Lubuto – a library on fire in Lusaka

Ruth HartleyBooks by Ruth Hartley, Dust and Rain4 Comments

Lubuto Library students listening to Dust and Rain

I had a wonderful experience at the Model Library in Garden Compound, Lusaka. I met Kenny and Brenda, two very inspiring facilitators and mentors who work in the Library. On fire to promote reading, they arranged for me to read part of my new children’s book, Dust and Rain, to a group of children and then answer their questions. I think the photos of the occasion speak for themselves.

Kenny and Brenda were on fire in their work to encourage children to read and to express themselves through art and drama but a dreadful and sad disaster lies behind my title. The reading room and its books at the Model Library did catch fire and burn down last year in the middle of the Covid crisis.

Please consider donating to this wonderful charity so they can continue saving the vulnerable children in that community. Visit this website for donations. The Model Library is fully funded at the moment but other Lubuto libraries in Zambia will welcome your help.

Talking about Dust and Rain

All the young students enjoyed the talk. Kenny made sure that they were involved and interested by picking up on the story as I read it and getting laughter and responses from everybody.

What I found particularly interesting was that the questions I was asked were about how and why I wrote stories and made art – why one thing over another – did it pay – and so on. I kept my answers as open-ended as possible but was thrilled to see so many young people keen on creating art and telling stories.

This lively and worthwhile event was organised for me by Gadsden Publishers Lusaka.

The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree

Paula Leyden another writer of children’s books set in Zambia had previously visited Lubuto Model Library and donated her books to it.

Monkey oranges

A walk on the wilding side in the middle of a city

Just before I went to Lubuto Library I visited the old Lusaka Race Course which has been allowed to return to nature.

In Chapter Eight of Dust and Rain Chipo and Chibwe go to a place in a city that has run wild in the same way.

They befriend a street kid called Masika who is hiding there from Mr Wabenzi the villain of the story and want to be sure Masika is safe.

I was thrilled to see what a beautiful wilderness has come into existence there.

How Chipo collects herbs in the secret wilderness to sell

In Dust and Rain Chipo collects herbs and wild fruit to sell in the city as she wants to save money for their quest to save the Green Valley.

I recognised again some of the plants that she would have found there and we saw a francolin too which I expect Makisa would have trapped and eaten.

In my story it is a guinea fowl he finds.

Poisonous snake apples

4 Comments on “Lubuto – a library on fire in Lusaka”

  1. Tia Azulay

    Wow, that sounds like a great event, Ruth! A lot of your blog posts, and the About page of your site, also address the Whys and Hows of writing and art. I hope some of your audience will find these and take the conversation deeper.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Tia – thank you – the Lubuto Model Library visit and the organisation that makes it possible are really amazing.
      I also wish that people would respond more often to my posts and enter into discussions – these matters are so important! Ruth

  2. Jane Kinney Meyers

    Thank you for sharing your experience giving a book talk at the Lubuto Model Library, a public library that is located on Ministry of General Education land adjacent to the Ngwerere School in the Garden neighborhood of Lusaka. As you saw, the young people from the community who use the library are unusually experienced with book and author visits and talks, something in which the library staff has developed considerable expertise, I believe.
    Pre-Covid, that library had an average of 2,500 visits per week, a remarkable level of use and reach by any standard. Then, as you noted, it was hit by covid and then an unfortunate fire in the library’s Reading Room. We told the story in a couple of webinars of our amazing good fortune, that when the fire occurred we already had an entirely new book collection en route to Lusaka by ship. The collection of books, computers, DVDs and toys (for an upcoming Early Learning Center on the library compound) was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and selected and purchased by our collection development experts. The other part of the good news – that you may have seen on the sign posted at the library – is that the USAID grant is also paying for the rebuilding and expanion of the library.
    So we don’t need financial support for constructing, or buying books, but our small organization very much needs funds to support the creative and dedicated staff! If anyone wishes to help us sustain the “heart” of the library – the people who run it and all of its programs – they can donate (from any country) via the “donate” page of our website,

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Dear Jane
      Thank you very much for your comprehensive and clear explanation of the ethos and the events that affected Lubuto Model Library.
      I was very impressed by the whole concept of the Lubuto Model Library. Brenda and Kenny were fantastic at facilitating my visit and I only wish I lived closer and could visit it more often. Hadassah Kusakumya and Given Besa have also been in touch with me and given me accurate and helpful information about I’ve spent some time trying to make my blog posts more accurate. I will keep in touch with Lubuto and I hope that my next two children’s books will also end up there too. With best wishes to you and your organisation. Ruth

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