Donating books to medical libraries in developing countries: a collaborative approach
Oxford Book Transplant (OBT) is a charitable initiative set up and run by Oxford medical students. The aim is to provide up-to-date medical textbooks to hospitals and in particular medical schools in the developing world. The students take the books in their backpacks when they go on elective placements abroad to show appreciation for hospitality and mentorship they receive. They also help organize larger shipments to higher education libraries and medical facilities in developing countries.
Cairns Library is actively supporting OBT with a collection bookshelf placed prominently in the foyer and regular donations from the withdrawn library stock (never older than 5-10 years). The clinicians and researchers based at the John Radcliffe Hospital are aware of this initiative and happy to donate valuable books they no longer require. Regional hospital libraries at Milton Keynes, Banbury and Oxford have responded with equal generosity and they forward their contributions through the internal mail system.
A librarian from the Cairns helps with filtering incoming books and maintains a broad subject classification within a dedicated storeroom. The outreach skills are put to use for establishing contacts in destination countries and assessing specific subject requirements.
However, in the current economic situation the fundraising efforts which students undertake regularly have failed to generate enough money to cover transport costs for larger deliveries (currently up to €1.70 / £1.50 per kilogram of books, depending on destination). This prompted OBT to seek collaboration with local expat communities in the hope of sending the books via already established channels the communities are using to deliver goods and aid to their countries of origin. A remarkable support has been offered by members of Ugandan, Nigerian and Afghan diaspora in Oxford, all of whom have by now organized and sponsored successful shipments.
The Ugandan community in Oxford (UGACOX) delivered 250 kg of textbooks while the Nigerian and Afghan shipments amounted to 500 kg each. The medical school libraries in destination countries did not stipulate any specific subject requirements as long as the titles corresponded to a standard medical school reading list. The emphasis was on the most recent editions available. An exception to this was the Nigerian shipment which was organized on behalf of the Radiographers Registration Board of Nigeria and gave preference to radiology/diagnostic imaging. For the Afghan shipment an additional effort was made to provide significant number of e-book titles on a portable drive, following the Kabul Medical School’s reassurance that they had adequate hardware in place to enable network access to the titles.
The letters of acknowledgement and appreciation received from the libraries which benefit from donations are displayed and shared in Oxford to attract more support for OBT. The collaboration between medical students, health care libraries and local communities has enabled a sustainable and incredibly rewarding project to go from strength to strength with more shipments planned in the near future.
Second hand medical textbooks remain a valuable resource in many developing countries and have vital role in medical education and public health. This conference poster will offer down-to-earth advice on how to donate books to medical libraries in resource poor settings, including examples of successful shipments, testimonials and photographs.
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