Libro Futuro

“Book For Africa”. Being a librarian in Ethiopia. Mario Coffa interviews Mulugeta Woldetsadik

Intervista in italiano

Mulugeta Woldetsadik graduated from Addis Ababa University in Library Science in 1985. He has 35 years of librarianship experience and currently works as a librarian in Hawassa University, Ethiopia. From 1985 to 2000, he worked in various secondary schools and Robe Teachers Training Institute (RTTI) in Bale Administrative Zone, Oromia National Regional State, Ethiopia. He also worked at Hawassa University, Sidama National Regional State, Ethiopia from 2001 to 2021. In addition to his professional duties as a librarian at Hawassa University, on a par time basis, he also teaches library and information science at BSTL College.

Mulugeta, can you briefly tell us what you do and your work?

First of all, I take my hat off to you, the man who lead or run the Library World Tour project, that is, Mario Coffa, for the reason that you honoured me as one of the world’s library actors and gave me the opportunity to be interviewed from Hawassa University, Ethiopia, to share globally my experiences and ideas relevant to the library profession in my country and around the world. I hope that your Library World Tour project will be very important to enhance & promote international networks to share experiences, skills, knowledge and professional solidarity among all types of librarians from all over the world.

I am a librarian and I am proud to be a librarian.

I work as a librarian and always Keep myself up-to-date, participate on professional training & webinars online to be aware of professional issues in order to fit a 21st-century library systems & services operation at Hawassa University and beyond to reach out to surrounding communities by facilitating various professional partnership projects and international networking activities.

Below are some of my professional successes and achievements:



“Books For Africa” is a very interesting project. Can you explain us better what it is and who does it involve?

In fact, as you said, Books For Africa is a very interesting project. Books For Africa collects sorts, and ships books, computers, tablets, and library enhancement materials to every country in Africa in collaboration with worldwide donors, publishers, and African partners.

Accordingly, here from Ethiopia Hawassa University is one of the partners from Africa. A Book For Africa & Hawassa University Book Donation Partnership Project is an important project that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDGs: Goal 04 Quality Education. It needs your donation to help the sustainable development of the educational needs of this particular region (Sidama Region, Ethiopia). I take this opportunity of virtual interview I have conducted with Mario Coffa [European Insula] Library World Tour Project to convey a global invitation message to anyone interested in participating in the Books For Africa & Hawassa University Book Donation Partnership Project.

What impact has the COVID 19 pandemic had on libraries and cultural institutes in Ethiopia?

It is clear that most cultural institutions around the world have been closed by radical restrictions on their services; the effects of the COVID19 pandemic on libraries and cultural institutions in Ethiopia are not different from the effects on libraries and cultural institutions in other parts of the world. In general, it can be said that 2020 was a year of unrest. The COVID19 pandemic is having a significant impact on governments, organizations, and individuals around the world, and libraries/librarians are not left out. In response, intensive efforts have been made to offer alternative or additional services through digital platforms. Libraries of all types and sizes around the world are doing everything possible to contain the phenomenon of the COVID19 pandemic. This has stimulated them to develop new programs, resources and services, and also gives libraries the opportunity to rethink so as to meet the expectations of their users. It has been an alarming alarm for all types of libraries around the world to prepare to operate in a changing environment in the face of today’s technological landscape. The alarm condition triggered by the COVID19 pandemic was a trauma for most Ethiopian universities, especially with regard to the continuity of teaching-learning processes. University libraries in Ethiopia are generally not developed in such a way that they can be called digital libraries in the strictest sense, since on average, they correspond more to the configuration of a hybrid library than a fully digitized one. In this context, what is the current technological landscape like, and how can we assume that it will affect libraries today and in the future? These and many other issues pertinent to higher education libraries and librarians must be considered and examined by the responsible bodies of the Ethiopian Ministry of Science & Higher Education.

What does it mean to be a librarian in Ethiopia? From studies to profession, what is the path to follow?

Of course, being a librarian in Ethiopia is a challenge. To be a librarian in Ethiopia, you must have a passion for the library profession and library advocacy. Many years ago in 1999/2000 through a professional newsletter entitled “The Newsletter of Link: A Network for North South Library Development, published in London, UK”. I have made my own efforts to advocate for the challenges of the library profession and the situation of librarians in Ethiopia by writing articles to reach out colleagues around the world when I have worked as a school librarian. Here are the links to the articles:

