23rd Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture

Sanjana Shrestha

READ Nepal Country Director

Sanjana Shrestha

Title: Community Libraries as Platforms for Sustainable Development
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Room 126
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Reception following lecture

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For the past 21 years, READ (Rural Education And Development) Global has been active in the building and development of community libraries in the rural and remote areas of Bhutan, India and Nepal, establishing 68 libraries in the three countries. With its roots in Nepal, READ has partnered with rural communities to establish 53 libraries (known as READ Centers) all over Nepal. During this time, the READ model for a typical community library has evolved so that it now includes not only library services—books, periodicals, and access to technology and the Internet—but also sections devoted to women’s empowerment and early childhood development, venues for community meetings, and livelihood and health training.  In the process, READ Centers have become hubs for a variety of life-changing, community-based activities and programs.

Additionally, a unique and defining element of the READ model is the creation of an associated “for-profit” sustaining enterprise for each library. These enterprises – chosen by the community and ranging from sewing centers to ambulance services to community radio stations – are managed by the local community and generate income to sustain the library in the long term.

 Sanjana has been with READ Nepal for nine years and has served as Country Director since January 2009. Prior to READ, Sanjana was a Project Coordinator and Researcher with the Manushi for Sustainable Development organization in Nepal. Sanjana was also involved in project evaluation work in various organizations such as Save the Children US, Winrock International and German Technical Cooperation.

Under Sanjana’s leadership, READ has been the driving force behind the strengthening of the Nepal Community Library Association (NCLA), which helps READ Centers advocate and lobby for rights. Sanjana’s expertise and facilitation skills have been critical in expanding the READ model to India and Bhutan.

Sanjana serves as the READ Global representative for Beyond Access, an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Facilitating Change, Development Gateway, The Asia Foundation, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Beyond Access has started a movement to raise awareness of the powerful role that libraries can serve as hubs for economic and social change.

Sanjana received a Nomura Centre CONFINTEA scholarship from the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL) to write an article based on empirical research showing the impact of sustainable community libraries. In partner ship with UNESCO, she conducted her research work in Hamburg, Germany in May 2013.

Sanjana is serving as a Steering Committee member of the Association of International Non-Government Organizations in Nepal (AIN) and has served as an International Advisory Board Member for the Access to Learning Award of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in humanities and social science from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu.