Monday, August 18, 2014

SCECSAL 2014 was great, but…

By Chiza Longwe
SCECSAL 2014 Participant from Malawi

Indeed  SCECSAL 2014  was  a wonderful forum where librarians  came and  discuss  issues which affect  the  profession. However, SCECSAL   2014,  held  in Malawi,  had  a few  hiccups which  I  need  to  highlight.

A participant asking a question during
SCECSAL 2014 paralel session
I am not very much comfortable with parallel sessions. As was the case in Malawi, some parallel sessions were poorly attended. In some cases, especially when participants arrived lade after announcements had been made about the parallel sessions, they were confined to the session in marquee instead of attending the other session. As a result most of us missed on the discussions held in the other parallel session.

A large number of paper presenters did not turn up and they were still scheduled by the Organizers to present their papers. No reasons were given why they presenters never came. The programme continued as planned and as a result there was a lot of time wasted. The non-arrival of some paper presenters denied an opportunity to others whose papers were not accepted on the basis that there were too many papers to be included on the programme.

I  also  observed  that  the conference  proceedings were  not ready  at the  time  the Conference was opening. I remember at the SCECSAL conferences in 2006 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and 2008 in Lusaka, Zambia, the papers were published in a book and were distributed to participants during registration.  I hope come SCECSAL 2016, the conference proceedings will be ready.

Attendance at SCECSAL 2014 by participants from outside Malawi was somehow low. I believe, people were thinking of IFLA than our SCECSAL, which was held too close to the IFLA conference.

The other point which I need to mention is to do with the coverage of the theme of the conference in the papers. I am of the view that most of our presenters did not highlight the theme of this year in their papers. Some papers were presented as if we were in Tutorial class and a student was presenting an assignment. This was the case for most papers that were based on Master’s degree research projects. We need to improve on this one.

Another point was the lack of transport arrangements to the conference centre which I think contributed to the sessions starting late and lack of networking among the participants. The delegates were scattered all over Lilongwe, and they had to commute to and from the conference Centre.  This resulted in late arrivals at the conference venue. Some of us missed to network with the delegates and ended up knowing very few delegates.

I am also of the view that Library and Information Science schools should have been given a platform to talk about the problems they are experiencing as Library Schools, and how they admit students in their schools. SCECSAL is a good forum to promote the LIS programmes in the region.

Finally, I am of the view that the closing speech by the Chairman concentrated too much on National Library Service of Malawi than on SCECSAL itself. This was a SCECSAL event and issues affecting the profession in the region should have been highlighted to the Guest of Honour.

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