All issues or problems pertinent to Ethiopian school librarians and libraries I have indicated or described on The Newsletter of Link: A Network for North-South Library Development are still didn`t gets a solution. When I wrote the articles above and used the Link – Up newsletter to explain the challenges facing school librarians and the library profession in Ethiopia to the colleagues worldwide, there were only 3 or 4 universities in Ethiopia; there are currently 50 universities. Similarly, the situation of university librarians in Ethiopia is currently regrettably inadequate in terms of their status, professional recognition and the attention that the responsible bodies or authorities give to librarians, the library service and the library profession, etc. Policy makers, government officials / administrations and the general public in Ethiopia still do not appreciate the role of libraries and librarians in our society. I think the librarians themselves are partly responsible for that. Most librarians, including public, school, and college/university librarians, perform classic routine library work, such as lending and returning books and other materials. They did not aspire to be in the 21st century to be innovative and creative, understand their community, work with their community, and build a partnership with all interested nationally, regionally and internationally. It is the librarians themselves who create or damage the reputation and status of their profession. If we want statesmen, politicians or administrations to support us, we have to stand up and fight instead of taking recognition of our profession for granted. Here comes the importance of advocacy and the role that professional librarians play in their careers. Librarians and library directors in higher educational institutions of Ethiopia who are appointed to lead the libraries have to stop being ROUTINE staff but rather be IMPACT staff. We should always focus on adding value to our customers rather than just providing regular / routine services like borrowing, receiving, cataloguing, shelving, etc. Wake up from your deep sleep! A lot has been said about the role of libraries in this digital age. Some claim that the library is being replaced by providers of digital information; others claim that the role of librarians is outdated and is being taken over by ICT professionals. However, I did not agree with these sayings; both library science and ICT are noble professions, apart in their own vein with their own professional ethics guidelines. I do not intend to debate the debate because enough has already been said and more is being debated. To be honest, from my point of view, from the very beginning here in Ethiopia, all the challenges faced by the library profession from studies to profession come from the library education system or from the curricula developed in Ethiopian universities.

The below links will be a reference to library education in Ethiopia:

There is a complication between the library profession and the ICT profession, who have an information science degree from the aforementioned universities have no interest in being identified as librarians and even working in libraries; They call themselves ICT professionals, in fact they are correct, to be professional librarians, and ICT professionals are very different. I believe that these colleges or universities offering library education in Ethiopia may not be able to create the spirit of trust that allows their graduates to identify themselves as librarians. These institutions need to rethink or revise their curriculum in relation to the objective reality on the ground in order to create or produce young millennial generation librarians who trust their librarianship professional work and make a valuable contribution to their country. I would like to invite those interested to read: An Overview of My Librarianship Career Path: Challenges & Triumphs in academic (School, College and University Libraries) of Ethiopia |Mulugeta W/Tsadik, Librarian.

As for the use of digital, social networks and open access, how have all these tools contributed during the crisis and the lockdown?

Regarding the use of social network tools, here is my opinion. Today, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter & blogs … etc) play an important role in promoting library and information resources and services in an academic environment. It is a way for people to go online and share information with each other. Millions of people around the world regularly access these types of services through mobile devices, applications, blogs and websites. The reason librarians / information professionals should actively participate in social media tools is to attract their library users to the library by being in and with the same online space as their clients (students, academia and researchers), to communicate with regional, international library associations and affiliated non-profit organizations at the international level. Various library systems around the world have taken steps to develop an online presence on the most popular social networking sites. Accordingly, librarians/libraries can create online platform presence or social networks and blogs / websites listed below:

I take this opportunity of virtual interview I have conducted with Mario Coffa which will be made public on Library World Tour Project [European Insula] to invite my professional colleagues and everyone else to join me on social networks and also subscribe my professional blog/website by clicking on the above listed social network links in order to share ideas, skills, experiences and knowledge around the world. Connections between librarians and all information seekers through online platforms are important to facilitate the 21st century library & Information Services. Changing the gear of the topic: even though, in countries with developed education and library systems, libraries are utilizing contemporary trends for marketing their library and information products and services for their users through online platform. Here in Ethiopia there is no a tendency of using social media platforms in the sphere of libraries service provision environment not only during the pandemic crisis or lockdown but also beyond the crisis or lockdown. The use of social networks in libraries of Ethiopia is not widely practised by school, college and university librarians and libraries of Ethiopia. The absence of to use social networks by librarians in Ethiopia mostly it might be from lack of interest, skills and training opportunity and slow speed of internet and electricity failure are the problems for applying social networks in libraries of Ethiopia for promoting library resources and services. From my experience, I recommend Ethiopian librarians or libraries and information providers to develop their social media skills to convey news and service alerts and quick information updates for online users. Using social media is important to capture the attention of online users and help them learn and share knowledge. As for the use of open access, here is my opinion: In light of the Covid19 pandemic, the value and need for open access is critical. Open access to scientific information and open data facilitates better and faster vaccine research and informs public health measures that are essential to contain the spread of the virus. Open Educational Resources (OER) keep citizens up-to-date and educated about the virus, help them comply with public health recommendations, and enable remote learning. In general, as a 21st-century librarian, I have launched Open Access Resources Advocacy in order to reach out to target beneficiaries via my professional blog and social media or networks and our University social media or networks channels in collaboration with the External Relations & Communication Office of Hawassa University.

