By Damilare Oyedele
Library Aid Africa (formerly known as Library and You) is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to revamp libraries in Africa to increase their societal impact. The organization focuses on access to information through pragmatic initiatives, which are designed to create awareness and resuscitate libraries in schools and communities. We operate from Nigeria, with partners and volunteer presence in over 10 African countries: Ghana, Namibia, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Republic of Benin, Mali, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Liberia
At Library Aid Africa, we believe that access to information is pertinent to develop literate and informed citizens because this equips the mind of the citizenry with adequate knowledge that will enable them to contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development of their immediate society.
However, access to information and knowledge is severely limited without efficient and functional libraries, which provide free and equitable access to information and knowledge for all. That is why we have focused on creating initiatives in the past few years that aim to improve the efficiency and productivity of libraries.
Over the years, our initiatives and advocacies have been centered around book donations to community learning centers, community engagement with libraries, media engagement, and access to digital information resources.
In 2016, we had a Seasonal TV Series (Library and You) designed to educate the populace about the importance of libraries for the development of society. It featured documentaries, interviews with authors, librarians, publishers, etc, where discussions and feasible solutions were proffered to support libraries.
Also, in 2017, we partnered with the National Library of Nigeria to organize a Social Media Library Advocacy Awareness Program – an online sensitization that focuses on educating the online community on how libraries drive progress in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. https://goo.gl/F2K9YE
In September 2019 we launched the “Inspire Us Collection” in collaboration with Worldreader. The aim of the literary initiative is to redefine gender stereotypes and empower women and girls through a digital collection of books. The collection, which encompasses fiction and non-fiction, includes stories that clearly portray women as protagonists, change agents, and leaders of the future.
Of course, our #libraryselfie series has been a great impact on engaging the social media community with the library. This is an online initiative designed to create awareness about the importance of libraries as spaces for reading and learning. We had #libraryselfie2018 in Nigeria and we had #libraryselfie2019 across six African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Eighteen winners emerged across those six countries; winners who had been engaged as library champions to drive advocacy for improved library development and usage in their local communities.
As an organization that focuses on equitable access to information for all, our work addresses all of the SDGs and Agenda 2063. Access to information is imperative across all the goals. Quality education requires access to relevant information resources for learning and research. Zero poverty requires access to information that equips people with skills that enable productivity. Zero hunger requires access to information to educate farmers and citizens on crop types, seasons, weather forecasting, and new farming techniques and mechanisms. Gender equality demands access to information to empower young girls and women. Access to information is the heart of any sustainable development effort, and it is therefore imperative that relevant stakeholders invest more in library development in African communities.
In our relentless efforts in reaching stakeholders to engage libraries in Sustainable Development Plans, we previously held a session at the African Youth SDGs Summit in 2018 (https://blogs.ifla.org/lpa/2018/11/22/libraries-at-the-african-youth-sdgs-summit/). Also, we have hosted sessions at Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in 2019 (https://www.ifla.org/node/92228), and 2020 (https://www.ifla.org/node/92942) respectively. We shared evidence-based presentations on how libraries drive progress across the SDGs in various African communities.
It is apparent that for Africa to move forward, informed literate citizens are essential. This means that libraries have a major role to play on the African continent. However, it is sad to note that libraries are facing numerous challenges on the continent with regard to funding, infrastructure, and capacity development, which stifle their full functionality and efficiency.
At Library Aid Africa, we are using innovative ideas, combined with digital technology, to change narratives about libraries in African communities. But we do not stop here; we are mobilizing young Africans to be library advocates, who aim to resuscitate libraries in their local communities with the goal to enable access to information for all.
You can learn more about what we do at Library Aid Africa on our website: www.libraryaidafrica.org and also on our social media platforms:
Damilare Oyedele is a Library and information management consultant, a Library Advocate, and Librarypreneur with a keen interest in Programs Development and Management. He is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive of Library Aid Africa, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on access to information through pragmatic initiatives designed to create awareness and resuscitates libraries in schools and communities. Over the years, he and his team have been implementing various initiatives targeting the improvement of library efficiency and functionality in more than ten African countries, thereby facilitating access to information for all. Damilare speaks at international conferences on how libraries drive progress across Sustainable Development Goals and AU Agenda 2063.