About The Camel-Borne Library
Though The Camel Bookmobile is a novel, (read reviews and the story behind the book,) the camel-borne library actually exists. It operates from Garissa in Kenya’s isolated Northeastern Province near the unstable border with Somalia. Initially launched with three camels on Oct. 14, 1996, the library now uses 12 camels traveling to four settlements per day, four days per week. The camel library is now operating also in Wajir, Kenya, even further to the northeast. The camels bring books to a semi-nomadic people who live with drought, famine and chronic poverty. The books are spread out on grass mats beneath an acacia tree, and the library patrons, often barefoot, sometimes joined by goats or donkeys, gather with great excitement to choose their books until the next visit. The books are written in English or Swahili, the two official primary of Kenya. (For more about languages of the region, see here.)
In 2006, I visited the region and walked the bush with the real camel library. I was moved by the excitement with which the people greeted the camel library. But the bush is hard on books and, of course, the traveling library badly needs more. Also on the librarian’s wishlist is a tent to provide shade against the 100-degree-plus temperatures and a dozen sturdy boxes to hold the books that travel by camelback.
Thanks to the more than 235 authors who acted so quickly and generously to donate, and also reached out to colleagues and friends since the project began Feb. 13. (At left, see the wooden donation board in Garissa for those who contribute to the camel library.) Thanks, too, to the bloggers who have written about the drive and those who love books and decided to contribute. Special thanks to the incomparable M.J. Rose for helping birth the idea and organize the drive, and the amazing Susan Ito for crucial help in setting up this website and running the drive.
Warmly, Masha Hamilton
Another great organization helping African libraries is Chris Bradshaw’s African Library Project.
Books for Africa, founded in 1988, has shipped over 15 million books to 28 countries from a warehouse in St. Paul, MN. Thanks to Catherine Martignacco for approaching me at a reading to tell me about this wonderful organization.
Check here for the New Orleans Public Library Rebuilding Campaign.
Also check out Cindy Dyson’s Book Club Works, a new and wonderful literacy site.
For a whimsical look at Shelley Jackson and Christine Hill’s Interstitial Library, click here.