Media & Press
Building Momentum for Little Free Libraries
Feb 08, 2013
By Claire Kirch
It’s been four years since international business consultant Todd Bol constructed a wooden replica of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and mounted it on a post in his front yard in a suburb of metropolitan Minneapolis, Hudson, Wis., in tribute to his late mother. A sign urged passersby to take free books or else leave books. Today, Bol and Rick Brooks, an instructor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, head up the nonprofit organization Little Free Library, which promotes literacy through both sales and donations.
LFL has more than 5,000 registered structures in all 50 states and in approximately 40 countries. “We know there are many more than that,” Bol said, estimating there may be closer to 6,000 little free libraries at this point. “Many people build libraries and never register with us or tell us.”
The LFL movement has exploded in the last year, with 4,000 registrations in 2012 compared to 100 the previous year. While 90% of the libraries to date are in the U.S., and most library registrations have been made by individuals, with some businesses involved, Bol said that there’s been a recent shift: more public libraries, museums, schools, and other nonprofits are establishing partnerships with LFL. “I suspect we’ll double in under six months what we are doing,” Bol noted. “Our momentum is growing.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Hudson, Wis.-based Little Free Library heading to Africa
(View the article)
January 27, 2013
Hudson-based Little Free Library is following the success of its book exchanges in the U.S. with an initiative to establish more than 2,500 of its little libraries in Africa.
The nonprofit has teamed up with Books for Africa in St. Paul. The two groups plan to begin shipping the libraries to a number of African countries, starting with Ghana, where one woman already has set up 52 book exchanges.
"People are excited (in Ghana)," said Todd Bol, co-founder of Little Free Library. "They find it delightful to get the books out to the kids."
Minnesota Public Radio
Nonprofits sending libraries to Africa
(View the article)
January 19, 2013
St. Paul-based Books For Africa is teaming up with another nonprofit to send more than 2,500 Little Free Libraries to Africa over the next several years.
Little Free Libraries, based in Hudson, Wis., will design and build the book boxes. Thousands are already located in neighborhoods throughout the U.S., and the movement has spread to 36 countries around the world. Books For Africa will supply the books.
Read the article>>
St. Paul Warehouse Stores Books for Africa
(Watch the video clip)
December 20, 2012
Volunteers help keep Books For Africa running as the world’s largest shipper of donated text and library books. They pitch in to sort and pack books in both our St. Paul, MN, and Atlanta, GA, locations. KSTP visited the books for Africa warehouse while volunteers from the Neighborhood Development Center while they worked in the St. Paul warehouse as a part of their End of the Year Celebration.
Small dream becomes big reality: Oakdale man spearheads efforts to ship 44,000 books to Nigeria
December 9, 2012
After traveling to Nigeria in the summer of 2011, Oakdale resident Atare Agbamu came home with a mission.
Agbamu, who grew up in Delta State, Nigeria, had returned to his homeland after the death of his mother, and while there he visited Chinkelly Schools, founded by his distant cousin, Veronica Ogbuagu.
The school facilities in the city of Ekpan were world class, Agbamu noted, but something very important missing from the library -- books.
"The shelves were bare," Agbamu recalled, noting that he immediately went back to Ogbuagu's office to ask her what he could do to help. Stocking a school library is expensive, Ogbuagu told him, and when people in Africa are battling hunger and disease, books are often a luxury out of reach.
"Africa struggles with poverty and famine," Agbamu said. "But there's another famine that most people don't know: people starving of mind food." Read more>>
Group plans to ship agricultural books to Africa
April 8, 2012
Books For Africa (BFA) has begun a new initiative to collect and ship much-needed agricultural libraries to schools, universities and government agencies in Africa.
The project is modeled after BFA’s Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative in which law books and law libraries from Thomson Reuters are sent to law schools in Africa.
“There is a great demand from our friends in Africa for agricultural and natural resource books of all kinds,” said Patrick Plonski, executive director of BFA. “They need the educational support to develop their agriculture sector. Minnesota has a wealth of agricultural resources and expertise so it’s another way we can help.”
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Office (FAO), 73 percent of the rural population of Africa consists of smallholder farmers, and in Sub-Sahara African alone, agriculture accounts for 21 percent of the entire continent’s GDP.
This agricultural, natural resources and vocational library is aimed at providing high-school level agricultural education information and resources to rural populations in Africa, and includes books from sources as wide-ranging as the FAO and major universities to small publishers and equipment manufacturers. Read more>>
5,000 Books for Peace Corps in Salone
March 9, 2012
The United States Embassy in collaboration with Sierra Leone Book Trust (SALBOT) yesterday donated about 5,000 (five thousand books) to the Peace Corps in the country.
During the ceremony which took place at the Peace Corps Office Signal Hill- Wilberforce, Mitchell Benedict the Charge d’ Affairs at the US Embassy said that these books will be donated to the Peace Corps Volunteers for the school children in the country.
He disclosed that the mission of SALBOT is to provide books to improve literacy and education and this is in line with the goals of the Embassy and Peace Corps. “We all believe that education is the key to development, and that information is an important factor in building a more peaceful, stable future for Sierra Leone.”
Speaking about the importance of books the US Charge d’ Affairs said apart from the books being valuable classroom teaching aid, “they provide opportunities for independent study research. We believe that education is key to development particularly to the development of women and girls because books, and educating women are a link that has been provided to help develop a nation and to help move that nation forward both its economy and its health.”
Mitchell Benedict furthered that “books nurture ideas, they provide ideas to revolt against. If you can get something formulated, it helps you to form your own ideas and from that things can start to happen. It is important at so many levels. We are opening new horizon for the future leaders of the country. We affirm the fundamental truth that ‘knowledge is power.’” Read more>>
Gambia: One Million Books for Gambia Reaches NBR
February 24, 2012
By: Alhagie Babou Jallowin
NBR — Hand In Health, an NGO based in Minnesota in the United States in partnership with Books For Africa, Wednesday morning commenced the distribution of one million books to various schools in the North Bank Region (NBR).
The distribution is meant to implement the 'one million books project' which will increase the current literacy rate among women and children.
The beneficiary schools are: Anglican Mission School, Farafenni Lower Basic and Farafenni Upper Basic School. They all received cartons of books from Books for Africa organisation. The distribution took the form of a walk from Bamba Tenda to Farafenni Lower Basic School, led by the Nigerian high commissioner to The Gambia,Her Excellency Esther John Audu;the regional education Directorate Region Four, Sait Saine and students. Read more>>
The Pioneer Press
Books For Africa founder completes Gambian trek
February 22, 2012
By: Mary Divine
Tom Warth, the founder of St. Paul-based Books for Africa, finished his walk across Gambia this morning.
Warth, of Marine on St. Croix, posted the news on his Facebook page. He told the Pioneer Press before he left that he was undertaking the 20-mile walk to highlight the lack of books in that West African country.
Warth, 76, founded Books for Africa in 1988. He and his walking partners are distributing some of the 44,000-plus books they've shipped to Gambia to schools and universities.
Warth's route took him along the unpaved, pothole-filled Trans-Gambian Highway, from the Senegal border on the south to the Senegal border on the north. Read more>>
The Star Tribune
Philanthropy beat: Hiking in Gambia to halt 'book famine'
February 20, 2012
By: Jean Hopfensperger
Tom Warth has been drumming up support for his Books for Africa nonprofit for 20 years. Today, he's slated to embark on one of his more creative fundraising endeavors: He's walking across Gambia.
Lest this appear to be a super-human feat, 'tis not the case. The length of Gambia, on the north-south road he will travel, is about 30 miles. But if all goes as planned, it will be a memorable journey.
Warth, interviewed by phone from Gambia, said he expects to be joined by medical volunteers from the Gambian nonprofit Hand in Health, students, international diplomats and other supporters along the way.
A tractor carrying thousands of books will follow behind the group, distributing them to the schools and schoolchildren.
