Working towards common goals

Case study


Module 4: Developing Strategic Relationships: Partnerships and Fundraising


Topic 6: Partnerships


Many library associations in developing countries face immense challenges due to the lack of resources and infrastructure. In 1999, the Uganda Library Association (ULA) embarked on a planning process that involved developing a series of strategic priorities, supported by five subcommittees to implement the program of activities. The association also established a number of alliances with other agencies to collaboratively achieve common goals. The case study outlines the steps taken by the ULA in the planning process and highlights some of the key achievements.

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The value of building strategic relationships
  2. The importance of linking the association’s planning process with coalition building
  3. The role a library association can play in building networks of support
  4. The benefits of being a member of a library association


The Uganda Library Association (ULA) was founded in 1972, following the dissolution of the East African Library Association (EALA) in 1970. The EALA had a regional focus incorporating Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The early years of the ULA coincided with the military dictatorship of Idi Amin, with civil freedoms barred, making it a very difficult time for librarians and for the embryonic association. Under the new government in 1986, civil societies began to emerge again and there was a strong focus in the country on books, publishing and access to information.

The Executive Committee (EC) is central to the association’s organisational structure and its activities. EC members are all volunteers, elected for a two year term with the opportunity to serve for two terms. Over time, there had been little consistency in the management of the association’s affairs. In 1999 the association embarked on a major planning exercise.


In 1999, the Uganda Library Association (ULA) commenced its planning process with a SWOT analysis to map the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In consultation with members, a two year strategic plan was developed with the aim of integrating libraries and information centres into the daily lives of the Ugandan people, so that information could be utilised as a stimulus to development in the country.

Eight key objectives were identified:

  • To establish and maintain a Secretariat for the ULA
  • To initiate and promote a culture of income generation for Library and Information Institutions.
  • To lay strategies for nationwide membership drives and campaigns.
  • To promote and offer opportunities for professional development of Library and Information Science practitioners
  • To promote access to information to members of ULA and the general public
  • To promote and influence positive legislation and policy formulation in the field of Library Information Science
  • To design and implement community outreach activities
  • To cooperate and network with both local and international bodies with an interest in any of the activities of ULA.

The ULA and the government enjoy a good working relationship and the Ugandan Minister of Information in the President’s Office officially launched the project, helping the association solicit both the goodwill and the political support of the government to guide the implementation of the two-year program of activities.

The program priority areas included membership growth, capacity building, marketing and promotion, policy development and community outreach. A number of subcommittees were established, with member of the EC appointed to each so that there were good channels of communication with the EC itself. Members of the association were then encouraged to join the subcommittees, with their experience and expertise appropriately aligned. The subcommittees focused on a series of strategic initiatives:

  • Education, Training and Research
  • Legislative and Policy Issues
  • Community Outreach
  • Publicity and International Relations
  • Editorial and Publications

Resourcing was a major issue for the ULA. Like many professional organisations, particularly in the developing world, the association had no fulltime paid staff and few facilities to support its activities. One of the key strategies for the ULA was to seek alliances with organisations that shared similar visions, had networks or infrastructure that the ULA lacked, or were involved in areas of influence that were outlined in the ULA’s strategic plan.

Alliances were consequently formed with the following organsiations:

  • The National Book Trust of Uganda (NABOTU)
  • This is an umbrella organisation for stakeholders in the Ugandan book industry. Its interest in literacy meant it was a logical strategic partner to help the ULA achieve its stated literacy objectives. Through the NABOTU links were forged with Ugandan publishers, booksellers, reading associations, Public Libraries Board, Ugandan Women’s Network and Kampala Children’s Library; all important stakeholders in the drive to improve literacy in its many forms in Uganda.

  • The East African School of Library and Information Science (EASLIS)
  • As this is one of the oldest and leading LIS training institutions in East and Central Africa, many library professionals are graduates of this institution and these graduates constitute the majority of ULA’s membership. The school administration of Makerere University where EASLIS is resident offered space, academic and clerical assistance to ULA to facilitate professional workshops and seminars. The Library Services and Institute of Computer Science at Makerere University also made their resources available to the ULA. This collaboration was mutually beneficial.

  • The School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), University of Oklahoma
  • The SLIS offered to host ULA’s website. The costs of internet access and hosting are high in Africa and this support ensured the ULA had a global web presence.

  • Business collaborations
  • The association established relationships with relevant government agencies and companies dealing library-related materials. These collaborations gave the subcommittees the opportunity to consult on legislation and policy applicable to library services, for example for school libraries and for outreach programs. Companies which were invited to exhibit their products at ULA meetings extended financial and moral support in the form of donations and advertisements in ULA publications which directly supported the publications program and generated additional income for the association.

In recent years ULA has strengthened their role in advocacy and has contributed to the introduction of new legislation such as Freedom of Information, Copyright and the National Library Act, as well as driving policy in the areas of school libraries and eGovernment. In 2004, the ULA became the Ugandan Library and Information Association (ULIA) and hosted the Africa Copyright Forum Conference in November 2005, leading to the establishment of the Africa Copyright and Access to Information Alliance (ACAIA). The current executive of the association is adopting the planning process to ensure continuity of purpose and implementation of the project work. This has helped build further strategic relationships with diplomatic missions, universities and international agencies.


As a result of the strategic planning activities and a coordinated approach to program development, the ULA was able to successfully negotiate a number of collaborative initiatives that have increased the profile of the association, attracting new members and generating increased revenue. Later strategies aimed to effectively engage the interests of government and community leaders and to attract media coverage which would further increase the profile of the association and draw public attention to library and information issues. Collaboration and partnership building can help library associations address the problems of inadequate resourcing and manage their future.


  1. If this library association did not have a well developed plan, do you believe they would have attracted support or sponsorship from other organisations?
  2. Would your library association give money or resources to an organisation that did not have clearly defined goals and strategies and management plans? Can you explain why it might or might not offer support?
  3. Does your library association have a plan that could help attract support and collaboration?
  4. Does your association’s strategic plan incorporate strategies to build partnerships with other organizations? If not, what do you think could be changed?
  5. Can you identify some of the organisations or associations that could be potential collaborators or supporters of your association’s strategic plan?

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: Uganda
Region: Africa
Agency: Uganda Library Association (ULA), Uganda Library and Information Association (ULIA)
Topic: Planning the association
Keywords: planning, strategic planning, partnerships, collaboration, advocacy


Kawooya, D. (2001) Management prospects and challenges of library associations in Africa: The case for Uganda Library Association and the Library and Information Association of South Africa. World Libraries, 11(1/2), 39-55. Available as an online resource at

Batambuze, C. (2005). Building a vibrant library association: The case of Uganda. Innovation, 31, 29-36. Available as an online resource at

Associations, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012