AO: This excerpt from the interview situates the establishment of PALIAct Ukombozi library as a initiative to counter a mindset that reading is only for school and instead to promote and encourage reading, study and research beyond the official education system. In this way, libraries as "innovations" in practice and engagement beyond established educational systems are being articulated.
In Kenya, reading is not encouraged as part of the culture. There is a mindset among the population that reading stops when one finishes school. This impacts greatly on the sales and publishing of books, particularly non-fiction, and most bookshops shy away from stocking such books as not many people buy them.
This culture has not been challenged by relevant institutions, and promoting a reading culture, for fiction as well as non-fiction, is not a priority. A small attempt to address the issue has been made this year (2017) by the Progressive African Library and Information Activists’ Group’s (PALIAct) set up the PALIAct Liberation Library, in partnership with Vita Books and the Mau Mau Research Centre. The initiative intends to promote and encourage reading, study and research. Although its stock at present consists of mainly non-fiction, fiction is very much part of its future plans.
(Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru)