Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Glimpse into the Future of Public Libraries in Africa

Books in a public library
Public libraries in most countries in Africa are top on the list of the most neglected public institutions. Most public libraries are under-funded, stocked with old and sometimes out-dated publications (the only latest publications being daily newspapers), lack access to modern information and communication technologies (ICTs), and their staff lag behind in current developments and techniques in information and knowledge management. With this type of profile, is there a future for public libraries in Africa?

Discussions at the first ever African Public Libraries Summit (APLS) 2012, held at Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, 19–21 September 2012, revealed that while some public libraries are almost on stand still, others are making good progress by being innovative and adopting modern ICTs. A good case was presented from Botswana.

Ms Ruth B. Maphorisa
Ms. Ruth B. Maphorisa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Botswana, shared the experience of her government’s Sesigo - Botswana e-Public Libraries project. Under the project, public libraries in the country are providing access to computers, computer training and internet access to Batswana. The libraries are also providing space for homework clubs, health talks,  lifeline youth meetings, unemployment workshops and training sessions, book reading clubs,  English learning sessions and talk shows involving professionals from different fields including health, education and social welfare. The project is being implemented by her Ministry in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP).

Ms. Magdeline Engleton
Ms. Magdeline Engleton, Senior Library Officer, Botswana National Library Service, based Molalatau Village Library, shared her experience in running and providing information and library services to rural communities. Her library engages with community members to identify their needs, and gets them involved in the Library activities. She is providing computer training, Internet services, and helping the youths in the community to search for jobs. These services, which are beyond the traditional public libraries’ services, are attracting community members to the Library.

Although external international organizations are involved in the working in the Sesigo - Botswana e-Public Libraries project, it was clear from the discussions that the success of the initiative is largely because of the Government’s commitment and support to public libraries. The Permanent Secretary participating in the entire three-day meeting, which focused on public libraries, is proof of this support.

What is the status of public libraries in other African countries? Do they have a future? Will they end up like the extinct dinosaur?

About 127 delegates attended APLS 2012 from 53 countries out of which 43 were African countries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SCECSAL 2012: Post Conference Views

Uganda Library and Information Association members
Winners of SCECSAL 2012 Culltural Evening Performance
I commend Kenya Library Association (KLA) for a successful SCECSAL 2012 conference. The attendance at the conference was more than I had expected. About 330 delegates, including the largest airborne delegation of about 40 participants from Zambia, took part in the conference. About 78 papers were presented, and the quality of most presentations was very high. The conference venue (Laico Regency Hotel) was ideal, and of course, the food during lunch breaks was great. The conference registration fee (US$300), although some would say that it was relatively high, I think was ok considering the costs involved in organizing such conferences. Performances during the Cultural Evening, on 6 June, were outstanding.  Shame on Malawi Library Association (MALA) for refusing to perform. I hope MALA learned a lesson from the lone rangers from Nigeria, Norway and United Kingdom who put up excellent performances. Congratulations to Uganda Library and Information Association for winning the Cultural Evening trophy. I never knew that library and information professionals could double as traditional dancers until I watched the act from Uganda. They were original, well organized, and deserved to win. I suspected that Kenya Library Association tried to rig the competition. I could hardly recognize any of the dancers in the Kenyan group. Where were all the well-known library and information professional dancers from Kenya? Jacinta Were? Rosemary Gitachu? Joseph Kiplang’at? Constantine Nyamboga? Tirong arap Tanui? Peter Weche, although officially not part of the dancing group, did his best to support the dancing group by illegally dancing on the floor (and not on the designated dancing area). It was too late. Mmmmmmmmm! I enjoyed the evening. The music by Kayamba Africa was great.
The challenge is now for Malawi Library Association (MALA), designated host for SCECSAL 2014, to beat SCECSAL 2012. In my view, the areas requiring improvement, which MALA should look at, include the following:
  •  Registration process: the registration process at SCECSAL 2012 could have been better. I am sure that some individuals took advantage of the seemingly uncoordinated process and participated in the conference without registering and paying the registration fee. It is advisable to commence onsite registration at least a day before the conference to carter for the early arrivals, especially participants coming from outside the country.
  • Access to conference venue/meeting rooms: only registered participants with valid participant’s badges MUST be allowed to enter the meeting rooms. Free access to the conference rooms at SCECSAL 2012 contributed to the security breaches and loss of valuable items experienced during the conference.
  • Conference papers: some paper presenters complained that their papers were not included in the publication containing the conference papers. I know how difficult it might have been for KLA to have all the papers submitted in time for the publication. Maybe in future the organizers should inform potential paper presenters/authors to submit papers by a certain date, if they are to be included in the publication. Inclusion in the publication of paper submitted after that date should be at the discretion of the SCECSAL host Association. Host Associations should also ensure that basic editing and layout of the papers to ensure uniformity and consistence is done. This is visibly missing from the SCECSAL 2012 publication.
  • Author Awards: why is it that only Namibia (2000) and South Africa (2002) managed to organize SCECSAL Author Awards? The Author Awards page on the SCECSAL web site outlines clearly the guidelines for awards.  Shame on Uganda Library and Information Association (2004), Tanzania Library Association (2006), Zambia Library Association (2008), Botswana Library Association (2010) and Kenya Library Association (2012) for failing to organize the Author Awards competition!. Shame will also be on MALA if they fail to do so in 2014. As my Nigerian brothers and sisters would say: Chineke! God forbid.
  • Minutes of the General Assembly: follow-up on the deliberations of the SCECSAL General Assembly is rather poor due to late distribution of the minutes of the meeting. Why should SCECSAL member Library Associations accept to distribute the minutes of the meeting two years after the meeting? Let  Article 5 (5.6) of the SCECSAL constitution guide the host associations on this matter.
Zambia Library Association members
Runners-up SCECSAL 2012 Culltural Evening Performance
For my last word, let me say that I felt sorry for my sister (Nomsa Mkwanazi) from Swaziland Library Association (SWALA) when she was presenting SWALA’s bid to host SCECSAL 2014. SWALA lost the bid to KLA in 2012 and I am assuming that they were on standby to host 2012 SCECSAL. If this was the case, then all that was required from SWALA was to follow the procedure outlined in Article 6 (6.6) of the SCECSAL Constitution, and SCECSAL 2014 would have been theirs to host. No bids would have been required. SWALA, pleaase, give it a thought for SCECSAL 2016.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sounds from SCECSAL 2012 Cultural Evening

Uganda Library and Information Association - Winners SCECSAL 2012 Cultural Evening

Final Dance at SCECSAL 2012 Culltural Evening

At the Podium - SCECSAL 2012

Ellen Tise and Kay Raseroka - Past IFLA presidents at SCECSAl 2012
Kenya Library Association President Prof. Constantine M. Nyamboga
Prof. Joseph Kiplang'at
Dr. Justin Chisenga

Saturday, June 9, 2012

SCECSAL 2012 Resolutions

John Tsebe
CEO - National Library of South Africa
moving a resolution on AfLIA
The  20th Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa Library and Information Association (SCECSAL) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, 4 – 8 June 2012, closed on Friday, 8 June with conference resolutions and a resolution on the Africa Federation of Library and Information Associations (AfLIA). The documents can be downloaded from the SCECSAL website:
The SCECSAL 2014 conference will be hosted by the Malawi Library Association (MALA). The Association saw off a challenge from Swaziland Library Association (SWALA) and Uganda Library and Information Association (ULIA). SWALA will be on standby in case MALA fails to host the conference.

Sights from the Closing Day of SCECSAL 2012

Dr. L. Dube from UNISA
Participant from Nigeria making a contribution
Participants during the closing session

Prof. Constantine Nyamboga (in suit) taking over Chairmanship of SCECSAL

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sights from 7 June Sessions

Khosie Ndlangamandla making a presentation during the session on Education and Training
Session on Knowledge Management
Session on Knowledge Management
Participant asking a question during the session on Education and Training

Sights from SCECSAL Cultural Evening, 6 June

The Judges

Part of the Zambian Delegation
Lesotho Delegation
Dancing Session - Kenya
Dancing Session - South Africa

The Winners - Uganda

Social Media Skills and Social Media Strategies Important for Libraries in Africa

Most librarians in Africa should acquire skills that would enable them make use of social media in their work. They also need to develop suitable social media strategies for their libraries. These are my views after listening to the presentations and discussions on Potential of Social Media and Library 2.0 in Provision of Information at the twentieth Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and South Africa of Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL) in Nairobi, Kenya, 4 – 8 June.

While several speakers at the session highlighted the major potential applications of Web 2.0 in libraries, and gave examples of libraries that are using social media, practical and concrete illustrations from libraries that using, the tools on the continent, except for one or two cases, were largely missing. This resulted in questions on: how social media could add value to library and information work in Africa; what social media tools are suitable for library and information work; and how social media could be used in the core functions (i.e. cataloguing, classifications, reference work, etc) of the library. Capacity development in the use of social media in library and information work could do the trick. Regional and national library and information associations should initiative and implement training programmes on social media in libraries for their members. Library and Information Schools in the region also have a role to play. There is need for targeted and focused short courses on social media in library and information work.

