Kathy Knowles, OCLF Director
Kathy Knowles was born in Toronto, Canada and received a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree from Queen’s University. She practiced nursing in various paediatric hospital settings including a year in Moose Factory, a Cree community in northern Ontario.
In 1989, Kathy and her husband, John, travelled to Accra, Ghana, West Africa with their four young children after John accepted a position with Sikaman, a Canadian gold mining company. Observing that Ghanaian children in their neighbourhood had no opportunities to read storybooks, Kathy started a weekly reading circle under a tree in their garden. This initiative led to the establishment of the Osu Children’s Library Fund, a non-profit Canadian organization, and the Osu Library Fund, a non-profit Ghanaian charity. Together these organizations have built eight large community libraries in Greater Accra and have helped to create more than 200 libraries in Africa.
The family returned to Canada in 1993. Since then Kathy has volunteered on a full-time basis from her Winnipeg home with the support of dedicated volunteers. She also works in close partnership with Ghanaian library staff, local government officials and board members.
Awards and Recognition
2013: YMCA Peace Medallion, Winnipeg
2013: Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects
This award is presented by the American Library Association
2013: Canadian Governor General’s Medallion Award
2010: One of Canada’s “25 Transformational Canadians”
2010: Order of Manitoba
2010: International Board on Books for Young People [IBBY] -Asahi Reading Promotion Award
2009: Honorary Doctorate of Laws in the Field of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON
“A meticulous self-taught lay librarian who is often called upon for her wisdom as a speaker and an adviser on literacy training and library programs for children.”
2009: Soroptimist Making a Difference Award, Winnipeg, MB
2006: Honorary Fellow of the Ghana Library Association, Accra, Ghana
“For her untiring efforts and contributions, insatiable interest and commitment to various activities aimed at developing and promoting libraries and the library profession in Ghana.”
2005: Flare Magazine Volunteer Award, Toronto, ON
“With a wholehearted commitment to sharing the joy of reading and to promoting literacy, Kathy has transformed the lives of thousands through the creation of children’s libraries in Ghana, West Africa.”
2004: Special Ghanaian Canadian Achievement Award, Toronto, ON
2002: Lewis Perinbam Award in International Development, Ottawa, ON
2001: Meritorious Service Award from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, Ottawa, ON
“Through her labour of love promoting literacy, Kathryn Knowles has enriched the lives of many children half a world away and brought great honour to Canada.”
2000: YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award, Winnipeg, MB