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Twenty-one library champions from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda have developed dynamic awareness-raising and advocacy plans to change perceptions of public libraries in their countries and to tackle pressing legal and funding issues.
The plans were developed at the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (PLIP) awareness-raising and advocacy skills workshop held in Nairobi (Kenya) from March 5 to 7. The library champions are all members of newly-formed EIFL-PLIP Africa Awareness Raising Groups (AARGs), which comprise library leaders, librarians, media and communication specialists, government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
With support from EIFL-PLIP, the three AARGs will raise awareness about public libraries and engage in advocacy over the next 12 months.
Feedback on the training was extremely positive: ‘It was inspiring. I am going home equipped with a strong plan of action,’ said a participant from Ghana. ‘I now feel more confident that I can successfully challenge government officials,’ said a participant from Uganda. ‘I have new energy for this difficult work,’ said a Kenyan group member.
The AARG members discussed the state of public libraries in their countries, shared ideas and proposed ways of changing negative perceptions. Their robust new plans include meetings with national and local government officials, mass media campaigns to increase the visibility of public libraries, telling stories about innovative public library services, and inspiring pubic librarians to design and implement new and innovative community development services.
The AARGs grew in response to findings of Perceptions of Public Libraries in Africa, a six-country research study commissioned by EIFL-PLIP. The study found that in all six countries – including Ghana, Kenya and Uganda – public libraries are valued as places for education and study rather than as dynamic institutions also concerned with local development issues like farming, health, employment, building social cohesion, and promoting financial literacy and enterprise.
The study also found that public libraries were underfunded, poorly equipped with information and communications technology (ICT), and that librarians lacked technology skills. The AARGS aim to change negative perceptions in order to create a positive climate for policy change and increased funding and technology resources for public libraries.