Preliminary Activities of the Advancing Library Visibility in Africa Project
Young, Jason Connel
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Library services play a critical role in supporting communities across the African continent as they pursue sustainable economic growth and social progress. In spite of this, libraries are often overlooked as potential development partners, largely because they lack the data to effectively illustrate the many ways in which they are positively impacting their communities. These data gaps therefore prevent libraries from achieving their full potential within local, regional, and national development initiatives. The Advancing Library Visibility in Africa (ALVA) project is a joint research initiative between AfLIA and the University of Washington that seeks to overcome these data gaps so that libraries can fully achieve this potential as development partners. The project is designing methods, tools, and resources for public and community libraries, to enable them to collect meaningful data about how they are contributing to development. This will directly support the efforts of all types of libraries seeking to integrate themselves into the development ecosystem, and more broadly advance understandings of the role of the library field in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project has focused on data collection efforts in two areas to support the connection between public or community libraries and development priorities. The first area focuses on collecting physical location of libraries across multiple countries and making these data available more broadly in the open data ecosystem. This effort addresses the data gap related to the availability of location data which opens opportunities for analyzing the potential reach of library services within communities when combined with other datasets while also opening opportunities for libraries to make their services more visible to their communities. The second area examines what types of data libraries should be collecting to better illustrate their strength as development partners. This research will help us to identify gaps in the types of data that libraries are currently collecting, so that we can work with these libraries to co-develop new data collection methods and strategies. These metrics are expected to capture impact of library services rather than the transactional nature of traditional library metrics. Our paper will present an overview of the key research questions, tools and processes used, and results to date on the data collection efforts. Additionally, we will present the plan for future work and demonstrate potential uses of the data by the library field.
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