In the time since its founding as a grassroots initiative, Lubuto Library Partners has maintained a constant focus on learning from experience to increasingly meet its goals. With three currently operating libraries, the headline figures—over 1.5 million visits by 140,000 children, and over 20,000 program participants—point to both the extraordinary need and the potential for meeting it. The libraries, which are far and away the most heavily used in Zambia, have supported over 6,000 marginalized children and youth, and provided life-changing mentoring to more than 3,500 adolescents, including programs that kept over 1,500 girls in school and HIV/AIDS-free. Programs for young mothers and the deaf have brought neglected populations out of the shadows and into opportunities for growth. Lubuto knows its beneficiaries and has hundreds of stories to share about the lives it has changed for the better.
Building on the foundation that it had established, Lubuto successfully pioneered the use of public libraries as a platform for programs that keep adolescent girls in school and HIV/AIDS-free with the support of a PEPFAR/DREAMS Innovation Challenge grant. Supported by this grant, we exceeded our target for re-enrolling girls in school by 172% and contributed to retaining in school all of the girls with whom we worked. We maintained, over a 2-year period, a 100% HIV testing and counseling referral completion rate by offering on-site testing and counseling. This experience also demonstrated the effectiveness of Lubuto Libraries as a platform for identifying excellent candidates for school scholarship support and for outreach aimed at reducing the vulnerability of teenage girls to transactional sex, and for changing views on gender-based violence.