The Star Tribune
Books for Africa, progress for Ghana
January 14, 2012
By: Neal St. Anthony
This month St. Paul-based Books for Africa will ship $1 million worth of books, nearly 90,000 titles, to Ghana in West Africa, courtesy of Cargill Inc., which built a $100 million cocoa bean-processing plant in Ghana in 2008. The ag-related giant employs 4,000 in nine African countries including Ghana and Ivory Coast. Patrick Plonski is CEO of 23-year-old Books for Africa, founded by retired St. Paul publisher Tom Warth. Kojo Amoo-Gottfried is Cargill's managing director in Ghana. They participated in a recent forum at the University of Minnesota on doing business in Africa.
Q:Patrick, why are Books for Africa and Cargill sending five, 40-foot ocean containers to Ghanian schools and libraries?
Plonski:Ghana is the No. 1 recipient for our organization. It makes good development sense because economic literacy makes sense. You can't provide education without books, and there is a huge shortage in Africa. From Cargill's perspective, it helps to build an educated workforce and sends a strong message that Cargill is not only interested in making money but in helping to develop the country. Books are tangible, they are appreciated and they can be passed around. They looked at our inventory sheet and told us what they want. School books and library books, some university books and one law library provided by Thomson Reuters.
Minnesota Public Radio
In Libya and elsewhere, the best hope lies in literacy
September 23, 2011
By Kofi Annan and Walter Mondale
St. Paul, Minn. — After the recent armed conflict in Libya, people there will be working hard to replace 40 years of authoritarian rule with a new democratic system of governance. It will not be an easy task, but one worth the effort and one that will need the continued support of partners from the international community.
History shows such progressive movements, whether against colonial masters or repressive regimes, are no guarantee of embedding democracy. As young men, we saw a similar wave of change sweep through Africa in the wake of the independence movements half a century ago. Like now, hopes were high both in the countries themselves and among those who wished the new states well. These hopes were by no means always fulfilled.
There are many reasons for these setbacks, including ethnic and religious divisions and corroding corruption. But while the causes of democratic failure are varied, there are two ingredients common to success: a determination to educate a country's citizens and a commitment to the rule of law.
The Star Tribune
St. Paul book donations to Africa top 25 million:
Nonprofit supplier Books for Africa celebrates the milestone and seeks help at its St. Paul warehouse (View Article)
September 8, 2011
In 1988, Tom Warth set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but stumbled upon a much loftier goal -- ending what he calls Africa's "book famine."
Warth, of Marine on St. Croix, had just sold his book business and was traveling the world. He ended up at a public library in Uganda, where he saw a librarian, children and virtually no books.
Back in Minnesota, he collected surplus textbooks and sent them to that library in Uganda.
It was the start of Books for Africa, a nonprofit organization based in St. Paul that has shipped millions of books to 46 African countries.
The official number of donated books topped 25 million recently. So on Thursday, Books for Africa celebrated that milestone and International Literacy Day by calling for volunteers to sort and pack books at its St. Paul warehouse. The festivities continue next weekend with a South African-style barbecue at the warehouse, open to the public.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Volunteers Sort and Pack Books For Africa
August 22, 2011
A trip to Uganda left Thomas Warth with an urge to do something about the empty library buildings. Due to the lack of books in Africa and his effort to give back, Warth founded Books For Africa in 1988 as a way to fill the appointed buildings with the power of the written word. Today, the Minnesota-based nonprofit, with its two warehouses based in Smyrna, has become the world’s largest shipper of books to Africa.
Last Saturday, 40 volunteers came to the organization’s 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Smyrna to sort, organize and pack donated books that will be shipped to various schools in Africa. Books are received from publishing partners, schools and libraries.
“In Africa, there is one book for every 100 students,” said Ron Woods, Director of Development and Community Relations-Atlanta. “So for a child seeing trucks coming to deliver books is the same as our experience on Christmas morning. They really look forward to this.” Books range from kindergarten/preschool material to filling law libraries, which Books for Africa helped open due to donations.
Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul-based Books for Africa shipments hit 1.9M
July 26, 2011
St. Paul, Minn. — Books For Africa says it has shipped around 1.9 million books to 21 African countries in the past 12 months, a new high for the St. Paul-based nonprofit.
