Public Libraries and Development across SubSaharan Africa: Overcoming a Problem of Perception


Public libraries and development organizations share many common goals that make them strong potential partners in the Global South. In spite of these commonalities, libraries are often overlooked as development partners. This is unfortunate because these partnerships could allow librarians to more fully and effectively participate in the development of their communities. This paper explores strategies that libraries might employ to make themselves more visible to development organizations. It does so through analysis of interviews with practitioners who have funded or implemented development projects across countries in Africa. We find that these practitioners are open to working more with libraries, but that it will take a lot of work on the part of public libraries to accomplish broad shifts in perception amongst development agencies. Collecting and openly sharing data on the output and impact of public libraries is a first step in this work, but these efforts must also be augmented through increased marketing and networking by libraries. Libraries need to build internal capacity to use data to drive advocacy efforts and attract funding from development donors.

Recommended Citation

Young, J. C., R. Lynch, S. Boakye-Achampong, C. Jowaisas, and J. Sam. 2021. “Public Libraries and Development across Sub-Saharan Africa: Overcoming a Problem of Perception.” De Gruyter,


Public libraries, Development, Africa, Data collection, Capacity building