Initiative for Young African Library Innovators (IYALI)

EIFL-supported peer learning and international networking experience for young public librarians from Africa

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Group of librarians at a round table in a library, discussing.
Deep in discussion - IYALI participants take part in an unconference session in Grodzisk Mazowiecki Public Library in Poland, after being shown the library and seeing the services it provides.

The internet has become the major source of information, yet billions of people do not have the technology and skills needed to access the internet. Public libraries are important players in bridging this gap, but in developing countries many libraries also lack computers and internet connections.

The EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) addresses this situation by supporting and training public libraries to expand access to information and address community needs by introducing new kinds of services that use digital technology. EIFL-PLIP also advocates for equipping public libraries with computers and internet connections for use in community development services.

The Initiative for Young African Library Innovators (IYALI) aims to accelerate the introduction of new technology-based services, and to increase advocacy for digital resources in public libraries. IYALI works by inspiring and building capacity of young African public librarians to take forward these aims by providing an international learning, knowledge-sharing and networking experience.

By connecting young African public library innovators with their peers outside of Africa, especially from other developing and transition countries, EIFL creates an opportunity for the librarians to expand  their professional horizons, introduces them to new ideas and helps them see their own work and achievements in a new and different light.

IYALI is a partnership between EIFL-PLIP, the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).


  • Identifying young public librarians with experience of implementing technology-based services and community outreach programmes to meet people’s information needs, and a vision for development of their public libraries.
  • Organizing interactive and hands-on learning experiences of public library service innovations in developing and transition economy countries.
  • Attending the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw, Poland (2017) and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2018).
  • Awarding scholarships to IYALI participants, on a competitive basis, to attend the AfLIA conferences in 2018 and 2019 and to share learnings from the IYALI programme with the broader library community in Africa.

'I would like to thank the EIFL-PLIP team and their partners for thinking about equipping young library professionals. In most cases, it is rare for young librarians, early in their careers, to acquire such an extensive exposure. This has opened my eyes to appreciate the profession far much more than I ever dreamed.' - Bonny Olobo, Adult Library Officer at Kampala Public Library in Uganda.


2017 - 2019


Thirteen young public librarians from Algeria, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia travelled to Eastern Europe (Lithuania and Poland) for an intensive two-week learning programme (14 - 25 August, 2017).

The programme inspired new thinking about libraries and librarianship, stimulated ideas for starting new public library services, encouraged public librarians to engage communities and partners, and led to creation of new networks and a peer support group of young innovators. Here are a few takeaways from the experience:

Ideas for innovative library services

“IYALI 2017 presented to me an opportunity to learn how best I can engage farmers and the local business community to offer services that would benefit them. Our surrounding community is made up of farmers who would benefit immensely from such an initiative. Pasvalys Public Library (Lithuania) gave us a demonstration on how we can design programmes targeting the farming community. The library can be a key partner in providing agricultural information to farmers.” - IYALI participant Allan Mundeda Hagwelele, Provincial Librarian at the Southern Province Education Office in Zambia.

Insights into different uses of library spaces

“The makerspace was one of the ideas that caught my attention. A makerspace stands out as an an excellent service to change how the community sees the libraries. The goal of a makerspace is to allow patrons to learn through direct experimentation and from each other. The good thing about a library makerspaces is that it does not require specified areas; a pre-existing space can be temporarily modified to better suit the needs of patrons. It is more about the intentions of the makers than about the qualities of the space itself.” - IYALI participant Ketty Tshisikule, who is Reference Librarian at Bellville Public Library in Cape Town, South Africa

Improving management of public libraries

“I will conscientize my colleagues at Tanzania Library Services Board to be proud of our work and responsibilities to the community, and to work jointly to realize a nation-wide network of vibrant libraries with inspired readers and empowered communities who can handle national challenges in achieving the Tanzania Development Vision 2025.” - IYALI participant Jackline Mshana, who is Head of Projects and Programmes at Tanzania Library Service Board.

Strategies for engaging communities and partners

“My job requires engaging communities in different districts to ensure that libraries are improved. The insights from the presentation on community and partner engagement boosted my morale also to ensure that municipalities are fully engaged.” - Allan Mudenda Hagwelele (Zambia).

New connections and networks

“Meeting passionate librarians from other countries has reignited my love for the profession. IYALI has been a career-changing event!” - Shariff Mdanku, Librarian at Mwanza Regional Library, Tanzania Library Service Board.

The IYALI 2017 programme was co-created by many partners, among them AfLIA, IFLA, ‘Martynas Mazvydas’ National Library of Lithuania, the Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI, Poland), and the Mortenson Centre for International Library Programmes of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA), with contributions from over 15 public libraries from Kenya, South Africa, Lithuania and Poland.  

See the full programme for IYALI 2017.

See the list of IYALI participants who travelled to Eastern Europe.

Read more in the blog about insights and inspirations shared by IYALI 2017 group.


In 2018 a second IYALI group was selected to learn about public library innovations in Africa and Asia. The group attended a workshop on public library innovation and visited public libraries in Indonesia, and attended the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August 2018. Watch this space for further details.