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Public libraries and public primary school literacy: a Kenyan case study

Peter Mose (Department of Languages and Literatures, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 12 August 2020

Issue publication date: 20 October 2020



The purpose of this paper is to explain how public libraries have been instrumental in early child school literacy teaching and learning. Most African public schools do not usually afford enough core textbooks and supplementary readers.


This was a qualitative case study in Western Kenya amongst public library staff members, public primary school teachers and parents of library children clients. The following questions were addressed: What is the book situation in public primary schools in the study site? What school-type literacy-related services are offered by the sampled public library? and What are library staff members’, teachers’ and parents’ feelings about the public library services offered? Observations, interviews and document studies were used to collect data. Data were analysed thematically.


Public schools do not have enough core textbooks and the situation is worse for supplementary readers; the public library branch studied offers critical school-type literacies to school children both at the library building as well as at public schools registered with it; and library staff members, teachers, and parents express positive feelings about the services offered.

Research limitations/implications

This was a case study whose findings might not apply to the larger situation and the study did not confirm actual literacy benefits of the library services amongst school children by, for instance, conducting literacy tests. The findings are, however, an index to the possible situation in the macro context.

Practical implications

The relevant stakeholders should find ways of co-opting public libraries as associates of public schools in literacy teaching. This relationship is not straight forward in Kenya.


The findings reported are from original research.



Mose, P. (2020), "Public libraries and public primary school literacy: a Kenyan case study", Library Management, Vol. 41 No. 8/9, pp. 689-701.



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