Role of Public Libraries in Promotion of Africa Culture
This is an abbreviated version of Presentation i did during the Association of Government Librarians Conference in Mombasa
THE ROLE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN PROMOTING AFRICAN CULTURE IN KENYA
According to Encyclopedia Britannica (2010) “Public libraries are now acknowledged to be an indispensable part of community life as promoters of literacy, providers of a wide range of reading for all ages, and centers for
community information services.
Libraries in the Technology Age
Over the past few years, libraries and information centers have been greatly affected by changes in IT, and the rate of change is still accelerating in this era. IT is now able to create:
- new products, processes and machines that can be used independently, customized information packages, video cassettes, home information products, personal computers and reprographic equipment
- External dependents, database online information system
- Cooperative library information networks and
- Electronic information processing systems such as electronic books.
In order to cope with the present development in IT, modern libraries are now adopting various electronic resources for its collection developments to fulfill the requirements of different users in a better way. However to achieve the goals of an ideal information system there is a need to select, evaluate and organize the e-resources in the best possible way as to provide maximum ease, both to the users and the staff for its access and retrieval at all times.
David Pearson, during a lecture he gave in October 2007, at the first Charles Holden Memorial Lecture had this to say;
The world is changing, in ways that are familiar to us all. Developments in information technology, coupled with the advent of the Internet, are transforming not only the ways in which libraries work, but also those underlying philosophies. Increasingly, the kind of content which books have provided is available over the web, either in born-digital formats or via digitised versions of printed material. There is much that remains in print only, but a great deal of retrospective digitisation in train.
Libraries today are faced with a big decision. Do they advance forward, hand in hand with the modern digital area, or will they remain the same and stick with what they’ve done in the past?
Many have predicted in recent years that the days of the library are numbered, but despite the decline in loan statistics and the emergence of digital books, research shows that public libraries can still have an important role to play in modern society.
Public Libraries and Social Inclusion
Public libraries are no longer simply somewhere where you borrow books, music, films and other materials; they are also somewhere to go. They are meeting places that cross cultural, ethnic, generational and social boundaries.
“At the library, no-one is a doctor, a novelist, a patient, a client or unemployed. At the library, everyone is simply a library user,” says Svanhild Aabø, Professor in Library and Information Science at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Science (HiOA).
“People from all age groups visit libraries; people with high and low levels of education, high and low income groups and from different ethnic, social, cultural, religious and political backgrounds,” says Aabø, who thinks that the opportunities which this diversity offers must be better exploited by the authorities in order to promote social inclusion.
How can Libraries help promote African Culture in Kenya?
Google defines culture as- The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group
Kenya has no single culture that identifies it. It is made up of more than 40 ethnic tribes, each of which speaks its own mother tongue and has its own culture.
The significance of public libraries in preserving and maintaining history and traditional culture cannot be overlooked.
Michael Crichton once said that “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
George Orwell added “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
Public libraries play a pivotal role in providing information and knowledge free of charge to communities for the purpose of research, to inspire lifelong learning, advanced knowledge, recreation and strengthening of our communities.
Cultural information and materials such as Tribal folklore, cuisine, fashion, literature, art, culture, architecture and songs of historical value should be collected, documented and preserved to be used for research and reference by the future generations as they try to establish their identity.
Public libraries have the mandate of collecting and documenting cultural artefacts to help their communities to archive their past to be used in the future. Public libraries must document cultural heritage so that researchers may access it as they conduct their studies. These studies are mostly imperative because they can be read by the future generation, (Setshwane, Oats:2015).
Bolt (2014), just like archival centres, public libraries keep societal participation in them because they come to access their cultural sources. On the other hand if public libraries are store houses for cultural materials they will at the same time be attracting their communities to the library; this will mean that cultural sources in the library will call for usage by all including the elderly, Setshwane (2015).
How does Knowledge Management Factor into Cultural Preservation through Libraries?
Each one of us here today understands their culture purely because a member of the society or our families back then was able to give us insights and titbits of our cultural traditions. Through traditional rites of passage, marriage rites, dowry systems, death rites etc. we got to learn the depth of the roots of traditions in our lives.
So what role does knowledge management play in cultural preservation?
