Uganda Community Libraries Association
26-28 July 2017
The Uganda Community Libraries Association held its seventh annual conference at
Kawempe Youth Centre on 26-28 July 2017. It was a special occasion because it was the
tenth anniversary of the Association’s founding, which we celebrated by holding a
networking forum on the Saturday evening. We invited many guests from outside
UgCLA, including our partner organizations in Uganda, publishers, and representatives
of government. There was dancing by Mulia Foundation Children to entertain us, and a
splendid cake, cut with fanfare by the Association’s two co-founders, Kayaga Mulindwa
and Kate Parry.
Besides fun and games, the conference activities included a great deal of hard work.
Participants arrived at midday on the Friday, had lunch, registered, and received forms to
fill in to help UgCLA keep up to date profiles of their libraries. They also received a
questionnaire to inform two proposals that we are planning to develop on the African
Storybook project (see www.storybook.org) and listened to a short talk describing those
proposals. Besides that, a large number of books donated by Book Aid International were
available for participants to look at, from which they could prepare boxes to take home to
their libraries in return for a fee, to cover clearing and transport, of 30,000 shillings per
box. In addition, every represented library was asked to prepare a poster displaying what
the library had achieved in the past year. These posters were displayed around the
conference area so that participants could look at them in any spare moments. The
conference was formally opened at the end of the evening by the Rev. Bobson Musamali,
a member of Kawempe Youth Centre’s Board of Directors.
The conference theme was “New technologies: their implications for libraries,” and the
first session on the Saturday was a plenary talk on the theme by Lois Mutibwa, of the
East African School of Library and Information Science. It was a beautiful, well
prepared, presentation, with plenty of opportunity for the audience to ask questions and
contribute information. The session was followed by another on technology, this being a
practical one in which the participants, working on laptops or on smartphones, learned
how to set up gmail accounts and Google groups and to write blogs. The session was led
by Fred Sebuma, Arthur Ssebale, and Eunice Nsaire, representatives of UgCLA’s new
member and partner, the ANABEL Resource Centre.
After lunch on the Saturday, the participants learnt about the African Storybook, which,
as a website with an associated app, is a product of the new technologies that is
particularly important for African community libraries. Dr. Cornelius Gulere, who has
been helping people write stories for the website and who is now the project’s
coordinator in Uganda, told participants about the aims of the project, its significance in
relation to government policies, and how to access the stories through the website or the
app. Then everyone was invited to work directly with the stories in their own languages,
whether by reading, translating, or adapting them, or by initiating new ones. This session
occasioned particular excitement and made everyone eager to participate in one or other
of the proposed projects.
The Sunday morning provided an opportunity for those libraries that have computers and
access to the internet to speak of their experiences with technology. These libraries
include Kawempe Youth Centre and the Nambi Sseppuuya Resource Centre, both of
which emphasized the importance of using technological resources to develop the
library’s profile and publicize its work. Mr Justin Kiyimba, in telling the story of how the
Nambi Sseppuuya Resource Centre obtained its computers, also urged UgCLA’s
members to be persistent in advocating for their libraries.
Time was then made available for the participants, meeting in language groups, to
develop their ideas as to what they might do with the African Storybook. They presented
these ideas briefly to the group as a whole and handed in their completed questionnaires.
One particularly valuable presentation was by a representative of the Busolwe Public
Library, who explained how the library, working with the Lunyole Language
Association, had contributed to the writing of stories in Lunyole. The session as a whole
brought out the complexity of language problems in Africa: some libraries work on a
regular basis with two or more African languages, which may be completely unrelated;
others use a language in which there are no stories yet published in the Storybook; the
languages of some do not even have a standard orthography. There is a great deal of work
to be done on these issues, and UgCLA, with its wide diversity of members, is in a good
position to contribute to the effort.
The last two hours of the conference were devoted to UgCLA’s Annual General Meeting.
Brief oral reports were presented, and then members voted for new members of the Board
of Trustees. The following were elected, all of them unopposed:
Chairman Justin Kiyimba, Nambi Sseppuuya Memorial Resource Centre
Deputy Chair Enoch Magale, Campaign For Youth Driven Development Initiatives
Treasurer Esther Kyazike, Kawempe Youth Centre
Secretary Daniel Ahimbisibwe, Kitengesa Community Library
Member Ivan Kaibu, Busolwe Public Library
Member Jane Kawalya, East African School of Library and Information Science
Member Olivia Mutabirwe, Nyarushanje Community Library
Kate Parry was asked to continue serving on the Board in an advisory capacity.
Altogether, 35 member libraries were represented at the conference, and well over 50
people attended; they included individual members of UgCLA, extra library
representatives, and volunteers who are working at Ibanda and Kitengesa Community
Libraries. A number of our regular member libraries were not able to send
representatives, but they were compensated for by a number of new members or by the
return of old members who had dropped away. After ten years, UgCLA has grown
impressively and become quite an established institution. There is good hope of its
continuing to grow, especially under its new leadership.