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The Carletonian

Books for Africa checks out

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Have you ever walked out the library wondering what that Books for Africa cart is all about? While Books for Africa is not exactly a key part of Carls’ vocabulary, current and past librarians attest that the program is thriving, due in large part to the contributions of books from the Carleton community.

Jennifer Edwins, Assistant to the College Librarian and Bridge Coordinator, said that the Books for Africa box has resided in the library for many years and Carleton continues to be one of the main contributors to the organization, which is based in St. Paul. She believes the success with the program has to do with the generous nature and spirit of students here.

“Giving in this way just resonates with Carleton students,” Edwins said.

The Books for Africa chapter at Carleton started in the late ‘90s under the initiative of Carolyn Sanford, the library Head of References at the time. Though Sanford is now retired, she has kept her passion for this organization. She explained that she became interested in the idea of Books for Africa when her daughter traveled to some African countries and saw the shortage of books in schools, especially at African universities with upper-level textbooks.

“I knew all the faculty and students here had extra books laying around,” Sanford said. “So [through Books for Africa] I got to work collecting them and eventually a student group on campus would get involved.”

Her perceptions parallels the overall goal of Books for Africa. As Travis Ferguson, Administrative and Communications Specialist for the organization, explained, “Our mission statement is to end the book famine in many parts of Africa.”

Books for Africa has faced some criticism because its name generalizes the entire African continent, but Sanford referred to her personal experience working at the organization. She said that Books for Africa works closely with organizations and schools in various African countries to make sure that every book donated ends up in the desired place.

Ferguson seconded the diligence of his group. He said that they receive requests for specific types of books from partners in Africa, and then approximately 30,000 volunteers at the organization’s main warehouse in Atlanta sort the books based on type, from children’s books to romance novels to college-level textbooks, and, ultimately, ship them out.

“They make sure the books truly get to the designated schools,” Sanford said. “That is the most important thing.”

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