IFLA has supported a new Building Strong Library Associations (BSLA) project in Colombia in 2017.

After the project finished, we interviewed the Project Team and asked them a few key questions about their project. Check out what they told us!

BSLA Colombia 2017What were your goals with this project?

The purpose of the project was to strengthen the skills of Colombian librarians to improve the work of associations and the management of networks and library associations in the country.

The project was also a great opportunity to raise awareness about IFLA’s global initiatives and serve as an opportunity for Colombia to participate and get involved in its ambitious activities.

Other projects led by existing networks in Colombia were presented, as well as additional relevant projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as the work of the IFLA LAC Section.

How did you plan to make this happen?

The project was implemented through workshops in Bucaramanga, Cali and Cartagena. These involved interactive methodologies to make the most out of a variety of participants from these different regions in Colombia. 

The dynamics involved included the following: small workgroup settings, discussions, brainstormings, report presentations, and debate sessions. The workshops took advantage of a diversity of ideas and approaches, providing a welcoming space to share experiences and particularities of the work carried out by each participant.

The components generated a participatory environment, fostering free expression and strengthened individual capacities for teamwork, expanded the group’s knowledge, and inspired the trust and responsibility of the professional and academic networks. It also empowered the leaders of the region—giving visibility and recognition to librarians.

How did it work?

We consider the project was successful from every point of view and that its fundamental objectives were achieved. The activities were performed as planned, which can be seen in the results of teamwork and the commitments of the regions.

The workshops garnered the active participation of 60 Colombian librarians who wished to expand and update their knowledge for improving services they provide to their user communities, the strengthening of collaborative work in the network, expand strategic management skills, as well as the empowerment of librarians.

The programme offered a broad array of topics, including presentations about IFLA, the BSLA programme, the advocacy methodology, the UN 2030 Agenda, the SDGs and the role of the libraries, the IFLA Library Map of the World, copyright for libraries, and the Marrakesh Treaty. 

Participants were able to make the connection with their different programmes and activities, recognising how they can contribute from their daily work to all this initiative. It also offered networking opportunities and a wealth of good practices shared from different regions. 

The workshops allowed participants to reflect on the work of the librarian, the future of the profession, the current challenges faced, and the responsibility with the target communities of services provided by libraries.

Results of the workshops were evaluated based on the level of satisfaction of the participants and measured through a multiple-choice and open-response questionnaire. The questionnaire aimed to determine if:

  • the expectations raised at the beginning of the workshop had been met during its development; 
  • the workshop content had been relevant;
  • the methodology used favored the free expression of ideas and collaborative work;
  • the quality of the mediation carried out by the facilitators was sufficient;
  • the spaces, materials and technological resources were adequate.

The evaluation results showed that the expectations had been fully met. Likewise, the contents, methodology and facilitators were assessed to be very relevant and of high quality. The space, materials and technological resources facilitated by the partnering organisations allowed for the successful development and implementation of the activities.

How did you use communications during the project?

Our BSLA project was promoted on social media with the use of the hashtag #UnirecsBSLA2017, linking the partners and sponsoring entities, while sharing activities in real time. 

Moreover, strategic leaders from each region were involved.  Information about the workshops was shared with numerous library and information professionals covering the topics of management roles, leadership, coordination, promotion and defense of libraries.

What did you learn in the process?

As for the activities, it is important to know the culture and ways of working of each of the regions to be able to optimise time management. 

Another aspect is to be aware of the level of training and experience of participants; for some it was the first time they took part in a workshop under this methodology. 

The time allocated to the workshop is a relevant aspect to review. Participants suggested that a longer workshop would be beneficial, in order to deepen open discussions on some issues very relevant for the groups.

The evaluation process of strategic partners must be carried out in an exhaustive way, one that involves researching the dynamics of the region, its communication mechanisms and work strategies, in order to actively engage a variety of actors in different types of libraries.

What are your next steps?

The workshops generated many commitments to put their knowledge to work and to ensure continuity to the project. Some of these commitments include:

  • Follow-up virtual meetings to be held with the leaders of the partner entities in each region.
  • Sign agreements for cooperative work between networks and associations at the local and national levels. 
  • Identify and be part of the library initiatives of the country.
  • Preparation of geo-referential directory of library institutions in the region and data compilation to contribute with the Library Map of the World.
  • Establishment a working group with institutions working with people with visual disabilities to implement strategies to assist this type of public in the libraries, in addition to following up on the implementation of the Marrakech Treaty.
  • Participate in the ABC online copyright course for librarians in Latin America.
  • Support and promote the awareness of librarians among authors through the research groups of law faculties of participating universities.
  • Create a library network integrated by all types of libraries (school, academic, public, others)
  • Structure a training plan for librarians through the alliance and articulation of the strongest libraries, oriented to the topics of reading promotion, information literacy, copyright, SDGs, and BSLA cascade training.
  • Create a regional librarians’ association to serve as a platform for cooperation and communication, including training and updating opportunities for librarians.
  • Encourage and disseminate the work carried out related to supporting people with disabilities in the region and be overseers of the Marrakesh Treaty implementation.