PRESENTED AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON “LITERACY EMPOWERMENT FOR ALL
BEYOND 2015, EGARTON UNIVERSITY, KENYA. 7-9 OCTOBER 2015
The poverty-literacy connection:
introducing the public library
Lindall Elaine Adams, PhD Candidate,
Dept. of Information Studies, University of
SO, IF LIBRARIES IS POWER…
Why do people destroy libraries?
Why are libraries frequently considered high value
military targets by violent mobs and war criminals?
Why do protesters burn down libraries when they are
unhappy with their government’s service delivery?
Malamulele School library
Mosul Public Library destroyed by ISIS
GOOGLE SEARCH ON BURNING OF LIBRARIES
• Burning books the African way. http://inside-
• Why South Africans burn libraries
• Protesters burn down libraries
• Malamulele still burning https://www.enca.com/south-
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF LIBRARIES?
• 2.2 billion people worldwide living in poverty United
• Poor South African kids unlikely to escape poverty:
World Bank – World Bank 2012
• Two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in
India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan
• 462 million people in Sub-Sahara Africa live in
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF LIBRARIES?
• 781 million people do not possesses basic reading and
writing skills (UNESCO, 2014)
• 24% of illiterate people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12%
in East Asia, 6.6% in the Pacific, 4.4% in Arab States
and 4.2% in Latin America and the Caribbean
• 496 million or two thirds of the illiterate world
population, are adult women (UNESCO, 2014).
• 126 million of youth are illiterate, is 77 million of the
youth, are illiterate women (UNESCO, 2014)
TIME FOR A LITERACY INVESTMENT
• Educating children create opportunities for children not
to fall into a repetitive poverty trap
• Prevent child marriages of young girls when they
themselves are children. Reduce infant mortality and
malnutrition (UNICEF, 2015).
• Literacy makes mothers aware that infectious diseases
such as malaria and pneumonia are curable through
• A literate woman protects herself from contracting the
WHY, THE POVERTY TRAP REMAINS AND
LITERACY TARGETS NOT MET WHEN?
• 58 million children of primary school age are not
attending school (UNICEF (2015)
• 15 million girls of the total world population are
not attending school.
• “Out of school” children are begging, carrying
bricks or buckets of water, polishing shoes,
washing cars, weaving carpets, work as camel
jockeys, working on the plantations or even
There is a strong correlation between illiteracy and
poverty (Stephen, 2011, p. 455; McShane, 2011, p.
education is within reach of everyone, and the public
library serves as the tool to empower the poor and
reducing poverty through literacy.
PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND LITERACY
• Are advocating literacy for all, from early childhood to
• Literacy programmes create opportunities to
introduce families to books and reading.
• Literacy programmes to babies through story telling
and puppet shows develops literacy skills to expand
• Basic adult literacy classes are offered to adults in an
attempt to reverse adult illiteracy
PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND INFORMATION ACCESS
• Information poverty affects billions of people (Britz,
• For example a study in China by Yu (2010, p. 929) to
determine the information seeking habits of 73 rural
farmers showed that people without access to
information are deprived from having opportunities
that could contribute to their wellbeing.
• The study further revealed that the lack of
information causes low-level literacy skills
PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND ICT ACCESS
century is marked as the digital age with a clear
marker for exposing poverty, illiteracy, unemployment
and social status
• UN proclaimed the Internet as basic human right, but
40% of the world population living in the developing
countries are denied the rights to Internet access
• Public libraries are one of the few places which
provide free use of the Internet to library patrons
OUR SOCIETIES CONTINUE TO BURN DOWN
• Although research demonstrated that public
libraries are the connection between the poverty
• A continuous misperception of what public
libraries are doing, such as that they are
perceived as costly, have no prestige such as
academic libraries and without economic
THE TIME HAS COME TO
Acknowledge the role of the public library and the
services it constitutes to reduce poverty.
• Thank you
Lindall Elaine Adams