Keeping communities informed during Ebola
When Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone in 2014, a national state of emergency was declared. Public institutions were shut, travel was restricted and children missed a whole school year.
Believing in their important role in contributing to the health, education and development of the country, the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) kept the doors of its libraries open across the country.
We talked to Sallieu Turay, Chief Librarian of SLLB about the role that its libraries played during the Ebola crisis:
Somebody would say “what is the link with a public library and Ebola?” There is a link because we have a role to inform society about contemporary issues.
During the Ebola period, the Sierra Leone Library Board libraries remained open. We never closed our doors. Schools were closed, colleges were closed, some public offices were closed but all our libraries nationwide were open. We motivated our staff to make sure that they continued to deliver the relevant library and information services to the public.
There were a lot of restrictions in terms of movement from one point to another. But we were travelling all over the country trying to distribute books, distributing other educational items to the public. To move from one point to the other, you had to make an application for permits to travel. Without those permits you couldn’t travel from one point to the other. And you had a time frame you were allowed to travel within – you couldn’t travel outside of that set period. It was difficult but we ventured.
The there was also the risk of interacting with people during that period. But our libraries run a lot of outreach services for their communities. We do book programmes and lot of user education, especially things that relate to health issues. We did this especially during the Ebola period. We were the first to bring on board traditional healers all over Sierra Leone to educate them on issues related to Ebola prevention.
We also continued to run our library programmes like quizzes, dramas, reading promotional activities and the like. We wanted to try to close the gap. Most children were at home doing nothing and we believed that making our doors open within that period would give them something to do, somewhere to go.
It was not easy, but we tried to do what we could as a library during that particular period. And it paid off so much.
In March 2016, the World Health Organisation declared Sierra Leone Ebola free. Schools are open again, businesses are restarting and everyone is focused on the future. We are proud to partner with SLLB, providing brand new books for library users of every age and stage. This year, we have shipped 33,000 books to Sierra Leone with the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery. We hope that these new, carefully selected books will help people as they rebuild their lives and communities.
To learn more about our work in Sierra Leone take a look at the links below.