Libro Futuro

Libraries and librarians in Namibia. Mario Coffa interviews Sarah Iyaloo Negumbo

Intervista in italiano

Sarah Iyaloo Negumbo is the Director for Namibia Library & Archives Service, in the Ministry of Education, Arts & Culture. She is responsible for ensuring access to quality information services, through five Sub-Divisions, namely; the National Library of Namibia, the National Archives of Namibia, Public Library Service, Education Library Service and the Ministerial Library Service. Sarah previously worked at the Office of the Prime Minister, as the Deputy Director, accountable for the introduction and implementation of the Electronic Documents and Records Management Systems (EDRMS) in all government offices. She is the current Chairperson of the African National Libraries Section on the African Library & Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) Governing Council.

Sarah, to start: what does it mean to be a librarian in Namibia? Is there a legal recognition of the profession? What is the academic and educational path to become a librarian?

It is indeed an inspiring passion to be a librarian in Namibia, as the country is graced with fundamental legal frameworks governing the information sector, with a provision for the professionals to prosper. It is worth citing that the government has approved organisational structures, with positions for the librarians, archivists and information workers, to progress very well in their career paths. The local university is also offering accredited and qualifying academic programs starting from the Diplomas to the PhDs level, and the librarians and the students are partaking in studying and obtaining these qualifications.

Having collaborated with the Ministry of Education and Culture, what importance do you think libraries play in the social and cultural fabric of your country? What is their function?

The libraries are playing vital core functions that are geared towards developing, promoting and supporting the overall socio-economic development of the country. They are offering countless learning opportunities that can incite economic, social and cultural development, by boosting national learning, creativity, entrepreneurial and ICT skills development, sustainability and civic engagement. Libraries are contributing absolutely to the enhancement of the core skills of literacy and numeracy, as per the NDP5 Desired Outcome and the Sustainable Development Goal number 4. Such desired outcome is envisioning all learners and students to have access to equitable inclusive quality information that position them to pursue higher education, and promote lifelong learning for all. A network of about 66 public libraries in Namibia are focusing on building a strong and vibrant communities and connecting people and ideas. They are regarded as social and cultural institutions, that offers an ever changing range of electronics, informational, educational and cultural resources to the general public members.

The pandemic experience marked a very difficult moment for libraries but at the same time it favored the development or increase of many digital tools and technological skills. What impact has this phenomenon had in Namibia?

The Covid-19 pandemic caught most of us off-guard, hence, it impacted the provision of services both at the Government, Academic, Special, National Archives and Records Centres in Namibia. All libraries and information centres were closed down for the public during the lockdown period. The Directorate came up with a Responsive Plan, which redefined the services and ensured that the public members were provided with access to quality information during the closure of these facilities. The impact of the pandemic indeed increased the implementation of many digital tools and technological skills, for instance, libraries capitalized on the provision of access to internet connectivity and WIFI, with the aim of ensuring access to information for all citizens. During the lockdown period, the libraries under the Directorate of Namibia Library and Archives Service strived to support learning for both teachers and learners, by promoting and providing access to reliable online resources. Such information was shared on institutional websites, library websites and social media platforms. The Directorate also made a decision for the libraries that are offering WIFI connectivity not to disconnect the WIFI after working hours, so that the library-users could have access to internet within the proximity of the libraries, using their own devices. Moving forward, libraries are now gearing up the process of digitizing library resources, so that the information could be uploaded and be accessed electronically.

Libraries and librarians are evolving adapting to new social and cultural systems. In your opinion, what will the future of libraries be in the coming years?

The future plans of the libraries and the librarians is clearly to advocate towards embracing the 4 th industrial revolution aspects. The plan is to warrant that most of the library information services are readily available online. There are also pleas to invest in technological equipment, such as the digitization equipment, software’s, to that effect, libraries are encouraged to work hand-in-hand with Information Technology officials, and ensure that the libraries are catered for with adequate resources and with the right skills.

This project, the Library World Tour, is based on sharing between librarians and through their story talks about libraries, creating a real network. Do you believe that this method (sharing) could be a useful tool in an age that travels on the internet and on social networks?

This initiative is indeed one of the good creativities, and it is definitely at the right platform. Reading and listening from different case-studies of different librarians from different countries and continents, it is very encouraging, as it inspire the librarians to strive more for their libraries. And at the same time, one is always guaranteed to learn the latest trends in the sector, hence, there is a greater necessity for the librarians to continue networking and sharing more ideas.

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

For the young generations aspiring to become librarians, I would say that they have made the right choices, as being a librarian, one is guaranteed to meet people from all walks of life, and it’s always gives greater satisfaction when a librarian has served library-users with the right information, at the right time and in the right format. It is also placing the librarians at the fore-front of information and technology, as one gets to know the latest technologies through networking and benchmarking.





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.