Veronica Trépagny, international coordinator.

They support libraries in Rwanda

The bookshelves were empty when the Swedish librarians first visited the Rwandan university library. That was in 2002, eight years after the genocide when 800.000 Rwandans were killed. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, had started a programme to build research capacity in Rwanda.

“Rwanda really has had to build everything from the ground after the genocide”, said Veronica Trépagny, international coordinator at the University of Borås, when the international expertise network of the Swedish Library Association met at the Nordic Africa Institute.

Together with Anna Stockman, librarian at Blekinge Institute of Technology who has been engaged in the programme since the start in 2002, she spoke about the cooperation with National University of Rwanda to train library staff and increase availability of scientific publications and e-resources.

This is challenging in a country which lacks a librarian programme at university level, Anna Stockman explained:  

“At one occasion when we arrived they had fired half of the library staff. Those who did not have a high school diploma were not allowed to stay.”

To become independent

Yet, the number of Rwandan librarians with a university degree is steadily rising, as students are sent abroad for education or receive distance education. The ten-year vision is for the National University of Rwanda to have a “modern research library” and to be self-sufficient and independent of Sida.  

Since a few years back the swedes are also working to build up book collections, IT and professional capacity at other Rwandan libraries.

“The conditions vary greatly. Some use Excel, others use pen and paper. Some have internet connection, others don’t”, said Veronica Trépagny.

Library staff with an interest in international library issues have their own network within the Swedish Library Association. The meeting at the Nordic Africa Institute focused on experiences from working in Africa, in preparation of a major international library conference to be held in South Africa next year.

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