An Overview of Prior Research on Select Community Libraries

An Overview of Prior Research on Select Community Libraries

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5043-5.ch003
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This chapter presents an overview of some of the prior research done on select rural village libraries in Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso not presented elsewhere in this book. This review is meant to provide a context for the ways in which researchers have sought to document the development and impact of these libraries over time. This review is not meant to be exhaustive – there may certainly be more work on the rural village library in Africa than is presented here. However, the aim of this chapter is simply to provide an overview of the topics being explored by researchers within this framework.
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East Africa

The Kitengesa Community Library in Uganda has perhaps the largest set of published scholarship on its impact and operations. The library was built in 2002, but the original idea crystalized in 1999 with humble beginnings – it began with a box of books. The founders of the project were interested in finding out how the provision of reading materials in a rural village might impact literacy development:

If more appropriate material is made available, and if it is presented outside the framework of exams, a more productive literacy can, I believe, be developed (Parry 1999, p. 126).

What followed was a series of interrelated research projects and publications by a number of international scholars, all interested in exploring how this library was changing the community. The library has been the site of ongoing international research efforts since the early 2000s. Researchers, inspired by the work of Dr. Kate Parry, one of the library’s founders, have studied the impact of the library on the surrounding community. Articles and book chapters detailing these research efforts have been published widely. Research topics have included book borrowing patterns; the impact of the library on local economic development; the relationship of language, literacy, cultural practices and the role of the library; the impact of the library on student scholastic achievement; the impact of the library on childrens’ learning readiness; the impact of the library on teaching and teacher outcomes; and the impact of the library on girls and women. Researchers have also used the library as a way to study a number of other issues including the role of the library in literacy development; development of a reading culture; and the impact on rural health education and information dissemination. These studies combined the ethnographic approaches of participant-observation with other data gathering methods such as surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews to explore a variety of research questions in ways that were meaningful and rich.

The Kitengesa Community Library itself has emerged over time as not only a model for other rural libraries, but as a research center as well. The research being generated out of Kitengesa and the growth of the recently founded Uganda Community Library Association (UgCLA) has precipitated impact research on other UgCLA libraries in Uganda as well. For example, Stranger-Johannessen (2009) conducted a study of library impact on student learning at the Caezaria Library in rural Uganda. Research on the Kitengesa Community Library has also been cited in related work from other subject areas, including globalization and human rights. More importantly, the research has and continues to influence development of the library, educational and library-related services in the village, and local economic development. A good illustration is the AfriPads ( Project, where findings from an unpublished research study (Jones, 2008) on secondary schooling for girls in the village of Kitengesa (which included the role of the library) revealed that girls were missing school each month due to the lack of availability of proper feminine hygiene products. The following overview is broken down broadly by topic.

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