In 2015 we designed and donated a library to Starehe Girls School in partnership with the MPESA Foundation. Our goals for this library were to create a modern library space that was warm and welcoming, and most of all, conducive to learning and research. We wanted the girls to be able to learn by self-inquiry, and to have access to a wide variety of print and online material at their fingertips.

Our hard work paid off when the library won the Maktaba Award for the best public school library in Kenya. We were thrilled. As we continued to monitor the impact of the library on the students and staff, we began to receive feedback for more books (which is common). Specifically, the students wanted more books about jobs, mental health, music, and the arts. We took this feedback seriously, and today we donated an additional 420 books to the school on these topics. We were lucky however, to have had additional funding set aside for this, which is not possible for all of our library projects.

Being able to update a library’s book collection on an ongoing basis to keep the resources relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of the students is critical to the function of a library. We aim to work as closely as possible with each school we support, to encourage them to put aside funding for these kinds of purchases – in our mind (and also according to numerous empirical studies), this is how libraries can continue to have positive impacts on student outcomes.

This belief is one of the many reasons we are working with the national government to ensure legislation is passed to support the development of libraries in all schools – so that they can experience the same benefits that schools like Starehe have been lucky to experience.