Library Capacity Building in Africa or the Exportation of Technolust? Discerning Partnership Models and Revitalization Efforts in the Age of Globalization

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Africana librarians in the United States work to sustain a larger dialogue, one that contributes to democratic futures in Africa through the support of libraries and indigenous publishing in Africa. Yet we are also products of colonial legacies which have engendered Western domination to the detriment of Africans. Can librarians from the West contribute to sustainable democratic futures by supporting the catalytic role of librarians in Africa who strive to support African-centered scholarship and struggles against legacies of colonialism? Or will we re-inscribe colonial legacies through our partnerships and promotion of Western centered models? Based upon the author's tour of selected higher education settings and academic libraries in Kenya and South Africa in 2001, the author reflects upon libraries in the context of “development” in Africa. The author begins to discern potentially viable models and develop criteria for partnerships by comparing methods of advocacy, collaboration and projects for information and digital futures. Descriptions of efforts to “build capacity” within African librarianship include those of African librarians and their associations, The Association of African Universities (AAU), The Africana Librarians Council (ALC), The World Bank, and The International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). The author observed the marketing of technology in Africa and characterizes some of the privileged dialogue on Information Communication Technologies (ICT) as the exportation of “technolust” which the author argues, contributes to increased privatization and the sacrifice of support to public universities. Such privatization reduces the broad social role of librarians and further marginalizes reference services. The author identifies critical literacies and sharing of cross-continental experience as essential in creating “mutually beneficial partnerships” to support cooperative, sustainable, democratic, information futures. In an effort to continue this important conversation and develop “true partnerships,” the author shares her experience and reflection. Calls for dialogue throughout the African diaspora and beyond to promote community-based, democratic education and a sustainable intellectual, reading culture in Africa are recommended.