Knowledge management and health

Blue Trunk Libraries


How is the Blue Trunk Libraries project different?

Although wonderful work is being done by such NGO's as Book Aid International and sister-library schemes where books are sent to be integrated into existing libraries, we cannot deny that an enormous quantity of material is dispatched to developing countries every year, which sometimes just "disappears into thin air" a few months later. How many NGOs, international organisations, donor projects select, acquire, pack, dispatch kilos of books for no trace to be found of them when a "consultant" goes to visit. Such material has been seen in markets for wrapping up foodstuffs and other products...

Where is the problem? Why is there a problem?

A myriad of reasons for which there is not always a response, but perhaps some of which is being tackled by the Blue Trunk Libraries (BTL) project. What are some of the problems and how does the ready-to-use library idea attempt to solve them?

  • Problem: books do not reach their intended audience; they get waylaid en route - in the post office, in the office of a person of higher authority.
  • BTL solution: the material is dispatched in a locked container (the blue trunk) to the WHO Representative in the country, whose Office then handles the transport to the district centres which have been chosen to receive them or have requested them.
  • Problem: books are not appropriate to local conditions and therefore not put to suitable use.
  • BTL solution: the books are basic manuals intended for developing countries, many published by WHO, complemented by material from well known and trusted sources of practical information. They have often been chosen by experts in the field.
  • Problem: books are placed on the shelves of an office or documentation centre and no one knows that they are there or why.
  • BTL solution: the blue trunk is a library in itself - the contents do not need to be shelved elsewhere, the box can be locked when not in use and the training will ensure that the health workers know they are they are there and why they are there.
  • Problem: books are taken away for personal use and never returned to the "library".
  • BTL solution: a health worker or assistant is nominated to be in charge of the collection which belongs to the community. Training in the basic day-to-day running of the "mini-library" is provided.
  • Problem: there is not a reading culture in some communities which encourages people to consider books as important sources of information.
  • BTL solution: the training is planned to show the value of books as a health resource and how the information contained in them can be transferred in an appropriate form to those who cannot read or only use the vernacular.