With continuing library closures across the UK, one Londoner’s experience abroad highlights the importance of these endangered and much-loved institutions
IN 2017, Sylvia Arthur packed up her belongings, including what remained of her personal library, and left London for Accra, the capital of Ghana, her parent’s home country. Driven out of the UK by the prohibitive cost of living and hostile political environment, she sought peace in West Africa.
Part of feeling at home in Ghana was down to the fact that her complete collection of books, over 1,300 works collected over two decades predominantly by writers of African descent, were already in her mother’s house in Kumasi.
Overcome by guilt that the books weren’t being read, and seeing the need for contemporary, culturally-relevant literature, she decided to open her library to the public to give Ghanaians access to books that weren’t easily obtainable and amplify the voices of black writers.
In Ghana, illiteracy is high (25%), particularly among girls and women (61%). Arthur says: “I believe in literacy for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, and develop programmes and events that meet the people where they are.
“We regularly serve over 1000 children by giving them access to great books through two Little Libreria, school libraries in underserved communities.”
Through Arthur’s library, they also run reading and creative play sessions for the children of market women (Market Akenkan) and a barbershop/hair salon programme that rewards children with free hairstyles in exchange for reading. “Our impact is significant,” she adds.
You can find out more about Arthur’s library here: http://www.libreriagh.com/