By Damilare Oyedele in interview with Madiarei Sulaiman
Actually, I have so many questions to ask you because you are managing a really great programme at Library Aid Africa. I have 4 questions for you and I will ask you directly. What are the three main things that you have learnt from our online seminars?
The online seminar was a great one to connect with fellow young library advocates globally. The things I learnt are interrelated with other participants. It shows that we are facing similar challenges globally in the library space. However, these challenges are related to the demographics of each country or part of the world. One other thing that stood out is connected to policy reforms for libraries in terms of provision and access to digital resources, library usage, engaging stakeholders, institutional support for libraries. Lastly, there is capacity development for library professionals to conider. The world we live in is changing rapidly, as library professionals it is essential that we reinvent our approaches and explore how we can offer library services best. We have the responsibility to equip ourselves with knowledge and skills to make an impact and provide what our users need.
What do you want to change at your library?
As you know, I do not work in a library. I am a library advocate. I work with Library Aid Africa, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on access to information through functional libraries in schools and communities. We harness advocacy and also support the creation of libraries in schools and communities – leveraging digital technology and citizen engagement approaches to drive projects and policy reforms for libraries in 10 African countries. Since I have been attending the virtual seminars, I am mor curious to explore new frontiers on how to improve library services delivery. Most importantly, bridging the digital gap. It all relates to three major things; policy, infrastructure and capacity. If policies and infrastructures are in place, we need competent hands to drive progress. For me, through my organisation, we will be focusing more on policy reforms for libraries and multi-stakeholders engagement. I also believe that it is important that librarians see themselves as essential service providers, because access to information is important for our day to day activities. By the time we see ourselves as essential service providers, we will begin to further understand the value of our work for the community we serve and majorly improve and drive progress – explore reaching the marginalized communities and bridging the digital divide.
What is your recipe for successful digital libraries and how do you see libraries in the future?
My recipe for a digital library in Africa would be a platform that is easily accessible and interactive, a platform that will promote indigenous knowledge on the African continent. However, with the current concerns of electricity, availability of electronic gadgets and other infrastructure that will drive digital access to resources, I believe this calls for a more creative approach to facilitate community driven initiatives to make digital resources accessible by creating alternatives.
My recipe for a digital library in Africa would be a platform that is easily accessible and interactive, a platform that will promote indigenous knowledge on the African continent.
How do you see libraries in the future and can we prepare the skill sets for future librarians?
The future of libraries in Africa will be dynamic. I am excited about the crop of passionate young library leaders we currently have on the African continent. But I think we need to galvanise our efforts on how we can drive policy reforms for the future of libraries. The future of libraries I see is a platform that not only provides access to information and spaces, but a platform where we create new knowledge that will contribute to the progress of the society. Most importantly, policy, infrastructure and capacity development. This calls for the need to invest more in our young library professionals – there is a knowledge gap from what they have been taught to what is obtainable to drive meaningful progress. Currently, at Library Aid Africa we have started Young African Library Leaders Fellowship, which seeks to develop and nurture 10,000 young library leaders in Africa by the end of 2030. Young leaders, aged 18 to 35, will be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to contribute meaningfully and actively to sustainable development plans in Africa. Thereby driving advocacy, projects and policy reforms for libraries in African communities. For the 2020 cohort, we had 37 participants across 12 African countries, after a selection process from 280 applications across 22 African countries. To build the future of libraries, we need to invest more in our young library professionals, we need to support and guide in order to develop capacity and relevant skills. Through YALLF, we are building a new crop of young library leaders on the African continent that will drive meaningful and impactful progress for the future of libraries. If policies and infrastructure are in place, capacity of library professionals to use the provisions to make meaningful impact cannot be overemphasised.
Thank you so much Damilare for sharing your experience and activities during this session.
I am happy that I have been able to share lessons learnt from the Emerging International Voices Programme. It has been a wonderful time learning from other young library advocates around the globe. We are the future of libraries, we have the responsibility to create and facilitate meaningful progress for libraries globally. I believe we have started a conversation that will change library narratives globally, we need to start to explore inter-generational dialogues to share experience, ideas and knowledge in order to form our decision as we work towards building the future of libraries.
My appreciation goes to IFLA & Goethe Institut for the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Emerging International Voice Network.