Six events in two weeks!

In typical Accra style the last couple of weeks have been horribly busy on the bookish front. Often there is a dearth of activities or events, and then suddenly – boom, one after another, to the extent that I hardly feel I am keeping up.

So six different bookish events in the period of two weeks: Programme for Nketsia book

3 book launches
1 book reading
1 book club gathering
and 1 meeting of librarians!

The book launches were for three rather different books, which interestingly enough, were all non-fiction.

Nana Kobina Nketsia V launched his large, and expensive (GH¢200 – which is a little under $100), volume entitled African culture in governance and development: the Ghana paradigm, at a ceremony which was long, and with speakers dominated by what I would nicely call, gentlemen of a certain generation. Almost everyone who spoke was over 60, with the exception of playwright Kobina Sekyi’s granddaughter, who got to give the vote of thanks. Ironically, given the criticisms of colonialism, the launch took place at the British Council! There were a good number of people who matter in attendance, including the Vice-President. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough money to buy a copy – but maybe I’ll get one for work at some later date?

Africa: A miner's canaryThe second book launch was for Africa: A miner’s canary into the 21st century, by Ivor Agyeman-Duah. I freely admit that I have known the author for many years, since he started his writing career as a journalist in Kumasi, so I do try to support any of his events. And I did buy a couple of copies of the book – one for work, and one for myself.

I was late for the last book launch – there was a work away day/retreat – but I have to admit that I was not too unhappy about this. Nana Awere Damoah’s latest book, I speak of Ghana, was launched at a I speak of Ghanalocal bookshop, Sytris, in the evening of the Farmers’ Day public holiday. The venue was packed, but I wondered why some of those present were actually there, as there were constant loud conversations going on at the back of the venue – to the extent that the MC conducting the auction had to actually ask people to keep quiet. And I don’t think any of the noise makers were book buyers! But I bought a copy of the book, and had the author autograph it, and look forward to reading some of Nana’s accounts of life in contemporary Ghana.

The book reading, by Malaka Grant, was another opportunity for some book buying, as she brought along some copies of her recently published book, The daughters of swallows. Malaka, who lives in the US, was full of energy and fun, and her audience at the Goethe Institut (part of the Writers Project of Ghana monthly events) responded with great glee. Ironically I suspect that most of those present knew The daughters of swallowsher because of her connection with the blog Adventures from , while yours truly was more familiar with her other somewhat more domestic blog Mind of Malaka.

The Accra Book Club gathering was, in contrast to the rest of the events, a bit of a fizzle. Only two of us showed up! Oh well…

GLA logoAnd finally there was the Ghana Library Association‘s 2013 Seminar and AGM which took place at the Balme Library. It’s an annual affair, and though this was a one-day event, it was good to see other colleagues, some of whom travel from far outside Accra. Plus this year there were not only a few speeches and presentations, but a breakout session which allowed members to speak their mind on selected library topics. And the AGM went smoothly, with hardly any acrimonious comments, which have on occasion characterized such occasions.

May and June 2013 reading

It is more than slightly belated, for a variety of reasons – including holidays :-) – but here are my bookish activities for the months of May and June 2013.

I completed eight books during these two months – with six male authors and two female (that’s a bit unusual for me).  All except one were fiction, two with an African focus, the rest from all over the world.  I did read half of the books on my Kindle – mainly because I was on holiday.

So here is a list of completed works:

  1. Chocolate nations – Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa, by Orla Ryan.  [Fascinating story behind Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire's main agricultural crop]
  2. A whispered name, by William Brodrick.  [A fictional investigation of a historical incident in World War I]
  3. Broken glass, by Alain Mabanckou. [set in Congo Brazzaville; not the easiest of reads. Lack of full stops/periods meant this reader really had to concentrate!]
  4. Clea’s moon, by Edward Wright.  [Thriller set in post World War II Los Angeles]
  5. The magicians, by Lev Grossman.  [Fantasy, partly set in a magical college!]
  6. Canada, by Richard Ford.  [Story of a family broken up when the parents rob a bank; an Accra Book Club read]
  7. Haiti noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat.  [Crime/thriller short stories set mostly in Haiti; some of them were very spooky]
  8. Osama, by Lavie Tidhar.  [Fantasy/alternative reality which has eerie echoes of the last fifteen years]

I did buy a lot of books during these two months.  May was very busy – with visits to EPP (opposite Legon), Vidya’s, Wild Gecko (I couldn’t resist a Ghanaian cookbook on display in this gift shop), and University of Ghana, Legon, bookshop.  I also bought one book from someone who went to Nigeria, and others at Yari Yari Ntoaso.  June I bought books in several Barnes & Noble bookstores and also from a couple of independent bookstores.  Plus I did buy a couple of novels for Accra Book Club on my Kindle.

