These past couple weeks at the Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST) Library have been so good. From spending time with my old colleague, Pastor Emma (from RTC, now working at KEST), to learning about the library and college, to working with and getting to know Ivan the librarian, to meeting the students...it's been a whirlwind. And one we are so grateful for.
Something we have heard several times since arriving, from different people (Africans), is that Africa/Uganda does not have a reading culture. That is, people in Uganda/Africa do not read very much, nor are many people interested in reading. We have heard this during several different conversations, in various iterations. But the version that stands out most to me is someone who said, "There is a saying: if you want to hide something from an African, hide it in a book."
I've been thinking about this for days, wondering what to do with this statement. It's just wiggling around in my brain. It's one of those things you just mull over and can't quite forget and wonder what to do with. I know that it makes me sad. Sad to hear these comments and wondering how to respond as a librarian.
And yet, the KEST library is used. Students come to the library not only for their studies but also for materials for personal projects and research.
I wonder, but am not sure yet, if part of why we are here is to be a part of un-hiding information. Don't get me wrong, I love the oral aspect of this culture. I find it fascinating and beautiful. And I always want to be conscious about the culture we are in. But we've had so many conversations these past couple weeks with people who WANT written information. And they want it more easily accessible.
It's humbling, really. Something many of us take for granted, I think, in the US...the abundance of books, libraries, internet, etc.
We are here.
In a non-reading culture, wondering how to find a way forward. Asking how do you support a library (a rather Western institution) in Uganda? We do not want to create an American library in Africa. We want to be a part of supporting a sustainable, Ugandan library in Uganda.
I hope and pray we can help to un-hide information. To make it accessible to those that want it. A library is not just a static place of books. It is a place to empower people and shine light into those hidden places.