I can't imagine life without easy access to books, and libraries have always been part of my life, as a child, as a student, and as a parent. Whenever I go into one, I look around at all the shelves, all those books, and feel a sense of delight and wonder at all of them there waiting for me.
Ideally everyone should have the same opportunity of access to books, to widen their horizons, to learn, to be entertained while learning. But many live in remote areas where it's just not possible. In most western countries we have mobile libraries and the internet to fill the gap, but what of developing countries? The gap has been filled ingeniously.
Today my friend janeway sent me a link to an article in the International Herald Tribune telling about Biblioburros. Every weekend for the last 10 years, a mobile library looking remarkably like two donkeys sets out for remote villages in Colombia. This particular project is run single-handed by a primary school teacher , Luis Sorian, in La Gloria Columbia.
A very similar project is running in Venezuela, there called Bibliomulas. In this case it is run by a Venezuelan univerisity, the University of Momboy, and it's being extended to carry laptops and projectors. Miles and donkeys are essential when it comes to the steep slopes that need to be climbed in order to bring reading material to the more remote communities.
In Kenya a different approach is needed to bring books to nomadic communities. A static library would be of no use, so instead the library follows them. Ships of the desert are the best way to travel in the Garissa area, 400km from the capital, Nairobi.
Books are important to the people in the area but they can't afford them. There is a very high rate of illiteracy, partly because of the nomadic way of life and partly because of poverty. Any spare money has to be spent on food.
BookAid has had a programme in Kenya since 1965 and providing books for the Kenya Camel Library is just one of the areas they support.