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A library as a lifeline

Lydia lives in a small village near Mukono in Uganda. Her village is several miles from the nearest road and her family relies on their small farm for survival. The community library in Lydia’s village is a lifeline to her, but like too many women around the world, her family does not always support her. This is her story.   

According to me, I think I should say openly that my family doesn’t favour me. Because there’s a lot of stuff to be finished, a lot of stuff to be done. Fetch water, clean the house, do the gardening.

So, if you’re talking about leaving the home, coming here to the library or going to collect books and taking them home, it means you’re going to have to make time for yourself [and not for the chores]. You first have to finish everything and prepare some time for you to read your books. My mum is understanding. You can explain to her “everything is done – I am going to the library.” But my dad – oh my God!

Lydia’s village

My dad is a problem. He doesn’t want me to walk from home to the library because I am a girl. He says he’s always worried because of safety – but according to me, it’s not risky. Even children that are younger than me use the same route to come this way – they even go beyond!

The safety is just an excuse. He just wants me to be at home. He says ‘you shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’

He doesn’t know how they help me. but my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. My dad, he likes it when you’re always working – always busy. Not this stuff where you are sitting and concentrating on something like reading. He only went to school a little. But for me, I love to read!

In this community, it’s so noisy. My home is next to a club, so it’s loud with the music all night, but when I start reading I get so into it that I feel like the environment is quiet. I pretend that I am not hearing that noise and it actually seems to disappear. If I stop reading I might notice the music has turned off, but I can’t understand when it was turned off or how, because I am so much into reading.

At home, they sometimes get fed up with me and my books.

I can read even though people are often shouting, mum is calling everyone, the TV is making noise, but I’m so concentrated on reading.

I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading.

I usually come to the library and read books and information, non-academic books too, like books for fashion designing, personal management and hygiene, and food and nutrition books.

If the library didn’t have these books, maybe I could access some at school, but the disadvantage is that at school there are just not enough books to cater for everyone. This library has helped me a lot because I can find two, three or four books of the same available!


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