Tag Archives: libraries

Can Our Libraries Learn From the Developing World?

In Western society we tend to think we’ve got everything figured out, at least in relation to the developing world.  When it comes to funding libraries, that’s not exactly the case.

Eager young readers spend their Saturday in this rural village library in Nepal.

It won’t surprise readers to learn that many public libraries in the United States are fighting to protect their funding.  Book lovers will want to read more about the struggle for funding here.  The article points out that the library system in the U.S. was largely created by Andrew Carnegie through his massive philanthropic investments almost 100 years ago.

Carnegie helped build the library infrastructure, but the on-going operating costs – librarian salaries, new book purchases, utilities, etc. – of these libraries has been funded through tax dollars.  The scarcity of tax dollars now threatens many of those same libraries that Carnegie helped build.

As I learned during my recent trip to India and Nepal, however, there’s a much more sustainable model for library development.  Non-profit READ Global has spent the last 20 years helping to launch dozens of self-sufficient libraries in the poorest regions of the world.  Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

READ makes a significant investment to help launch and build each library.  However, at the same time it also helps the local community launch a grassroots business, with all profits going to fund 100% of each library’s costs moving forward.  Each such enterprise provides jobs and a needed service, creating a new cycle of economic growth in these tiny villages.

My wife Eileen greets the local textile workers in the READ library in Geejgarh, India. Their work funds the local library's operating expenses.

While visiting one such library in the rural hamlet of Geejgarh, India we met the staff of a mini textile factory operated within the local library.  Incredibly, they had just signed a contract with a major retailer to manufacture 50,000 cloth bags.  All profits are used to fund the local library’s operating costs in full, often creating a surplus.

While touring such libraries in rural Nepal we rode over a bridge that was actually funded by the local library association.  Yes, READ has created such an incredible model that their local library associations are now funding major community infrastructure projects.  Amazing.

Perhaps READ’s model, successfully tested for 20+ years in dozens of libraries across three countries, can now migrate to the West.

As you might expect, GoneReading has pledged its financial support to READ.  Click here to learn more about READ, and here to buy GoneReading apparel, gifts and merchandise.

P.S.  If you enjoyed this little article, please flatter us by subscribing to this blog via email or RSS Feed.  Doing so plays a big role in supporting our philanthropic mission!

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO
http://www.gonereading.com/
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Must-See Destinations for Readers – The Library of Congress

With this article we begin a new series, GoneReading‘s Must-See Destinations for Readers.  And where else to begin than the “mother ship” as I refer to it, the United States Library of Congress.

I first visited the “LC” last summer shortly after moving to the DC-area.  Although I had been to Washington dozens of times, like many people, the Library simply wasn’t top of mind.  An incredible oversight for this bibliophile.

The architectural wonder of the interior is reason-enough to visit the Library of Congress

So what is the Library of Congress anyway?  According to its website, the Library’s mission is “To support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties… ”    Which explains the tunnel between the U.S. Capital and the Library itself.  The Library was originally formed in 1800 to make sure that Congress had access to the world’s most important written knowledge.  A noble goal in any era; more notably so at a time when libraries barely existed in the U.S.

Over time the Library’s mission expanded to include “(furthering) the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”  The Library is, above all, a massive collection of information, impressive even in the Internet era.

Why should you visit the Library of Congress?

If you love to read, you owe yourself a trip to the Mother Ship, aka The Library of Congress

  • It’s incredibly beautiful.  I’m not sure there is a building in all of Washington with a more grand, artful, ornate, palace-like  interior.  Bring your camera.
  • The exhibits.  Think of the Library as a museum for bibliophiles and book lovers.  The rotating exhibits are world-class, on par with the best of any major museum.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Library.  After the original Library of Congress was burned in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his personal book collection to the United States, forming the nucleus of the new Library.  His vast collection is now set aside for all to see.  If you love perusing bookshelves it simply doesn’t get any better than this.  I literally shivered to see, up close and in person, the actual volumes that Jefferson read.
  • The message it sends to your kids.  The grandeur of the Library, its vastness and beauty, sends a clear message: Reading is important, something to be cherished and valued.  While this message resounds for all, its impact on children is especially indelible.
Not to be forgotten, the Library is a working library available to all “researchers” aged 16 and up.  It does take a little advance planning, including a registration process,in order to access the collections.
And as you might expect, there is a gift shop.  I couldn’t help myself during my first visit.  And although I think the staff was as surprised as anyone, I left the Library with my very own baseball cap from the LC.  I wear it almost every weekend with proud distinction, much to my wife’s chagrin.
For visitor information on the Library of Congress, click here.

Please share your comments below…

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO
http://www.gonereading.com/
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