What are notable examples of this STS innovation in action/practice?


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Angela Okune's picture
August 5, 2019

AO: Page 453 of Carotenuto and Luongo (2005) highlights other libraries and archives that could be of interest to researchers in Nairobi. As an extension of this exhibit, Trevas and I are working on a crowdmap of some of these research resources in the city.

The University of Nairobi library system holds numerous archival and secondary sources of interest to historians. ...

The Daily Nation library is an excellent resource for contemporary newspaper articles and photographs from one of the most highly circulated papers in sub-Saharan Africa. Articles have been clipped and filed thematically, thus providing researchers with files containing numerous articles arranged in chronological order. ...

The McMillan Library, located one block from the Nation Centre, has an extensive collection of vernacular and colonial-era newspapers. ...

The libraries of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) and the Institut Francais de Recherche en Afrique (IFRA) are the best resources for African studies monographs and journals in Nairobi. ...

IFRA is housed in Maendeleo House on Monrovia Street, a short walk from the University of Nairobi main campus and the KNA. ...

Angela Okune's picture
July 25, 2019

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)

Angela Okune's picture
July 19, 2019

AO: This excerpt from Githethwa's post describes Ukombozi library.

We present books to JULAWATA from Ukombozi Library in Nairobi. Ukombozi means liberation in Kiswahili. The library has an extensive collection of books and publications that have inspired cadres of liberation movements in Kenya and many other parts in the world. Exploits of Mau Mau, Kenya People’s Union, December Twelve Movement, Mwakenya, UWAKE, Saharawi, Palestine, among other past and contemporary struggles roam freely on many pages here. This is a pool of knowledge and inspiration for the revolution.

The library is in an ancient building across the street from the University of Nairobi’s main campus. It is on the left after the flyover along University Way, the first small cream door on the left towards Nairobi Safari Club. The staircase leading to the library is narrow and creaky. Take care not to trip down. Walk up to the second floor. Kimani Waweru will be there. He is the coordinator of the library. When Kimani smiles, other smiles around pale into tackle-less grins. His is scientific. It comes out in measured laughter. The knowing smile and laughter discerning antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions in our struggles. 

Kimani speaks of scientific socialism as easily as reciting a verse. Thousands of books and publications are present here, engaged in all manner of lovemaking. Choice is spoilt.

“Pick any book you may like.” Kimani urges. It is 1,000 Kenya Shillings, about US $10 to register as a member of the library. “Rush here while the offer lasts.” He warns.