Nairobi-based Book Bunk restores iconic library buildings in the Kenyan capital and elsewhere across the East African nation. That work, though, goes well beyond bricks and mortar. Book Bunk is equally about creating spaces for “knowledge production, shared experiences, cultural leadership and information exchange.”

“We believe that there was different future possible for the libraries, not just as structures, but also as places for imagination and places for expression,” explains Angela Wachuka, Book Bunk co-founder.

“It’s been a really interesting experience, to say the least, because as you can imagine, the project itself is born out of the neglect that these spaces have endured for decades,” she adds.

In 2019, the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund awarded Book Bunk $50,000 to assist its efforts. The APIF supports literacy, book access, indigenous publishing, and library restoration across Africa. APIF is a joint undertaking of the UAE-based development non-profit Dubai Cares and the International Publishers Association (IPA).

The Sharjah World Book Capital program also has supported the historic McMillan Memorial Library’s restoration project in Nairobi.

As the global coronavirus pandemic holds the world in its grip, Book Bunk has suspended in-person activities, yet it continues to meet the challenge of engaging a new generation of readers.

“Here in Kenya, schools are closed and will remain closed until January, so an entire school year has been lost,” says Wanjiru Koinange, Book Bunk co-founder. “That’s been a bit of a painful part – that children could be using these spaces to get some education. The plus side has been that because they’re already closed, we’ve been able to renovate them faster.

“We’re only now being able to move programs online. That presents new challenges because the communities that use the library come to the library because they don’t have Wi-Fi at home,” she tells CCC. “To counter that, we distributed activity packs to children who live around the libraries. We gave them some reading material, some toys, some activity packs, basically, to keep them busy, and we hope to do this a few more times before we re-open fully.”

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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