2019 has been an incredible year for Library For All. From our big wins, such as delivering our library to a 130,000+ readers in the Asia Pacific, through to smaller management challenges, like expanding our Brisbane office team, it’s been a highly successful year of growth and achievement.
Our Vision to deliver a digital library to 20 million users by 2030 took significant steps forward in 2019. The official launch of our app on the Google Play Store in Papua New Guinea was cause for celebration – for our teams and the library’s recipients alike. Working with our partners, Library For All had created 500 original, culturally appropriate books for children in PNG by July this year. Our teams then travelled to introduce the app to more readers, and deployed Spark Digital Library Kits into 12 pilot schools. This was followed up with teacher training, and monitoring and evaluation processes that will continue into 2020 to ensure our PNG users can access our library efficiently and with the best possible outcomes for readers.
In terms of book publishing, our Books That Travel collection, created in partnership with the English Family Foundation, also reached completion – with an additional 100 culturally mobile books added to our Library. With ChildFund, we’ve continued our development of an innovative Natural Disasters series, including fiction and non-fiction titles to assist communities with preparedness and recovery.
Additional support through a DFAT Friendship Grant expanded our PNG collection by a further 60 titles, with Middle and Upper Primary readers in focus. 20 more books at these levels are now underway with support from the June Canavan Foundation. Step by step, partnership by partnership, we are proud to be rolling out a complex, multi-level library of unique, beautifully illustrated, original books. Our books not only help children learn to read, but help them LOVE to read, which is crucial to long term literacy achievements.
Earlier this year, Library For All put time into scoping studies and partnership research in order to launch the library in more communities. Laos and Timor-Leste are now part of our primary program network, and we’re thrilled to be progressing local workshops and Spark Digital Library Kit roll out programs in those countries. We have already created over 85 books in Lao language, with an extended collection of another 100 titles in progress. For Timor-Leste, the first books of a 100 book collection are currently being translated into Tetum for release in the new year.
A major development for us came in June this year, when we secured support from The Funding Network to publish books in some of Australia’s many Indigenous languages, bringing our library ‘home’ to Australia while we continue to scale internationally. Our first books are in the Gamilaraay language, spoken by people whose traditional lands cover parts of South-Western Queensland and northern New South Wales. An additional set of Gamilaraay books will be published early next year, whilst we are currently preparing to expand into other Australian Indigenous languages, in consultation with communities.
Our hard working core team have had very little down time this year, with significant program travel always a high priority to support our local staff in PNG and Laos. Our teams have also had a presence at conferences, such as the Children’s Book Council of Australia National Conference, and our workshop schedule has enabled more than 1,000 excited participants in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra, along with Port Moresby and Vientiane the opportunity to contribute their stories to Library For All. In September, our fearless leader, Founder and Chief Executive Officer Rebecca McDonald, was awarded the prestigious Women In Technology Community Award in recognition of her innovation and entrepreneurship in delivering Library For All’s mission.
Our expanding team of expert staff matured the organisation across all facets of our operations, including significant process improvement work, improved technologies, cohesive branding, content strategy development, streamlined record keeping and transparency. These ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of organisational growth are vital to underpinning our primary tasks of content creation and on-the-ground program delivery and position us well as we continue to scale Our Brisbane office is our Australian base, but we are proud to state that we worked with more than 500 creative contributors around the world in 2019, including our staff, volunteers and many talented authors and illustrators in 16 countries on 6 continents.
As 2019 draws to a close, we wish to thank everyone who has helped us fulfil our mission – but this is only the beginning! Plans for 2020 are already well underway with Library For All firmly committed to putting more books into the hands of children who need them most.