last week at the kiziba community library we started cataloging every book upon those many crowded shelves. five of us, with assistance from a couple helpful visitors, wrote down titles and authors and numbers, book by book. there are thousands of books, all donated from various places, and they combine to create a very full library. it took me alone over six hours to catalog the young adult fiction section.
as a side note, i will wonder at how some young adult books get published. their subject matter is often absurd. if people on the other side of the world, say in a refugee camp in central africa, were trying to understand american culture by looking through the young adult section of a library they would think that all americans are obsessed with pets, horses, really quirky kids, and teenage relationship drama. which may be true. here’s to you, america. sometimes there would be books with a ridiculous amount of qualifying titles. like: mary barfword’s bellford high: heartbreakers club: boy chasers book 3: a mindy diary: boyfriend battle. i kid you not there are actually books like this.
but that little rant is hardly the point of this story.
last thursday i got up to the camp a little after nine to find johnson, soki, and grodya already focused on their respective shelves and genres plugging away. it was weirdly silent. they greeted me and then got right back to work. henry had been there earlier, finishing the section he had been working on the day before, and he was to show up again later after an appointment. i pulled out my computer and started as well, marveling at books i last saw when i was eight years old, and laughing at how many books have been written about magical puppies.
we were working hard, perhaps each lost in our own worlds, when we all become aware of the rising level of noise in the library. after summoning johnson’s attention to help several kids pick out books, i realized that the library was full of people. every several minutes there was another person at the window in the thin dividing wall between the main room and where the books are kept, asking for this or that.
there were kids of all ages and several adults. some were flipping through old national geographic magazines, some through spider man kids’ comics, some were teaching themselves how to draw, or laughing at the weird pictures in a guinness world records book. there were middle aged men with textbooks and dictionaries, piecing together a partially known language into useful information, and students with epics of african literature reading in preparation for the nearing resumption of classes. and covering it all was the constant, buzzing mumble of a dozen or more little voices slowly sounding out english words.
many of the library crowd returned several times to exchange one book for another, but there was also a steady stream of new people arriving over the course of the hours i was there. i sat at a small, cluttered table near the little window in the diving wall. i helped some people and called johnson over when the particulars of the language barrier became too much. the window is above waist level on me, which means it is not the most accessible thing for the smallest of the kids present. sometimes i would see just a pair of eyes peeking in, or sometimes a tiny arm holding a book over the edge and i would laughingly call to johnson out from his focused cataloging to help the young lad.
i say ‘young lad’ purposefully because while there were dozens of people in the library over the course of several hours not one of them was female. this fact is a constant frustration for those who work in the library. it is a cultural hurdle over which we are still attempting to leap. but this could be a long blog for another time.
this was an encouraging day for me. and all i am attempting to show you with this little post is that the library in kiziba is alive. people are using its resources for learning and fun, the purposes for which it was built. there are dozens of men and women, young and old, attending english and bible classes, and we pack that place out every time we hold a special event.
and more is coming. to all of you who have donated to help us bring solar power to the kiziba community library, we at international teams rwanda and jcm give you our great thanks. because of your commitment we are going to be able to expand and make better everything we do at the library. the fundraising goals have been met and we will begin to take those expanding, hopeful steps soon.