Arts and Culture

Building skills for the digital era librarian

One of the joys of reading is immersing oneself in another time and place flipping through pages of new information to enrich one’s depth in the understanding of a subject.

Getting the right information material as well as a bespoke collection of books where you can get this knowledge can oftentimes scuttle your search for knowledge.

And whereas learning centres provide a collection of books, and lately a huge repository of information in electronic mediums, the set of skills necessary to help library patrons access the right information remains a challenge.

It is against this backdrop that over 46 school librarians and education stakeholders from across Kenya are set to benefit from a first-of-its-kind workshop aimed at sharpening their professional and leadership skills.

“A critical mass number of libraries with skilled librarians will position Kenya as one of the few emerging countries who have secured privileged access to information and knowledge,” said Knowledge Empowering Youth (KEY) founder and CEO Rita Field-Marsham.

The workshop by the Canadian-Kenyan charity will serve as a stepping stone for delivering long-term professional and leadership development in Kenya.

“At the heart of libraries, lies the critical role played by librarians to ensure library quality management, comfort who ensure that teachers and students use the resources effectively to close knowledge gaps and barriers to language and digital competence among children from low-income families,” added Field-Marshan.

Read also: Why switching off the internet is not an option for Kenya 

The workshop is a partnership with the Kenya Library Association, Kenya National Library Service, and Goethe Institut Nairobi.

KEY Head Librarian Nyakundi James Nyambane say the initiative will set Kenya on the path to work toward bridging the disparities in availability of libraries and skilled librarians.

“There is no denying the country has a colossal task to reach the number of quality libraries that are needed to address the over 30,000 schools that do not have libraries,” notes Mr Nyambane.

In the last few years, he adds, KEY has greatly expanded access to technology, technological support and training of teachers, librarians and students to enhance services and teaching and learning.

“Our utmost goal is to provide underserved children with quality education options. It is exciting that we are making steady progress towards this goal in the lives of children we have impacted who, in turn, are discovering their dreams and reaching for their full potential,” said Mr Nyambane.

Currently, KEY provides libraries to schools targeting over 80 percent of children living in poverty and without access to books and educational technology in Kenya.

Already, KEY has built 46 primary and secondary school libraries in Ghana, Tanzania and across 12 counties in Kenya.

The organisations goal is to work closely with partners and stakeholders towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on Quality Education.

Data shows across Kenya libraries are non-existent in 98 percent of primary schools as well as in many secondary schools in the country yet the government spends billions of shillings every year providing textbooks to millions of children.

The challenge has created a disproportionately wide knowledge gap and barriers to language and digital competence among children from low-income families who are also disadvantaged because English is nearly always their third language and they only speak it in classrooms.

Since 2008, KEY has been executing easily adoptable and manageable models for school libraries nationwide, targeting primary and secondary schools at national and county, and community levels in a wide range of settings.

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