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Books for Ghana: Phase Two Planning

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Edited: Apr 26, 2013, 3:37pm Top

For the full announcement, see the blog post.

Short version: We're partnering with a great new outfit, Books Matter, to help get books to schools in Ghana that really need them. Currently they're working on shipping books that have already been donated. Phase two will involve LibraryThing as a community working with Books Matter and with the schools directly to help develop their collections and make sure they're getting the books that will be most useful to them.

We'd love your input and thoughts on how best and most effectively we can help do this! We'll be weighing in too. We're really looking forward to helping out, and I know the LT community will pitch in and do awesome things with this project!

Apr 26, 2013, 2:38pm Top

Great initiative. Unsure how I could be of help, but taking a closer look.

Apr 26, 2013, 2:40pm Top

Like Matt said, glad this is happening and all but, I'm not really sure what you're looking for...

Edited: Apr 26, 2013, 2:47pm Top

So, my pitch is simple: Can a community of readers collaborate to build great collections for kids halfway across the world?

So, how do we do that? I'm hoping we can get some groups interested. And I'm open to new features—some sort of "gap analysis" piece. We'll support this with the money members have earned adding books to Local. But we'll need more than that. We'll need members to get interested, suggest books, donate books, etc.

A lot to be worked out. But this is LibraryThing. We don't tell you what to do, we ask you :)

Edited: Apr 26, 2013, 3:01pm Top

Right. Again: you've got my attention. Just needs some thinking.

For now I'll probably just donate some Euros to the good cause - which, I'm sure, are always welcome. But you're right: LT - as a community - should be able to do more.

Also kids' books aren't exactly my area of expertise - except that I illustrated a couple.

Just thinking out loud though - we'll get there...

Apr 26, 2013, 3:08pm Top

By the way: the link to Books Matter in the first post doesn't work because it includes a double quote mark at the end of the URL.

Apr 26, 2013, 3:37pm Top

>6 Nicole_VanK: - Sorry, fixed.

Edited: Apr 26, 2013, 3:41pm Top

No worries, I can adjust an URL in my browser window. But fixed is better ;-)

Apr 26, 2013, 3:57pm Top

I'll talk to my librarian daughter and see if she has any ideas!

Apr 26, 2013, 4:52pm Top

I am a school librarian in Mississippi and am leading a trip to Accra, Ghana this summer. I am going with two teachers and five students (8th grade to 11th grade), and we will be partnering with the Hermann Gmeiner International College. We plan on doing a great deal of literacy outreach while there. Is there any way I can help?

Apr 26, 2013, 5:18pm Top

yes a shelved field woud be sweet,

Edited: Apr 27, 2013, 9:07am Top

Some questions:

1. Do you have a place where you're going to store all of the donated books prior to shipping?
2. Who is going to register those books on LibraryThing? The donors?
3. Would you accept BookCrossing-registered books?
4. Are you going to set up a free account with a universal password for those who are registering books? If you do, simply set up an account with two collections. One of those has to be a wishlist! When a wishlisted book is collected, it will simply be moved into the "Obtained" collection. So easy!
5. Are you going to advertise widely what you are doing? If so, you'd be surprised how many donors you will get!
6. Are the books all going to have to be new, or will you accept gently used books?

Edited: Apr 27, 2013, 12:29am Top

Sounds like that will be an interesting trip, Sarad. Perhaps you'll come across some schools you feel would be in need of books. My wife is in Ghana now; she'll be presenting the 3,000 books we sent, to the three schools, as well as looking for more schools that we can add to our "list" of needy (and worthy) schools. We should keep in touch!

Apr 27, 2013, 11:19am Top

I am interested in helping (financially or otherwise), but don't really understand what you would like from LT members.

Apr 27, 2013, 11:52am Top

It seems like he wants us to make "must have"/"essentials" sort of lists in various topics/genres, for the organization to look into purchasing for the schools? That's the only thing I can really figure, at least...

Apr 27, 2013, 1:00pm Top

I would be willing to donate books to libraries and schools.

Apr 27, 2013, 2:10pm Top

Right - though I'm sure extra money is always welcome - the question seems to be: what other titles do these people need?

