LFA Launches The Spark Digital Library Kit With Ministerial Support

On 19 November Library For All was thrilled to officially launch our Spark Digital Library Kit, with the help of Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Hon Alex Hawke MP. We were also honoured to have our local member Julian Simmonds MP, Member for Ryan, present as well as friends and supporters of Library For All. 

“The Spark Kit is a game changer,” said Rebecca McDonald, CEO and Founder of Library For All. “This technology allows us to put an ‘instant library’ of hundreds of books into classrooms in places where history, poverty or remoteness currently reduces access to reading material.” 

Delivered in a custom designed commercial grade, lockable transport case, the Spark Kit contains 40 tablet computers pre-loaded with Library For All’s groundbreaking digital library application.  Each kit provides a secure storage solution, in-built charging and creates a secure Wi-Fi network that can update tablets with new content and gather valuable usage data that will drive classroom planning and the development of new features. 

Mr Hawke said that solutions like this are “exactly what’s needed” to create tangible change in literacy levels throughout the Pacific, congratulating the LFA team on their significant contribution to thought leadership and innovation.

Officials and guests enjoyed the opportunity to view the Spark Kit up close, explore the technology and, most importantly, read books from our fast growing collection of unique, culturally diverse content. 

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. 

School Deployment
LFA teams share the LFA digital library in PNG

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. 

The Funding Network
CEO Rebecca McDonald pitches to The Funding Network

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. 

School Deployment
Children enjoy the PNG library during a school implementation

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. 

Library For All Australia is pleased to welcome the June Canavan Foundation as a new funding partner on the Middle and Upper Primary Reading Pathway Project. 

This project, initiated by Library For All in early 2019, will provide a freely available continuous pathway of age appropriate, culturally relevant reading materials for children who currently lack access to these resources in Papua New Guinea.  

With the support of the June Canavan Foundation, Library For All will extend the scope of the project to include an additional 20 original children’s books for Middle and Upper Primary students, and will deliver these for free through the award winning Library For All digital library application. 

On announcing the funding, Anne Gripper, Foundation Chair of the June Canavan Foundation, said “the Foundation was established in 2010 to honour the memory of Dr June Canavan and builds on her humanitarian work in the areas of sport, health, education and conservation. The Middle and Upper Primary Reading Pathway Project aligns to our aims to improve educational outcomes in Papua New Guinea and we are pleased to be supporting Library For All in this important endeavour”. 

The project is already well underway, with more than 45 new titles produced since March 2019 and a further 35, including new books funded by the June Canavan Foundation, due for completion by April 2020. 

Library For All’s Specialist Librarian (Content Strategy and Publishing) Dr Lara Cain Gray said that “this funding presents an exciting opportunity to provide extended reading opportunities for older readers. Our aim is not just to help kids learn to read, but to encourage a culture of lifelong interest in reading. The Middle and Upper Primary collection will include lively, informative non fiction and creative stories designed to increase a reader’s vocabulary and really cement their interest in books and education.” 

Library For All has a vision to deliver relevant books and educational resources to more than 20 million children by 2030. This project helps provide for up to a million readers who, without access to these resources, face the almost insurmountable challenge of developing literacy skills without access to reading materials. 

Library For All is an Australian not for profit scale up disrupting the global publishing industry by making high quality, age appropriate and culturally relevant books and educational resources accessible to all, equally. More than 130,000 people are now reading with Library For All.