From the presentations and discussions, I also noted that most reported use of social media in libraries appeared to be more of personal initiatives by the individual librarians than institutional initiatives or strategies. No wonder there were cases mentioned of difficulties faced by some librarians in institutions where access to Facebook is blocked. Surely, if using Facebook in engaging with library users were part of the library’s overall strategy, the parent institutions would not block access to Facebook. A social media strategy for the library would also avoid situations whereby individual librarians are randomly and haphazardly adopting social media tools for official library work.  If the idea of developing a social media strategy sounds too complicated, answers to some of the following questions would do the trick (from: Getting Social Media Right: A Short Guide for Nonprofit Organizations):
  1. What is my organization's mission and can social media help me achieve it?
  2. What is the right role for social media in our overall communications efforts?
  3. What groups of people might we reach (or create) through social media?
  4. How can we help our communities? How do our constituents want to be engaged?
  5. What is the real cost of making social media work for us?
  6. How can we use social media to raise money for our cause?
  7. Who is our competition in the social media space, and how can we differentiate our organization?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Challenges to Open Access and Institutional Repositories in Africa Highlighted

Participants at SCECSAL 2012
Research outputs from Africa should be available, accessible and applicable. This is the only way research can have an impact on the lives of the millions of Africans, and contribute to the global innovation systems. One of the pathways being used to enhance the visibility and accessibility of content from Africa is through open access to information resources stored in digital institutional repositories. Several initiatives are under way on the continent, especially in universities and research institutes. However, individuals involved in the initiatives face several challenges, some of which have been highlighted by speakers at the 2012 Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and South Africa of Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL, in Nairobi, Kenya, 4 – 8 June. The key challenges include the following:
  • lack of motivation and incentives for researchers/academicians to submit their works to the institutional repositories;
  • absence of institutional policies and strategies to support open sharing of information resources;
  • inadequate bandwidth in institutions;
  • fear of the un-known resulting in resistance to open access initiatives by researchers, academicians and librarians;
  • conflicts/differences between information technology specialists and information/library professionals in the institutions regarding the approaches and software tools to be used;
  • unstable power supply in some countries impact on 24/7 provision of access to institutional repositories;
  • open access and institutional repository initiatives are seen as additional responsibilities to normal library duties and do not receive the attention required;
  • absence of appropriate skills, especially IT skills, in libraries and documentation centres;
  • absence of clear copyright and guidelines for licensing digital content;
  • lack of knowledge about publishers policies on open access and self-archiving.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sights from SCECSAL 2012, Nairobi, Kenya

SCECSAL 2012 Opening Session
SCECSAL Participants
Presenters loading their PPT files
Mrs Jacinta Were asking a question
Book Exhibition
Thomas Junck Representative of 3M presenting on 3M products and services
Peter Weche from Kenya making a contribution
Bhule Bambo-Thata from University of South Africa

Monday, March 5, 2012

Regional School Library Seminar in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Library Association, in conjunction with the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) – Africa Sub Sahara Region, hosted a Regional School Library Seminar in Bulawayo on 8-9 February 2012.  This event was organized so that school librarians, school library media specialists, teacher librarians, library and information science lecturers, university and polytechnic/college librarians, public librarians, library science students and all those interested in school librarianship could meet and learn from each other, and share ideas and aspirations on all aspects of school librarianship in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world over.
The 2 day seminar was attended by +70 delegates, 3 from South Africa, 3 from Tanzania, 2 from Kenya, 1 from Sweden and the rest were people from the regions in Zimbabwe. The seminar was very well organised.  The organising committee consisted of members of the Zimbabwe Library Association lead by Jerry Mathema,   The Masiyephambili College was a perfect venue for the seminar.

On day one the seminar was attended by 3 officials from the IFLA Africa Section, namely

  • Lindi Nhlapo from the University of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa,
  • Victoria Okojie, Registrar, Librarians' Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN),  Abuja, Nigeria, and
  • Margaret Tarpley who is presently working as Liaison Officer and Visiting Librarian at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria but is also associated with the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee,  USA.

We felt honoured to have them in our midst. Victoria Okojie. the chairperson of the IFLA Africa Section, gave a short presentation.

We had an interesting speech by the mayor of Bulawayo who boasted about the number of public libraries which the government is building in townships. The deputy director from the Provincial Education wanted to know if our libraries are child friendly.

The quality of presentations was of high standard. We had a combination of presenters from schools, public libraries, NGOs and universities.

The seminar has come up with resolutions which are being fine tuned by the local organising committee and will be posted on the IASL website.

Prepared by Ms Busi Dlamini
Director IASL (International Association of School Librarianship – Africa Sub-Sahara )
2 March 2012.