Apr 27, 2013, 2:33pm Top

If you need cataloging I will be glad to do some of that. Will you want marc records or just basic LibraryThing records?

Apr 27, 2013, 9:12pm Top

Thanks to all who are showing an interest in this project. We're still not sure of what the best way to help will be (though obviously money is always needed).

One problem/need I have is this: I cataloged the 3,000 books that just arrived in Ghana. Most of them were sent to Bright Future School (BFS) & they are in that collection. Unfortunately when I entered them, I did not attach any tags or ways to categorize them. We were swamped and just scanning was a lot of work!

Now the problem is this: I want to know where the collection is lacking (i.e., are there enough books for 10-12 yr olds, are there enough science books, etc). I continually receive donated, used books from schools in Toronto and I wish I knew that I should be putting aside science books, for example, for BFS, or whatever they need. But I don't know, don't have time to go through the collection, and wouldn't know the recommended age or genre of many of the books.

So one thing that would help would be if people could categorize some books, using agreed upon tags. Or, maybe there's a better way. Anyway, that's one thought. Thanks again.

Apr 27, 2013, 9:57pm Top

Maybe something similar to the legacy libraries? Set up another account with those books and give out the password to those who want to help. We can agree on some basic tags, genre, age, subject, and then we can all help tag. I know a fair amount about kids books and would certainly be will to help with something like that.

Apr 28, 2013, 3:50am Top

2O> nods

Apr 28, 2013, 11:56pm Top

Karen, that sounds like a great suggestion. Let's do it.

Apr 29, 2013, 8:42am Top

>22 booksmatter: Do you want to make an account, something like Bright Future School, and then I think Tim or Jeremy can move that collection over there?

As for tags, here are my thoughts so far about what we need:

ages (copied these from amazon, don't know if we like them or a different breakdown)
kind of the same as ages, but maybe
picture book
chapter book

It seems like as we start tagging books it will be easier to know what specific tags we need and the good thing about tags is we can use lots if we want. I do think one key will be staying consistent (animal vs. animals), but we can always go back and edit those without too much trouble.

So, thoughts?

Apr 29, 2013, 6:08pm Top

Hi Karen and everyone,

You have the start of a controlled vocabulary for tagging, that is great. I would be happy to volunteer time to add tags to the existing books. I'm a librarian at a community college but in the past have been a school librarian - this sounds like a very interesting project/hobby. We might need to add some depth as we go (i.e. science might turn into astronomy, computers, math, etc.) but until we dig into the books it is difficult to tell.

Add me to the "doers" list and share the account information with me when it is set up. My personal plan would be to tag several different books and then let the other "doers" (KarenElissa, and ??) see what I've done. That way we can see if we're all on the same page for what the end result might be. Don't want to over or under tag since touching each book once would be ideal, especially as the collections will grow :) !

Apr 29, 2013, 6:53pm Top

I'm in for tagging, recommending, moving from one collection to another, carrying water, whatever.

Apr 29, 2013, 11:01pm Top

Thanks to all who've offered to tag. I sent an email to Jeremy and will contact him again to confirm; we should be able to get started soon. I like the list of tags and agree we might need to expand some as we go. For txtbks I would suggest math, science and English since those are the 3 types I sent. I also agree that picture book, chapter book might be redundant. Sounds good!

Apr 30, 2013, 8:55pm Top

I sent Jeremy an email so I think we'll be able to get on this soon. Thanks!

Apr 30, 2013, 10:15pm Top

How much English do these kids know actually - ? Because I suspect that we need some English grammars and practice books and the like.... plus chapter books, leveled books and everything else that helps for ESOL.

I know that the official language is English... but that does not necessarily means that people speak it at home and that all kids are on the same level and do not need help developing their language...

May 1, 2013, 6:22pm Top

Good point, Annie. I did sent quite a few grammar & practice books to help with some aspects of writing. Generally, I would say their English is pretty good, but what you say is correct. A couple of years ago my grade 8 class in Toronto did a penpal thing w gr 8s at Bright Future School and a lot of my student said that their English (the Ghanaians) was better than my students!

