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.

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!

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!  

Recent books, libraries and information events

The last couple of weeks have been full of events related to books, reading, libraries and information, so
maybe I should take a bit of time to mention some of them.

The first two were what I would call “regulars”:

Ghana Voices, which part of the Writers Project of Ghana , featured prize-winning author Elizabeth-Irene Baitie reading from her latest novel for teens, The twelfth heart,  a boarding school based story. This was the evening that Accra suffered floods, so the audience wasn’t as large as expected, but Baitie is not only a good reader, but enthusiastic about both her writing, and her professional work. I already had a copy of the book, so at least I managed to get the author’s autograph, plus it has moved from a TBR shelf to my desk, which is definitely up on my priority list.

Accra Book Club had its monthly gathering, and this time the book was Ann Patchett’s widely acclaimed book,
State of wonder, which interesting enough I think we all read on Kindles! Although we were all somewhat critical of certain aspects of the book, that didn’t detract from its being a good choice for a book discussion. Our next discussion will be Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so I’ve started that – again on my Kindle.

The last three are more work and professionally oriented:

One of the Africa representatives of Elsevier,  a large
publisher of STM (science, technology and medicine) books, journals and other materials, did a presentation
of several of their database products, including ScienceDirect and Scopus . It was obviously a sales pitch, but still interesting
nonetheless. And a good opportunity to meet three colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while. The only thing
which upset me was the fact that twenty-seven people had signed up to attend, but only ten actually came!

I also did a quick visit to the 10th Ghana International Book Fair, which took place at the Ghana
International Trade Fair. As I went in the afternoon, there were large numbers of schoolchildren in uniform
around – some looking at books, the odd ones reading some, and others just rejoycing in being at the Fair on
an officially sanctioned outing. I didn’t buy much – as most of the books available are either textbooks,
supporting material for basic education, or books for children. I did want some dictionaries but couldn’t
find the variety I was looking for. I wasn’t happy.

The last event was the Ghana Library Association Seminar and AGM – a one day event which alternates every
year with a two day Congress and AGM at which elections are held. This year’s event was held a bit earlier
than usual – to coincide with the GIBF – whose theme did include libraries, after all – and was held at the
Ghana International Trade Fair. Close to a hundred librarians from all over Ghana gathered to discuss the
future of libraries, and how our own association will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012. There was lots
of interaction between friends and colleagues, though as usual there were many issues left unresolved.

Now I have to catch up with work!

Are there any Ghanaian librarians blogging out there?

All right, I don’t mind being one of a few, but I do wonder whether there are any Ghanaian librarians blogging out there?  I have looked, but with not a whole lot of success.  That could be my fault – in which case I have some definite issues with my searching skills – but I suspect that there aren’t many of us, or perhaps they are not blogging about libraries, librarians and books?  Is this a reflection of what we are, or maybe aren’t, passionate about?

All right, I am including myself in the group of Ghanaian librarians, which I hope is permitted.  I even posted something on the Ghana Library Association website’s forums, but no response yet, though that doesn’t really surprise me, I guess.

So far I have found the following, whom I proudly publicize:

Christian from Lolobi-Kumasi‘s blog is mostly but not exclusively photos.  I did mention to him, that a little more text would be nice.

Another more recently discovered one is the Interesting information professional blog, which I learned about at a recent workshop.  It seems as if it is tied to work at KNUST in Kumasi, more than anything else.

I guess I firmly believe that we librarians need not only to be aware of Web 2.0 tools such as blogging (among others), but we need to use them, and to promote ourselves and the skills and knowledge many of us have.

If the information I provide to colleagues, faculty or students is relevant,  interesting and/or even just  fun, I think I am performing part of my job.  And it is not so different from asking someone whether they’ve seen the latest copy of this or that magazine, or a particular new work in their field.

Are we training for the 21st century?

I don’t usually talk too much about work in this blog, though I do not hide the fact that I am a librarian both by occupation and profession.

During the last few weeks I’ve been almost a “one-man band” or should I say “one-woman band” at work, as one of my colleagues has left for “greener pastures”.  I wasn’t quite alone, as of course there were work-study students around at odd hours, and also a second set of students on practical attachment from the Department of Information Studies (DIS) at the University of Ghana, Legon.

This was the second pair who had spent time with us, and I found the contrast in their attitude to their practicals to be worth comment.   One of them didn’t even show up until well into day 2, and given that we had a public holiday, this meant he missed almost a quarter of the time here, but it didn’t seem to matter to him.  He said he had been sick, but had not bothered to find out the phone number of his “partner” or even of the institution he was supposed to be visiting.  Yet this is the same person who has worked in a library for several years, and dare I say, of whom one might have expected more?  Or maybe that is precisely why he couldn’t be bothered; maybe he felt he wouldn’t learn anything new?

The other person was around – more or less on time – and tried to keep in touch, if she was going to be late.  Similarly she seemed to be full of questions, and comments about the lack of customer service on the part of people working in libraries in Ghana.

