AO: This excerpt describes some of the projects (more detailed in the full interview) that give a sense of what Progressive Librarianship might look like.
A project-based approach is more appropriate in developing new services and in giving staff new skills and experience in the practice of developing these new services. But we are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. A large body of practices, theories, ideas and experiences have been devoted to showing that a new approach using pilot projects is not only possible in theory but in practice too. So we respond to your question of what Progressive Librarianship (PL) could look like by recalling some experiences where practices associated with PL have been developed in Kenya.
Within their own space, all these and others not mentioned here were mostly successful in developing and implementing new services and also increasing learning and skills of staff, thus making the services sustainable when there was a will to do so. One can think of the projects as ‘innovation sparks’ that traditional, conservative librarianship is not able to develop and only a progressive approach can do.
Some examples of such projects include School and College Library Project (1983-84), which provided relevant articles on history, geography, and culture, all from local research, to a large number of schools and colleges throughout the country. Part of the material sent was a package on organising a small library with instructions on simple cataloguing and classification, processing, borrowing systems, author and subject catalogues, and other basic practices. This was extremely popular with schools that had also started contributing their own documents in the system.
Yet another project involved producing a pictorial interpretation of Kenya's history entitled Kuvunja Minyororo ('Breaking the Chains'). This project encouraged members to draw pictures, undertake historical research and work out ways of interpreting this history for a larger audience.
These and other projects pointed the way to how a library service should make use of its resources (humans, books and materials) in order to provide a communication link with the people in their own language and in an appropriate form.
(Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru)