Donkey mobile libraries in Zimbabwe
In some parts of the world the need for information services in remote rural areas is met by using traditional modes of transport in unusual ways. This is certainly the case in Zimbabwe, where the role of libraries is essential in supporting education in schools and also for initiatives that bring economic and social benefits to people of all ages.
Mobile libraries offer information services in rural areas, but the typical “bookmobile” is limited in terms of the places it can reach if the road network is simply not up to the job. This is true of vast regions of the developing world and not just Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe the problem is being addressed by the use of donkey-drawn libraries – simply a cart, pulled by a donkey, that offers books and other information resources and which can go just about anywhere.
The initiative is just one element of the work of the Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP), which is a community based not-for-profit non-governmental organization formed in 1990 with the objective of establishing and developing community libraries and information services to empower the rural population.
According to Obadiah T. Moyo, the Secretary General of RLRDP, the organization has assisted in the establishment of “300 rural community libraries, 10 donkey-drawn mobile libraries and 130 book delivery bicycles. They provide an extension outreach service in areas where proper roads are not available. About 105 rural libraries have access to computers.”
Donkey-drawn mobile libraries were first conceptualized and developed by RLRDP in the Nkayi district of Zimbabwe in 1995. It is a very important initiative that has attracted world attention, and was recognized and commended by the World Summit on the Information Society (2003 and 2005), which has made clear that access to information leads to sustainable development.
The RLRDP also promotes community libraries by providing relevant reading materials, sponsoring debates in communities about issues and problems affecting daily life, providing the means and mechanisms for continuing education for everyone in the community, and pooling resources to benefit the wider spectrum of the community through networking activities. All these tasks have proved successful as they reinforce a sense of collective responsibility for the community libraries that have been established.