Thursday, May 9, 2024

Embracing new horizons in career and professional development: my experience at my first SCECSAL conference

 By Pauline Namulomba Nchemba

As I reflect on my first participation in the XXVI Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and

Southern African Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL) held in Mombasa, Kenya, from 22 to 26 April, a wave of emotions floods my mind. From the exhilarating moments of moderating a panel discussion to the jubilation of winning the cultural evening award with my colleagues from Zambia, every experience has left an indelible mark on me.

Before I even set foot on the SCECSAL journey, I made a promise to myself: I was going to make waves, make connections, and have a blast while doing it. And boy, did I deliver!

It all began with a bang as I arrived at PrideIn Paradise Hotel, eagerly embracing every opportunity that presented itself. Meeting with Dr. Justin Chisenga, a SCECSAL stalwart, and Mr. Kepi Madumo, National Librarian & CEO - National Library of South Africa, stood out as a memorable moment on my first day in Mombasa. Engaging in a stimulating discussion about passion, initiative, and personal growth in one's profession truly set the stage for the adventure ahead.

In church after Catholic mass

Anticipating the whirlwind of activities ahead, I found moments of personal reflection and discovery. The rainy Sunday morning became magical as I attended mass draped in my vibrant Zambian Catholic Chitenge design. It was a soulful experience, a fusion of spirituality and cultural immersion that SCECSAL in Mombasa uniquely offered.

My professional journey began even before the official start of the conference, with a visit to the Technical University of Mombasa for a workshop on emergency readiness and disaster management. Witnessing the dedication of participants from various countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa reaffirmed my belief in the power of continuous learning within our field.

The pinnacle of excitement was reached on Monday as I took the stage to moderate a panel discussion titled “SCECSAL@50: The Past, The Present, and the Future”. This session evolved into an engaging dialogue between esteemed panelists and enthusiastic participants, transforming it into a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights. SCECSAL, established in 1974, had indeed come a long way, and I am benefiting from its existence. 

At the SCECSAL cultural evening

On Wednesday, a unique blend of cultural celebration and camaraderie was brought forth at the SCECSAL Cultural and Awards event held at the neighbouring Mombasa Continental Resort. Clad in our vibrant Lozi-themed attire, my colleagues from Zambia and I showcased our passion for libraries and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a presentation that blended Zambian traditions, dance, and storytelling. The overwhelming joy of winning the cultural evening award for the fourth time resonated deeply, reinforcing the impact of our collective efforts in promoting the potential of library initiatives’ contributions to the SDGs.

As the conference drew to a close on Friday, I found myself once again in the spotlight, delivering a presentation at the session on 'SDGs and Libraries.' Sharing LIAZ’s initiatives on igniting youth leadership towards SDG attainment sparked a newfound sense of awareness and enthusiasm among participants. Witnessing the realization dawn upon them that they too were instrumental in SDG-related endeavors was immensely gratifying.

Listening to Dr Helen Kay Raseroka

Beyond the professional engagements, SCECSAL 2024 offered me invaluable opportunities for networking and mentorship. Interactions with esteemed veterans like Dr Kay Raseroka and Jacinta Were instilled in me a sense of purpose and encouragement to pursue excellence in my profession. Imagine receiving personalized mentorship immediately after a presentation on how to make your next presentation even more interesting. Kay Raseroka did just that, boosting my mood and igniting a craving to do more.

Looking ahead, as Zambia prepares to host the XXVIII SCECSAL Conference in 2026, I am filled with anticipation and excitement. Eager to extend the same warm hospitality and enriching experiences to fellow colleagues and first-timers, I envision a conference that not only fosters professional growth but also celebrates the rich diversity and heritage of our region.

In essence, my journey at SCECSAL 2024 has been nothing short of transformative. It has reinforced my belief in the power of collaboration, innovation, and lifelong learning within the field of library and information sciences.  As I carry forward the lessons learned and memories cherished, I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a vibrant community dedicated to advancing library and information services across Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa.

I made intelligent noise and am glad it yielded results beyond what I expected and am glad am getting positive feedback on my participation at the conference. 

Did I deliver? YES, I DID!

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