A beautiful story about a library…

Welcome to the Community Library! Young volunteers at work.

I love libraries. Therefore, I love people who love libraries – like the indomitable Angela Tuson who works for ITEC,  Institute of Training & Education for Capacity-building a non-profit organization in East London on the east coast of South Africa. This area is called the Transkei and during apartheid was subjected to the government’s appalling “Bantu Education” system for non-whites. Today, most of the people there still live in poverty and struggle with literacy, but there are many signs of hope.

Learning chess at the library.

ITEC was founded in 1987 by Gerry Nicholl, a feisty teacher who wanted to help other teachers deal with a painful lack of support and resources in this system. 23 years later, ITEC is still going strong and Angela’s part in it is “a lovely one” as she describes it, hosting a Community Library with a staff of two, and a bunch of volunteers from ages 7 to 80.

Learning math online.

The library’s ethos is based on being a resource and lifeline for the community, promoting Lifelong Self-Driven Learning & Environmental Responsibility. Most of the books are used, but there is fiction and non-fiction for every level of reader, the staff and volunteers recycle everything, there’s a garden of indigenous plants, and library policies are all about kindliness and helpfulness.

You can read whatever you like.

Patrons can use the library’s PCs and TVs for job hunting, resume writing and news, and little ones often come in after school, so Angela has set up story-telling, reading hours, homework help, and big comfy nap zones. Because many folks can’t read very well, the library also has films, curriculum, stories, radio, internet – and lots of earphones – as well as puzzles, games, chess tables, toys, legos, posters and art stations. It’s a full entertainment center for the community and a place that welcomes everyone. Angela and her co-worker also train others to build libraries in their communities that are child-friendly, no-fines, and have only 3 rules: Quiet, Sharing and Respect.

A library ITEC started in a children's home.

For teachers in rural schools in the Transkei province who are “ridiculously low on resources” as Angela succinctly puts it, she offers block loans of books, toys, games, posters, puzzles, art and digital equipment, microscopes, lamps, cushions and plants to use in their classrooms for 3-6 months at a time.

Caught up in the magic of reading.

When Angela wrote me, she cheerfully admitted that the library is in constant need of funds and routinely faces foreclosure, but said “personally I prefer donations of books to cash.” Spoken like a true librarian!!   However, I am sending cash – and she ecstatically let me know that my $100 donation will pay for the volunteers’ travel reimbursements for a whole year. What a great, sunny feeling to be sending library love to Africa on this rainy morning in Atlanta!  (I’ll include a donation link tomorrow.)

(For another amazing story about the Transkei, see the post on African Medical Missions, on March 24.)

3 thoughts on “A beautiful story about a library…

  1. Great stuff! Contributing both $ and books to libraries that need them is a great way of helping human assets to grow. A few years ago,I shipped about half my theological/psychological/philosophical collection (several hundred books) via “Pastors for Peace” to the Interdenominational Protestant Seminary Librarary in Matanzas, Cuba. More recently, I’ve been able to help a school kids giving project in Menlo Park. CA. Turns out that one of their 6th grades (then) was organizing her friends of all ages to ship books to kids/schools/libraries in Africa. Projects such as these create giving assets of all kinds – not least in the giviers.Any readers are welcome to get in touch to see how they can help facilitate such activities and projects of their own.
    John Shippee

  2. So glad you are supporting ITEC! I’ve visited their fantastic library in East London, South Africa and some of the libraries they’ve helped get started, too. Angela is a dynamo and a very creative librarian. As Americans, it is difficult to comprehend how not having access to books and information shapes our relationship to ourselves and the world. Great cause, Betty!
    Chris Bradshaw
    Founder/President of African Library Project

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