The group says the books were worth $22.2 million dollars. Books for Africa says it also shipped 643 computers and 13 brand new law libraries to Africa during the fiscal year that ended June 30.
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Patrick Plonski: Ideas, books and the building of democracy (editorial)
February 12, 2011
The peaceful throngs on the streets of Cairo have won the first round in the battle for democracy in Egypt by forcing President Hosni Mubarak out of office. But the hard work of nation building is only just beginning.
For Egypt to thrive as a truly democratic state, it will have to build up its educational institutions and civic organizations and establish the essential ingredient of any democracy: the rule of law.
American organizations dedicated to these principles are willing to help - organizations like St. Paul-based Books For Africa and its Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative. Books For Africa believes that education is the great equalizer in the world and that books are the foundation of a strong educational system. Over the past 23 years, Books For Africa has shipped 24 million books to 45 African countries, including Tunisia and Egypt. In August, Books for Africa shipped a container of 18,000 books to the Alexandria Library in Egypt.
The Star Tribune
Teaming up to stop Africa's 'book famine'
January 22, 2011
As one of the poorest regions in the world, Africa is all too familiar with famines.
But there is one shortage on the continent, home to about a billion people in more than 50 countries, that has stretched for decades and decades: The lack of books.
"The need is incredible," Patrick Plonski, executive director of Books for Africa, said recently. "There is a huge demand. Our goal is to end the book famine in Africa."
Books For Africa and Thomson Reuters sign $1.2 million agreement
Goal is to support establishment of the rule of law and democracy in Africa
December 1, 2010
Books For Africa, the largest shipper of donated text books to Africa and Thomson Reuters - Legal, the legal publishing behemoth, on Monday signed a $1.2 million agreement aimed at supporting governing institutions and the rule of law in Africa's emerging democracies.
The agreement signed at Thomson Reuters' headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, is directed at Books For Africa's Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative and will include the provision of $1.2 million worth of legal education books and materials to law schools in Africa's developing democracies. Thomson Reuters funds to offset the shipping costs of the legal texts and will continue to provide advertising, logistical and printing support to Books For Africa and the Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative.
School Library Journal
Capstone Donates $3 Million in Books to School Libraries in Africa
November 30, 2010
Just in time for the holidays, children's book publisher Capstone is donating $5 million worth of books to Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the continent.
Some 300,000 overstock books already began their journey to Africa on November 24, when they left the publisher's warehouse in Mankato, MN, and made their way to the Books for Africa offices in St. Paul, MN. The books are now being sorted and packaged for shipment to Africa.
"This incredibly generous donation from Capstone is one of the largest publisher donations received by Books for Africa we can remember and will fill many, many school libraries across Africa with books," says Pat Plonski, the nonprofit organization's executive director. "We truly appreciate the tremendous support of everyone at Capstone in helping to increase levels of education and literacy across Africa. Through education we can prevent many problems in the developing world."
Books for Africa delivers education
Nonprofit has sent more than 23 million donated text and library books to Africa
November 25, 2010
Picture this: it's 20-plus years ago in a Ugandan classroom and a studious young girl is waiting patiently for her turn to read an out-of-date textbook. Twenty or so classmates also wait their turn to read quickly and take notes from the lone tattered learning material being passed around.
Tom Warth witnessed such a moment and decided he had to do something. That something became Books For Africa and its mission to gather books from the United States and ship them to Africa, where 40 percent of the 47 million kids have never been to a classroom.
Since its 1988 founding in St. Paul, Minn., this nonprofit has sent more than 23 million donated text and library books to 45 different African countries. Its commitment to creating a culture of literacy on the African continent is nothing short of inspiring.
Minnesota Public Radio
Mankato-based publisher to donate 300,000 books to Africa
November 24, 2010
A Mankato-based children's book publisher is donating 300,000 overstock books to a nonprofit group that collects and ships books to African countries.
The donation from Capstone is the largest that Twin Cities-based Books for Africa has received in several years, officials said.
