Several library and information events in Ghana over the next two months

It struck me a few days ago that  there are many, many library and information events going on in Ghana over the next couple of months or so, including:

  1. A TEEAL/ ITOCA training event going on (20-22 September 2016) at Wisconsin International University College, mainly for those involved in providing and accessing agricultural related information.
  2. The Ghana Library Association 4th Library and Information week celebration (26-30 September 2016), with a theme “Ensuring quality education for all:  the role of the librarian”.  The main launch is taking place in Tamale on 27 September.
  3. 2nd CARLIGH International Conference (28-30 September 2016) at CSIR-INSTI here in Accra, with a theme on “Knowledge management and information professionals”.
  4. The Conference of University Librarians and their Deputies (CULD) is holding a workshop on Procurement of information resources in academic and research libraries, taking place in Kumasi (6-7 October 2016).
  5. The Ghana Library Association is holding its 2016 Biennial Congress (20-21 October 2016) at the University of Ghana, Legon, with the theme “Libraries and the UN2030 agenda for sustainable development in Ghana”.
  6. UNESCO and CERN are holding a one week (28 November – 2 December 2016) School on Digital libraries at KNUST, Kumasi.

Currently I am planning to attend at least two of these events – no 3 (which I am involved in organizing) and no 5 (as a member of the GLA).

It is great to hear of so many opportunities open to members of my profession!

Another book event is also taking place next week:  Burt Award for African Literature – Award ceremony and book launch 2015, which is taking place on 28 September 2016, at British Council, Accra.  [Unfortunately I will miss this]

If anyone reading this wants more information, just let me know.

Two weeks of non-stop bookish activities

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks, and for those of us interested in books and information, there have been
lots of events going on – in addition to work related stuff!

2013 Burt prize winners - coversFirst there was the Burt Award for African Literature. This covered the winning Ghanaian books for 2013.  I admit I arrived late – but I didn’t miss too much of the programme, which had, it seemed, more or less started on time [which is great]. The speeches were OK, with William Burt, the Canadian who funded the Burt awards, talking about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books! That really brought back some of my early reading.

Naturally I bought copies of the prize winning books:

  1. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka (1st prize)
  2. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah (2nd prize)
  3. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein (3rd prize)

The first and third prize winners have been prize winners before.  The occasion was covered by the press, though not in its entirety as usual.

Then the day after, actually in the same venue – British Council – there was the launch and showing of the documentary The art of Ama Ata Aidoo. The film, by Yaba Badoe, was pretty interesting, though perhaps a little bit long. But illuminating especially if one has read or wants to read some of Ama Ata Aidoo’s work. I did not too surprisingly buy one of Aidoo’s books, No sweetness here - coverwhich has recently been republished here in Ghana.  There’s a great account of the launch here.

Another event was the yearly GAWBOFEST (Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival). Not exactly my favourite event, but maybe that is because I always tend to go to buy books, and get slightly disappointed at the range available. I also find that the long speeches in the morning session must be pretty boring for the children who attend, but then I admit that I don’t stay that long to see what happens during the rest of the day. Yet it is an event that I would wish to continue, just simply because there need to be more opportunities to see books, to buy them, and to talk about reading and writing.

I also went to the September Ghana Voices reading, organized by the Writers Project of Ghana. This month it was Benjamin Kwakye, who it turns out I have met before – though I am ashamed to say that I didn’t remember this. I was also annoyed with myself because I forgot to take copies of his books with me to be autographed!  [Too many things to remember on this day]

The September gathering of the Accra Book Club also took place during these two weeks – our read was the somewhat confusing, well-reviewed thriller, The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes.  Although I enjoyed reading it, it was a little confusing, and talking about it certainly clarified my understanding of this novel about a time-travelling serial killer, and the plucky victim who chased him.

All these activities included a fair bit of book buying – nine books in total – mainly because it is still difficult to buy certain titles as book shops with the kind of stock I like remain very few and far between here in Accra. I even managed to buy one of Ghanaian/American author Kwei Quartey’s books which has been on my wish list for several months.  Murder at Cape Three Points  - cover

As well as these events, I was also away from my usual work location, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all connected with the consortium of libraries my workplace belongs to.

On the work side, I was away from campus, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all related to CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana).

