In the UK we are spoilt for choice with the numerous ways in which we can digest information and the news. Whether we are embracing new media and consume the latest headlines through alerts on our phone, or click through our chosen publications online, we do not have to go far to find out what is happening in our local area or across the globe. And it is not just news that we have easy access to. You can pick up your favourite magazines and novels in any number of stores in our towns and cities.
But when was the last time you went to a library to get any form of print publication? Many libraries seem to be predominantly used by students working their way through recommended reading lists desperately searching for that golden quote to perfectly represent their thesis. In Malawi however, libraries are frequented by a variety of people, all making use of its numerous resources, and are often the primary source of information.
The Usisya Library was established in 2004, by Temwa with the community, and offers a large selection of both fiction and non-fiction books. On top of the reading materials, in 2017 the library also procured three computers, allowing the librarians to train community members in computer literacy skills. The library facilitates a conductive learning environment and information hub for a range of people, whether they be students, more senior members of the community or those looking for employment.
Mr Mhango – Library User.
In April 2018, the Usisya library recorded 236 visits and one of those was Mr Mhango.
Mr Mhango, who lives in Chinjanja with his wife and four sons, has been using the community library since 2016 where he reads the newspapers and novels. His wife was also a Temwa microfinance beneficiary back in 2015 and how has a small business selling fish.
In northern Malawi access to information is extremely limited. Many communities, like Usisya and Chinjanja are very isolated. Combine that with the fact that there is no national radio coverage, or sparse internet connection, means that libraries like these are really the only source of news and information for the people who live here. But with regular newspaper deliveries, library users like Mr Mhango are able to access the news, current affairs and job adverts.
Alongside everything that the users and read and learn from the written material, they can connect with the world through the use of the computers. Using social media they have access to instantaneous news and global affairs from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. On top of this, it also highlights a greater number of job opportunities and detailed information on health, education and technology. This information can be life-saving and having access to it through non-fiction books, newspapers and the computers is invaluable.
“I know Mr Dangote is the richest man in Africa through reading the newspaper.”
Mr Mhango recognises the value of having a library in his area. Commenting on current affairs, he spoke about Aliko Dangote, an Nigerian business magnate, and how he knew now that he is Africa’s richest man. Mr Mhango told Temwa how as an older gentleman the library allows him to widen his knowledge about current technology and improve as well as maintain the skills he already has. While for the younger generations, the facility helps to improve their literacy rates, vocabulary and academic performances.
You might not use your local library, but that does not make them obsolete. To find out how your kind support helps people like Mr Mhango have a look at our case studies. Or if you are inspired to get involved with our work, visit our Get Involved Page.