2 October 2018

IAP Project Report: Arab librarians in the MENA region (2018) "The 2030 Arab Librarians: online program towards the road to the SDGs"

By Heba Mohamed Ismail

IAP MENA region

An online training platform built with the support of the International Advocacy Programme (IAP) allowed to raise awareness for Arab librarians in the MENA region on the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) increasing the capacity of 31 Arab librarians from various countries across the MENA region working in public & national libraries.

What were your goals?

  1. Raising awareness for Arab librarians in the MENA region on the UN2030 Agenda & Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  2. Increasing the capacity of 31 Arab librarians from various countries across the MENA region (i.e. 11 countries) who are working in public & national libraries. The training covered participants from the following countries: Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine Lebanon, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Qatar. Special focusing was given to countries that weren't represented in IFLA-IAP regional workshops such as (Sudan, Morocco, Yemen);
  3. Building an online platform to provide the e-training program in Arabic language which will cover three main components:
  • The UN2030 Agenda & SDGs
  • Advocacy
  • Group projects (teams will be performed from the participants to apply a service/activity that support SDGs in their libraries)
  1. Improving Arab librarians' skills in advocacy to encourage their participation with the policymaker on SDG issues;
  2. Networking between Arab librarians from the MENA region to generate and exchange ideas, creative thoughts and activities for enhancing their plans to promote the UN2030 Agenda & SDGs in the future by their libraries;
  3. Planning activities that support the SDGs.

How did you plan to make this happen?

AFLI applied the e-training program to achieve its goals through: 

A. Online activities:

1. Learning website:

The work on the Moodle learning website started on 6 Jan 2018 by dedicating the work domain, installing the system and testing the training platform to provide the participants with the learning modules that became available 24/7 before the beginning of the e-training course, it's worth mentioning that this process was in parallel with announcing the call and participants selection process. Online learning modules are already available.

The training was extensive for 12 weeks and the website offered the following modules in Arabic language:

  1. Getting started and Tech check (1 -3 May 2018).
  2. Advocacy (4 May 2018 – 21 Jun. 2018).
  3. The UN2030 Agenda & SDGs (16 Apr 2018 – 30 June 2018).

2. Forums:

Dedicated workspace for each module were given to the participants to demonstrate their understanding of the training materials & to communicate with each other (9 forums in total).

3. Webinars:

Two webinars were conducted to facilitate the e-learning process and help librarians understand and achieve more interaction with libraries & SDGs module.

  1. "The role of professional associations and federations specialized in libraries and information in sustainable development" by Dr. Khaled el Halaby (President of the Arab Federation for Libraries & Information "AFLI") on Thursday, 19 July 2018.
  2. "The role of libraries in supporting sustainable development: proposed practical ideas" by Prof. Hassan Alserehiy (past President of AFLI) on Friday, 20 July 2018.

B. In-person activities

A Workshop was conducted in July 28-29, 2018 to 11 participants in Egypt, the librarians were selected according to their effective participation in the modules, their performance was evaluated by the program coordinators. Workshops lasted for two days and included the following sessions:

Day one (Saturday, 28 July 2018):

  • Welcoming remarks by Dr. Heba Mohamed Ismail (Program Manager);
  • AFLI president speech: Dr. Khaled El Halaby talked about the criteria for selecting the convening' attendee which is their performance and grades through the learning modules, he encouraged the participants to disseminate what they learned during the online training course among their colleagues in their countries as they are now considered the ambassadors for the profession;
  • Libraries as a key partners in community development: role of Libraries in achieving the SDGs by Dina Youssef (Director, IFLA-CASL, Library of Alexandria);
  • Misr Public Library & the SDGs by Mr. Ahmed Aman (Deputy Director of Misr Public Library);
  • Library plans and programs to support SDGs (participants' presentations "part-one"): the participants were able to demonstrate their presentations of library plans and programs to support SDGs;
  • Role-playing moderated by Mona Ayoub (Program Coordinator): A technique that allows the participants to explore realistic situations by interacting with other people in a managed way in order to develop experience and trying different strategies in a supported environment.