Davenport and Prusak define knowledge as: “A flux mix of framed experiences, values, contextual information and expert insights that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms”.
One of the components of knowledge management is Tacit knowledge, a key ingredient in the development of Explicit knowledge.
Michael Polanyi puts it this way “We can know more than we can tell. This fact seems obvious enough; but it is not easy to say exactly what it means. Take the example below; We know a person’s face, and can recognize it among a thousand or even among a million other faces. Yet we usually cannot tell how we recognize a face we know. So most of this knowledge cannot be put into words.”
From this definition we can identify the six components of knowledge: experience, truth, complexity, judgment, rules of thumb and intuition, values and beliefs.
This domain of Knowledge Management is guided by the following principles:
- Knowledge originates and resides in people’s minds.
- Knowledge sharing requires trust.
- Technology enables new knowledge behaviours.
- Knowledge sharing must be encouraged and rewarded.
- Management support and resources are essential.
- Knowledge initiatives should begin with a pilot program.
- Quantitative and qualitative measurements are needed to evaluate the initiative.
- Knowledge is creative and should be encouraged to develop in unexpected ways.
Collection Strategies: Knowledge Transfer
The transfer of knowledge occurs when knowledge is diffused from one resource to another by storing or sharing it. Knowledge is either transferred purposefully or it may occur as an outcome of other activity. Knowledge transfer can be defined as “A systematic approach that obtains organizes, restructures, warehouses or memorizes the deployment and distribution of knowledge to points of action where it will be used for sharing and adopting best practices”.
The transfer of knowledge depends on time, scope, complexity, and strategic importance because it determines the effort and resources of the organization. The organization needs to consider pedagogical skills, teaching and learning capabilities, and social networks for successful implementation
It’s worth noting that, Libraries around the country and indeed the world are facing budget cuts as governments struggle with the aftermath of technology and economic stagnation – and in many cases that means fewer branches or services.
However, at the same time, libraries are facing an identity crisis: As the Internet has become the primary way people gather information, the traditional “building filled with books” model is less relevant to their lives.
As a result, “libraries are really transforming themselves into technology hubs” says Kathryn Zickuhr, a researcher focusing on how Americans use libraries at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
Pew’s research shows that while many patrons still want to use libraries to borrow books, they’re also increasingly thinking of them as a community space that enables them access to technology and a source of digital literacy for all different demographics.
Transfer of knowledge includes two actions: one is transmission which means sending knowledge to a potential receiver and another is absorption meaning that knowledge must be incorporated either by a person or a group. As such, Davenport and Prusak have expressed this concept as
“Transfer = Transmission + Absorption”
The availability of knowledge is not sufficient; it should also ensure the usability of available knowledge. “Knowledge that isn’t absorbed hasn’t really been transferred” (Davenport, Prusak 2000)
In our local scenario, libraries have a key role to play in the promotion of the African Culture. The most important step in preserving and promoting African culture is in harvesting that knowledge. Consultation with village culture custodians like the chief should be done to get approval to collect, document and seek for support, since key people in the village know where, and who can assist with specific cultural content, (Setshwane, Oats; 2015)
Tacit knowledge is social and it is blended with the experience of the individual. According to Michael Polanyi, there is no prescription for transmitting tacit knowledge from master (giver) to apprentice (receiver) which restricts the diffusion of personal knowledge. One way of learning is by example. If the master is a craftsman and the apprentice watches his master’s efforts, then the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of art.
People have always passed their accumulated knowledge and commercial wisdom on to future generations by telling stories about their thoughts, work and experiences. Now, as in the past, people use face-to-face and ’’hands-on’’ methods to convey their ’’know how’’ or tacit knowledge to others. Throughout recorded history, some form of written language has been used to document their ’’know-what’’ or explicit knowledge. Pursuits of tacit, explicit and self-knowledge, self-renewal and innovation are timeless, endless and relentless, (Hansen et al., 1999).
Collaboration between public libraries and various communities in Kenya is critical in this journey of African Cultural preservation. These communities should also be educated on the importance and roles public libraries play in preserving culture. If they understand, then they will give the information freely. The government and other stakeholders should also support efforts to gather, sort, transform, record and share our cultural knowledge for the benefit and enrichment of future generations.
Compiled by: Sheila Bussollo
All references have been mentioned