19 February 2014
Strategy, partnerships in focus at BSLA regional convening for associations in Africa
The first regional convening as part of IFLA's expanded Building Strong Library Associations programme was held February 11-14 2014 in Kumasi, Ghana.
Matilda Amissah-Arthur, wife of the Vice-President of Ghana, emphasized the critical role of libraries in reducing poverty on the continent, the need for an informed, literate citizenry and the support that libraries can provide to access information, and in building information literacy skills during the opening ceremony which was widely reported in local media. IFLA Secretary General, Jennefer Nicholson introduced the BSLA programme and IFLA's work on cultural heritage, the digital agenda, development, and the important role of associations in supporting and advocating for strong library communities.
45 people representing IFLA, 16 national associations, regional associations AHILA (Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa) and AfLIA (African Library and Information Associations and Institutions) participated in workshops and activities on association governance and strategy. Issues from the need to build partnerships and coalitions, to developing professional development programmes for librarians, and advocacy for libraries as part of national development agendas were raised, and associations discussed strategies at the national and regional level to address them.
The convening revealed the diversity of associations across the continent: some have or will align their strategy work to clearly demonstrate the contribution of libraries to national development (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana), offering advocacy for public libraries (Ghana), holding symposia and conferences (Namibia, Kenya) and working with partners so that libraries can improve public access to ICT (Namibia). At the regional level, the newly-created AfLIA has ambitions to represent the whole continent at important development fora for the benefit of all libraries and their users in Africa. To achieve these objectives, associations will work to strengthen their membership, representation, partnerships and profile over the coming years.
Botswana Library Association, and ABADCAM Cameroon, which participated in the initial two-year country projects under BSLA shared updates from their work which has continued in the two years since the conclusion of those projects - memberships have continued to grow, and both are taking a stronger advocacy role in working with Ministries of Culture and Education to promote the importance of quality library services. These associations are now supporting other associations in the region through experience sharing, mentoring, and supporting upcoming project proposals.
Associations were introduced to content and training from across the BSLA programme during the convening, and will be invited to submit project proposals in the coming months for implementation until 2016. Projects can include workshops at existing conferences, collaborations between national associations, or other activities utilising BSLA materials to help associations achieve the objectives set for their association during the convening.
The meeting was hosted at the campus of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in Kumasi, Ghana by IFLA, African Library and Information Associations and Institutions, and Ghana Library Association. For more information about the BSLA programme, visit the IFLA website.