United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library

Pretoria South AfricaCreating Partnerships with Libraries in Africa: Regional Workshop to Promote Knowledge Sharing, 17-20 March 2009, Pretoria, South Africa

View photographs of the Workshop

This workshop was organized by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, Outreach Division, DPI, in cooperation with the United Nations Information Centre Pretoria, South Africa.

The objective of the workshop was to bring together fifteen UN depository librarians from ten English-speaking countries of Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa,  Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to discuss the change of depository libraries from passive collectors of UN documentation to active participants in promoting information on global issues. 

Through the cooperation of the DPI Strategic Communications Division (SCD) staff from six UNIC Reference Libraries located in the region (Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lusaka, Nairobi, Pretoria and Windhoek) were also able to participate. Participation of both UNIC and depository library representatives is key to building a network of partners with an interest in promoting UN information and information on global issues in the region.

The facilitators (speakers) included representatives from the Dag Hammarskjöld Library of the United Nations and from UNIC Pretoria, South Africa.

Presentations included discussion of the evolving role for libraries and new directions for depository libraries as partners in promoting global issues and sources of information about these issues.  An Officer-in Charge of UNIC Pretoria provided the view from outside the traditional library world and suggested that in Africa because of the growing presence of smart phones throughout the continent, their lower cost, lower energy use and increased capabilities, that libraries should look to this technology as an especially strong way of reaching out to stakeholders.  He noted that this technology offered the ability to personalize notices and provide targeted outreach and information services through a relatively inexpensive medium.

 The workshop included presentations on specific research tools related to UN documentation and other UN information resources along with hands-on learning sessions.  Group discussions on possible cooperative actions and outreach activities that could be the basis of an action plan were a valuable part of the programme. 

A highlight was a visit to the newly opened South Africa National Library which was holding Open House Week during South African Library Week.  Participants were greeted by the National Librarian of South Africa, Mr. John K. Tsebe and given a tour of the impressive state of the art facilities at the National Library.

In their evaluations, the participants have found the workshop very useful, especially practical hands-on sessions on United Nations databases, advanced search skills, tips and technique on the effective UN information retrieval

Outcome and Recommendations:

Participants shared ideas about possible outreach activities.  The focus was on ideas that would promote interest in global UN issues and encourage the use of UN information for purposes of multiple groups.  There was discussion about UNIC staff working closely with depository libraries and even cooperating on some events or projects.

Some of the ideas put forward include:

  • Closer and more frequent cooperation between UNICs and Depository Libraries
  • Lectures or speakers coupled with displays
  • Student debates
  • Book displays
  • Tie library events to other public efforts whether – example Library Week, Earth Day and UN special days and invite participation around a theme.
  • Partner with other institutions that share a theme – ex. Publishers and libraries and literacy or copyright.
  • Work with Model UN participants
  • Programmes for young children

Support to be provided from UN:

  • List of UN days, commemorations and other events
  • Posters or other Public relations materials on desired themes in advance of events so that they arrive in advance of programmes.
  • Although there is a preference for in-person training, participants would willingly try interactive online training if this were to be available.
  • Provide a guide to key UN publications and online services
  • DHL and UNICs should work more closely to ensure that depository libraries are a part of the UN’s outreach efforts.
  • The UN should review the dissemination of materials to depository libraries to review the policy and processes and to ensure a more timely and targeted approach.

This is the fifth workshop since 2006 that has discussed with depository libraries a change in the role of UN depository libraries to include a greater partnership role.  The immediate feedback from all workshops has been favorable.  

The UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library will follow up with participants to determine what impact the programmes have had in their management of the collections, their promotion of the information resources and if there has been a resulting increase in contact and cooperation with UN offices in the regions covered.   

In conjunction with the 2008 biennial review of the depository library programme and the discussions from these workshops the DHL will create an action plan that will suggest possible changes to the distribution methods, propose  improvements in the  communications with Depository Libraries and increased and targeted partnerships.