International Review of Education

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 399–418 | Cite as

The potential of community libraries in supporting literate environments and sustaining literacy skills

  • Sanjana Shrestha
  • Lisa Krolak
Original Paper


This article shows how community libraries can create and support literate environments, which are essential for building and sustaining literacy skills in local communities. The paper begins with a subject analysis reviewing available background materials and literature on the topic. Next, relevant issues are considered based on experiences and impact evaluations from specific community libraries, namely Nepal’s Rural Education and Development (READ) Centres. The findings indicate that since their foundation in 1991, READ Centres have evolved from traditional libraries to effective community development centres with a strong focus on social empowerment, economic development and lifelong learning, based on a library concept which is needs-based, community-owned and sustainable.


Community libraries Literate environment Adult literacy Women's empowerment Community development READ Nepal 


Potentiel des bibliothèques communautaires pour promouvoir les environnements lettrés et consolider l’alphabétisme – Cet article démontre comment les bibliothèques communautaires peuvent créer et favoriser les environnements lettrés, indispensables pour introduire et consolider l’alphabétisme dans les communautés locales. Les auteures procèdent tout d’abord à une analyse en recensant la documentation de référence disponible en la matière. Elles examinent ensuite des questions décisives à partir des expériences et évaluations d’impact de bibliothèques communautaires particulières, à savoir les centres d’éducation et de développement rural au Népal (Rural Education and Development, READ). Leurs conclusions indiquent que depuis leur création en 1991, les bibliothèques traditionnelles READ sont devenues des centres efficaces de développement local fortement axés sur l’autonomisation sociale, le développement économique et l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, sur la base d’un concept de bibliothèque durable, répondant aux besoins et appartenant à la communauté.


  1. Asselin, M., & Doiron, R. (2013). Linking literacy and libraries in global communities. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  2. Asselin, M., Abebe, A. & Doiron, R. (2014). Applying an ecological model for library development to build literacy in rural Ethiopian communities. Paper presented at IFLA World Library and Information Congress, 16–22 August, Lyon. Accessed 3 September 2014, from
  3. Beyond Access (2012). Libraries powering development: How public libraries contribute towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals. N. p.: Beyond Access. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  4. Dent, V. & Yannotta, L. (2005). A rural community library in Uganda: A study of its use and users. Libri, 55(1), 39–55. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  5. Easton, P. B. (2009). Creating a literate environment: Hidden dimensions and implications for policy. In ADEA (Association for the Development of Education in Africa) (Ed.), More and better education: What makes effective learning in African literacy programs? Lessons learned from the ADEA 2006 Biennale on Education in Africa (Libreville, Gabon, March 27–31, 2006) on the Characteristics, conditions and factors underlying effective schools and literacy and early childhood development programs (pp. 311–367). Tunis: ADEA.Google Scholar
  6. Easton, P. B. (2014a). Developing literate environments: Fleshing out the demand side of Education for All. International Journal of Educational Development, 34, 3–10. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  7. Easton, P. (2014b). Sustaining literacy in Africa: Developing a literate environment. Paris: UNESCO. Accessed 1 July 2014, from
  8. Katz, A. (2014). How public libraries can support community literacy. N.p.: Beyond Access. Accessed 1 October 2014, from
  9. Knuth, R., Perry, B., & Duces, B. (1996). Libraries and literacy in developing countries. In V. Greaney (Ed.), Promoting reading in developing countries. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.Google Scholar
  10. Krolak, L. (2005). The role of libraries in the creation of literate environments. Background paper for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  11. LFA (Learning for Action). (2014). READ Global 2013 evaluation report. San Francisco: LFA.Google Scholar
  12. Makotsi, R. (2005). Sharing resources: How library networks can help reach education goals. London: Book Aid International. Accessed 17 June 2013, from
  13. Neuman, S. B., Khan, N. & Dondolo, T. (2008). When I give, I own: Building literacy through READ community libraries in Nepal. The Reading Teacher, 61(7), 513–522. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  14. ODC (Organisation Development Centre) (2010). Exploring the impact of READ Nepal’s community library and resource centre development programme. Final report. Kathmandu: ODC. Unpublished document.Google Scholar
  15. READ (Rural Education and Development) Global (2013). Our work. San Francisco: READ Global. Accessed 12 October 2013, from
  16. READ Nepal (2013). Focus group discussions. Kathmandu: READ Nepal. Unpublished document.Google Scholar
  17. Shrestha, S. (2013). The changing role of community libraries: Emerging centres for sustainable development. Paper presented at IFLA World Library and Information Congress, 17–23 August, Singapore. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  18. Stranger-Johannessen, E. (2014). Promoting a reading culture through a rural community library in Uganda. IFLA Journal, 40(2), 92–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Torres, R. (1994). Literacy for all: Twelve paths to move ahead. Convergence, 27(4), 50–73.Google Scholar
  20. UIL (UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning) (2010). CONFINTEA VI: Belém Framework for Action: Harnessing the power and potential of adult learning and education for a viable future. Hamburg: UIL. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  21. UIL (2013). 2nd Global report on adult learning and education: Rethinking literacy. Hamburg: UIL. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  22. UN (United Nations) (2002). United Nations Literacy Decade: Education for all. A/RES/56/116. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  23. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) (2005). Literacy for life. Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006. Paris: UNESCO. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  24. UNESCO (2006). Strong foundations: Early childhood care and education. Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007. Paris: UNESCO. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  25. UNESCO (2007). Education for all by 2015: Will we make it? Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2008. Paris: UNESCO. Accessed 3 January 2014, from
  26. UNESCO Bangkok (2011). Creating and sustaining literate environments. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok, Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education. Accessed 3 January 2014, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.READ NepalKathmanduNepal
  2. 2.UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL)HamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations