Camel Book Drive

Donate To Kenya’s Mobile Library

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.

donation-board.jpgThanks 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

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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.

April 6, 2005 - Posted by | About

9 Comments »

  1. [...] to read this month’s O magazine, and one short blurb has stuck in my mind.  It was about The Camel Book Drive, a project that brings library books to Kenyans and Somalians via camels.  As someone who loves [...]

    Pingback by We Are The Ones Who Make A Brighter Day « Somewhere In The Suburbs | November 15, 2007 | Reply

  2. I recently read the article “Special Delivery” in the March issue of Family Circle. My class of second graders will soon learn about Kenya in social studies, so I was intrigued by the notion of a “bookcamel” delivering books to children in Kenya. I hope that as part of our study we will be able to view the video on your website, download the photographs, and become inspired to begin a book drive to help this wonderful cause. When I think of the variety of books available in my classroom, tubs full of fiction and nonfiction,that my students eagerly peruse on a daily basis, I know that my students will be eager to do what they can to get more books in the hands of the children of Kenya.

    Comment by Vicki Good | February 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. I am a teacher at an elementary school and our students would all like to donate books to the Kenya library. Can you give us any suggestions for our project. We are in the beginning stages and will be sending home letters to parents soon about donations and we will be seeking donations for postage costs. Our school uses the 6 pillars of Character Counts and the camel stands for trustworthiness. We plan to use this in our posters to promote our project by saying,The world can trust Davis School to “Make a Difference”.
    Thank you Cindy Lake /April 2, 2008

    Comment by Cindy Lake | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. Dear Masha
    You are doing a fabulous job!!! Something so unconventional.. I was moved after reading the book. Till then I cud not even think an idea of educating / providing literacy to nomadic tribes of Africa. They say service to mankind is service to God. You are a living example of the saying. I would like to contribute in terms of voluntary services. Pl get in touch with me on my mail aishwarya.moses@gmail.com

    Comment by Aishwarya | February 27, 2009 | Reply

  5. I am a student from Taichung City, Taiwan.The Camel Bookmobile is a novel,but the mobile library actually exists.I think the reason of the camels can be a form of transportation in Kenya, as the poor roads make driving difficult.

    Comment by Wu Shen Dai | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  6. I am an administrator at a residential program for adults with severe to profound disabilities. When we recently heard of the Camel Book Drive and shared it with people many faces lit up and smiles came easily. We have decided at our annual family day to launch a Camel Book Drive to provide books to this program. We are anxious for the launch on September 5th and look forward to a long relationship with this amazing program.

    Comment by Keith Duhamel | August 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. Hi, do you still accept book donations?

    Comment by Marika | April 19, 2010 | Reply

  8. In having lived in a third world country (Costa Rica)I found it very disheartening to have no libraries around for the masses. I have read this book about camels and libraries and it was very important to me.

    Comment by tina page | May 3, 2010 | Reply

  9. Today I have received a return box of books I sent to Wajir. Are you still active? Do I need to send them somewhere else? I would appreciate hearing from you about this. Thank you. Georgis

    Comment by Georgia Wessling | January 4, 2011 | Reply


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