Dean’s Corner: Travels to Africa

Every year, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) hosts a general conference where leaders in the global library community gather together to exchange ideas, network with fellow delegates and share the latest advancements in librarianship. This is a conference I relish attending as over the years I have formed valuable relationships and learned a great deal from my colleagues around the world.IFLA%20LOGO-Colour_no-text[1]

My direct involvement with IFLA began in 2001, when I gave a poster presentation for the Metropolitan New York Library Council at IFLA’s Boston conference.  My current role is as a member of the Knowledge Management (KM) Standing Committee, after serving two four-year terms as chair of the section.  This section was approved as a part of IFLA in 2003, with objectives to: support the implementation of KM culture in libraries and information environments; provide an international platform for professional communication and understanding of the significance of KM for librarians and their institutions; and follow the developments in KM and promote its practical implementation within the IFLA community.

This year’s IFLA conference took place in Cape Town, South Africa.  This was my first visit to Africa and I was eager to make the trip.  One of the benefits of working and participating in the global library community is the opportunity to travel to new places, attend conferences, conduct site visits and to explore the libraries and universities of my international colleagues.

The day before the conference began, I participated in a day long satellite meeting, “Knowledge Management and Innovation in 21st Century Library and Information Services in Africa.”  For the next week I attended sessions and met with various fellow attendees. Through these learning opportunities, I was able to catch up with my American colleagues and meet and engage with a broad range of librarians and information professionals across the world.  One of these collaborations was a proposal to establish a Digital Humanities (DH) / Digital Scholarship (DS) special interest group, known as IFLA SIG.  With the completion of my recent global DS/DH research project sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, it is an excellent time for me to share my experience with the IFLA community. The new SIG will fill a gap for a global DS/DH discussion forum at IFLA, as DH/DS has become increasingly important to library and information professionals.


The Knowledge Management (KM) Standing Committee at IFLA in Cape Town, South Africa

Currently, we are obtaining multiple signatures of support from the IFLA membership to establish this group in time for the 2016 IFLA conference, which is scheduled for next August, in Columbus, Ohio.

After leaving South Africa, I traveled to the University of Botswana (UB).


The main library of the University of Botswana, in Gaborone, Botswana

Xuemao in Botswana

Outside the UB Library

Once there, I met with the library director Edwin Qobose and his senior management, gave talks about UC Libraries, the Health Sciences Library (HSL), and UC Libraries’ strategic planning and implementation to their management committee, and met with other university administrators, including the Dean of Medicine. We discussed potential collaborations between our universities which extend beyond a collaboration with HSL.

The library facility at UB is world class – one of the largest and most advanced university libraries in Africa.  During our discussions, they expressed an interest in learning more from us about collection development, staff training, engaging space design, faculty partnership, digitization strategy, and technology integrations.


With Library Director Edwin Qobose (far right) and his senior management team

I concluded my visit by inviting Director Qobose to visit UC Libraries when he comes to Columbus for IFLA next year.