Picture of a group of attendees in a group photo during IFLA Regional Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya
Attendees at the IFLA Regional Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya

On 16-19 October, over 50 librarians from 32 Sub-Saharan African countries met in Nairobi, Kenya, to learn, share, and accelerate progress towards IFLA’s goal of strong and sustainable library fields at all levels. The meetings were made possible thanks to a grant from Stichting IFLA Global Libraries.

In addition to its work at the global level to enhance professional practice and serve as the voice of libraries in international settings, IFLA also has a mission to support the development of structures at all levels that enable librarians to work together.

Through this, we are best placed to find solutions to the challenges we face and to plan for the future.

Working regionally is a key component of this. With its new regional structures, IFLA is already moving strongly in the direction of a much more flexible approach to serving the field.

The regional workshop in Nairobi, Kenya on 16-18 October, followed by an in-person meeting of the Sub-Saharan African Regional Division Committee, provided an opportunity to accelerate this work further.

Thanks to a grant provided by Stichting IFLA Global Libraries, and the kind hosting of the Kenya National Library Service, over 50 librarians from 32 countries came together to build a shared understanding of what it will take to deliver sustainable library fields at all levels, and to try out tools for delivering this.

The event was opened by Dr Charles Nzivo, CEO of the Kenya National Library Service, Prof. Peter Gatiti, President of the Kenya Library Association, IFLA President Vicki McDonald and Secretary General Sharon Memis, who engaged throughout the days to share ideas and experiences.

Across a varied set of exercises, participants looked to define the key steps that they could take to build sustainability, means of supporting the careers of emerging leaders and establish partnerships that contribute to achieving their own goals.

Also on the agenda were strategic planning, impact and evaluation, engagement in the Library Map of the World, and advocacy.

In each case, the emphasis was on offering tools and frameworks that participants could take home to their own associations and institutions, as well as to generate ideas for the Sub-Saharan African Regional Division Committee to take forwards in its own work.

Participants already had an opportunity to put some of these lessons to work in a seminar organised with contacts from across four different UN agencies – see our dedicated news story about this.

Coming out of the meetings, we will be working with participants to build a community for sharing experiences and ideas about how to apply the materials discussed. In particular, we will be monitoring evidence of steps that support sustainability at all levels.

Picture of a group of participants posing for a picture with their certificates during IFLA Regional Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya
During day 3 of the IFLA Regional Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya, October 2023. Photo by Ayodele John Alonge.

Once again, we are very grateful to Stichting IFLA Global Libraries for the grant that made this meeting possible and to Kenya National Library Service for kindly hosting our meetings.