Too Many Readers and Too Few Books

The birth of Community Micro Libraries

By Sophie Alal

September 21st was a gloriously sunny morning in Gulu. It had rained heavily the previous evening, and storm clouds continued to threaten the signing of an agreement between United Youth Entertainment and Deyu African. The conclusion of the agreement later in the afternoon gave UYE stewardship of books donated by Deyu African.

On 16th September, children’s books were given to the community of Paibona Te Tugu. Wokorach Walter and his wife Everlin Lakot were pleased to host a micro library in their house.

Omagor L'Emorut and Dan Komakech of United Youth Entertainment taking stock.

Omagor L’Emorut, in red, and Dan Komakech of United Youth Entertainment taking stock. Looking on is Isaac Newton Ojok

Sophie Alal of Deyu African and Omagor L'Emurot of United Youth Entertainment

Sophie Alal of Deyu African and Omagor L’Emurot of United Youth Entertainment

Lakot Everlin and Wokorach Walter outside their house

Lakot Everlin and Wokorach Walter outside their house

Children's books in the living room of Walter and Everlin's house

Some of the children’s books in the living room of Walter and Everlin’s house

Since Everlin is the mother of the house, she shall be in charge of the books. Walter was fine with the arrangement. After the evening meal, when every one was assembled at the Wang Oo or fireside, he said to his children and their friends, “You must read a lot if you want to have a good life. Your parent’s have already spent much on your education, but it is up to you to read seriously.”

Literacy is only effective when reading materials are available. For now, most manuscripts remain unpublished yet a considerable amount of work continues to be generated by local authors. Writers are rummaging through memory, and dreaming boldly too; producing mostly poetry, a few plays, and fiction.

“Locally authored books evoke nostalgia for the good old days when literary icons like Okot P’ Bitek, JP Ociti and Ukidi Lumedo, were releasing books.” says Ikeda James, a retired school teacher born in 1933.

At the Never Heard II, an evening of reading held on June 7th at TAKS centre, Justice and Reconciliation Project’s Nancy Apio led a story telling session. She also distributed copies of Adyebo, an anthology of short stories by women who had returned from captivity in the Lord’s Resistance Army. It candidly captured personal challenges faced by young mothers and their resilience in overcoming obstacles to the attainment of their liberty.

Ketty Lamwaka, who is described by her friend Omagor L’Emurot as, “soft spoken and very reserved,” read her short story Once Upon a Time in Atiak, which examines recent atrocities. Xera recited There was a Time, which was an appeal to remember happier times in Acholiland.

“Recently Ukidi Lumedo published a book on Te Kwaro Acholi (Acholi traditions). It sold out as soon as it was in the shops. Unfortunately it is out of print.” Ikdeda says.

It is also hoped that the proliferation of books from all over the world can inspire a critical mass of readers who can contribute to world culture. How right P’Bitek was in Africa’s Cultural Revolution (1973), when he counseled, “Africa must re-examine herself critically. She must discover her true self, and rid herself of all ‘apemanship.’”

Isaac Newton Ojok, author of The Talkative Man in Gulu says, “Reading books gives one bundles of knowledge about their heritage and bits of wisdom from the past. In this contemporary world, many things from the past are being lost, but reading historical books takes us back in time; so we know our history.”

Reflecting on the Never Heard II Isaac adds, “In one of my poems, Time in Africa, I said we may not be able to go back to our roots, but knowing our beginnings and greatness can shape our future.”

Sandra Aol, a poet affiliated to United Youth Entertainment says that the books donated by Deyu African shall definitely contribute to her writing. “I haven’t seen the books yet, but I know that reading them will improve my grammar. The novels shall also inform me about certain things that I am unaware of. ”

With Community Micro Libraries, Deyu African hopes to relieve the chronic shortage of books, and inspire the next generation of writers to publish work of high quality. It is best we start now.

Wang Oo. Literal translation is eye of the warmth of fire.

2 thoughts on “Too Many Readers and Too Few Books

  1. This goes out to the ones concerned;
    How and where can one get one of these books and are there some books for free?
    Is it possible for someone to join the group and if so, what is needed for one to join?
    Thank you very much for the good message you people have sent to public. I just ask you to keep it up.

    • Hi Keith,

      There is no special requirement to access these books. All you have to do is turn up at your nearest Community Micro Library and talk to the custodian of the books. You can take the book home and read it for one week, if you are not done yet, you can request for an extension of time.

      For now the libraries are in Paibona Te Tugu and Kabedu Upong in Gulu, in the near future we hope to expand to more communities.

      All books are free to borrow.

      Take care and happy reading.

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