READ Nepal traces its establishment back to 1991, when the trekking guide requested Toni (READ Founder) to establish library in his small village in Junbesi. This first library was established with just 800 books and a social enterprise to earn money to meet the operation cost of the community library. To identify the self-sustaining model for community libraries Toni worked with READ Nepal former Advisors who were Nepali intellectuals, educationists and development experts - Dr. Mohan Man Sainju, Prof. Suresh Raj Sharma, Prof. Dr. Shankar Raj Pathak, Rita Thapa and Dr. Shanti Basnet.
Through learning from the community, the READ Nepal model of community library has evolved merely from a library section to multiple sections for children, women, youth, newly literate and illiterate people and social enterprise attached. Now READ Nepal model focused to be safe spaces to serve the communities featuring a place with relevant books and educational materials, training/conference hall, information and communications technology (ICT) room, and women’s and children’s sections. The community libraries offer need based trainings and comprehensive programs for thousands of individuals each year in the areas of livelihood skills, micro-enterprise development, literacy, women’s empowerment, youth empowerment, health education, and technology through variety of partnerships.
According to the research conducted by IREX on 2017, READ Nepal Model delivers four core benefits:
- Sense of Community: Increased connections, trust, and teamwork among community members as a result of the process of building and operating the Community Library.
- Shared Commitment: Willingness among community members to invest concretely in a common goal.
- Ability to Solve Problems: Decision-making capacity of the Community Libraries’ various local committees as critical to reinforcing the community’s trust in the Centre as well as its ability to create and adapt programming to address the evolving needs of the local population over time.
- Access to Resources: Community members reported that Community Libraries have been able to access resources in the broader community, such as other local organizations, government agencies, experts, and funders in support of services at the Centre. Centres were described as a “bridge” between the local community and district government offices, which has resulted in ongoing mutually beneficial collaboration as well as financial resources for some Centres.