The donated books, which Capstone says are worth $5 million, will be shipped to the Books for Africa warehouse in St. Paul starting on Wednesday. They'll then be packed and shipped to Africa.
The Wall Street Journal
PepsiCo and Books For Africa Bring 20,000 Books to South African Children
November 17, 2010
PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), in coordination with Books For Africa, the largest shipper of donated books to Africa, announced today that it will distribute 20,000 books and supplies to locations in need in Johannesburg and the surrounding region.
Throughout the week, SIMBA, PepsiCo's local snack business in South Africa, with support from local community leaders, will deliver the books to three schools and one orphanage in rural and impoverished areas facing challenges such as high unemployment levels. The partnership with Books For Africa was driven by MOSAIC, PepsiCo's African American employee resource group, and the company's global technology function, Business + Information Solutions, in an effort to expand community engagement activities outside of the United States.
"PepsiCo's involvement with Books For Africa responds to the recognized need to improve education and computer literacy in South Africa, particularly in rural areas," said Arnold Selokane, Community Manager at SIMBA in Isando, Johannesburg, who is leading distribution efforts and will personally deliver the donations to the schools and children. "Through this donation, we hope to generate broader awareness of the needs and issues in Africa. We will continue to work with communities in which we do business and form partnerships to bring about positive change."
Minnesota Public Radio
Books, by the Millions, for Africa
(View or Listen to the Article)
October 6, 2010
While many of us take books for granted, in some parts of the world they are still a rarity. A St. Paul-based organization is trying to change this by sending millions of books, most of them school textbooks, to Africa.
In what used to be the keg room at the old Hamms Brewery in St. Paul, April Gilbert leads some new volunteers through what is now the Books for Africa Warehouse.
The Star Tribune
Alexandra Fuller to Speak at Literature Event: Books for Africa conference is this weekend
October 6, 2010
Books for Africa's conference on African literature takes place Friday and Saturday, featuring Alexandra Fuller, author of the bestselling "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," as the keynote speaker.
The conference opens at 6 p.m. Friday with a free reading by Somali novelist and playwright Nuruddin Farah in the Cowles Auditorium of the Humphrey Center at the University of Minnesota. A reading and panel discussion at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Cowles Auditorium features Nigerian writer Uwem Akpan, Kenyan writer and editor Billy Karanja Kahora and Fuller, followed by a reception and signing.
The New Media (Rwanda's First Daily)
Over 40 Schools to Get Textbooks from U.S.
41 schools countrywide are set to benefit from ‘Books for Africa’ project, by receiving 22,000 textbooks published in both English and Kinyarwanda for pre-primary and primary school children.
Books for Africa is a US based non-profit organisation that collects, sorts and ships books to children in Africa with the ultimate goal of ending ‘book famine’ in Africa.
The first batch of the books was distributed yesterday at Groupe Scolaire Mukamira in Nyabihu district, Northern Province.
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Crossroads to the World (editorial)
There is a green, gold and red sign jutting from a humble office building in St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood that says "Books for Africa." It's a small statement (in the colors used for many African flags) that our city boasts the world's largest shipper of donated books to Africa — 22 million and counting after more than two decades in business.
This week, Ghana's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ohene Agyekum, came to the Twin Cities for a Books for Africa fundraiser and to pose in front of part of the latest shipment. Ghana is the group's largest recipient nation among 45 African countries it has shipped books to. Books for Africa is currently filling a 40-foot sea container with more than 20,000 books bound for the capital city of Accra.
Textbook diplomacy earned a visit last year from President Sharif Sheik Ahmed of Somalia, another book-recipient nation, further evidence that Lowertown has become a world crossroads to rival Paris, London, New York — and perhaps even Minneapolis.
