Friday, May 3, 2024

Reflecting on my first SCECSAL Conference: Insights from Bosco Buruga

By Bosco Buruga, Librarian, Muni University, Uganda

It is exactly one week since the XXVI SCECSAL Conference ended in Mombasa. A truly inspiring experience of some sorts for the delegates both first-timers and regulars. The conference was a vibrant gathering of brilliant minds, each sharing their unique research findings and perspectives. We asked some delegates specifically those attending the region professional showpiece for the first time to share their insights about the conference and this is what they had to say. 

The conference was a transformative experience that allowed me to deeply appreciate the LIS landscape.

My name is Bosco Buruga, a librarian at Muni University, and an executive committee member of the Uganda Library and Information Association (ULIA) representing Northern Uganda. I would like to share some of my experiences at the SCECSAL XXVI 2024 Conference and Assembly held in Mombasa, Kenya from 22nd to 26th April, 2024. This conference was not just an event, but a transformative experience that allowed me to deeply appreciate the library and information science landscape in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa.

Mr.Bosco Buruga presenting his paper during SCECSAL XXVI

When I learned that the 2024 SCECSAL Conference was going to be hosted by the Kenya Library Association, I saw it as a golden opportunity for me to attend the first SCECSAL Conference in my career. I immediately sprang into action, strategizing on how I could participate in this life-enriching conference. 

The first step was setting a goal for myself: to broaden my professional network and gain knowledge from the conference presentations. The second step was responding to the call for abstracts. I, along with two other colleagues, wrote an abstract and submitted it to the local conference organizing committee. I am grateful that our abstract was accepted, and we were able to submit a full paper, marking the beginning of a truly enriching journey. Our paper was Applying SWOT analysis to assess drivers and barriers of using e-resources among selected academic libraries in Uganda.

My dream of attending the SCECSAL XXVI 2024 Conference at PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort, Convention Centre & Spa Mombasa almost died because I failed to get funding from my institution to pay for conference fees, accommodation, and transport. I decided not to disappoint myself by missing the golden opportunity to attend my first SCECSAL Conference. I borrowed money and ventured into an exciting trip of about 1,700 km on the road using a bus from Arua City in northern Uganda to Mombasa, Kenya, for this important professional event of my life. It took me three days to reach Mombasa and another three days to return to Arua after the conference. Some Ugandan colleagues who flew from Mombasa arrived in Kampala before I started my journey from Mombasa to Nairobi city.

The sacrifice that I made to attend SCECSAL 2024 enabled me to achieve the following:

1. I had the rare opportunity to represent the president of the Uganda Library and Information Association (ULIA), as a SCECSAL delegate. This enabled me to attend the SCECSAL General Council Meeting. You cannot imagine my joy in representing ULIA and attending a meeting of Presidents of Library Associations in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. The sacrifice I made was worth it because I networked and knew the leaders of the African Library Associations in person. I am happy I actively represented my country well because I made valuable submissions in the meeting.

2. The conference presentations were rich in content and aroused my desire to do more research and build collaborations and networks. I was moved by the president of the Library and Information Association of Zambia (LIAZ) 's presentation on supporting SDGs initiatives by establishing a children's information centre in a public hospital. I am reflecting on her presentation and developing a concept that will be used to source supporters and possible donors for establishing such an information centre in our regional referral hospital.

3. I was able to present my conference paper and received very good feedback from the conference participants. The positive reception has motivated me to respond in the future to other calls for abstract submission from SCECSAL and/or any other relevant professional conferences.

4. I met esteemed personalities in the profession, such as Prof. Clara Chu, Prof. Maria G. N. Musoke, Dr. Justin Chisenga, Dr. Kay Raseroka, Madam Getrude Kayanga Mulindwa, and Ms Jacinta Were. I was blessed to have tapped knowledge from these celebrated personalities in SCECSAL. May God give them more years to mentor us in the profession. 

5. I attended the Cultural Evening, which was characterised by a dancing competition from diverse African cultures and an awards ceremony. Africa is blessed with beautiful dances, but the time for the cultural evening was not enough. I was blessed with another opportunity to receive an award on behalf of Phenny Birungi (SCECSAL Presidents Award) and another for ULIA (SCECSAL Hosts Award).

Ugandan delegates performing during the cultural evening

6. Throughout the conference, I had the opportunity to attend various sessions from exhibitors, ranging from library systems or technologies to library information resources. All the sessions provided unique perspectives and valuable takeaways, making the conference enjoyable and less boring.

In a nutshell, the SCECSAL Conference 2024 was a success because I enjoyed all the aspects of the conference, ranging from paper presentations, workshop sessions, and Country SDGs reports to SCECSAL Country reports. A crucial take-home assignment is that, as a Ugandan librarian, I need to get involved in documenting and sharing my library's contribution to supporting the implementation of the SDGs. I will now be an ambassador of SDGs in my Library Association. I have already recommended the SCECSAL conference to my young colleagues in the profession because it offers them an opportunity to expand their professional network and fresh insights and perspectives that will enrich their work moving forward.

Mr. Buruga receiving an award on behalf of Phenny Birungi

I have started preparing for the SCECSAL conference of 2026, which the Library and Information Association of Zambia will host in the city of Livingstone. This is my time to visit the home of the Victoria Falls. God willing, I will have to be physically in Zambia to consolidate my established professional networks, get new ones, and participate in knowledge exchange in the SCECSAL region by presenting conference papers and listening to other presenters. God bless SCECSAL and its leadership.

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