1. Callister, Lynn Clark PhD, RN, FAAN

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As I travel internationally, whenever feasible I bring recently published nursing textbooks to share with my nursing colleagues throughout the world. Most often the responses to these books are dramatic, and donations are received with both eagerness and reverent appreciation. We who have so much can scarcely understand the impact books can have; one nursing colleague of mine not only shared parts of her professional library but also solicited donations from other nurses and was able to arrange for a nongovernmental organization to ship the books to a school of nursing in Nigeria. She hoped that the books would be used but wondered if perhaps instead the books would be kept under lock and key in the office of the administrator. She had the opportunity to attend that nursing school's 25th anniversary celebration years later and found that those books had been carefully preserved but widely used and treasured by many faculty, students, and clinical nurses for more than a decade.

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According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), nurses provide 80% of healthcare in the developing world yet often lack current healthcare information or computer access. Nevertheless, they are required to provide care to persons with infectious and chronic diseases and to individuals with common alterations in health and injuries/trauma across the lifespan. Having accurate health information in order to manage maternal/child health is an especially pressing issue for nurses.


In response to this need, in 2001, ICN generated a mobile library housed in sturdy trunks that are transportable and resistant to moisture and insects. They have partnered with Merck Pharmaceuticals, which donated funds for the distribution of 20 mobile libraries in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. According to the Merck Director of Publishing, Gary Zelko, "Merck's partnership in the Mobile Library project recognizes a shared conviction that quality health care begins with access to quality health care information. An informed nursing profession unlocks the door to prevention and treatment for so many who have gone without" (ICN Press Release, retrieved March 20, 2008, from The mobile library contains more than 80 titles in books, manuals, and fact sheets. Priority is given to clinical manuals that nurses can use to easily access information. Contents include reference books, community health/epidemiology, nutrition, maternal/child health, surgery/ anesthesia, communicable diseases (HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections), infection control, immunizations, health promotion, leadership, and management (see http://www.icn/ch/mobilecontent.pdf). Nursing organizations such as colleges of nursing and national nursing association foundations have contributed, as has the Florence Nightingale International Foundation. Ministries of health and in-country nurses assist in disseminating the mobile libraries throughout rural and remote areas for health clinics. An additional initiative began in 2006 to send libraries to nurses providing care in African refugee camps, with a 5-year plan to supply a library to every camp (in total, 500 libraries).


To date, more than 180 mobile libraries have been delivered to nurses working in remote rural areas in 16 countries. One user of the library wrote, "We were waiting for the traveling library like we were waiting for the morning to come" (from the Merck Web site, retrieved March 20, 2008, from This touching analogy to the receipt of light and knowledge for our nursing colleagues is profound. For more information on this initiative and how you can contribute personally, through your professional organization, or through your workplace, see visit ICN's Web site at



Appreciation is expressed to Heather MacArthur for her contributions to this column.