Six New Libraries Opened Daily
November 7, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

After visiting Nepal in 1998, John Wood left Microsoft to try something different. His organization Room to Read now has created 12,000+ libraries around the world, and given away 10 million books.
posted by LeLiLo (10 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome* - not only is this organization setting up libraries, but is also self-publishing books where there is a lack of books in the native language for young people.

*I find myself writing that a lot on MetaFilter, which makes me quite happy.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:33 PM on November 7, 2011

You know, I could really use an unqualified Good Thing these days. This appears to be the genuine article. Then again, I'm a librarian, so there's confirmation bias at work here.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Room to read got four out of four stars from Charity Navigator, regarding financial, accountability and transparency performance metrics, for whatever that's worth.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on November 7, 2011

Maybe they're already doing this, but I hope Room to Read is convincing the libraries and stores who are otherwise pulping books to send them to the libraries that need books.
posted by pashdown at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2011

pashdown, I hope you're not really taking a article as the reality of how library weeding and discarding goes down. Right? I mean, the examples they put in that article were actually all used in one of my library school classes as Thou Shalt Not Do This When You Weed the Collection.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 6:40 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just finished reading John Wood's book Leaving Microsoft to Save the World. It's not all that great a read (ironically), although it has a lot of uplifting & heartwarming stories about schools and libraries in the developing world. Also insightful comments on nascent capitalism in China, and some very funny stories about Steve Ballmer.

It seems to me that Room to Read is the paradigm of a charitable organization. All the decisions and planning are made in-country by local people, usually by the villagers directly affected. RtR's job is to raise money and to buy & print books, and to supply that money and those books to schools in the remotest parts of Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere in the "Third World." I tend to be suspicious of charity NGOs, especially in Africa, with their grand plans and their helicopter-borne executives, but these new guys seem to be on the up-and-up.

Not mentioned in those FPP links is another RtR program called Room To Grow. They fund scholarships that pay the school fees and boarding expenses of girls who would otherwise be denied an education. This grew out of their old mission when they found that one of the strongest predictors of whether children learn how to read is whether their mothers can read. (Because, in many "traditional" cultures, women do all the child-rearing.)

(Note: I'm in no way associated with them other than that my mom's next-door-neighbors' daughter is a Room to Read activist from whom I got the book.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:08 AM on November 8, 2011

Now that its getting big and the creator has a book out, the organization is probably reached its highest level of impact. Hoping the standard hubris doesn't set in...
posted by redfalcon at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2011

His organization Room to Read now has created 12,000+ libraries around the world, and given away 10 million books.

That gave me the fuzzies, thanks.
posted by ersatz at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2011

John is an acquaintance of mine and it's great to see him mentioned here. He is a wonderful guy and he is just amazingly humble. He's been at this for a long time and no, hubris has never kicked in. Thanks for the post.
posted by adverse_conditions at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2011

A company I do a lot of work with donates the money it makes from starter licenses to Room to Read. They reached $1M last spring. This is a good thing.
posted by mdoar at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2011

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