19 - 21 AUGUST 2009



1. Background Information

Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) is a
community based NGO that was founded in January 1990.

The aim of the programme is the establishment and development of
viable and relevant rural/school community libraries. The programme
works in partnership with rural schools/communities. RLRDP has
facilitated the established 300 rural school/community libraries, 15
donkey drawn mobile libraries and 120 book delivery bicycles. Twelve of
the donkey drawn mobile libraries are designated to children's literature.
A Library Management Committee (LMC) is established at each library
centre and takes care of the day-to-day operations of the library. A set of
guidelines on the setting up of an LMC, drafting of a library constitution,
rules & regulations of a library are provided to all new applicants.
The majority of RLRDP member libraries operate from either primary or
secondary school with most of them found in primary schools. Each
library differs in size and volume of books.

Once a library becomes an affiliate of RLRDP, it receives support in the
form of print and non-print material and the training of library staff and
library management committees.

In response to the demands for rural libraries, RLRDP produced a Manual
for Rural Libraries in 1992 and revised it in 1999. This is a help yourself
manual that assists untrained librarians in the management of a rural
library. There are also short courses targeted at teacher & community
librarians that are designed and conducted by RLRDP staff. Courses
offered are supported by training modules that are derived from the
Manual for Rural Libraries.

2. Children's Mobile Libraries Project
a)    History of project & area of operation

The first donkey drawn mobile library was introduced by RLRDP in 1995
and started operating in Nkayi district, 160 kms north of the city of
Bulawayo. The invention and design was made by Obadiah Moyo who
invited a Nkayi based blacksmith, Mr. Hlabangana to construct the cart.
Nkayi and other low-lying areas of Zimbabwe rely on donkey drawn
scotch-carts as means of transport. 

Communities in these areas have a long history of association with
donkeys and are rely on them for draughts power.

Donkey drawn mobile carts are made from light, but solid steel to allow
for easy pulling by two or four donkeys.

A children's mobile library service was introduced in 1996 as an outreach
There are currently twelve donkey drawn mobile libraries designated to
children. These operate in Nkayi, Bubi and Tsholotsho districts in
Matabeleland North Province.

Each mobile cart visits three to four primary schools, reaching about
1 500 children.  The carrying capacity of each cart is about 1 200 books.
Two of the mobile carts are mounted with renewable solar energy to
allow use of audio-visual equipment that include TV, computer and radio.

b)    Concept & relevance of project

Static libraries are very expensive to construct and many rural
communities cannot afford to have purpose built libraries. There are also
limitations to static libraries as they cannot reach out to children in
remote areas. Donkey drawn mobile libraries do not need buildings and
children can access books outside buildings or under trees. As the cart
librarian makes his/her errands the meet a lot of people on the way. In
this way they can easily advertise their service. They also get ideas from
out of school youths and other villagers regarding user needs.
The mobile cart is also user friendly compared to motorized mobile
libraries. Cart librarians do not need licences to drive their carts. They are
also environmentally friendly as the do not produce any gases.

Mobile carts are cost effective and they are a good strategy to promote a
wider access to literature by children.
The harsh economic condition being experienced in Zimbabwe has not
affected the operations of the mobile cart service. Running costs of this
service are minimum as fuel is not required to move it around. The cart
that was introduced in 1995 is still making rounds and has not had any
major breakdown.

c)    Operations & routines of the mobile service

Each of the schools that the cart visits has a Cart Library

Committees responsible for the welfare of donkeys, care and maintenance
of books and the cart. There are also joint meeting by a cluster of schools
that is visited by each cart in order to discuss common challenges facing
the service.

A mobile cart time-table with visiting schedules is designed and agreed
upon by the cluster committee.

Each cluster committee has its rules and regulations on the operations of
the mobile cart.

d)    Partners supporting the project
i)    Community

Community members through school development committees pay levies
for the sustenance of the project.

Some mobile cart librarians receive allowance from community

Library committees also advise the RLRDP about children who do not
fully utilise library services due to physical challenges. Children with
hearing impairments and those living with albinism have been provided
with hearing aids and reading glasses respectively. 

      ii) Child librarians

There are child librarian committees at each of the library centres. Child
librarians monitor the use of library books by other children. They also
collect information on the reading needs of children and communicate
these to the main committees.

RLRDP hold regular workshops for child librarians on basic library
skills, drawing and painting.

      iii) Donors

The donkey drawn children's mobile libraries project receive financial
support from Save the Children Norway and the Richard Scarry
Foundation for Children's Literacy and Education.

Project Impact 

-    there has been a remarkable improvement in the pass rate among schools involved in the project;
-    children have improved in their reading & spoken language;
-    improved school parent relationship due to regular contact through the library project 


-    the project has reduced operation during the rainy reason;
-    mobile cart librarian are voluntary people who are remunerated through local contributions;
-    there are limited volumes of books written in local languages


-    the donkey drawn children's mobile libraries project uses locally available material & human resources;
-    local government, traditional leaders and school authorities                         
     form part of the project stakeholders;
-    young people and children are keen to read and have gained 
     skills in basic library management

RLRDP is open to collaborate with any interested organisation
within Africa and elsewhere in the sharing of the experiences of the
Donkey Drawn Children's Mobile Libraries Project.


Obadiah T. Moyo
Secretary General
Rural Libraries & Resources Development Programme (RLRDP)
P.O. Box 439
Phone : 263 9 204 910
Fax :     263 9 215 337
Mobile: 263 11 401 432
Email :