We believe books change lives…
Harriet Van Meter traveled to India in 1965 with a group of foreign student advisors, saw a need for books, and knew books were linked to education. After she returned home to Lexington, Kentucky she wrote a letter to the Editor of the Hindu Times and offered to send books to anyone who would write to her. Within weeks, she had received 400 letters. So her home on Mentelle Park became a center for collecting, storing, and packaging books for shipment first to families, and then schools, colleges, and libraries who requested them from India, and as word spread, from countries all over the world. As Mrs. Van Meter saw in 1966, sending needed books became the central point of IBP. To this day, what sets us apart is that every shipment is curated to the requests and needs of the receiving organization.
Since 1966, International Book Project has shipped over 7 million books to 167 different countries and has developed lasting partnerships with many recipients. We have also added educational programming focused on developing cultural literacy awareness in Kentucky students through our Books as Bridges program and Globetrotters summer camp.
In 2016, IBP embarked upon a new chapter. A newly renovated warehouse and public space is increasing shipping efficiencies and allowing IBP to become more involved with our local community. We now have a monthly book club, host outside events and meetings, and enjoy an expanded and more visible bookstore. Volunteer numbers skyrocketed and we now have exceeded the 7 million books shipped mark!
In 2021, its 55th anniversary, IBP clarified its core mission: “to develop lasting partnerships with educators in underserved communities to provide books, promote literacy, and advance opportunity.”
In a very different world from 1966, the organization in 2021 still believes that access to books is a basic and crucial tool for literacy that empowers individuals and communities. Ask yourself where you would be if you couldn’t read. Could you fill out a job application, read directions, or use a library? Learn more about International Book Project – what we do, who we serve, and how we work.
This partner in Uganda is typical of our many partners throughout the world who receive books from us: The Kalungu district in Uganda’s Masaka region has a large at-risk population, many of whom are women and girls. These vulnerable groups live in extremely poor and underdeveloped conditions where the predominant livelihood systems are agriculture-based, fishing, and simple trading. Gold Hearts for Africa is a community-based training complex that seeks to provide education and training for girls to help them earn livelihoods but they need more books to continue working towards their mission.
Sandra, one of the many girls impacted by Gold Heart’s mission, shares her story: “I am 16 years old from a humble family of 8. I dropped out of school last year at 15 as my parents could not afford education for all of us. Our family learned about learning opportunities for kids to receive skills in tailoring, liquid soap making, baking, knitting that would not otherwise be possible for a drop out like me. I remember in one of these sessions, we were taught about saving and starting-up income-generating projects in small groups. We decided to organize ourselves in a group with the aim of implementing some of the skills we had learned to generate income. We started with 13 girls who chose to bake cakes for sale and we named it the Biva muntuuyo group (literally “out of sweat”). Our ambitious team of young girls was able to mobilize small capital, conduct market research, and price their products in reference to the knowledge we got from the few vocational study books at the library. We are humbled to have skills for life at early ages; we have seen young mothers out there who can’t do anything to generate income to put some food on the table for them and their children–that won’t happen to us.”
Meet our founder
Learn more about Mrs. Harriet Van Meter, who had already accomplished a lifetime’s work of social benefit to her community before she founded the International Book Project in 1966. Watch a video by Arthur Rouse and Kiley Lane Parker about Harriet’s legacy: Harriet Van Meter: A Life Extraordinary
Watch our story unfold
Watch a brief video to learn more about our history and mission: International Book Project: Our Story
See our impact around the world
View our interactive map to see how and where our books have landed over the last 55 years! Our Shipment History