Donkey-Drawn Mobile Cart Library Services for the Eastern Cape?

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Donkey-Drawn Mobile Cart Library Services for the Eastern Cape: bringing libraries to the community!
Shirley Kabwato

The Eastern Cape is regarded as one of the poorest provinces in South Africa with approximately 63% of the population living in the rural areas. Many rural communities do not have proper road networks hindering their mobility. The limited mobility has forcibly isolated, marginalized and has prevented the majority of the people access to basic services and development opportunities. Illiteracy levels have remained high, most schools are poorly equipped, under-resourced and access to library services has remained limited or non - existent to most communities.

. These can include the provision of mobile library and outreach services despite difficult conditions or scarce resources. Of particular interest will be the introduction of the Donkey –Drawn Mobile Cart Library Services. The Donkey-Drawn Mobile Cart Library Services is a project that has already been successfully implemented in Zimbabwe’s rural Matabeleland Province. This initiative was started in 1995 by Zimbabwe’s Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme and has recently been extended to provide the Donkey – Drawn Mobile Cart Electro-Communication Library, offering access to radio, television, telephone, fax, e-mail and Internet services powered by a solar unit installed on the roof of the cart.

The Zimbabwe Donkey –Drawn Mobile Cart Library services is a perfect model that can be used in the Eastern Cape to introduce donkey mobile libraries to disadvantaged communities or areas that are inaccessible due to poor road infrastructure. There are a lot of donkeys that roam freely in and around Grahamstown and the rest of the Eastern Cape Province. These donkeys are resources that can be put to good use by providing library services, encouraging a culture of reading and promoting literacy skills among both the young and the old. The donkey mobile library services can be used to cater for schools in townships, rural areas and informal settlements in providing teachers, school children and the rest of the community with access to learning and reading materials.

The Donkey–Drawn Mobile Cart Library consists of a closed cart designed to provide proper storage facilities. Library staff can either be trained librarians or volunteers who can be provided with basic library training. The donkey mobile carts can be used in all sorts of terrains and can be attached to a network system linking several towns, villages and schools. The donkey mobile libraries will have set dates and specific times to visit. This can be once a month or once a term depending on road conditions or distance between target communities. These mobile libraries may allow users to borrow books until the next visit.

This initiative would be a good project for the Grahamstown Libraries Forum and the LIASA Special Libraries Interest Group (Eastern Cape) to tackle. And for Rhodes University this can be taken as part of the University’s community engagement programme!

Ethiopia has implemented similar rural library mobile projects following on the Zimbabwean experience. The picuture shows a Donkey Mobile Library at Awassa. (BBC News)