Now I have to write up two sets of minutes, plus an evaluation of the workshop.  Plus of course get back into the work swing of things!  Definitely no rest for some of us!

 

March bookish activities

March bookish activities

I did a fair bit of reading in March, but not much buying. Yet there were a lot of books and information related activities I was involved in.

I finished reading the following novels – no non-fiction during this month!

  • The particular sadness of lemon cake, by Aimee Bender [great title, but I have to admit I didn’t feel the content quite lived up to it]
  • The night circus, by Erin Morgenstern [really enjoyable, even though there were lots of questions unanswered at the end]
  • Skellig, by David Almond [classic teen story; a bit of a tearjerker perhaps]
  • The library of shadows, by Mikkel Birkegaard [another mystery/thriller which started off better than it ended]
  • Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi [detective story set in both the US and East Africa; not sure the ending was the right one, but well…]
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert [classic science fiction story, read for Accra Book Club. Remarkably prescient? I think I first read this more than 40 years ago!]

I didn’t buy much: two books at literary events, plus one visit to Vidya Bookstore which netted three books for me, and two Accra Book Club reads on my Kindle!

As for events related to themes dear to my heart, there were quite a few:,

  • A book slam, organized by AWDF (African Women’s Development Fund) and Alliance Francaise, with several well known African and Ghanaian writers reading excerpts from either their prose works or poetry. A great way to spend the evening of International Women’s Day!
  • Ghanaian author, Alex Agyei-Agyiri, read excerpts from one of his novels at the March Writers Project of Ghana event at Goethe Institut. I did buy one of his books, but I have to admit that I was not impressed by his actual reading – rather sad, as many authors are pretty good at reading their own work.
  • Earlier in the last week I gave a talk/presentation on “Literacy and me” for the Rotary Club of Ring Road Central. Basically I talked about reading, bookish events, and some of my work in information.  There was also a brief discussion  of Rotimi Babatunde’s Caine Prize winning short story “Bombay’s Republic”.
  • And last but not least, there was a work related meeting of CARLIGH –  a consortium of libraries here in Ghana, to which Ashesi belongs, followed at the end of the month with a gathering of academic librarians from all over Africa, brought together by the AAU to discuss progress on institutional and digital repositories.

I am not sure what April will be like… I rather tend to go with the flow…

February 2013 book/information related activities and reads

A very belated report on my February book/information related activities and reads

I only finished reading four books during February – interestingly all written by males, an even split between
fiction and non-fiction, with three having an African/ African diasporan/ Ghanaian focus.

  • Chicago, by Alaa al Aswamy [this was on my list for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge!  Stories of the Egyptian diaspora, mostly. Not as good as The Yacoubian building, in my opinion]
  • Pilgrims of the night – Development challenges and opportunities in Africa, edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah [essays on Africa, loosely connected with an environmental focus]
  • Yes, Chef , by Marcus Samuelsson [memoir by the famous Ethiopian/Swedish chef. Being a enthusiast of books about food, I enjoyed this!  So how can I actually visit his restaurant?]
  • A life apart, by Neel Mukherjee [prize-winning book which has been on my TBR shelf for a long time. A story split between India and the UK, the present and the beginning of the 20th century]

Fastest billion at AshesiBook buying, which of course followed physical visits to bookshops, as opposed to visits to online book sites,
was OK. I bought four non-fiction books (three with an African focus), two novels, two Tintin books (to add to the family collection)  and one collection of Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.

As for book events/activities I could count probably four – though the last one doesn’t strictly have to do with books, though it did involve librarians.

  1. The author of The fastest billion, Charles Robertson, came to Ashesi for a presentation (essentially taken from the book), and of course there were copies of the book for sale, so how could I resist? Plus sales from the book are benefiting Ashesi, so how could I resist?
  2. There was also the monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club – rather sparse in attendance this month, I do admit – with a discussion of Of Africa, by Wole Soyinka. Not the easiest of reads, controversial (naturally), and I have to admit that I have yet to finish this book, though I am not giving up.
  3. No Worries 4th editionThe other bookish activity is a little different. I am a member of NAWA  which raises money for projects through sale of its guide to Accra, No Worries. The first edition came out in 1997, and the most recent edition – the 4th – in 2010. As this is beginning to be out of date, despite several changes on the companion website, it is time to put out a new edition, especially as there are an increasing number of non-Ghanaians coming to live in Accra, who want to know what’s available in this city.  At the moment there are a group of NAWA members working on the new edition, checking and updating entries, adding new ones, selling ads, and so on. I am just a little cog, working with colleagues on a few sections, but it is pretty satisfying. And then there is a role in updating the website…
  4. Bookish matters have blended more into information and electronic ones, and the last activity I wanted to mention pertained to CARLIGH – Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana. Periodically CARLIGH organizes workshops for those working in member institutions (of which there are now nearly 30), and at the end of February there was a two-day event on “Searching e-resources”, which I helped to co-facilitate with a colleague from the University of Ghana, Legon.  Fun, because one always learns something new, and it is very relevant to what many librarians do nowadays.

