8 March 2013

BSLA: Swedish Library Association and Kenya Library Association in close cooperation

In August 2012, during the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Helsinki, the Swedish Library Association and Kenya Library Association signed a five year cooperation agreement.


The Swedish Library Association has always kept a strong international engagement. The most important objective of the cooperation in Kenya is to strengthen Kenya Library Association (KLA) so that the necessary development of the Kenyan libraries can take place in the country and with support from The Swedish Library Association. It is therefore not a question of aid but a question of cooperation.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. Therefore it is important for the Swedish Library Association that this project will take place in close connection with IFLA in general and especially with the IFLA Building Strong Library Associations programme.

The concentration on Kenya was chosen because it is a focus country both for The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and IFLA, but also for the good possibilities of cooperation.

IFLA Building Strong Library Associations programme

Building Strong Library Associations (BSLA) is a comprehensive IFLA programme offering a strategic and coordinated approach to capacity building and sustainability of library associations. Strong library associations support and enrich society and the library and information profession. They unite a country’s library community around a common platform for advocacy and development of the profession.

BSLA helps library associations to:

  • Improve services for library users
  • Provide equitable access to information
  • Advance the library and information profession

Programme activities include training and mentoring which helps associations to form partnerships, strengthen governance and member services, and to become better advocates for their library community. Training and activities are customized to the objectives of library associations, and for different cultural, political, technological and social conditions.

However, the project will not use the whole BSLA programme, but will from the beginning focus on three main areas – Libraries on the Agenda, Libraries in Society and Sustaining Associations.

Pre-study and visits

In May and June 2011 representatives from Sweden visited Kenya. During the visit they met at libraries around Nairobi and Mombasa, with the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) but also Swedish authorities and organisations to learn more about Kenya. They also took part in the KLA annual conference.

During the different library visits, they had a great time learning and discussing library matters around Kenya concerning university libraries, public libraries, school libraries as well as corporate libraries. This travel to Kenya gave a wide perspective of matters important to our future common focus. During the annual conference representatives were invited to present the Swedish Library Association, but also how Swedish libraries in general work.

In March 2012 Swedish Library Association arranged a workshop in Stockholm, Sweden for 8 representatives and colleagues from Kenya. The main task for the workshop was to introduce the BSLA program and discuss the future common work. During the days in Stockholm they also had the opportunity to meet with local librarians and the Kenyan embassy.

In October and November 2012, representatives from Sweden once again visited Nairobi and the KLA annual conference this year in Kisumu. During the days in Nairobi, they had time to take part in KLA’s plan to recruit an executive officer in their new office in Nairobi. They were also invited to a stakeholder forum arranged by KNLS to discuss the development of the library system in Kenya.

During meetings with the Ministry of State for National Heritage & Culture we were also convinced that the cooperation between Sweden and Kenya is appreciated and that they also will support the development of Kenyan libraries.

During the annual conference in Kisumu a workshop based on the BSLA program was presented for all conference delegates. The Swedish marketing campaign Library Lovers was also introduced.

Common focus

Engagement from many different stakeholders is important for a successful project. Therefore representatives from the Swedish Library Association and KLA together have met representatives from Government offices, KNLS and other important stakeholders. This is to discuss how we all together can secure wide and broad-based engagement for this project.

One of the most important goals for KLA during this project is to establish a strategic plan. Such a plan will show how KLA can work to build a stronger library association than ever. The Strategic plan needs to state in what way KLA can work with dissemination, advocacy, marketing, development, long term financing, stakeholders, working groups, different libraries, but also how KLA can gain approval for their work in the society, by members and others.

Another important goal for KLA is to establish a staffed office in Nairobi. The reason for this is to have the means to develop the organisation, work with marketing, advocacy and information towards stake holders, members and citizens throughout the country.

The future

It is important that lessons and experiences from the activities are spread in the whole of Kenya. The good example to follow for this is IFLA`s “train the trainers” model.

The annual KLA conferences in Kenya will be natural occasions for holding workshops.

As a result of our cooperation other contacts through which the library associations can act as intermediaries are possible. Swedish libraries can in the long run form partnerships with Kenyan libraries, Swedish LIS students will be able to apply for grants to visit, study and work as volunteers in Kenyan libraries, workshops and seminars will be held, study tours arranged, representation in different library and other relevant contexts can be established. We already know that there are local initiatives taken and cooperation started.

But it’s not only a question of Swedish visits in Kenya. We hope that Kenyan colleagues also will visit the Swedish Library Association’s annual conferences to give Swedish librarians inspiration for coooperation.

Further information

Please contact
Leif Mårtensson leif.martensson@umea.se project manager, or
Niclas Lindberg, Secretary General, Swedish Library Association nl@biblioteksforeningen.org
Wiviann Wilhelmsson, Swedish Library Association, ww@biblioteksforeningen.org
Christina Tovoté, gctovote@tele2.se

LDP (Library Development Programme), Associations, Kenya, Sweden, Building Strong Library Associations

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