Our USIS Kampala Library.

Author:Baker, Bob
Position:U.S. Information Service library in Kampala, Uganda

In my working class home there was just one book, the back half of a Bible. It was kept on top of our ice box, never touched except when I lifted it up weekly to dust under it. But a teacher in grade school introduced me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library branch about ten blocks from our house. It was a treasure trove. I read every book (it was an open shelf library) on pirates, then dogs, then magic then stumbled onto the section a of essayists, then historians, and by the time I graduated from high school, I had read hundreds of good or great books. The library was my road up from our family's lack of education.

In Kampala, Uganda, my boss, the Public Affairs Officer, gave me our 5,000 volume U.S. I.S. Library to manage. I was delighted to do that. Youngsters and adults in Uganda were mostly poor and had no books in school or at home. This was a chance for me to make a good difference for them as the munificence of the Pratt family had been for me. R

Richard was our diligent and good-hearted Ugandan librarian. Makerere University and secondary school students were our major customers, though some adults also used the library. I wanted more of them to join us.

I began to mail our new book arrival notices prepared by Washington headquarters to the appropriate government Ugandans. I discovered an excellent government booklet begun in British colonial times but still updated in 1967. It provided the names and official addresses of all important civil servants. Some joined the library after using the new books.

Despite his vigilance in the library, Richard's books were reduced by theft about ten percent per annum. We called those missing books, Involuntary Book Presentations. He once brought me a huge sheet of brown butcher's paper, which covered my desk when he opened it. It enclosed a large packet of our library books, missing for several years. The inside of the sheet contained a crudely printed red ink message. " Jesus Has Appeared to Me and Told Me I Must Return These Stolen Books". There was no return address. It was the only case of divine intercession I experienced in Uganda.

Our collection badly needed updating and lots of new books. I had gone through much of the collection to check on that. I sent a telegram to Nairobi to ask for the USIA American Regional Librarian to visit us and weed out our collection. She swept into our Library soon after my request. Richard followed her miserably around the shelves as she pulled book after book...

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