The African Library Project App for Library Management


When reading about the African Library Project's mission, our first thought was about how our skills as software engineers can really make an impact. We started asking the team questions about the ALP's operations and discovered that most libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have regular access to computers and reliable internet. This inspired us to develop a library management system that does not require either of these things.

What it does

ALPapp is a mobile first library management system, that allows libraries to scan a book's barcode to add it to their inventory, check it in or out, get information about the book, back this data up, and share it with their community. ALPapp requires a simple android phone with a camera and occasional low bandwith internet access.

How we built it

We designed an interactive wireframe in Figma, then divided into frontend, backend, and flex teams. Through daily stand ups we broke down the task of building an MVP into tickets and completed 25% of them within the week. We decided to go with an Apollo API for the backend so it could handle multiple API queries while also allowing for fine tuned control over the size of our response data. On the frontend we went with React-Native for the purpose of quickly implementing a prototype.

Challenges we ran into

So far we did not run into any major challenges, since we are pretty early on in the development process. Because we are using an Agile approach, we start off with the simplest most straightforward features and build up. The really challenging and complicated features will be in our beta version.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are confident that this can be a very useful product for the ALP and libraries in developing countries generally. There are some really exciting challenges down the road for this project, especially when it comes to implementing our big ticket item (from a technology standpoint) which is an interlibrary loan system.

What we learned

Throughout the process we focused on using technologies we are familiar with, but everyone was also exposed to something new from their teammates. For example Olga and Louis got to work with Apollo Client for the first time and Zohaib had his first experience with React-Native.

What's next for ALPapp

If we are selected to move forward with the project, we would like to discuss our prototype design documents with the ALP team and connect with librarians who would be using the app. Then we would use September to finish the app, October for alpha testing, then release a beta in November.

If you haven't already, please watch our pitch video which includes demos, diagrams, and more!

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