February 2013 light-off at LapazAgain, my month was busier than I thought, though I still wish I could finish reading more books than I did.  But then there is the ever-present “light-off” phenomenon which has meant that we have only six days in February when the electricity stayed on for a full day! [the red writing indicates light-off]

A belated look at September 2012 book related activities

During September, I read – or more appropriately – finished reading six books:

  1. King Peggy – An American secretary, her royal destiny and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village, by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman [quite apt as it was about Ekumfi Otuam, the “hometown” of the late President of Ghana, Prof John Atta Mills]
  2. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, by Lola Shoneyin [a polygamous marriage has many secrets]
  3. Half-blood blues, by Esi Edugyan [read for Accra Book Club]
  4. Speechless – World history without words, by Polyp [graphic non-fiction; I confess I wasn’t always clear what was being depicted]
  5. Death and pain – Rawlings’ Ghana, the inside story, by Mike Adjei [aspects of Ghana’s history during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s]
  6. The bean trees, by Barbara Kingsolver [moving early novel by the well-known American author]

As is obvious by the titles above, there were more books with African/Ghanaian flavours/origins. Unusually for me there was an even mix between fiction and non-fiction.

In terms of bookish activities, it was a busy month, or rather the last ten days were very full. I had mentioned anticipating several activities in a previous post, and indeed I did go to all.

GAWBOFEST – Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival – did take place, and I did go. 21 September was a public holiday here in Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday). But I didn’t stay long, bought a few books, and left, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very well, even though I had heard that the President, John Mahama, was coming to read from his recently published book, My first coup d’etat. I was very sorry to have missed that reading, but I was very happy that it took place in what was a relatively informal and non-political forum.

The next week, 25 – 29 September, was the 11th Ghana International Book Fair, held this year at the National Theatre. I went round the stands on a couple of days, and didn’t buy much, mainly because I had seen what I wanted at GAWBOFEST. But I was glad to attend the formal book launch of the Burt award 2011 books, and did buy the pack of three books:

  1. The kaya girl, by Mamle Wolo
  2. The lost royal treasure, by Ruby Yayra Goka
  3. Akosua & Osman, by Manu Herbstein

For an interesting and challenging perspective on the Book Fair and writing for children here in Ghana, see Mikelle on Education’s post.

Another entertaining reading took place at the Goethe Institut, where Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo read excerpts from two of his books, as part of the Writers Project of Ghana Ghana Voices series:

  1. The ghost of Sani Abacha
  2. Diaries of a dead African

Nwokolo was entertaining and amusing, and the audience obliged with lots of questions and laughter, and of course we bought his books!

The rest of the week involved a regular monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club, plus a meeting of CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana)…

And not too surprisingly I did buy a few books: one gift, three books for work, and nine for myself! The TBR shelves continue to grow!

Literacy, information and reading

Quite a lot coming up this week:

Discussion/brainstorming on a Literacy manifesto for Ghana takes place – but though I’ve been invited to attend, unfortunately I will be out of the office for more than half the week, so that has to be a pass. But it is very interesting nonetheless, especially as the initiative has come from an NGO rather than a government organization or ministry.

For three days I will be attending a workshop organized by CARLIGH and INASP on Open Source Software for Libraries. I am not an IT person, but I feel I should know what is out there to recommend to those who can do all the tekkie side. And if it does get a bit technical, well, who says one can’t learn something new?

On a personal note, Accra Book Club will be discussing Alan Bennett’s The uncommon reader, a short comic or satirical novel about reading, public life, the British monarchy and the distractions that books can provide. It should be fun.

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.