Books for Africa: Ending the African book famine one page at a time
In May we celebrated the continued work of Books for Africa, with a focus on two receptions that honor supporters and special friends of this extraordinary organization dedicated to ending the book famine in Africa.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 8, we gathered at the University Club in St. Paul to meet and hear three keynote speakers: his Excellency Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to the United States; Mr. Oluwasegun Ibidapo-Obe, Deputy Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United States; and Ambassador Howard Jeter, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria. Each conveyed a message of hope through education, literacy, and simple access to books, and each was riveting.
It was fitting that we were talking about books at The University Club in St. Paul, where legend has it that F. Scott Fitzgerald carved his initials in the bar downstairs. Fitzgerald lived just blocks from the Club in a brownstone on the 500 block of Summit Avenue, and also at the Commodore Hotel around the corner. The University Club is also just a few blocks from where West Publishing was founded more than 140 years ago.
We have a mission that guides our work – We help the legal system perform better, every day, worldwide. And each of our employees works hard to bring this mission to life as we support legal professionals, the courts, governments and NGOs around the world.
Our business has covered a lot of ground in 140 years. And we could have no better partner on this journey than Books for Africa and the Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative. Working together, we have sent law books to 53 law schools, bar associations, court systems, human rights and women’s legal organizations in 18 African countries. We have shipped West Core Law Libraries to two law schools in Kenya, and six in Nigeria.
In February of this year, a 40-foot sea container packed with primary, secondary and university books arrived in Gambia. This container also held two West Core Law Libraries – one for the University of Gambia law department, and one for Gambia’s Women’s Lawyers Association. And a year and a half ago, we signed a memoranda of understanding with Books for Africa to ship $1.5 million of our law books and legal texts to courts, libraries, law schools and legal associations in Africa.
Each of these books strengthens the foundation of the Rule of Law on the African continent. That is noble work, for which Books for Africa should be applauded.
I like books, and I appreciate that ours can be found in some of the most magnificent libraries in the world. But there is something equally special about a small collection of law books in a single-room concrete building – books that can help to support human rights or women’s rights, or train a new generation of attorneys in an emerging democracy.
Since 1988, Books for Africa has shipped more than 24 million books to 46 African countries. These books are now on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never before held a book. Each book will be read over and over again. We are proud to support Books for Africa and the Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative. If you would like to learn more about how you can support Books for Africa, go to: http://www.booksforafrica.org/about-bfa.html.