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Lubuto Library

Lubuto Libraries

A Lubuto library is a special place designed for street kids and other marginalized children and youth in Africa. In the safe haven of the library, children can look at books, be read to and read for themselves. They can develop their talents and express themselves through the visual and performing arts, or communicate and learn with OLPC laptops. They can receive mentoring and guidance and participate in programs on health and the environment. Lubuto libraries open the world to children with no opportunities, allowing them to explore their heritage and learn about others through varied and enriching library programs.

Lubuto library buildings use vernacular design to give children profound and rich spaces—a ‘home’ in which to read and learn. A refuge from their harsh life, the comfortable, usable library lets children be just children with books to help them dream, imagine and envision a better future.

Lubuto Library Book Collections Are Special

Lubuto Library Partners is not a book donation program. The project is unique in providing comprehensive library collections of expertly selected and organized children's books. With the guidance of professional children’s librarians, gifts of books from corporations, publishers and individuals are cataloged by volunteers and shipped as a self-ready collection. On delivery, a complete 4,000-volume children’s library is available, organized according to the Lubuto Classification System.

This core collection is just the beginning of the life of a Lubuto library. Local language materials are identified and added, and new materials keep the library ‘alive’. Because of a dearth of children’s materials in print in Zambian languages, Lubuto partnered with the Zambia Library Association to establish the Zambian Board on Books for Young People, whose goal is to bring together writers, illustrators, publishers, and educators to produce high-quality bilingual literature for children and youth.

Offering a wide array of culturally appropriate and high quality children's books, Lubuto’s shelves contain world-class collections. In addition, the project trains Lubuto librarians with materials adapted to fit the local conditions under which the library operates. In addition to teaching Lubuto’s specialized classification system, instruction includes strategies for delivering innovative services and programs adapted to the specific needs of street children. Training also includes approaches to evaluation, local public outreach and solicitation of feedback on the collections, which is essential to maintain targeted and effective services in any library environment.

View some of the books inscribed especially for the children of Lubuto libraries

Lubuto Library Programs

Lubuto library programs give children excluded from school the opportunity to learn to read and progress with their education. Knowing that society provides a safe place for them and cares about their welfare, and given opportunities for self-expression, vulnerable children begin to develop self-confidence. Lubuto libraries play the same role in their host communities that libraries played traditionally in the US, opening the doors of opportunity for marginalized people while providing valuable resources for communities to flourish. That the Lubuto libraries focus on the youngest and most vulnerable members of society makes their impact especially powerful.

Lubuto libraries offer holistic programming in which young people and adults from every level of society can participate. The resulting interaction establishes and strengthens ties between marginalized young people and their communities, centered on a communal approach to learning and helping to meet local challenges creatively. The nearly 50,000 visits to each Lubuto library in a year by vulnerable children are due, in large part, to participation in the library’s innovative,relevant programs. Library users not only learn from books on all subjects but also have many options for self-expression and developing their talents and skills. See these programs in action in Lubuto’s film “Our Time to Bring Change.”

LubutoStorytime: Reading aloud, an essential part of literacy development, is carried out daily by library staff, teachers, regular volunteers and library visitors, as well as by and among the children themselves.

LubutoLaptops: In use in our first library since February, 2009, these innovative laptops are very popular and heavily used, primarily by children writing about their lives and improving language and computer skills.

LubutoLiteracy: Children learn to read most effectively when they are taught in their native languages. Based on the government curriculum, Zambian teachers and talented youth of our libraries are creating computer-based programs for teaching children how to read in their mother tongues, using OLPC XO-1.5 laptops and Etoys. Working under a grant from the Public Library Innovation Program, the youth earn school fees for their excellent programming and graphic design work and the teachers apply their expertise in teaching children to read far beyond their traditional classrooms, even to out-of-school youth and street children. The lessons can run on any computer and will be available to all to download from

LubutoArts: Our Visual Arts Program has developed the talents of Lusaka’s vulnerable youth since the first library opened in 2007 and our 2009 exhibition of their work at the Henry Tayali Gallery. Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans, USA, invited Lubuto’s artists to exhibit and sell their work in June 2011. The tremendous enthusiasm ignited by this exciting offer from Stella Jones engendered LubutoArts, a self-sustaining art training program supported by a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of artworks.

LubutoMentoring: Dr. Lawrence Mukuka’s wildly popular, successful and innovative program of counseling, mentoring and teaching Zambian values is based on traditional stories that are selected for their instructive morals about life skills and positive mental attitude. Sessions conducted in Zambian languages are based on traditional ways in which values are passed down from generation to generation, giving children a sense of connection to their roots and society. Over 500 boys and girls participate in each three-month program of weekly sessions, offered year round at Lubuto. Most of the participants are street children and all come from highly vulnerable circumstances. Many participants become regular readers at the library and join other Lubuto programs, like OLPC and visual arts. Dozens decide to return to school and Lubuto works with them to help this to happen.

LubutoDrama: Kenny Hau leads a twice-weekly program of drama, improvisation, and adapting books and stories for performance. Of the important role this program plays in the children’s lives, actor (and Lubuto supporter) Danny Glover noted that it “reinforces their sense of themselves and re-establishes a different confidence in them. Like my own experiences in acting when I was young, it sets something in motion … a way to organize the emotional life within you. To watch these young people engaging in that and claiming it for themselves is very special.” Hear Danny Glover tell how theater empowers vulnerable children

A Lubuto library is more than just a room to read

Dr. Denise E. Agosto is an internationally respected expert in multicultural issues in children's and young adult literature and in library resources and services for youth; she is a strong supporter of Lubuto Library Partners. Her research and that of other library professionals shows that libraries do much more than just provide books. Public libraries play three main roles critical to the happy, healthy development of young people: an information gateway, a space for social interaction and entertainment, and a beneficial physical environment.

Lubuto’s challenge is to reach large numbers of Zambia’s street kids, orphans, and other vulnerable children who are mostly out of school and to offer them an opportunity for informal education, constructive engagement with society, and personal fulfillment. This mission is possible through the model of Lubuto's full-service libraries, providing information, learning, literacy, cultural awareness, artistic expression and social services. Through carefully selected collections of library materials, high quality educational and cultural programs, and strong community outreach, they provide community spaces for social interaction, community building, and entertainment purposes.

A Lubuto library is a safe, nurturing and beautiful space for children who have few options. Our model for library programs and service in a compassionate atmosphere has the power for a lasting, positive influence on the children we reach, helping them to create a brighter future both for themselves and for their communities.

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