Check out my catalog of what was sent and if you're interested in tagging, let me know. Thanks

May 1, 2013, 6:37pm Top

I grew up in a country where English was not an official language and we did get donations from Peace Corps for our English studies (I was in a specialized school). The grammar/vocabulary/writing books and graded readers were the things that were missing - and had to be purchased new (and they are expensive). Virtually all donations were fiction and science books - which are great... except that they don't help when someone does not have the reading habit - and chapter books for teenagers don't work (graded readers are a better choice in my opinion) :) As I said - I do not know Ghana so not sure how relevant that is so just wanted to throw that in.

As for penpals - I had one while studying German. More often than not the teacher was correcting and helping with the letter before being sent out. Plus writing a letter where you can flip grammars and seek help is different from reading real books. And the usual things that are written in these letters are the things that are in the textbooks which makes any student pretty good at it if they are good at school... Which does not mean that their language is not good - I am just bringing in a point from someone that learned English in school and had a different language at home.

I can help with some tagging - I might not be able to tag all books but I probably can tag some... Had we come up with some guidelines on what we are tagging and how? Or the idea is to start doing it and the order will show up from the chaos? :)

May 1, 2013, 8:41pm Top

I appreciate the insights from someone whose first language wasn't English. Thanks. From what you said, I'm glad that I sent a fair number of grammar/writing books, as well as at least 60 graded readers. As far as the penpal writing, I know that the teachers didn't help the students to a great extent. Some requests for cell phones and computers slipped in , which teachers were supposed to discourage. I'm not sure how I would characterize their writing, but it was not the kind of writing I'm used to from 13 yr olds. (eg., "I hope you are faring well by the grace of God. As for me I am cool meaning I am fine by the special grace of God.")
As for the tags, I think we'll begin with a modified version of Karen's suggestions. We're going to tag the books in the Bright Future School collection, so that I can see what areas they are lacking in and try to "fill" that gap.

Edited: May 2, 2013, 2:26pm Top

I've started tagging. I won't be available again until Monday. Feel free to change what I've done even though I won't be available for discussions. Also, if you have ideas that are different from mine, let me know so my future tagging is in line with what the group decides. For age tagging, I've been relying on Amazon when Amazon was clearly a specific age group. Others may have a better idea of what age range a book is really geared towards.

I tagged some sports books as non-fiction, sports, specific_sport_if_applicable. It is not what we discussed, but it seemed useful to me. I only did a few, there was a baseball and a tennis one that I recall.

I added a math tag. Realized that I wasn't sure about the distinction between non-fiction math and text-book math and so didn't tag beyond the math tag.

What should we do with encyclopedias? Just non-fiction?

Will preschool cover all ages below 6? My 2 and 4 yo nieces have very different tastes in books. Or perhaps these books won't be for children under 3 or so?

Darn. I started with Bright Future School and then started doing the whole thing. Sorry about that.

I tagged some fiction works about Christmas with the tag Christmas since it seems that is something people look for. Is that the kind of tagging we are looking for here or did I take it too far? I considered a divorce tag, grief tag, etc and decided that we hadn't discussed that level of granularity so I left it be.

ETA: MDGentleReader as booksmatter

May 2, 2013, 3:28pm Top

I can see the collection and what tags you've used, Keith. I'll work with your list and tag some books later today, and see if there are any recommendations I want to make to the group. Amazon age ranging is good because we can all draw from the same source; helpful with such a dispursed group of taggers! - Pat

May 2, 2013, 3:53pm Top

Preschool is 2-4yrs old. Prior to 2 is too young, and after 4 is kindergarten/real school. So no, I'd not use a "preschool" tag like that. Since they're for a school I'd assume the books are geared for school-age children, though, no? I don't really see a need for things like "divorce," I don't see that being in line with the nature of tagging for this purpose, from what's been said. Something like "life skills" or whatnot, broad encompassing terms, would be much more useful.

