIDS crisis.

If her name sounds familiar, here's why: Meyers received a standing ovation at the 2007 SLA conference in Denver when she won the 2007 Dow Jones Leadership Award for her work as president of the Lubuto Library Project.

Since then, the first Lubuto library was officially opened on Sept. 21, 2007, in Lusaka, Zambia, bringing a bit of cultural heritage back into the countryside and books to the hands of the country's most vulnerable children. The library is actually a series of three thatched-roof buildings that reflect the traditional African architecture. The library consists of a small foyer-type building, along with a 4,000-book library/reading room and an arts/crafts room. Meyers calls it a "full-service" facility, providing education and information, along with a safe, community space where kids can socialize.

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Meyers is now busy building two new libraries concurrently in Zambia that will be completed in 2009: One is in the southern province village of Nabukuyu, which is being funded in part by a $10,000 grant from Oprah's Angels Network and the $20,000 Challenge Grant offered by patron and advisory board member Marilyn Hollinshead.

The second will be built at a yet-undetermined site in the Garden Compound in Lusaka, thanks to corporate sponsor Dow Jones & Co. "On Monday, Oct. 6, I received a call from Clare Hart who said Dow Jones was offering funds to build a library," says Meyers. "The news couldn't have come at a better time." Other library sites are also in the works. "We're also working with the University of San Francisco's community architectural school to create a semester-abroad program," says Meyers, who is still finalizing the details. "With the program, the students would construct a library as well as mobilize funds for the project."

The Lubuto project team includes volunteers and students such as Holly Morganelli, a student from the Pratt Institute who is working on her M.L.S. She is now stationed in Zambia where she is writing a blog about her work with the Lubuto Library Project. "She's been providing feedback to us on how the book collection is received by the children," says Meyers. "She even let us know that we need to have a copy of the Guinness World Records book in every library, since it's in constant use there."

Organizations continue to help with book donations, says Meyers. But Meyers and her team are admittedly picky about the books they accept for the library collections. For the first library, Meyers and her team hand-picked the collection so it was "balanced and comprised of relevant and top-quality materials on all levels," says Meyers. "They are as fine as can be found anywhere." So when the employees at Dow Jones' global offices offered to help collect books for the library, Meyers reached out to Jewell Stoddard, a world expert in children's literature who is on the advisory board and in charge of the children's section of an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. As a result, Dow Jones and the Politics and Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse teamed up to supply books with an educational spin for Zambia's street kids, orphans, and at-risk children. …