A Model for Community Participation in African libraries.
Written by Betsie Greyling
(This paper was presented at the Knowledge Management Africa Conference in Nairobi, 15-17 July, 2007. It was also adapted and presented at the KCTOS Conference in Vienna, 6-9 December 2007. An article published in Information Studies 14(2): 71-84, April 2008 was based on this paper.)
Africa and African libraries and information centres are poorly equipped to make a meaningful contribution to the current global digital knowledge economy. The lack of management systems for indigenous knowledge perpetuates the low local content on the Web, retards buy-in from local communities into digital resources and inhibits digital skills development. Afro-centric Libraries and Information Services should include provision of indigenous knowledge resources. The paper discusses a model for community participation in establishing a digital library of indigenous knowledge. It focuses on public libraries and aims to create a virtual resource that is in step with the global information society while at the same time empowering citizens through preservation of indigenous knowledge and through development of digital skills.
The model creates a platform using existing library infrastructure from where the project is carried out to communities. A multi-pronged approach uses community workers to collect oral and visual material, community members are taught how to add local content to the World Wide Web at the local library, and the library acts as moderator and custodian of the indigenous knowledge resource. A proviso of the model is free public Internet access at the library and the use of social Web 2.0 technology. People of all social and age groups are employed to steer the programme at ground level while volunteer contributions to the database is encouraged. This provides the potential for collaboration from the whole community.
The model will provide a virtual library resource of local indigenous knowledge, freely accessible to all members of the community. Availability of local content on the Web will enhance use of digital resources. Improved digital skills will result in economic empowerment of communities and be instrumental in poverty alleviation.
Ultimately the model will enable communities to manage their own indigenous knowledge in an economically viable manner. Global exposure of local communities will attract international economic, scientific and cultural interest. Virtual indigenous knowledge resources in African Libraries will play a pivotal role in the current global digital knowledge community whilst democratisation of the societies will progress through provision of knowledge.