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A Malawian school library: Culture, literacy and reader development

Anderson, Johanna; Matthews, Paul

A Malawian school library: Culture, literacy and reader development Thumbnail


Johanna Anderson


Purpose: This paper aims to investigate the success and suitability of a Western-donated school library in furthering the aims of literacy and reader development in Malawi. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative, case study approach was taken using extensive interviews with school teachers and a library assistant at a primary school in Malawi. Findings: Contrary to a common discourse that libraries are of limited value in a predominantly oral culture, the research revealed a valuable role in providing sources for sharing knowledge by young readers with the non-literate. Limitations of the library under study included insufficient attention to reader development and inappropriateness of materials for the local context. Practical implications: The work reveals important shortcomings in furthering global literacy targets through current practice in African primary school libraries supported by international donors and non-governmental organisations. Recommendations to improve impact are given. Originality/value: This research is original in representing the voices of school teachers in the debate over the suitability of libraries for the African context and in evaluating the overseas book donation model currently practised in many locations. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Anderson, J., & Matthews, P. (2010). A Malawian school library: Culture, literacy and reader development. Aslib Proceedings, 62(6), 570-584.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 1, 2010
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2011
Publicly Available Date Nov 15, 2016
Journal Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives
Print ISSN 0001-253X
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Issue 6
Pages 570-584
Keywords Malawi, development, literacy, MDGs, education, school, library, libraries, reader development, aid
Public URL
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