First IFLA in Africa Inspires Delegates

By Riss Fang, Josephine | American Libraries, November 1984 | Go to article overview

First IFLA in Africa Inspires Delegates


Riss Fang, Josephine, American Libraries


First IFLA in Africa inspires delegates

DELEGATES ATTENDING THE 50TH General Conference of IFLA in Nairobi. August 19-25, were well aware of the historic occasion: For the first time in its 57-year existence, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions met on African soil. It was only the second meeting in what is considered a developing country; the first was 1980 in Manila. The conference theme--"The Basis of Library and Information Services for National Development' --focused on the need for effective library services and their support by governments in developing countries.

Ever since extending an official invitation at Copenhagen in 1979, Jafred S. Musisi, president of the Kenya Library Association and chair of the Local Organizing Committee, had labored with a dedicated group of colleagues to make the conference a success. Their efforts were well rewarded: after a week of intensive programs, working sessions, discussions, and cultural and social activities, delegates generally rated this conference as one that had confronted them with the issues and concerns of the Third World. ALA President E. J. Josey, who headed a group of ALA Black Caucus members for a pre-conference seminar with the Kenya Library Association, observed: "Many of us do not understand the difficulties in which libraries in the Third World work.'

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is still the "Green City in the Sun,' with high-rises, international offices, and luscious tropical gardens in modern hotels, despite the great drought in Africa. Good will and pleasant weather prevailed throughout the conference. Librarians could visit Nairobi libraries and choose excursions to see the area's famous wildlife and scenery. Many participated in safaris or took time to shop for Akamba wood carvings, Kisii stone scuptures, or the popular Kenya bags, which were distributed to each registrant. Festive receptions took place in the Parliament Building and the American Cultural Center, site of an Electronic Age Book Exhibit.

A memorable evening at the home of Library of Congress Field Service Director James C. Armstrong, and another one featuring the colorful dances of the Bomas of Kenya, offered relaxation and informal exchanges.

Third World challenges

The Government of Kenya--used to international meetings at the modern, sprawling Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC)--was represented by several high officials. Vice President Mwai Kibakii, opening the first Plenary Session, set the tone for the conference in an eloquent, pointed speech. He encouraged libraries in developing countries to promote children's reading habits and adult education, while being aware of the important role of oral tradition.

Some current challenges facing Kenya are the high cost of producing reading materials (there was much talk of strengthening indigenous publishing in the Third World), the use of modern technology for the storage of available material, and conditions in rural areas making teaching and literacy more difficult. These points were emphasized by P. R. Kinyanjui (Kenya), who called librarians "adult educators par excellence.' Kinyanjui voiced a special concern of the Third World, namely that "by the year 2000 the world will be divided by those who have access to relevant information and those who have not.'

Among the estimated 800 participants were a large number from developing countries and representatives from Unesco, FID. ICA, and other international organizations, with a good number of delegates from the United States.

Exhibits by local bookstores, publishers, and other enterprises were spread throughout the Conference Centre. The forthcoming 1985 IFLA Conference in Chicago was heralded by a handsome poster display. Brochures described the first "World Conference on Continuing Education for Library and Information Science Professionals,' organized by ALA and the IFLA Section on Library Schools for August 1985. …

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