I attended only two events during the period – the inaugural  address by the new Ghana Library Association president, and the four day conference on literature by women of African descent, Yari Yari Ntoaso.  The last was especially exciting, even though regrettably I couldn’t attend all the sessions.

July is already looking to be another busy month, which I will report on at another time.

Ghana’s President and Vice-President and books and libraries

This blog talks usually about books and reading, and sometimes about Ghanaian libraries and librarians, and information relating to the first two overall topics.

It is interesting that at the moment both the President and Vice-President of Ghana have close ties with books and libraries, though in different ways.

I have mentioned before that John Dramani Mahama (now President of Ghana) wrote a memoir, My first coup d’etat and other stories, which was published early in July 2012. As Vice-President he undertook a mini-book tour in the US during which the book was formally launched. I haven’t read it yet, though I look forward to doing so. So a writer, an author as head of state – which Ghana has not had since Kwame Nkrumah and Prof K A Busia.

The connection with the now Vice President of Ghana – Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur – is a slightly indirect one, but there is a close family connection with libraries, in that his wife has been a practising librarian and continues to be involved in various aspects of the profession through consultancies and her key role in the Ghana Library Association‘s celebrations of its 50th anniversary.

Whether these involvements will have any impact on either the books or libraries sector is of course another matter, but one can hope!

A book launch and two readings – a busy two weeks in Accra

A couple of very busy weeks on the books and information side – that is, apart from work which included a four-day workshop on critical thinking and writing – and I am feeling rather guilty about not posting earlier.  No really valid excuses though.  But the long weekend for 1 July (Ghana’s Republic Day) is definitely providing a bit of inspiration!

I have to admit that I am usually fairly happy to attend book launches here in Accra, though I do admit that I tend to prefer those that involve fiction and/or some kind of historical orientation.  Business and management related books I tend to be a bit more picky about, but an invitation to the launch of Elikem Kuenyehia’s Kuenyehia on entrepreneurship was irresistible. Held at British Council Accra, this was a pretty high powered affair, with fairly sophisticated decorations, and many VIPs or should I say VVIPs present (including Sam Jonah as Chairman, Nigerian businessman and entrepreneur Tony Elumelu as Guest of Honour, Joyce Aryee as Chief Auctioneer and Kwasi Kyei Darkwah as MC)!  It was also great to see several Ashesi students and alums assisting in making the programme go smoothly – I know a lot of effort goes into this!

I attended two book readings:  one by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – which was held at Sytris, and wonderfully described and photographed by my colleague, Kajsa, so I won’t really go into any details, as she has really said it all.  Sytris was a good location, and having a small cafe as well meant that we were not only feeding our brains and hearts!  It was great actually seeing Nii Ayikwei Parkes in person, and hearing him perform some of his poems.

The second reading, held at the Goethe Institut, as part of their collaboration with Writers Project of Ghana,  was also by an expatriate Ghanaian/Nigerian writer, Taiye Selasiwho is known for having coined the term “Afropolitan”. There were excerpts from her short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” which was published in Granta 115 and also from the manuscript of her forthcoming book, Ghana must go, which is due to be published in 2013. She was funny and at times biting in her critique of contemporary Ghanaian life.  Definitely someone to watch out for!

And because it was the last week of the month, there was our usual Accra Book Club gathering, a relatively small group, as usual, discussing – not in much detail though – Dan Rhodes Little hands clapping.  Most of us didn’t really like it, but that was OK.  And while munching on our pizzas, we talked about other books, including science fiction, the Twilight series, and the phenomenon of Fifty shades of grey - which none of us had read!

I am not sure what events will be coming up in July – but I am sure there will be some.  A good time to read though, as the weather here in Accra is definitely cooler!

Ghana Library Association 50th anniversary Seminar 1

I attended the first of two professional seminars being organized by the Ghana Library Association on Friday 18 May 2012.  This was part of the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, having been founded in 1962.  As is often the case, the event took place at the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Hall here in Accra.  The central location is a great plus, and I suspect that it is not too expensive, which is great for local NGOs.  Personally I find that the set-up is very traditional, with raised stage – about a metre and a half higher than the floor – with a long table and the usual podium.  Definitely a high table, and an audience.  But at least the chairs were OK, the air-conditioning worked, and the microphones worked, so I shouldn’t complain.

