(caption shows Metkei students setting up the library July 2014)

At the Maktaba Awards last Friday, one of our libraries – Nairobi Primary, won first place (for the second year running). Metkei, which we donated this year, won third. I was thrilled by this, for a very important reason. When discussions arise with partners or potential partners about a new library, there is almost always to push for a ‘state of the art’ space,  and at times I think this translates as a pressure, to inject sophisticated I.T. (smart boards, reading tablets, laptops) in libraries.

What I think is so important about the library we donated to Metkei winning third place, is that it was a simple model. We kept our focus on the book lists and the design of the space. We wanted to make sure that the reading level was appropriate for the students, but also gave them room to improve and set goals. It was practical, and the I.T. consisted of only 3 computers (the stations of which we focused on internet guidance, sources for referencing, etc). This library competed against and beat libraries with much more sophisticated I.T. What made it stand out was the space, the collection, and the Metkei administration (I can’t say enough amazing things about Jennifer Kiprono, the head teacher there). So bigger isn’t always better. I have found this win so refreshing, because for us it helped drown out a lot of the noise about what is ‘needed’ in a library.


(caption shows Jennifer Kiprono, head teacher of Metkei, accepting the Maktaba Library Award)