In a world where almost everything you hear about libraries is bad news, it's amazing to find out you can create some good news yourself. Just before Christmas @Jaffne pointed out on Twitter that you could buy India a library, via GoodGifts.org, for just £1,250.
Clearly that's a lot of money in some ways, but in others it seems a tiny amount - they build the library from scratch, kit it out with furniture, fill it with books and staff it for TWO YEARS with that money. Furthermore, you can get a donkey-drawn mobile library in Africa for just £100! Unbelievable. In each case, the libraries bring books to areas which previously had none.
Anyway, while I was marevelling about this with Jan Holmquist on Twitter, Andromeda Yelton pointed out that although she didn't have £1,250 lying around herself, perhaps Twitter would do collectively? It's a simple but brilliant idea - crowd-source enough money from librarians on Twitter, to fund a library for a charitable organisation.
As soon as we had time to put it all together, Andromeda, Jan and I, roping in Justin Hoenke for the ride, set up Buy India a Library. It's a PayPal donation based system, and so far people have been incredibly generous - we've raised nearly £500 and the campaign is only three days old! There is a lot of discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #buyalib - there is a twapperkeeper archive of the tweets here - and loads of people have clicked the donate button and given what they can.
Do you think you could help out? If everyone who reads this and my Twitter feed gave the price of a coffee to the cause, we'd have enough already. If you feel able to donate anything at all, please click the button - let's create some good news and open a library at a time of closures!
[PayPal button removed -the campaign has now closed]
It goes without saying, the PayPal accounts we're using (mine until I reach my withdrawal limit, then Andromeda's thereafter) are only being used for this campaign. Whether you're able to donate or not, it would be fantasticly helpful if you were able to spread the word about the campaign, either by linking to the main Project website on your blogroll, or telling friends and family about the campaign, or putting something in the staff bulletin drawing people's attention to it. We've set ourselves a pretty ambitious target, and we need all the help we can get! If you're able to tweet a link to this post, or Share it on Facebook, that would be amazing.
What I really like about this, apart from the obvious thing of Information Professionals making a huge difference and creating libraries where currently there are none, is that it is such a tangible process of charity giving. Rather than just adding money to a pot of existing money, we're coming together to literally BUY something specific, and real. Things will be created and pressed into service, books will be sourced and purchased - because of what we're doing here. Even if the campaign stopped right this second, four mobile libraries would be made, stocked up, and begin to move around Africa, bringing books to children who need them. Can you join in and support the project?
The Buy India a Library FAQ
If the information above is the main feature film, this bit is the DVD extras. For those who want to know more, here it is:
Which charity administers this?
The company through which we are buying these libraries is UK-based, and called GoodGifts.org. It is the brain-child of the Charities Advisory Trust, a registered charity with more than 25 years of experience. What's great about GoodGifts is that the money is guarenteed to be used for the specific purpose advertised - it doesn't go into a general pot of cash, it is used specifically for what the customer chooses. So, libraries will come into existence which were not in existence previously, thanks to your donation! GoodGifts charges a £4.95 handling fee on top of the cost of the gift - we will pay this fee, and the entirety of the money we raise will go directly to the charities involved.
More info on the charities that take over at that point (the Rural Literacy and Health Programme, and the Africa Educational Trust) below.
Where exactly will the money be spent?
Once we buy the libraries, they are provided by specialist charities. The library in India will come from the Rural Literacy and Health Programme (RLHP), set up in 1984. To quote the organisation's website, the RLHP "...operates in 56 slums and 25 villages in Mysore, Mandya & Chamarajanagar districts of Karnataka State in South India covering a population of 50,000."
The donkey drawn libraries are delivered by the African Educational Trust a UK registered charity formed more than 50 years ago, dedicated to support education in Africa. The mobile libraries are aimed at kids, and contain around 100 fiction, non-fiction and reference books - the libraries travel to schools in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda (all of which are low on supplies of books, due to being former war zones).
What happens if you raise less than £1,250?
If we raise less than the figure needed to buy a permanent library in India, we will buy multiples of mobile libraries in Africa (each costing £100) based on how much we get. If we don't get an exact X-hundred pound figure, we'll buy Book Grants (of £35 each) to make up the difference.
What happens if you raise more?
We buy more libraries! Ideally we'd like to raise £1,350 so we can buy a permanent library in India, AND a mobile library in Africa. If we make much more than that, we'll buy more mobile libraries and book grants with the difference.
Who are the people behind this campaign?
Just four Information Professionals who talk to each other on Twitter. Justin Hoenke and Andromeda Yelton are public librarians from the US, Jan Holmquist is a public librarian from Denmark, and I work in an academic library in the UK.
Why are you using a basic PayPal account for this?
We spent a looong time looking into the options here - we looked at places like www.justgiving.com but they don't support this specific charity in this specific way, and we looked at the options to upgrade our PayPal accounts to business ones but opened a whole world of problems - the net result of which were less money for the charity.
In the end we opted to use a basic PayPal account (mine [EDIT UPDATE - now Andromeda's]), which won't be used for anything else except this campaign. Once we reach the limits of that (one can only withdraw so much from a PayPal account in a year) we will switch to Andromeda's PayPal account. PayPal take a very small cut of the money, but not a prohibitive amount - for example if you give £20, we'll recieve £19.12.
Why spend money on libraries abroad when our own are in trouble?
This is a good question, a fair enough point, and one a few people have raised. Should librarians be spending their hard-earned library salaries on building libraries elsewhere while our own insitutions are closing around us? Here's my view:
- It only costs 100 pounds – 100 pounds! (that's about 155 dollars) – to set up a mobile library in Africa, to reach parts of the continent that have little or no access to books. It costs 1,250 pounds to build an entire permanent library in India, kit it out with furniture and books and staff for TWO years! Neither of those amounts would make much of a dent on the UK/US library situation, but would make a huge, tangible difference in the poorer parts of India / Africa.
- People have no real mechanism to give to libraries in the UK or US in the same way. Even if you had $5 you wanted to donate to a library, how could you? We don’t think we’re taking money AWAY from any libraries in our own countries – we believe we will catalyse spending that wouldn’t otherwise happen. That said, if we can start some kind of movement towards giving to libraries at home too, that would be amazing. Libraries for all!
- Libraries are closing all over the place. Let’s open one and have some good news for a change...
Let me know if you have any more questions about the project and here, once more, is the donate button.
[PayPal button removed -the campaign has now closed]