IFLA Secretary General Jennefer Nicholson (centre) with conference delegates; photo by Jacinta Were

IFLA Secretary General Jennefer Nicholson (centre) with conference delegates; photo by Jacinta Were

A short report on recent IFLA activities in Nairobi, Kenya

Earlier this month IFLA representatives traveled to Kenya to participate in a two-day conference to discuss how to come together to encourage reading in the digital age. This conference, which IFLA organised along with the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), the International Publishers Association (IPA), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and numerous other local partners1 took place on May 3-4, following a visit by the IFLA Secretary General to the Kenyan Library Association on May 2.

The conference was a follow-up to a similar event held in Tokyo in 2010, and featured high-level speakers from all of the participating organisations. Through a variety of panel discussions the participants described the ways in which libraries, writers, publishers and RROs (the collectives in the print and publishing sector), can foster a culture of reading in the age of digital information and communication technologies.

The barriers to encouraging reading, such as the cost of materials, unauthorised copying and the role of copyright exceptions, were also discussed. Dialogue was frank and fruitful. Many Kenyan colleagues remarked that it was the first time in a long while that discussions had taken place between representatives from the library sector and the publishers, and there was a unanimous feeling that it was very helpful to speak freely about the challenges of photocopying, licensing, and copyright with representatives of the national copyright office who were present. It wasn't just the Kenyan community who was represented though – librarians, RROs, authors and publishers from other countries, including Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia were also present.

IFLA Secretary General Jennefer Nicholson (seated, second from right) with conference delegates; photo by Jacinta Were

While participants recognised that the shift to a digital reading environment was occurring rapidly, the conference was an important reminder that there are still plenty of challenges to be overcome in the areas of the world where print materials are in use by the vast majority of the reading population. The two days finished with an agreement for continued dialogue in Kenya, and increased efforts to increase relations between the various stakeholder groups in other parts of Africa. In the short term, we hope that librarians at the Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library Associations (SCECSAL) taking place in Nairobi in June will continue the discussions amongst themselves, as well bringing in the other stakeholders for a fuller debate. From IFLA's perspective the event was a successful venture into candid dialogue where disagreements on topics such as licensing or exceptions could be aired, and possible areas of collaboration explored. As a result, we look forward to continuing the discussions in the future and offering our colleagues in Africa and beyond further opportunities to have these sorts of dialogues.

1 Other partners included the International Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS), Kopiken, the Kenyan Publishers Association (KPA) and the Kenyan Writers Union (KWU), and the International Authors Forum (IAF) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).