where people read: libraries without borders

What is a man, a woman, a child, once safe, food and shelter provided, if they cannot read, write, draw or communicate, and thus take back their place in the human community, to envision their future and start fresh?
Patrick Weil (President of Libraries Without Borders)

Have you come across Libraries Without Borders? They’re a non-profit group that seeks to provide access to libraries to people who have been impacted by conflict, humanitarian or natural disasters.

When basic needs such as food, water and shelter are so pressing and overwhelming, the very human needs for culture, intellectual stimulation, comfort and information can easily be overlooked. That’s where LWB (or BSF, the French acronym) comes in. As well as providing access to paper books, one of their innovations is an Ideas Box.

Snazzily and functionally designed by Philip Starck (of Ghost chair fame) for UNHCR, Ideas Boxes can be assembled into a full library setup in just 20 minutes. They contain:

  • satellite internet connection;
  • a server;
  • a generator;
  • 25 tablets and laptops;
  • 6 HD cameras;
  • a large HD screen;
  • board games;
  • arts & crafts;
  • a stage for music and theatre;
  • paper books;
  • 50 e-readers with over 1000 books and educational apps.

Here's a high speed overview:

And here's a short first-hand testimonial:

The impact of these libraries is enormous—here’s what director Jeremy Lachal had to say:

"Set up a library in a rural zone in Africa and you will improve education. But more unexpectedly, you will also positively impact maternal and infant mortality rates by better allowing mothers to be informed about the risks related to hygiene and nutrition. You will also see an improvement in crop yields and agricultural income thanks to documentary resources and access to the Internet that allow farmers to follow the prices of their products on the national and international markets. Everywhere, libraries participate in the success of the Sustainable Development Goals."

If you'd like to browse LWB, this page is a nice starter and if you'd like to donate to LWB click here.

And, to close, here are three books we love about librarians—one for grownups, two for the kids: