Why Precious Blood Visiting Iten Was So Important

The outcome of having the Precious Blood girls visit St. Patricks and teach the boys how to care for and run a library has been one of the best returns we have had, as I realized today when visiting St. Patricks – my first view of the library since August when the Precious Blood girls worked their magic (see photo below taken in August).

Without a reading and library culture, no part of our library program can work unless we have a mechanism set up to help instill those values before we proceed. This is where working collaboratively to set the standard, like we did when we brought the Precious Blood girls to St. Patricks, becomes so important. It is an imperative as a prerequisite before any donations are made – be they resources or infrastructure.

(pictured above: although the students are used to using the library to study their own textbooks, browsing, research, and leisure reading are seldom engaged. We hope to change this)

We have realized that teaching and sharing these values, to instill that library culture, must be written into our model as a step before any other step for schools where those values had weakened, stagnated, or simply never grown. We learned this through our own experiences with St. Patricks and Precious Blood, not through a research report. And yet, when speaking with leading library experts in Kenya (such as Henry Kinya, Senior Librarian/Lecturer at Nazarene University, or Japhet Otike, Senior Librarian/Lecturer at Moi University), they agreed that this must in fact be the firsts steps taken, as until an appreciation of libraries and books has been instilled, you cannot possible lay out rules, procedures, or even our own expectations as to the effects of the donation. This certainly gave us reassurance that our instincts and experience is on the right track.

(pictured above: the librarians standing proudly by their recently organized desk and issuing block)

When visiting St. Patricks today, not even two months after the girls taught them how to run their library, I found an organized, clean, active library space, where pride on behalf of the librarians and students was evident. Alex Oyuga, the Principal, reported that the teachers feel motivated with this new space. The library has already had put in place extended hours, as per our request, so that the students can access early morning, evenings, and weekends – all crucial times for study and research. I was also informed that the library prefects supervise diligently during these hours, and dutifully clean it every day. Demonstrably better taken care of, the library was clean, dust free, and breezy when I visited (unannounced too!). Next week they are voting (in line with all student elections for next year) to form the new Library Council, where two students from each class will work together to run the library in a supportive capacity under the direction of the Librarian. I was told there has been tremendous competition amongst the boys for these roles, which is a great indicator of growing interest for us.

(photo above: a student browsing revision books with greater ease after the library re-organization in August)

Our next steps are setting the official date for the library opening, and commencing the construction work on the floor and windows of the existing space. Once that is complete, we can move in all of the furniture and books. We are almost there.