It’s been almost a decade since the British Council stopped its brick and mortar library operation. But, still, most Ethiopians and, specifically, residents of Addis Ababa, associate the British Council with the library.
This may have to do with the fact that, quoting one former library user’s comment, ‘‘Its contribution to the generation of the 70'sand 80's is beyond words. That British Council was a cave of knowledge to escape the nasty propaganda of the fascist military regime.’
The writer of this article, for example, grew up reading the books and watching the VHS films that the library rented out. Many partners and colleagues, and maybe even the reader accessing this piece, have the same experience.
But, why did the library close if it was so popular? I guess the answer to this is, ‘the same tool that you are currently using to read this article.’ If you are confused let’s paraphrase this and say, ‘It’s actually because of the PC/Lap top or the mobile phone that you are holding or using right now’.
If you check out the PDF DRIVE website, for example, it has more than 72 million pdf books and increasing. Libraries all over the world have been and are closing as there are no users. Why should one travel to libraries to read books that are just a click away?
So, basically, the move to close the library was a strategic decision that took into consideration the above-mentioned reason and, of course, many others.
Actually, we still provide books. We, in collaboration with different partners, contribute to the distribution of more than one hundred thousand books each year. This is our Book Aid project which is under our Schools programme.
We also support schools and the Ministry of Education through our Connecting Classrooms and Quality Education Strategic Support Programme. We are providing networking and capacity building platforms in the arts sector through our East Africa Arts Programme. We will host the next Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa (October 2019) as part of our Society work. We are credited to have saved the Charities sector through the Civil Society Support Programme. We provide the best English teaching service in our state-of-the-art Teaching Centre. We are the sole providers of IELTS exam with three centres in Ethiopia. We are conducting a nationwide Next Generation research which focuses on uncovering the perceptions and aspirations of young people.
In short, even though the library is closed, the British Council is playing an even greater role in creating friendly knowledge between UK and Ethiopia and acting as a bridge for cultural relations and educational opportunities.
To learn more please check out our website https://ethiopia.britishcouncil.org/