Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Feb 3, 2012

Axim Public Library, Part 2...

You may think I do nothing but library stuff...well, there are many other things going on, but the library is close to my librarian heart. So, I'll finish up on that and go on to other topics in future.

I mentioned “StoryTime”, held at the library four days/week. Two classes each day come from the 5 schools near enough that even the youngest children can walk to the library, although this is not an easy walk. Axim has one main road coming into town. It has to accommodate everything and everyone---including trucks and taxis, etc. There are not many private vehicles, but they’re there, too. Everyone walks along this road, but there are no sidewalks. There are only drainways about 2-3 feet deep on each side of the street. Yikes! I say all this because it shows the determination of teachers, parents, and the children themselves to take advantage of the opportunity to read.
So, today at 11:00, 54 students from just one Morning Star Academy 4th grade class walked to the Library for storytime. Classes are very large here. Benches were moved out onto the second floor veranda, where there was at least a bit of a breeze. The children jammed in. Meanwhile, in the lower level of the Community Center, there was a Town Hall meeting going on and the loudspeakers were deafening. Readers who have been here are familiar with the local love affair with terrifically loud microphones, speakers, etc. We are natural orators here. Give us a microphone...and louder must be better...Meanwhile, the Library veranda fronts that main street, and trucks and other vehicles rumble by.

In spite of the din, Mercy the librarian riveted the children’s attention by telling a traditional African tale, complete with many dramatic flourishes---demonstrating beautifully the seemingly effortless oratorical and dramatic flair that is so common here. After the story, the children got a chance to browse for books to check out, with the help of their Library Teacher. Every student in this school have library registrations, at 50 pesewas/year (about 35 US cents). Mercy’s two staff members will collect the books in one week. She gives just a week, to put pressure on the students to read quickly and not procrastinate. That also helps her stretch her meager collection to the max. The fees help pay for book processing supplies.
Meanwhile, another has class arrived---just 16 grade four children this time. They have walked probably at least 30 minutes to get here. Their classroom teacher and library teacher walked, too. They come from a small community school in the very economically marginal Apowesika neighborhood. Because of the long walk, these children get a choice---they themselves choose to make the walk or not. When they finished storytime, the library teacher put 50 books in the new plastic tote I bought for them yesterday, hoisted it on her head, and away they went on the long road back to school.

So, the library has made major strides in children’s services. In 2010, 152 children registered to be library members. In 2011, that number had jumped to 1035, with registrations nicely increasing from about mid-2010 to present, month by month, as children more or less “recruited” each other. Cleverly, they may “swap” books with others who are registered (peer pressure! The hope is the children and parents will be “invested” in the program). The Library Teacher has a brightly colored plastic bag, with each child’s registration “envelope,” made of some blue paper stapled. The bookcard is slipped into the little registration envelope...clever,
Now children must re-register for 2012, and that’s going very well, too. They may have reached a “tipping point” here, in terms of sustainability. I spoke with several teachers about whether family financial situations prevented registration, but they assured me that 50 pesewas was within reach of all. Currently the “mobile library by taxi”, which started into 2011, visits 16 primary/junior high schools---most of the schools. How many children are there in Axim? I have no idea. A lot.

Mercy has worked hard to have many African books in her collection. In fact, her problem was that the few children who had registrations had read all the books multiple times. With the “new to them” books we’ve been sending, which have been carefully chosen by librarians and teachers, she finally is starting to achieve a collection sufficient to run basic children’s services. Folks are well-aware of this change, and I’ve received many positive comments as I walk the around the town. A good feeling.
Mercy herself has been recognized as an outstanding young library leader by the Ghana Library Board, and in October will start the program at Legon University in Accra to become what we would call a Masters Degree in Library Science. She will continue to be paid her full-time salary, and will return here to work during university breaks. Meanwhile, she will be replaced by her former assistant whom Mercy herself trained as part of National Service, and who is now the Children’s Services Librarian in Sekondi Library, a much larger city. This librarian wants to be a library manager, and the Ghana Library Board Director for the Western Region (whom I have met and communicated with) sees her as a good fit to sustain and further develop children’s services Mercy has started here.

And so, my dear readers...thanks for your patience in reading all about this. Next time. Today is "KVIP Toilet Day". What I do for those engineers back in Bellingham!! Wish me luck!! Maryanne Ward from Axim, Ghana
Ps: Unfortunately, because I forgot to flip the little switch on the electrical outlet, I didn’t get my camera charged, so no photos this time.

And, by the way, these news items are being published to the “News” menu page on our website. The News webpage has a free “subscribe” option whereby an automatic email version of these news item are sent to “subscribers”.