Kasonde Mukonde's remarks at May 22, 2017 ZEPH kiosk opening

Beautiful books for beautiful children


Welcome to Ngwerere Lubuto Library, the busiest public library in Zambia. We receive over 2000 visits a week here from children eager to explore, discover, learn and imagine. At Lubuto libraries, we believe that all children, regardless of background, deserve the best library services. That is why we invest in developing the best book collections and acquiring and using innovative technology in the libraries. Our collections are built to reflect the needs and interests of the children who use them, which we identify on an ongoing basis. We include a robust range of locally sourced books in our collections (and also note that this extends to technology, where we have developed a computer based local language reading curriculum with local expertise and have partnered with i-School to bring Zedupads to the library).

Today, therefore, marks a culmination of these efforts. We see the opening of the ZEPH sales kiosk as an expression of the strength of our partnership with the national publisher. Our President, Jane Meyers, will talk about the genesis of this partnership in her remarks but I only want to say that from the library users’ perspective, the partnership has added depth to our collections. We will hear later from children reading ZEPH publications and experience the joy that reading in one’s own language or local stories brings. Here, I just want to relate my experiences talking to people who grew up in the 70s and 80s, when the local publishing industry had not yet been compromised by book dumping and economic challenges. Those of that generation smile, and you can see their eyes sparkling, when you mention the books Shikalume Kalyonso by Edward Sefuke or Kweema Kwa Nakalindu by B. Mwiinga. I think if publishers and librarians work together, we can bring back that joy. Today is the start of that.

In conclusion, let me relate a short story about my own experiences growing up as a child using the Kitwe City Public Library in the 90s. I was a library member for almost my entire childhood and perhaps it is not an accident that I became a librarian. One day, searching for an interesting book to read, I came across a book with the stamp “OBSOLETE” on one of the first pages. And there were many other books in that library that had that stamp on it. I’ll admit that I didn’t know what the word “obsolete” meant at the time but I didn’t need a dictionary to figure it out. Those books with that stamp were often creased with age or incredibly boring. For informational books, even I, as a child, could tell that the facts were outdated. Years later, I did look up the word. “Obsolete” means “out of date.” Well-meaning donors send these books to Africa and librarians, with limited or no budgets, put these on the shelves. But imagine the damage that ‘obsolete knowledge’ and inaccessible or boring literature has done to an entire generation of children. Book dumping is not only an insult to the children and the librarians who serve them but an injustice that must be fixed. As Lubuto Library Partners we will not stand idly as this assault on our children’s ability to explore, discover, learn and imagine continues. Working together with our colleagues in the publishing industry and librarians from the association and ZLS, we will return to a robust literary culture. Thank you again, and welcome to this inauguration of the first ZEPH-Lubuto book sales kiosk.