Liberia: Book Program Possibilities

John Archibald
Nov. 24, 1997

l visited Liberia Nov 1-8, 1997. The entire country has been destroyed by seven years of civil war. Most buildings lack roofs, others are in ruins, and there is no water or electricity. Worse, there are few signs of reconstruction. The people are anxious to rebuild but they lack the basic resources to get started.

My major objective was to assess the needs of the University, and its library system in particular. Despite all the fighting and looting the University has somehow managed to stay open, and it presently has about 6,000 students. But it lacks classroom space, chairs, books, everything. The library has lost 80% of its books, and most titles on the shelves were over 10 years old.

There is only one bookstore in Monrovia, the capital. It sells children's books and second-hand books stolen from various schools and libraries during the war(s).

Several international aid agencies operate in Liberia. In fact the country depends on them for its survival. The Red Cross digs water wells, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) brings in tons of food, Oxfam, USAID, CARE, Doctors without Frontiers, and many church are all active here.

There is one non-governmental foundation called CREDO ("Church-related Educational Development Organization") that distributes books and other items to schools and community organizations. lt was recommended to me by the Public Affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy, and by the Director of CRS. I visited CREDO, toured their newlyrenovated building and met with their Executive Director, Mr. William E. Harris. He agreed to let CREDO serve as a conduit for shipping donated books to the university and to other schools and organizations. I left information packets on Sabre book program with USIS and the University.