“Book AID International”. I have found that this is a major project in Ethiopia. What it is and what are the objectives of this project.

Book Aid International & Hawassa University Partnership Project agreement is Signed & launched in December 2020. Regarding Book Aid International, I would like to describe my perspective as a librarian and my working relationship with Book Aid International as follows: I believe that Book Aid International book donations will develop the book resources of the elementary and secondary school libraries. In addition, it will dramatically improve the enrichment of students’ knowledge in the learning and teaching process. BAI book donations are important to keep abreast of new developments, especially for students in rural areas who did not have access to physical books and digital resources to find out what is happening locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It is clear that Book Aid International has previously donated valuable books to academic libraries (school, college and university libraries) and public libraries in Ethiopia since 1968. For example, many years ago, in 2000/2001, I realized that BAI did a good job i.e. to Oromia & Tigray National Regional States in Ethiopia; BAI donated large quantities of updated books in various fields to support primary and secondary school children. The aforementioned and many other factors initiated me to request books donation and submit a project proposal entitled “Books to Hawassa University Higher Education Students and Primary and Secondary Schools Students found in Sidama National Regional State of Ethiopia” Prepared by Mulugeta W / Tsadik, Librarian, Hawassa University , Ethiopia, in order to get the attention of Book Aid International so that BAI has to extend its usual helping hand of book donations to include primary and secondary school libraries in rural areas of Sidama region. The objectives of the partnership project are as follows, in collaboration Book Aid International and Hawassa University: to reach out to the target beneficiaries (Primary & Secondary School Students) found in the rural area of Sidama National Regional State by help of International Host Partner- Book Aid International valuable book donations so as to harnessing greater social responsibility towards, developing technologies that provide better quality life & facilitating access to knowledge and learning.

To develop book / information resources where primary and secondary schools lack supplemental reference works, to protect their plight from book shortages, to provide a helping hand for those in need to get back on their feet… and make this a better world for all of us. In addition to develop hard copies of information resources of the Hawassa University colleges and institute libraries in 8 locations found in the hybrid library stage of work environment , by providing new and updated books donated from Book Aid International. In short, Book Aid International works with more than 100 organizations in more than 25 countries around the world; consequently, Hawassa University of Ethiopia is one of Book Aid International partners out of 100 organizations. For more detailed information on the successful partnership between Hawassa University and Book Aid International, click this link: A Successful Partnership Project.

What would you recommend to a young student who would like to become a librarian one day?

Today, young students of the millennial generation who want to become librarians are lucky due to advances in technology, the profession and education of librarianship have made a paradigm shift from the conventional approach to the technological approach, in fact being a librarian in developed and developing country is different due to the digital divide. I recommend young students who wish to become librarians one day that they have to be tech-savvy to make their dream come true.

What would you recommend to professional colleagues or librarians worldwide?

Your question number 8 is a burning topic / question from your entire interview.

In my perspective as technology continues to evolve, it is imperative that librarians regularly attend short training sessions and are also members of library associations, consortia, and library forums. Librarians in developing countries, in particular, have to work hard to participate in the 21st Century library system. Many do not take advantage of Library Associations offers webinars and interviews on current issues in Library & Information Science.

International Federations of Library Associations (IFLA),

International Librarians Networking Program (ILPN) and

African Library & Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA)

It is important to note that most librarians are unaware of the benefits that these forums bring to their professional development and advancement. Therefore, I would like to encourage librarians to step out of their comfort zone of regular and routine work and to be librarians who create impact and relevance in their organizations. Create partnership projects and networking activities, opportunities in your institution and your countries. Attend AfLIA and other online webinars. At the end of your interview, I would like to say something else: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be interviewed by [Mario Coffa] Library World Tour Project. It is the result of my efforts as of the use of digital I have done to get out of my box through my professional blog / website called [Library and Information Service] 21st Century Information Retrieval and Dissemination Network and my social network channels. The opportunity to be interviewed by Library World Tour Project from Hawassa University in Ethiopia will add a value to my international professional networking and partnership activities and will make my parent institution i.e. Hawassa University visible to the world.

My fellow librarians get out of your box!

Let’s fulfil our role as librarians of the 21st Century!!!






Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.