December 2018: Iringa Lutheran University library

One year when Kurt and I traveled to Tanzania to volunteer at Iringa Lutheran University the school asked me to do an inventory and assessment of their college library. When you go to Tanzania, you do what you’re asked...or at least try. The library is a beautiful building, albeit small, and they’re very proud of it. It’s fully stocked with a separate section for each of the dozen majors offered. Although Swahili is the national language, the entire book collection is in English; British English is their preferred language for higher education.

The collection occupies two floors. Counting the books section by section may sound like a daunting task. Not really. The whole operation took me less than a week. In 2015, Iringa University Library had 3,732 books, not counting the cardboard boxes yet unpacked that were hidden under the stairwell.

Those unpacked boxes had no doubt come from the book donation crates in mall parking lots where we dump whatever we’ve finished reading and want to get rid of. In fact, as I perused the shelf of English Composition texts, I opened the cover of one to see the signature of a colleague from my doctoral committee.

What I’m trying to say here is not that we should feel sorry for these folks. The internet is available and widely used at Iringa U, and their faculty are some of the smartest, best educated people in the world. What I want us to realize is how blessed we are with the riches of reading and how casually we take those riches for granted.

In Isimani all the kids go to school and learn to read. But their are no public libraries, and many homes have absolutely no access to books. And then what happens is the phenomenon of “post literacy.” Some kids actually forget how to read.

Two years ago Holy Trinity donated a collection of children’s books to our partner congregation. You gave the money, we sent the money to the Lugallas, and Sapi visited the Bible bookstore in Dar es Salaam to make the purchase. Pastor Msungu has arranged a preschool on the church grounds, and the children’s library is located in a separate room in the school building.

Advent and Christmas are wonderful times for us to realize and appreciate our riches. The BGLibrary has an Africa section, and I encourage you to check it out. In the springtime, when we weed out old books and DVDs to sell, we’ll again donate the proceeds to buy books for Isimani.