Beyond Access Member Profile: The Segenat Foundation

This post is the second in a series of posts highlighting the work of library innovators accepted as Beyond Access Members.

Based in the city of Mekelle in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the Segenat Foundation has established a range of public library services and partnerships. In August 2010, the Foundation’s main Children and Youth Library opened its doors to the public, offering 20,000 books, an IT/Media lab, a reading nook, a youth reading center, an active reference desk, an online public access catalog, an arboretum, and several educational programs. The library has hosted annual events including Children’s Book Week and an international conference for publishers of children’s books; it has become a hub for authors and illustrators interested in producing children’s literature in local languages. All programmatic activities ultimately aim to build a sense of solidarity among library stakeholders, facilitating idea exchange and scaling “best practices” in librarianship and children’s literacy & learning.

The Segenat library system is the vision of 2008 Top 10 CNN Hero Award recipient Yohannes Gebregeorgis. Motivated by the desire to foster a love for books and reading in post-Mengistu Ethiopia, Gebregeorgis began financing the library through proceeds from a self-authored bilingual children’s book. Funding and operating assistance for the library has increased over time through local and international partnerships. Today, the Segenat Library collaborates with the Tigray Department of Education and area public schools, Mekelle City Mayors Ato Feseha Zerihun and Ato Negusse Gebre, and Regis University in Denver, Colorado among other institutions. The municipalities primarily provide physical space and staffing, while international library stakeholders have offered library training and additional funding support. Budding future librarians in Mekelle University’s Information Science program participate in the Segenat’s librarian training programs and workshops.
The Segenat library system considers collaboration and networking key to independence and self-sufficiency. As a Beyond Access member organization, the Foundation seeks to both inspire other library stakeholders and in turn benefit from the exchange of innovative, community-centered library practices.