NY Times: “Turning Nairobi’s Public Libraries Into ‘Palaces for the People'”
From The NY Times:
In 1931, the first library in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, opened its doors — to white patrons only.
Nearly a century later, Kenyans dressed in the slinky gowns, flapper headpieces and tweed suits of that era streamed into the now-dilapidated space in a celebration that was part fund-raiser for the remodel of the iconic building, part reclamation of the city’s public libraries as “palaces for the people.”
“Our public libraries can be glamorous spaces of storytelling,” said Angela Wachuka, a Kenyan publisher. But, she added, “we are here to also reclaim history, to occupy its architecture and to subvert its intended use.”
The restoration of the McMillan Memorial Library and others in the city was the brainchild of Wachuka and the novelist Wanjiru Koinange, who founded Book Bunk, a Kenyan nonprofit, in 2017 to restore and reclaim the city’s public libraries. The aim was to leave behind their excluding past and remake them into inclusive spaces where Kenyans can archive and share collective memories, engage in creative and civic pursuits, and have at their disposal the technology to gather and disseminate information.
Joyce Nyairo, a Kenyan academic and cultural analyst, said that the restored libraries have the chance to be “great equalizers,” particularly for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
These libraries, she said, can be places where young people can read, but also connect and collaborate with peers who share their interests or challenge their worldviews.
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See Also: Book Bunk (via Twitter)
Filed under: Libraries, News, Patrons and Users, Public Libraries, Publishing
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.