New Youth Library in Ethiopia Makes Impossible Dream Reality

CNN hero Yohannes Gebregeorgis inaugurates another facility in Ethiopia where children can read books: The Segenat Children and Youth Library in Mekele. (American Libraries Mag.)

American Libraries Magazine

By Leonard Kniffel

The need in Ethiopia is great but the vision and perseverance of Yohannes Gebregeorgis is greater, which helps explain why a new library worthy of any developed country opened August 20 in Mekele, the first of its kind in this small and grindingly poor city. The Segenat Children and Youth Library in the region of Tigray is located in a sturdy, free-standing building donated by the municipal authorities. It’s fully loaded with some 10,000 books and a computer room with 10 stations; two e-book readers and 8,000 more books are on the way. A companion donkey-mobile regularly transports some 2,000 additional books to more distant parts of Tigray, powered by two beasts of burden named Sege and Nat.

Part of what makes the establishment of this modern library astonishing is the difficulty Gebregeorgis overcame to make it a reality. To stock and staff the library for the first year, he raised some $45,000 under the aegis of Ethiopia Reads, an organization he founded in 1989 and which has established more than three dozen libraries in schools all over the country. The Mekele library is the most ambitious project yet, but Gebregeorgis noted that red tape in a country like Ethiopia—where the average annual income has the purchasing power of about $700—makes seemingly easy tasks difficult, even when you have buy-in from public officials. To prove his point, the library had no electricity on opening day. Mekele suffers from frequent power outages.


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