I wondered what would happen to these two students when they left the University of Ghana – one to go back to a job, the other to find one – and what their attitudes would be in their workplaces.

On a more basic level, I got the impression, as we interacted, that a lot of the curriculum and the actual teaching being done at the Diploma level  in the Dept of Information Studies is quite “conservative” and dare I say, a little “old-fashioned”?  I am not saying that everyone should be using PowerPoint, or talking about blogs, but I do expect that students who are ultimately going to be working in some kind of customer service environment which is likely to be dependent on ICTs should have at least heard of some of the contemporary developments.  I was also surprised to hear that there is actually a course in “library automation”, which is exactly the same heading for a course which I did thirty five years ago at the University of Ibadan.  Are these students really being prepared to work in a 21st century environment?

In a more general way, the feedback from students actually made me wonder how much interaction there is between the Department of Information Studies and employers of their “products”.  Does the Department have mechanisms in place for getting feedback on what our expectations are? on what skills we require postgraduates, graduates or diplomates to have?  These could be by face-to-face interaction, hard copy questionnaires, focus groups, even group discussions.  Maybe there are discussions between DIS and the Ghana Library Association?  But if so, are these shared with members?

Of course, curriculum design is not part of our job as an employer, but I think increasingly it is a feature of the modern world that institutions of higher education cannot exist in theoretical vacuum.  What is the point of running professional courses, which are aimed at satisfying the future manpower needs of a particular profession or occupation, without an explicit consciousness that the future will be different from the present?

2009 GLA Seminar and AGM

On Friday 20 November 2009 I spent the whole day out of the office, attending the 2009 Ghana Library Association (GLA) Seminar and Annual General Meeting (AGM). For some reason while I was at British Council I didn’t make a very concerted effort to attend these annual events, except when they took place at the BC. It is an omission which I do regret, as I think it is important to stay in touch with one’s professional colleagues.

Every two years the GLA event and AGM takes place over two days, while on the alternative years, it is a one-day affair. 2009 was one of the latter years, so everything took place on one day, and as is not unusual here, there were a lot fewer people present at the afternoon event, as opposed to the official opening, and paper in the morning.

As usual I got to the venue early, but there were some people there already – mostly members of the GLA executive – but it was good to have quite a while to sort out matters like stuffing papers into files, checking that the projector which the Goethe Institut had brought worked properly, and was in the best position for a presentation, and so on. Altogether attendance was fairly good – over a hundred, and people spent much of the pre-official time talking to friends and generally keeping in touch.

It was quite a surprise that the Minister of Education, Alex Tettey-Enyo, was actually early, but as all the key people were around, there was the usual Ghanaian opening ceremony, with a prayer, introduction of key people, and then various speeches. TG none of them was too long. Interestingly enough the Minister of [or is it for?] Environment, Science and Technology, Sherry Aryeetey, also came in for a while. Not sure exactly why, though I was aware that she would be attending another conference in the same venue. But she too was pretty supportive of libraries. Tettey-Enyo did say that there was a need for new skills and competencies, and “that [it was] people not technology that create value for knowledge”. There were also speeches by the Director of the Goethe Institut (which sponsored the new GLA website) and of course by the current President of the GLA.

I did wonder what people watching and listening thought about the new GLA website, as I didn’t see anyone come up after the initial opening ceremony to say “let me see… can I try?” Maybe people felt a little inhibited?

The formal presentation was by Nii Tackie, a Lecturer at the Dept of Information Studies at the University of Ghana on “Life long learning: the role of libraries” which was the theme of the whole event. Personally I was a little frustrated at the manner of delivery as well as the content. Tackie did apologize for the lack of a PowerPoint presentation – due to “light off” at a crucial time the previous day – and said he would not read the whole of the fourteen page paper, which he didn’t. But to me, without a copy of the paper in front of me to read, it was somewhat frustrating. The content was very much a literature review in my opinion, and I would have thought it would have been more appropriate to tell the audience present to read the paper for this part, and then directly home in on the relevant bits – which were issues to do with the applicability of the seminar theme to Ghana and/or elsewhere in Africa. There were some questions, but not very many.

The business sections of the AGM were fairly straightforward: President, Secretary and Treasurer’s reports, plus one from the Editor of the Ghana Library Journal . The only real controversy came up over whether or not the names of members should be published in the newspapers, and when this could take place. I was a little surprised at how passionate many people were about this issue, and realized upon reflection that this is often the practice for professional associations and groups in Ghana, and a way of giving a very public credibility to members.

Overall I felt that the executive and organizers had obviously put a lot of work into making this event happen, but I did wonder how much the participants got out of it – professionally and intellectually.Does the format of having a very high table, and the rest on the lower level, promote interaction?  Similarly the theatre style seating doesn’t really encourage a lot of people giving feedback. Would it be possible to have presentations to smaller groups – who could then report to the larger assembly, or something along these lines?

Thoughts I admit, not really actions, but worth following up?