“I came in contact with the African continent in 1979. My high-school class had focused on desertification, and with sponsorship from Sida, the Swedish aid agency, the whole class went to Tunisia for a week. There was a complete program for us, we visited various development projects and of course the desert.
Looking back, it seems as that trip when l was only seventeen evoked an interest of development issues. Actually, as librarian l have only worked at places with a link to global development. My first position was at Sida’s training center in Uppsala. It was a place where aid workers got an education about the country they were about to work in. When it closed in 1996 both the library’s books and l moved to the Stockholm headquarter.
I usually take care of visiting groups at the NAI library, often students doing some kind of Africa studies. It is stimulating to see how impressed they are by our collections! For users in Africa, we put as much open access material online that we can and are allowed to.
In 2014, l was in Lagos with two colleagues to visit research institutes and libraries. It was interesting to find out that we are working in a very similar way, with the same challenges and troubles. Perhaps with the exception of power failures. Years before that l attended a librarian’s conference in Durban. At the immigration control, a person in front of me had a torn passport. l got involved in helping her, and with that fuss, my own passport was never registered. This was of course a huge problem when l was about to fly home. “You have been in South Africa illegally” l was told. In the end, l wasn’t fined, but the officer did let me know that l would be in their records for ten years and meanwhile could not re-visit South Africa. This was in 2007, so next year l might go back”.
Ingela Dahlin, librarian at the Nordic Africa Institute