McMillan Memorial Library- Book Bunk
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McMillan Memorial Library- Book Bunk

Book Bunk is working to restore some of Nairobi’s most iconic public libraries into sites of heritage, public art, collective memory, knowledge production, shared experiences, cultural leadership and information exchange.

This report has been prepared for Book Bunk to provide a strategic outlook for the restoration of McMillan Memorial Library and a framework for the project’s management. The building consortium was composed of Architect Peninah Mutonga, Structural/civil engineer Purity Naitore and Quantity Surveyor Charity Juma, and overseen by Board Advisor Balmoi Abe of Mambo Heritage.

McMillan Memorial Library is the oldest public library in Nairobi, Kenya, and the second oldest in Kenya after the Seif bin Salim Library in Mombasa. It was built by the McMillan family and selected as a memorial for Sir Northrup McMillan by Lady McMillan. The foundation stone of the library was laid in 1929 by the acting governor, Sir Jacob Barth and the design was handled by Architects Raud Overy and Maxwell. The building was completed in June 1931 and handed over to a board of trustees. In January 1962, after the death of Lady McMillan, and owing to the library’s stringent finances, the Nairobi City Council took over complete control. The building is now under the custody of the County Government of Nairobi, through the Nairobi City Council. It is protected by the National Museums of Kenya as an architectural heritage, with restoration efforts spearheaded by the Book Bunk Trust. Other major stakeholders include the Kenya National Library Service and the general public. The main users of the space are the general public, both as an educational facility and as a tourist attraction site.

Our Approach To Restoration/Retrofitting: 

We’re working to transform what people do at the library. We believe that these spaces can continue to nurture academic and literary pursuits, while also providing a home for diverse and accessible programmes and events that are free from political or religious agenda and that celebrate art, well being and learning.

Coordinate the physical renovation of these spaces while ensuring their historical integrity is maintained and showcased. We’re also committed to ensuring the communities living around these spaces are the primary beneficiaries of each of these projects.

We want to build ‘Palaces for The People’; public, inclusive and safe spaces where Nairobi’s residents can access whatever they need be it legal advice, tax education, or a neutral space to commune and network. This, in a bid to explore what public space really means in this city.

We’re working to introduce technology into every aspect of these libraries: access control, collections management, online catalogs as well as digital skills training for librarians and library users. We want the digital lives of these libraries to match that of the digital possibilities of Nairobi.