UgCLA (the Uganda Community Libraries Association) held its sixth workshop from July 11-13 this year (see the pictures below). The workshop was funded largely by Pockets of Change, as part of its support for our Children's Book Project, and Hawk Children's Fund provided some additional funds to allow our new members to attend and to support a book-making project for a couple of the sessions. The workshop was held, once again, at the Kabubbu Community Library, which is affiliated to a conference centre and resort where we could all be put up.
Every workshop that UgCLA runs seems to be bigger and better than the last. In this case, we had 55 people attending, representing a large majority of our 67 member libraries. The activities were all focused on how we can better help children in our libraries. First, those libraries that had received books under the Children's Book Project reported on what they had done with them, and everybody present had a chance to ask questions and make comments. A packet of 80-odd books has been given to each of ten libraries, and while they all used them in different ways, the impact seems to have been great everywhere, bringing in increasing numbers of children and encouraging adults to read as well. Then we spent an afternoon working on photographs of everyday Ugandan people, things, and activities: participants designated the themes in the new thematic curriculum for lower primary classes that the photographs could be used for and wrote text for each picture appropriate to the designated themes. Our plan is to collate this work to form a set of picture books that could be used not only in primary schools but in nursery schools and for family literacy projects - for we have found that one of the major deficits in locally produced material is picture books for young children. Next day, the librarians at Kabubbu showed the participants how they could make supplementary material from the books they had in their libraries, material that would be fun for children to work with and that would make the books more accessible - and one of them had a group of eleven volunteers act out a story with an accompanying little song that she had made up. Lastly, we had a session devoted to "fun and games", which, this being Africa, evolved into everyone dancing to the beat of drums played by children from the Kabubbu primary school.
In short, a good time was had by all, but it's important to emphasize that this is not the sole purpose of our workshops. We have found that through them our library managers pick up ideas from their colleagues as well as from us, and that all the libraries are run, in consequence, a little better. The participants get to know one another and have by now built up a strong sense of solidarity, which is expressed in practical offers of help to one another. On this occasion, for example, the library at the Suubi Centre in Masaka District made arrangements for its new librarian to spend some time at Kitengesa and Kabubbu to get some training. Then, of course, the actual workshop sessions will result, we hope, in libraries exploring new activities and developing new materials. We have yet to see what will come up as a result of this last workshop, but we are confident that many libraries will now be using pictures more and many librarians will be making word cards and exercises to go with the children's books that they have.