Saint Paul Helps to End the Book Famine in Africa

In 1988, a group of librarians and booksellers got together and shipped a box of books to Africa, specifically to Uganda. Twenty-seven years later, Books For Africa has shipped more than 33 million books to 49 African countries.

Founder Tom Warth, celebrating his 80th birthday this year, has been in the book business a long time. “He built a business out of his garage, literally,” says Books For Africa executive director and Saint Paul resident Patrick Plonski. A car buff, Warth “was going to car shows and noticed the need, the demand for books for people interested in cars,” Plonski says. So he started and grew the company, Classic Motorbooks, sourcing and selling manuals and other car books, then sold the business and retired. He found himself with some time on his hands.

“I went on a trip around the world and to Africa,” Warth says. He visited a library in Uganda, and the library had no books. A librarian, desks and shelves, but no books. “Since I was in the book business, I figured I could trigger some people to send books.” And he did.