Log in Page Discussion History Go to the site toolbox

Best practice in book donations

From BluWiki

Book donations for success: guidelines for best practice in book donations

This wiki is based on draft guidelines for best practice in book donations originally drafted by Book Aid international to offer basic, simple advice to those considering making book donations or setting up book donation programmes.

Book Aid International (BAI) is the biggest international book development agency in the UK, with many years experience of working in the book and information sector in developing countries. This paper serves as a resource for others who may be considering making a book donation and outlines some of the major issues involved. It puts forward step-by-step guidelines to ensure relevant books are provided.

The need for book donations

Many libraries in Africa and other parts of the developing world are still highly reliant on book donations. Good quality appropriate donations which meet the needs of local communities are of enormous value, and provide vital support for education and literacy.

Book dumping

'While a 19 ton book bonanza sounds great, from long experience in Faculty of Agriculure Libraries in the region, I have learned that if the titles to be donated are not selected by the end user, then it is vital to ask the donor for a list to choose from - my agricultural library has at times received hundreds of copies of the biography of a president's wife, .....of the Sociology of Aging, ......of the geography of a specific region of the donor country... the list could go on. A book may appear to be free - but if the information in it is not relevant or appropriate to our clients, there is a negative cost especially in precious staff time in merely hauling it from the airport, stamping it with the donor's logo and so on. May your bonanza be better!' (borrowed from Stanford University Libraries)

Before any books are collected or sent overseas it is essential therefore to devote the necessary time and resources to considering the following questions:

Who will use the books?

You should be clear about the purpose of your donation. It is a good idea to write a project proposal which outlines which organisations and users you are intending to support, the reasons why, and the impact you intend to have.

For example you may be working in a sector such as health or education where the books will be used by a particular target group eg. children, university students, refugees or teachers. The proposal should also include how you intend to monitor and evaluate your support.

How will you assess needs and make an appropriate donation?

This is essentially making sure you get the right books to the right users in the right quantities. Consider who will use the books and for what purpose. You will need to identify the book needs and priorities of the community you intend to support - for example, the subjects, quantities and levels needed. Organisations in country should be identified to help with this.

And you will need to think about the potential users of the books - for example, what are their educational levels? What languages do they speak and how well? What are their religious or cultural backgrounds? What are their literacy levels?

It is important that someone overseas with local knowledge answers these questions, and you could send them a form to fill in, which can then be used to select the right books. Some organisations use professional librarians to then select books - it is certainly a good idea to use someone with a good knowledge of books and education. Alternatively, you could send a list of titles for them to select from, which would include a basic description of content and level

Books should also be up-to-date and in excellent condition. Quality is more relevant than quantity - do not fill a container load of books just because it is there.


Books selected by Book Aid International for an African NGO

If the books you collect are not relevant, do not send them overseas. Instead, sell them and buy relevant books or provide your partner with funds to buy the books locally - this helps local publishers and helps ensures that books are culturally relevant. For example, MacMillanpublish books and materials for schools in Afrca or if you are ij the UK try the The Africa Book Centre.

How will you store and transport the books?

You need to be sure that you can store, sort and transport the books to the country concerned. There are many examples of donors collecting books only to find that they do not have the space or a way of getting them overseas. Shipping books by sea is most economical but is still not cheap. You will need to find out if other organisations or individuals have undertaken or are planning support. This will avoid duplication and there may be opportunities to collaborate or exchange information.

Who are your potential partners?

Key contact persons should be identified who are prepared to give feedback and respond to requests for information. It should be possible to communicate by at least two of the following: letter, fax, email or telephone. It is important that there is a shared commitment to making the donation a success.

The local partner must have the capacity and experience to deal with a donation effectively particularly handling the internal logistics of receiving, transporting and distributing books. They may also need to collect the donation from customs and pay local charges for this. They will also need to organise in country transport.

Partners must have capacity eg. a safe storage area and procedures for processing the books, including sufficiently trained and available staff.

How will the books be distributed and promoted?

Are the books for one recipient only? If not, how will the books be distributed in-country? In-country targeting and distribution systems need to be in place to ensure the books at the right level get to the right place and are used. It is important that the books are targeted to the right libraries and right shelves

How will access and use be promoted? Once books are in the right libraries, how will they be promoted? A special book display could be organised or activities to promote reading such as storytelling and readathons.

How will you tell if you are successful?

You will need to look back at your original aims and objectives. However some basic measures of success are that the books have arrived, have been distributed properly, promoted to the community, and most importantly have been read and used. Your local partner must provide adequate feedback on this. To help them answer your questions you may wish to design a simple questionnaire for them to complete.

It is a good idea to ask for additional information eg. photos, letters and especially success stories from users which describe the difference the books have made. Such information provided is essential in deciding whether to continue support. Further donations should never be considered until such information is received.

If you can, visit recipient libraries and talk to teachers, students, and library users. What books are being borrowed, are most liked, are being read, or have been left on the tables? Look for wear and tear - after all, books are there to be read!

Further information and resources on book donations

Book Donations for Developmentby UNESCO (also available in French as La Donation Du Livre pour le Developpement from the CODE website - see below)

Book Donations: Introductions and Tips by Book Donation Committee , African Studies Association, US. They also maintain a Directory of book donation organisations

Donated Book Programmes: A Dialogue of Partners Handbook Library of Congress, Washington 1993

International Reading Association: Resolution on book donations to developing countries

Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs, American Library Association Fact Sheet

Papers and Research

For a critical look at traditional book donation programmes see the following masters paper by Maragret Hite Traditional Book Donation to Sub-Saharan Africa

For a look at the relationship between book donations and local publishing see Balancing up the act by Stephen Phalula of Malawi National Library Service

Please visit Book Aid International

See also Book Aid International's more detailed Guidelines for Best Practice Guidelines for Book Donations in conlict/post-conlict/natural disaster situations

Site Toolbox:

Personal tools
GNU Free Documentation License 1.2
This page was last modified on 16 January 2008, at 15:22.
Disclaimers - About BluWiki