The Book Farmer of Botswana
On this broiling October day in Maun, no one at the book choosing is complaining about the donation. Many of the visitors have walked, hitchhiked or bounced along in a public bus for up to 10 hours to get here. An air of purpose pervades the room. There is no breeze, no water and no snacks, but nobody seems to notice. “You have to see Pam to believe her,” says David Tregilges, an educator in Botswana. “She is this little fireball of a woman, fast-talking, passionate and undaunted by obstacles.” If she sees a child alone, she will make reading recommendations with an intensity that Tregilges says “always inspires and motivates.” Thanks in large part to Shelton, he says, over the past decade reading for pleasure has become a possibility for thousands in Botswana. In 2007, Shelton received a James Patterson PageTurner Par Excellence Award for her devotion to cultivating readers.
Mankato Free Press
Free Books on Way to Africa: Capstone Publishers and Friends Giving Gift That Lasts
November 23, 2009
More than 27,000 free books began wending their way to Africa Monday, courtesy of a local publishing company.
Children’s books emanating from Capstone Publishers’ North Mankato warehouse will stock school libraries throughout Africa under the Books for Africa program.
The Mining Journal
Marquette Native Promotes Books For Africa
October 11, 2009
The exotic smells of chicken cooked Gambian style, North African lamb and date stew filled the community room at Peter White Public Library Friday evening.
People were there to taste the African dishes and then listen to Marquette native Carole Patrikakos, 30, who now lives in Minneapolis, speak about her work with the organization "Books for Africa."
We're constantly fundraising to get books to Africa where they're needed the most," she said, adding that those areas are often in countries devastated by civil wars.
Africa's Hidden Famine
June 17, 2009
At first, the children's eyes light up with anticipation.
Then they stare in wonder. Some reach out and cradle the object as if it were treasure to be guarded. Others lift it up in triumph, singing and dancing in joy.
The gift that inspires this kind of marvel in many African children is none other than a simple schoolbook.
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Books For Africa Expands In Atlanta
June 19, 2009
Books For Africa (BFA), the largest shipper of donated books to Africa, is opening a new warehouse in the Atlanta area that will become the organization’s primary shipping, receiving and sorting center.
Locally based Delta Air Lines and
Our Reading Spaces, a nonprofit that shares BFA’s mission of improving literacy and education in Africa, has joined in welcoming Books For Africa to metro Atlanta...
Books For Africa Expands Operations into Atlanta
May 28, 2009
Books for Africa, the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African Continent has opened a 20,000 square-foot warehouse in Atlanta. The new facility, located just outside city of Atlanta in Smyrna, will serve as the organization’s primary shipping, receiving and sorting center.
Speaking during the grand opening ceremony James Kiiru, the Commercial attaché to the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC praised the organization for its work…
The Liberian Journal
Ahmed Sirleaf, Others Secure Shipment of Books for Liberian Law School
October 24, 2008
Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, is expected to receive a shipment of law books and legal reference materials soon from the United States, The Liberian Journal has learned.
Books For Africa and Faegre & Benson Law Firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have donated the books…
Books For Africa Celebrates 20 Years: 20 Million Books in 20 Years
October 2, 2008
On September 12th the Minnesota and African communities did more than reconnect at The Minnesota History Center for the Books for Africa 20th Anniversary Gala. They celebrated their connection and renewed their pledge to support each other in the noble cause to end Africa’s book famine. In a jam packed auditorium, attendees wearing brightly colored and beautifully patterned African outfits keenly listened as representatives from Africa and local leaders praised and encouraged the organization for its work.
“I never imagined that I would have to speak to so many people today!” exclaimed Welile Nhlapo, South African ambassador to the U.S....
Building a Bridge with Books
In most places, they'd end up in a landfill or recycling bin.
But at the old Hamm's Brewery in St. Paul, thousands and thousands of used books and classroom text books are sorted and packed daily, bound for an underdeveloped continent desperate for 'anything' to read.
Twin Cities-based 'Books For Africa' is celebrating both its 20th year, and its 20 millionth book sent to schools, universities, and libraries in 42 different African nations...
Now, 20,000 students in 30 schools in 30 communities have access to books that will broaden individual horizons, enhance classrooms, and maybe significantly change a life or two.— Rose Zulliger, Peace Corps Volunteer who organized and distributed a BFA shipment in South Africa