New efforts are always being forged to bridge the education gap between developed and developing countries—including the idea of a digital library. While helping to rebuild Haiti after a major earthquake in 2010, Rebecca McDonald noticed a palpable lack of access to books in schools all over the country. She decided there and then that something had to be done, and thus the nonprofit Library for All (LFA) was born.
McDonald and Tanyella Evans, who had previously worked in Haiti as well as Uganda, launched LFA in 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. LFA is a cloud-based digital library with thousands of books now potentially accessible to schoolchildren across the globe and in developing countries. What is McDonald and Evans’s goal? They plan to make their digital library platform accessible to the 250 million children worldwide who lack proper resources or access to a basic education.
LFA’s pilot program took place at Respire Haiti, a K–12 school near Port-au-Prince; the nonprofit’s efforts have since expanded throughout Haiti as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In its efforts to increase global literacy, the program’s goal is to reach over 5 million schoolchildren by 2017. Its services include both a digital library and an education platform that provides lessons and materials for teachers. What’s great about this platform is that it is not tied down to one type of electronic device, because the platform can be accessed from a variety of device models and brands. And while print books, whether used or new, will likely never go out of style, this digital platform cuts down on the cost of collecting, sorting, shipping and distributing books. LFA also encourages students and teachers to get involved in their Peer Advocates for Global Education (PAGE) campaigns by becoming ambassadors of a sort—students and teachers can join and host events that help inspire their peers all over the world to be empowered through reading.
So far, major US, local and international publishers have provided digital books to LFA as supplements to those materials that are free via Open Educational Resource providers. LFA also has help from local governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) in acquiring tablets and devices for classroom use. The books and materials are now available on any Android device, and so far over 1,200 cloud-based ebooks have been made available in English, French, Haitian Creole and Spanish. Not only is Library for All bringing underprivileged kids the joy of reading, but LFA’s efforts also aim to increase literacy in these children and provide them with more advanced education and career opportunities.
Did You Know?
Ever want to borrow ebooks but don’t want to make the trek to your local library? There’s an app for that! The Overdrive app allows you to borrow ebooks for free if you are a member of a participating library. Over 30,000 libraries worldwide participate, and you can even borrow audiobooks and stream videos! Overdrive is available on a wide variety of desktop and mobile platforms.