Day Two (Sunday, 29 July 2018):

  • Library plans and programs to support SDGs (participants' presentations, "part-two");
  • How activity by Professor Emad Saleh (Learning Coordinator): The activity aims to identify the problems of activating & energizing the role of Arab libraries in supporting & achieving the SDGs from the trainees' point of view, and to exchange experiences on mechanisms and solutions to overcome these problems.

How did it work?

For sure the time of the project was less than expected; at least 9 months should devote to a similar project. In addition, there were shortages of the budget, which directly affected the limited time of the course and affected the traveling expenses to gather all the trainees at the final meeting so only 11 trainees were invited whom had the best performance and grades during the course.

It was also planned to have eight to ten groups final projects to reflect the skills which obtained during the course and to strengthening the relations and collaboration between trainees, especially with some logistic concerning the region like time differences between East & West and poor internet connectivity in some other countries, all that also affected the project and due to the shortage of time it was moved to personal and individual plans.

The programme was very effective. It was a learning experience which provided the participants with the opportunity to synthesize knowledge about advocacy and SDGs from various areas of learning, critically and creatively apply it to real life situations in their libraries.

The programme challenged the participants to think beyond the boundaries of their libraries, helping them develop the skills necessary for success in conducting SDGs programs, as the learning environment was designed to help the participants question, analyze, evaluate, and extrapolate their plans, conclusions, and ideas, leading them to higher–order thinking. This result was obviously achieved from the evaluation and feedback obtained from the participants in measuring their knowledge when comparing between their response in the pre & post survey conducted.

How did you use communications during the project?

We used different means of communications:

  1. The program was provided for the participants through Moodle learning platform and we use the following features:
    • Announcements Forum (previously called News Forum) 
    • Discussion Forums / chats
    • Messaging (email) through Moodle
  2. Formal emails
  3. Webinars
  4. Regional meeting (for 11 participants)
  5. Facebook Messenger
  6. WhatsApp group (the group is still available after the closure of the program to follow up with the trainee)
  7. Telephone calls (between the programme staff)

What did you learn in the process?

A number of lessons were learned, including:

  1. Online training programs should be at least nine months as choosing and selecting participants takes time;
  2. Adjusting the course timing to suit librarians and avoid summer time as it consider as rush months for public librarians;
  3. A sufficient fund should be dedicated to similar projects at least triple the amount to cover, especially travel expenses, accommodations for all the program participants;
  4. Motivation, ambitions, enthusiasm, and experiences gained after the final regional convening which emphasis on the importance of engaging all the trainees in the final meeting of the program;
  5. Organize some field visits to the major libraries such as Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the final meeting should be considered to see the implementation of the activities that support SDGs;
  6. All the geopolitics condition and the location of the training should be considered from the beginning of the preparation of the proposal;
  7. A flexible skim of expenses should be exists in the proposals to face any unexpected situation.

What are your next steps?

Because of the project's success, the project team has in mind some follow-up activities to ensure sustainability:

  1. Gathering representatives of the trainees in the coming professional meeting of IFLA-AFLI and AFLI annual meeting;
  2. Sustain the platform which contains modules and making it available to all professional library associations to conduct similar training for librarians in the region;
  3. Supporting the efforts of the professional national associations in LIS to organise seminars and meeting conducted by the trainees on Advocacy & SDGs in every country in the region;
  4. Supporting and encouraging all the trainees to implement their final plans in their libraries by establishing Facebook group, especially between trainees and project team to trace and enhance their activities;
  5. Supporting and encouraging all trainees to link between their programs; activities and events with appropriate SDGs;
  6. Encouraging the trainees to share their SDGs stories on the IFLA Library Map of the world to show their impact on communities and people’s lives.

LDP (Library Development Programme), Libraries, Development and the UN 2030 Agenda, International Advocacy Programme, IAP, UN SDGs, UN 2030 Agenda

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