Kigali has a library! And it’s kind of a cool place. The building is pretty sexy with high stone walls, high ceilings, and a lot of natural light creeping in through the generous number of windows. It’s all modern looking but the stone walls done in true Rwandan fashion add a nice local element to the place. The Kigali Public Library is a very impressive sight, tucked away behind the US Embassy with a great view of the post-apocalyptic-looking construction on the hill opposite.
If you’re not totally sure where you’re going, telling your moto or taxi driver to take to you the library or in Kacyiru will probably mean you’ll end up at the Ikirezi Bookstore. Libraries are pretty uncommon in Rwanda and since bookstore is ‘librarie’ in French (as I’ve been schooled about in the comments), asking for the library will probably see you brought here. Not like there are a lot of bookstores, either… but if you end up at a building that looks nothing like the one in the photo, you’re in the wrong place, my friend (though Ikirezi is for sure worth a visit at some point!) Your best bet for finding the library is to ask to be taken to the American Embassy and then either direct your moto to go behind it, or just get off there and walk for 5 minutes and you’ll see it.
The Kigali Public Library itself is a work in progress, but it’s certainly moving in the right direction. It’s pretty unusual to see a ‘Chicken Cookbook’ next to the ‘Book of Faith’ which is next to the ‘Best of Oscar Wilde’. Or the biography of the mathematician from ‘A Beautiful Mind’ in the math and science section along with textbooks. There are some definite organisation improvements to be made, but it’s still a lot better than I’d expected. At the moment, some shelves are pretty logical and others are a mish mash of seemingly random books but they’re getting there.
A library membership costs Rwf 10,000 a year which is a ridiculously good value, even if the selection isn’t (yet) amazing. Three books at a time can be taken out for two weeks and you can renew if you need longer. Late fees are Rwf 300. To register, head to the library’s info desk where they’ll give you a form to fill in and you can pay there too.
Membership to the Kigali Public Library also gives you three hours a day access to the ‘fancy’ internet cafe where you can use their computers and 4G internet or log on with your own laptop. The internet connection in the rest of the library is free for anyone to use but I’m told it’s not as fast.
There are quite a few kiddie type corners, one with kids tapping away on beginner laptops and another where there were flipping through books. Most of the other people in the library seemed more interested in working on their computers and I didn’t see too many people holed up reading, but I hope that the mere existence of a place like this will steer Rwanda’s reading culture in the right direction.
The Kigali Public Library really is an impressive initiative and I was happy to see the library bustling with people when I visited on a Monday afternoon. The staff are helpful, the space is inviting, and overall I think this is a really amazing thing for Kigali. I’m a member! I really can’t think of a better way to spend Rwf 10,000 (except, of course, on a map of Kigali) and I’m happy to support what I see as a pioneering initiative for Rwanda.
Visit the Kigali Public Library and when you’re done, pop up to the roof to grab a coffee at the beautiful new Shokola cafe, Innovation Space. They also play movies and host other creative events up there that are worth a look, making the library a pretty well-rounded place for events and books!
Hours: 8am – 5pm, Monday to Friday & 9am – 3pm, Saturday
Phone: 0784 657 333