Keen to expand services for youth, public librarians at Choma Provincial Library conducted a scan of facilities for young people in Choma, capital of Zambia’s Southern Province. They found that there were some good youth centres and services, but that the town lacked facilities to support young people’s creativity.
The innovative project
To fill this gap, and at the same time to contribute to building a creative industry in Choma, the librarians came up with the idea of the ‘Creatives for Change’ project. After meeting with young people to establish their creative needs and interests, the librarians decided that the project should concentrate on photography, civic writing, singing and poetry.
With a small grant from EIFL, and matching in-kind support from Yoweli Chungu Filimu, a local film hub, and several other partners, the librarians equipped a space in the library where young creatives could work together on projects and identified volunteer trainers to build their creative, technical, communications and business skills. They marketed the project through the library, noticeboards in public spaces, the local radio station and social media. Soon young creatives were claiming the library space as their own, and nicknamed it the ‘creative dorm’.
"The fact that one can walk into the library and access all this equipment, and even borrow it, is something extraordinary. We are grateful to the library for this initiative and we hope that the project will continue supporting us young creatives." - Rano Machona, the creative behind the fashion brand ‘Baby Africa’, who volunteered to provide training on social media and marketing.
Equipping the ‘Creatives for Change’ space in the library: Equipment included two cameras with different lenses, two tripod stands, a studio lighting kit and backdrop material for young photographers; a voice recorder, headphones, studio monitors and a microphone for young musicians and performing artists, and four computers downloaded with software for writing, sound, drawing, painting and processing photographs. Co-creation can be noisy, so the librarians sound-proofed the door to the ‘creative dorm’ so as not to disturb other people coming to the library to read, research or study.
Training young creatives to use the equipment and software and to generate income from their art: Digital skills training, including the use of creative software and social media to communicate was conducted by volunteers. Business skills training was conducted by one of the library’s project partners, the Youth Development Organization. Training covered Creativity in Business; Creative Intelligence and Innovation; Entrepreneurship, Collaboration and Partnerships; Marketing Creative Art; Advocacy and Sustaining Artistic Projects. The library organized a learning circle to support a group of learners taking an online course in photography.
Building skills in collaboration and co-creation: From the outset, the library aimed to promote co-creation and sharing of resources. They designed the ‘Creatives for Change’ space to accommodate co-working and grouped artists according to their skills and interests. During training, collaboration was discussed and encouraged.
October 2019 - November 2020
Achievements and impact
Through the Creatives for Change Project, the library -
- Trained over 80 young creatives in digital, business, marketing, communications and co-working skills, as well as a variety of creative and technical skills: “Through interaction with fellow artists at the library, I was linked to the Young Generation Radio Station where I now host a show every Saturday. I have used photography to enhance my visibility through social media, and I have become more popular in my community,” said Tawanda Wade.
- Enhanced performance skills and built young creatives confidence to market their talents and their work:
- A singing group collaborated with poets to write and record a song on COVID-19 prevention. Some of the singers have joined a local band (the 5 o’Clock Band). “Before this project, I used to write songs for people without being paid. Right now, I am making money out of writing,” said Rabecca Tembo.
- Two singers collaborated with major Zambian artists to record songs.
- One of the libraries’ young creatives now hosts a regular radio show.
- A poet, Tobias Chulu, was encouraged by fellow creatives to participate in a Diamond TV poetry competition, where he was among the 10 finalists out of about 300 entrants;
- The library’s budding photographers received bookings, and have been generating income from covering events such as weddings, kitchen parties (events for women organized by brides and their families weddings) and birthday parties.
- Won recognition for the library and the young creatives:
- National and local TV and radio stations featured ‘Creatives for Change’, for example, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) featured ‘Creatives for Change’ during a programme on how libraries are supporting the fight against the coronavirus.
- Choma Provincial Library presented the project in a webinar for librarians organized by the Library and Information Association of Zambia (LIAZ).
- Attracted more youth to the library. Before the project started, about 140 youth were coming to the library every week; during the project, this number rose to 264.
"The library has helped me to increase the number of creative activities that I do. Not only do I write scripts and act now, but I can also do photography." - Nachihulu Prisca, young creative.
The Ministry of Tourism and Arts has committed to continue working with the library and supporting the ‘Creatives for Change’ activities. The Ministry of General Education, which supervises the provincial library network in Zambia, sent a team of librarians, led by the Chief Librarian of the Zambia Library Service, to Choma Provincial Library to learn about how the library is engaging youth. The annual budget allocated by the Ministry of General Education will also support continuity of the ‘Creatives for Change’ programme.
"It is exciting to see what started as a proposal taking shape and positively engaging young people in our communities. The training exposed artists to knowledge and skills that are already bearing fruits. Creative arts can turn around the fortunes of our town when well managed and supported." - Moses Milimo, Provincial Arts and Cultural Officer.
Choma Provincial Library was one of 12 public and community libraries in Zambia that took part in a major EIFL-LIAZ capacity building initiative for public librarians in Zambia, which trained librarians to develop new services that meet community needs. Towards the end of the training, participants were invited to apply for matching grants to fund services that were developed using ideas and skills gained during training.