BSLA Country Project: Botswana

Members of the BLA Executive Committee and BSLA core trainer, Winnie Vitzansky, Gaborone, July 2010

Members of the BLA Executive Committee and BSLA core trainer, Winnie Vitzansky, Gaborone, July 2010

Botswana Library Association (BLA) was formed in 1978. Membership of the association is open to all library workers, archivists, bibliographers, and information workers. BLA went through a dormant period for nearly a decade until 2008. Since 2008, the association has worked to hold annual national conferences, meetings and other activities.

Country Briefing

Botswana, in Southern Africa, is politically and economically stable, transparent [1], and has a free press [2]. The country has benefited from the exploitation of its natural resources, primarily diamonds, which has led to a decent quality of life for many. Yet the nation suffers from a very high rate of HIV infections as well as educational, technological and income inequality in the rural population. The literacy rate was estimated at 81% in 2003. [3]

Botswana in Context

Academic, ministerial, school and 32 public libraries operate across the country. More than 68 village reading rooms, together with a small number of community libraries established by NGOs, serve rural populations. Libraries in Botswana are being decentralised from the Botswana National Library Service that runs the country’s public libraries. The use of ICT is also increasing in public libraries, making their services more appealing to the general public as opposed to only school children as was the case in the past. More than 20 public libraries now offer free public access to computers and Internet, which has resulted in an increase in their membership.

Botswana hosted the important African library conference SCECSAL in 2010, with more than 300 participants from Eastern, Central and Southern African associations and libraries.

When the BSLA project began, there was a recognised need for a strong association to represent all libraries in Botswana.

BSLA Project Goals

  1. Visibility: To raise the visibility of the association amongst its key stakeholders
  2. Governance: To work towards a more engaged and active executive committee
  3. Advocacy: To identify a role of the Botswana Library Association in advocating for libraries in society and community as part of the new National Library Act and the Botswana National Vision 2016 strategy

BSLA in Botswana

The Botswana Library Association held a stakeholder summit, and two workshops in 2011. BLA worked with core trainer Winnie Vitzansky (Denmark) during these activities, the initial needs assessment, and the final evaluation meeting. In addition to these activities the library association elected a new executive committee (board) in 2010, organised strategic retreats for the board, and was invited to give a number of presentations across the country.

Impact

Through the association’s work in the past two years, library and information professionals have a voice, and the confidence to turn towards the future – to advocate for better staffed school libraries, and to take an active part in the implementation of the country’s new national library policy.

  • Elections held in 2010 had higher participation than in previous years, with more candidates for vacant places on the committee and a greater voter turnout
  • Membership has more than doubled from approximately 50 in 2010 to more than 140 in 2012
  • The last national conference in 2011 had 270 participants, the most ever
  • A new website was launched in June 2012, to increase communication with members
  • The Association is increasingly visible, and is frequently consulted to provide advice to stakeholders on libraries, especially school libraries. BLA will prepare a position paper for the Ministry of Education in 2012 on school library staffing
  • The Association received a grant from the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Culture of 170,000 BWP (21, 600 USD) for projects, training and other activities.

Challenges

Botswana Library Association has revived and strengthened itself, and is now turning to the challenge of increasing representation across the country through branches of the association. Increased membership comes with increased expectations, which the association will seek to meet through professional development events, workshops, and other activities.

BLA has been reborn. It is a better BLA.
Lynn Jibril, Botswana Library Association Executive Committee Member, Botswana

References

  1. Transparency International, 2011
  2. Freedom House, 2012
  3. Central Intelligence Agency, 2012

Activities and news

Information and resources

Project Team

Kgomotso Radijeing, BLA President, In country facilitator
Resego Taolo, Sesigo, In country facilitator
Winnie Vitzansky, Trainer
Fiona Bradley, IFLA ALP Programme Coordinator

Building Strong Library Associations, BSLA, Botswana, ALP (Action for Development through Libraries Programme)

Last update: 15 December 2016