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, 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.

EIFL-PLIP has involved various partners in implementing IYALI, such as African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and Aarhus Public Libraries.


  • 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 international conferences and events.
  • 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." - IYALI 2017 participant Bonny Olobo, Adult Library Officer at Kampala Public Library in Uganda.


2017 - 2020


In August 2017, 13 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. In Lithuania, they attended a workshop on public library innovation and visited public libraries. In Poland, they attended the 2017 IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw.

In August 2018, 15 young public library innovators from Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe travelled to Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia). In Indonesia, they attended a workshop on public library innovation and visited public and community libraries. In Malaysia, they attended the 2018 IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Kuala Lumpur.

In June 2019, six young public library innovators from Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia travelled to Denmark to attend the  Next Library 2019 conference, and visit public libraries, including Dokk1 library in Aarhus, which is the venue for the Next Library 2019 conference.

In February 2020, five young public library innovators from Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia will travel to the USA, where they will visit libraries and take part in a programme linked to the American Public Library Association conference 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The programme has 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.

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 2017 participant Allan Mundeda Hagwelele, Provincial Librarian at the Southern Province Education Office in Zambia.

“The first thing I will do is to introduce ICT skills training at my library for the community. We already have computers in the children’s library, hence we will embark on a coding for kids programme where kids will be taught basic computer coding. The other target group will be the youths.” - IYALI 2018 participant Letshani Ndlovu, Chief Librarian at Bulawayo Public Library, Zimbabwe.

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 2017 participant Ketty Tshisikule, who is Reference Librarian at Bellville Public Library in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Time has come to look and use Ndola city council public library beyond its initial role of just a place of reading. This limitless place of knowledge and information should also be known for a space for learning and innovation. It should be home to where thinking, exploring and creations occur.” - IYALI 2018 participant Pezo Given Kajimalwendo, Librarian at Ndola Public Library in Zambia.

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 2017 participant Jackline Mshana, who is Head of Projects and Programmes at Tanzania Library Service Board.

“One thing I will change in my library is reaching out to communities that are excluded. I want to bring all partners and stakeholders to discuss education in our community and I want at least 50 children to join school in January 2019.” - IYALI 2018 participant Koi Kazungu, Senior Library Assistant at Kenya National Library Service Kwale Community Library in Kenya.

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.” - IYALI 2017 participant, Allan Mudenda Hagwelele (Zambia).

“Transforming libraries is our responsibility and we need partners to help us achieve that goal. Partnership and networking can also assist us get the resources we need to run different programmes in the libraries and the communities we serve.” - IYALI 2018 participant, Joan Njoki Njogu, ICT Officer at Kenya National Library Service-Meru Public Library.

New connections and networks

“Meeting passionate librarians from other countries has reignited my love for the profession. IYALI has been a career-changing event!” - IYALI 2017 participant, Shariff Mdanku, Librarian at Mwanza Regional Library, Tanzania Library Service Board.

“Meeting committed librarians from all over the world changed my whole perception as a librarian. I am now quite zealous about networking, and will continue to network.” - IYALI 2018 participant, Momoh Mansaray, Librarian at Kambia district library, a branch of the Sierra Leone Library Board.

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