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Mobile Libraries Roll Through Still-devastated Haiti

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January 23, 2013

Three years after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving 2 million homeless, the country is struggling with recovery. It was already one of the world's poorest nations when the earthquake hit; and although aid from around the world approached $10 billion, recovery has been slow.

Government buildings tumbled. Apartment buildings were gutted. Hospitals, schools, and churches were not spared. Among the notable losses was the National Library, the home of which was flattened by the quake. A great many Haitians still need basics like food, clothing, and shelter; but they also need books, according to Libraries Without Borders, which has sent a group of mobile libraries to Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area in an effort to fill the knowledge gap created by the devastation of 4,000 schools.

The Bibliotaptaps, as they are known, resemble book buses and have been rolled out to tour the devastated neighborhoods and, in some cases still, temporary housing. Each Bibliotaptap has onboard 400 books, half in Haiti's native language, Haitian Creole. (The country has two official languages, of which the other is French.) Subjects covered include culture, economics, history, politics, and even worlds themselves, in the form of dictionaries. The Bibliotaptap spends a day in a neighborhood, lending books on just about every topic to needy children and adults, then travels on to the next area.

Haiti is just one country in which Libraries Without Borders operates. Other mobile libraries can be found in Cameroon, Chad, Congo, France, Georgia, India, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, and the U.S.

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