May 2, 2013, 4:10pm Top

I agree with # 30 Annie Mod. English is one of the official languages of the country but not necessarily the speaking language of the local people. I would suggest looking at list of books used in literacy programs for the ages we want to reach. That would help address the reading levels. We also need to look at the content, many books will have too much American content for the children to relate to.

http://www.readingforlife.org/ The International Children's Literacy Corps (ICLC)

Playing by the book
Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

http://www.reading.org/resources/booklists/childrenschoices.aspx International Reading Association Choices Reading Lists

http://www.internationalchildbook.com/ Welcome to International Children's Books!

Edited: May 2, 2013, 7:56pm Top

If the point of this effort is just to get a high-level sense of what is already in the collection, can someone explain why we can't just use the tag mirror?* Tagging all these books by hand is a lot of effort, and I really doubt we'll get much more from it than the tag mirror will give us.

Tag mirror indicates that booksmatter already has about an equal division of picture books (which matches to proposed "6-8"), chapter books (matches to proposed "9-12" and possibly "teen"), and young adult books (matches to proposed "teen"), with a large but slightly smaller number of board books (matches to proposed "preschool"). There is more fiction than non-fiction, but not a ton more -- the balance is maybe 60-40. Major genres are: fantasy, history/historical fiction, humor, mystery, poetry, realistic fiction, reference books, and series. Major themes are: adventure, animals, Christmas, dinosaurs, family, psychology, school, science, and Star Wars. On the basis of this quick look at the tag mirror, I might suggest that Keith avoids more Christmas or Star Wars books, unless the kids are very interested in those themes, because they seem specific in a way that is surprising given the rest of the collection. The question of whether there is "enough" of a certain theme depends on your contextual definition of "enough", and what themes you want to be included -- but surely we don't need to tag all the books to get at that information.

* With a note to jbd1 and timspalding that some low-effort, high-impact ways to make this better are:
-- Produce the tag mirror for a specific collection as well as the entire account (which strikes my inner webdeveloper as quite doable, unless you've implemented the tag mirror in a surprising way)
-- Provide the #s that the tag mirror is based on (raw numbers, percentages, or whatever you're basing the sizing of words on)
-- Allow users to sort by the actual #s rather than just giving the word cloud

I have some specific ideas about how to use LT data to grow clusters of related terms, how to use it to suggest themes that are missing from your library compared to other similar libraries and/or compared to a user-specified set of themes you'd like to have, and a more useful interface for interacting with the tag mirror toward the kind of ends that Keith is interested in. Given that you guys (Tim et al.) actually have good data, I'm excited about all the neat things we could do with it -- and I would love to be involved on that end. Tagging this particular library, not so much. That doesn't scale, and it's not the most effective way to get to the ends that booksmatter is interested in.

Edited: May 2, 2013, 7:58pm Top

>36 pammab: - Well, it's both to have a sense of what's there and also to provide tags so that the folks actually using the library have tags on the books that they can use. So tagging them is useful as well. But yes, certainly, some of the things we'll be working on going forward are things where the suggestions you make, to suss out some gaps &c., are very good ones.

May 2, 2013, 8:25pm Top

@ 37
Oh, I believe that tagging is absolutely useful too -- that's how you find things in your own collection that are relevant to you personally, in the way they are relevant to you personally. But the most useful internal tagging will come from them, not us, and that wasn't what was asked for in message #19. (Your "we" sounds like the referent moved from "general LT community" to "the employees", but do let me know if you want any help bringing it to fruition faster -- like I said, developing this functionality sounds like a ton of fun.)

@ all
I also believe the volunteers and Keith himself are extremely kind souls -- so although I'm arguing for using the power of data to push this forward, that doesn't mean I'm writing all of your efforts off. I'm impressed by you guys.

Edited: May 2, 2013, 8:32pm Top

>37 jbd1: Well, no, by "we" in #37 I did actually mean the community at large, not just the staff. :-)

May 3, 2013, 8:19am Top

a couple of thoughts...

On ages, I agree that there is a big range in the preschool age, but the school is Pre-K (4 years old here anyway) and up so I didn't know if there would be much for toddler aged kids. If there seems to be a lot, we can always break that down some more.

On tags, one question, will the teachers/students/librarians have access to this list or use it? If so, it seems the more specific tags would be useful (lions rather than just animals). If this is strictly for figuring out what books to send, then the more general tags may be enough. Although the nice thing about tags is you can have lots and they can be overlapping, in two categories at once. For now, I figure it is easier to delete tags than it is to go back and find the book and add some more so I'm just covering the basics we have and adding whatever else comes to mind. Then we can always go back and sort/delete things as we figure this all out.

