Libro Futuro

The role of libraries in Senegal. Mario Coffa interviews Habibu Coly

Intervista in italiano

Coly Abibou was born there nearly 49 years in Casamance, Senegal, where he attended primary and secondary school curricula to BA. After an MA in English from the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, he joined the School of librarians, archivists and librarians to become Chief librarian. Since 2002, he worked with the Senegalese Ministry of Culture, within the Directorate of Books and Reading. He was a member of the Planning committee of the African public libraries summit held in Johannesburg in 2012. He is now a member of Global Libraries’ Africa Advisory Group. Permanent Secretary of the International Book Fair and teaching materials in Dakar, he has extensive expertise in public libraries policy in Senegal and the rest of Francophone Africa. I am now coordinating a network of 10 public libraries.

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

To be a librarian in Senegal is to be aware of the responsibiities you have to serve your community. It’s a challenging job since you have to be in the central of any development agenda. The profession is really attractive. Librarians graduated from University. Library school is in Senegal since 1974, one of the oldest in african french speaking countries.

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

Libraries are the third place in our country. In the Ministry of Culture, the department in charge of the libraries is one the biggest. It means that libraries have an important role to play as far as the development of our country is concerned.

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 Senegal?

It was terrible. But at the same it allow people think of new services. We made first an online training on the use of ICT, to make our librarians familiar to it. No matter the situation, libraries have to find a way to fullfill they missions , that is to take in chage the needs of the communities. We bought tabletts, computers to make them at the disposal of public libraries. The utility of the ICT, is no longer to be discussed since Covid.

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?

Libraries have to adapt services dependant on the changing needs of the users. In this era of fakenews, only library can be the safer places where people can get the relevant information they need.

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?

Yes, I think so. It is always good to have plateforms where we can get in touch each other and share success stories from around the world.

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

I would recommend him to be passionate, available to serve the community. Because we cannot develop the community without information, knowledge and culture.




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.