Follow the progress of our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme through the experience of one library in Malawi. We will be bringing you a series of updates about how Mzuzu library is creating a vibrant space for children to read, play and learn freely.
Mzuzu, in Malawi’s Northern Region, is the third largest city in Malawi with a population of around 130,000 living within the city and around 1.7 million in its surrounding areas. Mzuzu has a large university, whose library Book Aid International has supported for many years including a special donation in 2016 to help the library restock after a devastating fire. The city is the commercial centre for agriculture in this region and the main crops are tea, rubber and coffee.
Mzuzu Library was founded 38 years ago and is close to the centre of the city. A branch of Malawi National Library Service (MNLS), it provides the city with books and information on a whole range of subjects as well as a quiet place to study. It’s the only public library in this area and receives around 420 visitors each day.
Although the library has a collection of children’s books, many of them are old and unappealing for young readers. They currently have no designated space for children and no child-sized furniture, mats or toys. When our Project Manager Judith visited the library in 2015 she said:
“It’s a large library with a good overall collection of books, but there is just a shelf of children’s books – most of which are old. There’s no space for the children to be themselves or to enjoy reading activities. Although the librarians are very keen to engage young readers, it’s not an especially appealing place for children at the moment.”
We have already helped MNLS to set up six brand new Children’s Corners in public libraries as part of our Open Doors programme. A combination of brand new books, brightly painted spaces and librarians who undertake training in running a great children’s library have seen these new spaces full of children. The new Children’s Corners have proved so popular that MNLS plan to include a Children’s Corner in each new library they establish.
After Judith’s visit we knew Mzuzu would be a perfect library to join our Open Doors programme in Malawi. Peter Chamgwera, the Librarian at Mzuzu expressed how keen he was to see this programme reach the children of Mzuzu:
“We need to promote a reading culture for our children. This will create a conducive environment for reading for our children and will help them with their studies. At the moment, they have to use the same reading area as the adults.”
Thanks to funding from the ICAP Charity Day in late 2015 we are now in the process of helping MNLS to establish a further five new Children’s Corners in libraries in Malawi – one of which will be at Mzuzu Library. 2,500 brand new books have already been sent from the UK and the librarians have all attended training on becoming inspiring children’s librarians. The librarians at Mzuzu are just about to begin the process of transforming a space in the library especially for children. Here’s how the area looks now:
Read the next instalment on the progress of Mzuzu Library’s Children’s Corner here.