The organization of the event was good; I arrived early – as usual – around 7.30am – and already the registration table was set up, with tantalizing 50th anniversary promotional items displayed for sale.  How could I resist?  I didn’t… Folders were ready, and copies of the papers were available on a CD!  Less paper, less trees, less hassle doing photocopying and dealing with people who want copies of papers but don’t really need them or didn’t pay to attend.  It’s also good to listen to a presentation, and then know that one can read it later at one’s leisure.

The programme did start a little late, but the first part went quickly, and everyone kept to time. As there was a significant sponsor plus some donors of books, there was time for them, but that was OK.  [It seems this is becoming a part of programmes where there are sponsors - as I noticed this was an integral part of the Blog Camp 2012  as well.].  A group photo followed, then there was the usual snack break, before getting down to the main presentations.

Prof Anaba Alemna (at the Dept of Information Studies, University of Ghana, Legon) spoke about “Libraries – Key to national development”, arguing that the potential for libraries in Ghana has not been realized because of lack of enabling legislation and support from key groups.  Valentina Bannerman (University Librarian at the University of Education in Winneba) discussed the role of libraries in building a knowledge economy.  And the final presentation was by the ever controversial Kosi Kedem (Chair of the Board of the Ghana Library Authority and former Member of Parliament) who managed to criticize four key groups of stakeholders for not supporting the creation of a National Library in Ghana.  Naturally the last presentation did inspire lots of questions and some rebuttals; but that was enjoyable, and thought provoking. Unfortunately the event had to come to an end, otherwise we would have been there for several more hours!  

Ghana Library Association 50th anniversary activities in 2012

I am a practicing librarian and I try to take part in activities of the Ghana Library Association, of which I am a member.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the GLA, which was founded in 1962 – an era when libraries in Ghana were supported not only by government in power, but also by the then President, Kwame Nkrumah.

A provisional programme of events and activities has now been released, and I shall definitely be taking part in some, and observing and commenting on others.

Main Theme   Libraries: Key to National Development

Sub themes:
1. Libraries: driving access to knowledge
2. Libraries: facilitators of knowledge generation
3. Knowing is not enough: engaging in the knowledge economy
4. Enhancing the culture of reading
5. The academic library of the future
6. The public library of the future
7. The special library of the future
8. The school library of the future
9. Building a strong library association
10. The illusive national library: the case of Ghana

Programme of Activities

  • Regional launches
  • Photo exhibitions in various libraries
  • GLA/PAWA/GAW collaboration
  • Visits to school libraries
  • Book donations to selected school libraries
  • Reading clinics
  • Professional seminars
  • Workshop
  • Radio talk shows & TV programmes
  • Interaction with Information Studies students
  • Anniversary edition of the Ghana Library Journal 
  • Thanksgiving service & dinner dance
  • Congress/AGM

There aren’t any definite dates and venues yet, but I shall be posting more updates, as I gather more information.

 

Open journal systems and public libraries in Ghana

It seems that the end of the year is particularly busy for events of all types – and books and libraries  in this part of the world are not immune.

In the course of my working life, I have done some editing and proof-reading of papers/articles etc but never going through all the processes involved in publishing material.  So an opportunity to attend a CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana) workshop on GHANJOL and online publishing was a definite learning experience to be taken up, especially as Ashesi University College is planning to start its own journal sometime in the near future.

Most of the workshop was taken up dealing with a particular platform for publishing journals online – Open Journal Systems –  which was developed by the Public Knowledge Project and hosted at Simon Fraser University in Canada.  When we started the practical aspects I realised I had actually read articles from journals published under this platform – and these are from all over the world as well.   The key roles involved in publishing journals, especially online – authors, editors, reviewers, and others were also covered, so for those of us who are new to this area, there were guidelines to take away and processes and workflows one could use.  There was also discussion about Open Access and more specifically about the possibility of there being a GHANJOL – Ghana Journals Online – which would be part of the INASP project, Journals Online.

The other event was a half-day discussion on the role of public libraries in development, the second half of a full-day consultation facilitated by EIFL and IREX, with support from Ghana Library Association (GLA).  The event came out of the six country study conducted on behalf of EIFL of public perceptions of public libraries in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda.  The first part of the day was to sensitize many librarians and key stakeholders on the results of the report, and the second half, which I attended, widened the stakeholders to include non-library personnel working in information, including representatives from ICT companies such as TechAIDE and GINKS.

What was particularly interesting for me – apart from the opportunity to meet colleagues and put forth some of my own opinions – was the chance to hear some people actually saying that “some thinking out of the box” was essential for the public libraries to work effectively in Ghana.