Project LEAP: Midterm Report
Project LEAP— “Libraries, e-Reading, Activities and Partnership” – is a groundbreaking pilot program implemented by Worldreader in partnership with eight public and community libraries in Western Kenya, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. LEAP aims to increase the availability of reading materials in Kenya’s libraries with the provision of e-readers filled with relevant books, building on Worldreader’s four years of experience with e-readers in primary schools across sub-Saharan Africa. Worldreader has deployed 200 e-readers to the eight public libraries, each preloaded with 100 African and 100 international book titles for a total of 40,000 books distributed so far. For children, the titles primarily include storybooks, and for adults, pleasure reading and informational books. The one-year pilot tests the use, function and adoption of e-readers in selected libraries to determine how e-readers affect library patronage, communities, staff, policies and procedures. These learnings will ultimately serve to inform the deployment and expansion of digital reading programs in libraries across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa.
This paper constitutes a midline report for the yearlong LEAP pilot. After four months of project implementation, the report’s primary findings are:
- As many as 10,000 people may have already been impacted by the program, based on early estimates. Final numbers will be available in the endline project report.
- Monthly library patronage increased by 66% overall. This amounts to an average absolute gain of 4,621 patrons per month for community libraries, and 34,091 patrons for public libraries. However the largest percentage gains were seen at smaller community libraries, due to impact of the e-readers on these libraries’ relatively smaller collections.
- Librarians frequently use the e-readers to conduct community outreach (an average of three times per week per library). This means the devices are often spending more time outside libraries than in them, which in turn draws more patrons into the libraries by increasing awareness. This also drives up the total number of people impacted by Project LEAP.
- There have been no significant technical problems with the e-readers and no breakage. Two e-readers out of the 200 deployed (1%) were lost.
- Librarians report that the e-readers are easy to use and train on, and take pride in being the e-reader experts in their facilities and communities. Strategies and guidance on delegation of project duties is needed however, for the project managers to avoid burnout.
- Given the widespread perception of libraries as being more suited to children than adults, leveraging LEAP to increase patron diversity has proven a challenge. Targeted content and outreach is necessary for adults to start using the e-readers.
Worldreader is applying these learnings to the remaining months of pilot implementation, and incorporating them into a handbook that will be shared with future library programs.
Overall, the project has exceeded all expectations regarding the number of people impacted. Such results indicate the potential of the program to impact libraries in Kenya and beyond, and Worldreader is working with the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) and other key stakeholders to scale-up the program nationally and to elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.
Read the full Project LEAP Midterm Report.