PLA welcomes African librarians to U.S. for international leadership learning exchange

This March, in tandem with the association’s Spring 2019 Leadership Academy, the Public Library Association (PLA) hosted twelve librarians from Africa for an international leadership learning exchange and immersion experience. It also served as the capstone event for the first graduating class of the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions’ (AfLIA) leadership academy.

With funding and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PLA had partnered with AfLIA to develop an academy for African public librarians. The kickoff event for the inaugural AfLIA Leadership Academy (AfLAc) cohort was held Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2018. Eleven librarians from seven countries participated in the first cohort, and nine of them made the trip to the U.S.—accompanied by three AfLIA leadership coaches—for the capstone event.

“The purpose of the exchange was to create connections between AfLIA and PLA Leadership Academy participants while demonstrating to African librarians how U.S. public libraries meet community needs,” explains Mary Hirsh, PLA deputy director of programs. “We wanted to explore leadership models in different contexts, as well as the role of leadership in developing innovative services.”

Left: Bakary Sanyang and Adonia Katungisa listen intently during the Leadership Academy presentations. Right: Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa participates in discussions at the PLA Leadership Academy.

The AfLIA leaders spent the first day of their week-long trip attending PLA Leadership Academy sessions in Chicago, IL. There, they learned about PLA’s new Leadership Model and heard illustrative stories from the field. That evening the AfLIA cohort joined their U.S. counterparts for an evening of improvisational comedy-based communication and networking exercises at Chicago’s The Second City Training Center.

Left: Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa (2nd from left) and Bakary Sanyang (2nd from right) engage in an improvisational comedy exercise with Leadership Academy participants Amita Lonial (far left) and Midori Clark (far right). Right: The AfLIA group gathers for a photo at The Second City Training Center. Back row (left to right): Adonia Katungisa, Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa, Victoria Isaacks, Dr. Nkem Osuigwe, Jacinta Were, Miriam Wangari Mureithi, Pranisha Parag, and Guy Ebenezer Amarteifio. Front row (left to right): Beatrice Ampadu, Bakary Sanyang, Barbra Apolot, and Katrina Ndeshipanda Shikuni.

For the rest of the week, the AfLIA cohort split from the U.S. librarians to tour four public libraries in Illinois and Wisconsin. They visited Madison (WI) Public Library, Columbus (WI) Public Library, Skokie (IL) Public Library, and the Chicago Public Library's Chinatown branch. Some of the areas the African librarians were most interested learning about included non-book-based services, supporting patrons’ creativity and personal expression, and service to vulnerable populations.

Left: Skokie Public Library Young Adult Services Supervisor Laurel Johnson shows the library’s mobile device charging station to Dr. Nkem Osuigwe. Right: Skokie Public Library’s Amy Holcomb (on right) shows Miriam Wangari Mureithi the BOOMbox, an interactive space designed to promote STEAM learning for all ages.

“The African library leaders returned home with a new sense of purpose and confidence in leading their libraries and communities forward,” adds Hirsh. “PLA is proud to partner with AfLIA and to coordinate leadership exchanges with our African counterparts.”

The AfLIA group poses with their AFLAC graduation certificates. Shown here (left to right) are Bakary Sanyang, Director of Bibliographic Services, The Gambia National Library Service Authority (The Gambia); Adonia Katungisa, Director, National Library of Uganda (Uganda); Beatrice Ampadu, Senior Librarian, Ghana Library Authority, Lartebiokorshie Branch (Ghana); Miriam Wangari Mureithi, Principal Librarian, Kenya National Library Services, Thika (Kenya); Victoria Isaacks, Librarian, Namibia Library and Archives Service (Namibia); Barbra Apolot, Librarian, National Library of Uganda (Uganda); Katrina Ndeshipanda Shikuni, Senior Librarian, Outapi Community Library (Namibia); Pranisha Parag, Principal Librarian, Msunduzi Municipal Library (South Africa); and Guy Ebenezer Amarteifio, Regional Librarian – Greater Accra, Ghana Library Authority (Ghana).

Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)

50 E. Huron, Chicago, IL 60611

1-800-545-2433, ext. 5PLA (5752)


Photos by Tori Soper

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