May 3, 2013, 5:01pm Top

The teachers will have access to the list, but I'm not sure how much they will use it right away. Hopefully they will eventually.

May 3, 2013, 5:40pm Top

Sorry, but still can't see how we can help. I can see your books but I can't add tags because they are in your account. Is that correct?

May 3, 2013, 10:42pm Top

A big thanks to everyone who is tagging the BFS collection. Hopefully I will have time to scan some books this month and enter into a new catalog. We have found a couple more schools in eastern Ghana that have very few books. Once I have an idea what books are lacking in the BFS catalog, I can put those "aside" as I come across them in the scanning process. (But definitely no more Star Wars or Christmas books!).
Please check out our Facebook page if you want updates on what we've done in Ghana most recently. www.facebook.com/booksmatter2012
Please let me know if I missed anyone who wanted to help out with tagging.

May 3, 2013, 10:43pm Top

>43 booksmatter:

I cannot help if I have no access to the account..

May 4, 2013, 7:29am Top

>42 krazy4katz:/44 If you are interested in helping, you let booksmatter know (post here or send him a PM) and he can give you the password to the account so you can have access to tag the books.

Helpful hint for everyone, if you don't want to sign out of your account, you can open up library thing in a private browsing window and sign into the booksmatter account from there. It doesn't save cookies so you can have both accounts open at the same time and when you close the window it will automatically sign you out.

May 20, 2013, 9:10am Top

Thanks to everyone who tagged some of the books in my collection! If anyone else would like to help, please let me know. I will soon be scanning about 1,000 books that I want to send to an orphanage in the north of Ghana. Just need funds for shipping. I will definitely try to tag as I scan.

Jun 19, 2013, 10:42pm Top

I've started scanning books to send to an orphanage in Ghana. Let me know if anyone is interested in tagging. I'd appreciate any help. The orphanage goes form age 2 - 20, so it'll be a wide variety of books.

Edited: Jun 20, 2013, 5:21am Top

Err, sorry to interupt with an associated question. Relevant to Ghana, I hope.

I met my "Salvo" mate today (I am the atheist, he is the... :)

He mentioned, in our general chit-chat, that he had sent some of his personal monies to a charity thru

Well, he sent $1000 and (wait for it) the Bank fee was about $400. Yes one of the banks that makes a
$2 (or so) BILLION profit/quarter.

I immediatly mentioned "PAYPAL" as a much cheaper transfer method.

Now, I have only ever 'bought stuff' via Paypal, so don't know much about their money transfer. I looked up their site and Africa doesn't seem to be on their radar. I then thought of him sending monies to a 'first world nation' the recipient might have access to. etc. Seems a bit convoluted.

Has anyone had experience with using Paypal to send monies to Africa?

OR. Any other (cheap) ideas?


ETA. Grammar/spelling.

Edited: Jun 21, 2013, 1:53pm Top

I used to be treasurer of a Dutch charity, and I've sent money to that region (in my case Sierra Leone) but it was decades ago - before the civil war. Even then, it hugely depended on sending the money through reliable banks. If the money ended up the wrong place you could find your beneficiaries facing such extortion practices.

Paypal wasn't around back then yet, so - not a clue if that works there.

Edited: Jun 21, 2013, 1:48pm Top

Hi there,
My wife is from Ghana and now lives in Canada and has sent money to Ghana numerous times.
First off, the $400 fee on $1,000 seems impossible (i.e., untrue or someone was duped, but I wouldn't accuse Ghana banks of duping.).
Secondly, people in Ghana do not have Paypal, so that is not an option.

As far as bank transfers, from Cdn banks you can transfer money into a Ghanaian's Ghana bank account for $13.50 for transfers of up to $2,500. (about 5%)

Also, Western Union is a common option, though more expensive. Check their website, but the price varies depending on how fast you want it to get there. I think it's about %15 unless you're willing to have the money take 3 days.

Hope that helps.

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