In 2009, I was invited by the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga to join them on an inspection tour of the then unfinished Kigali Public Library.
The site, overlooking the US embassy, was nothing more than a formless, but imposing stone structure and the club was struggling to raise funds. We were looking at a future library and roof top restaurant.
Three years later, the two-story building library is an architectural marvel of stones and glass and home to enthusiastic readers, storytellers and other creative types.
The interior is expansive with high walls and ceilings, allowing in natural light.
Despite its modern design it still has an air of cosiness, and boasts of up to 30,000 titles spread out in metallic shelves, marked according to genre and discipline.
From Christian apologists books by CS Lewis such as the Screwtape Letters, to philosophical masterpieces like Plato’s the Republic, to Oscar Wilde; the library offers an array of options, although it can be improved.
It offers access to a wide assortment of hard and audio books, as well as digital copies from the inbuilt digital library.
According to the management, over 6,000 adults visit the library every month, many of these coming to read, while others come to borrow or return books.
The library also serves as an ideal venue for book launches and readings for authors.
Because it has a wholesome objective of creating a knowledge-thirsty society, critical thinkers and problem solvers, the library introduced a children’s learning space with book section, games, painting materials, as well as Lego and robotics, for inquisitive children.
The roof top Shokola restaurant is a magnet for those after fresh coffee and foods, with a view of the Kigali skyline. Keeping with the theme, it has a bookshelf lined with English and French novels.
Next to the restaurant is a mini arts and film theatre, furnished with cushions to replicate terrace sitting where people can sit and watch movies or listen to performers.
Eight years later, the Kigali Library has taken its pride of place. Annual membership is Rwf12,000 for adults, Rwf8,000 for students and Rwf5,000 for children.