Monday 30 June 2014

Blog Every Day in June Day 30 : Glorias Assimwe, Ugandan Librarian

Today's guest contributor rounds up a terrific month of #blogjune by taking us through her fascinating professional journey as a librarian in Uganda. Thanks for sharing your story with us Glorias! -Maria Savvidis

My name is Glorias Asiimwe - a 29 year old Librarian from Uganda. I recently moved to a new role working as a Health Librarian at a newly established medical School in rural Eastern Uganda and have just submitted my Chartership Portfolio to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in the UK. 

My journey into the library profession had not been by accident. I had realised that in Uganda our reading culture was low and wanted to inspire a change. Starting out in 2008 fresh from University with no practical skills, I decided to volunteer with a UK charity operating in Ugandan Prisons.

I worked up the professional ladder taking on different roles in the organisation to being a solo prison librarian in East Africa. Despite the excitement the full-time job could offer, I did face a number of challenges having to work in an isolated environment. I had assumed several responsibilities including developing the first ever built prison library in Uganda, initiating book clubs and literacy activities and training Prisoners and Wardens as Library Assistants amongst others – but no prison librarians in my region to benchmark from.

I felt overwhelmed in this role until I received an amazing opportunity to travel for the first time outside my country on a five-week professional study to the UK - which equipped me with hands-on skills and widened my professional network. This prepared me to embrace high positions of responsibility in my career including, overseeing eleven prison libraries, outsourcing for book donations since the organisation had a limited, at times non-existent budget for collection development to managing library grants.

In 2011, I was awarded an IFLA funded grant to attend the 77th IFLA World Library & Information Congress in Puerto Rico. What a life-changing opportunity having to present a paper I had co-authored at this conference! Joining other delegates on a school libraries tour during the IFLA conference, I was able to learn new ideas that I applied in setting up one of the biggest primary school libraries in Uganda serving a population of 1800 children from the prison and neigbouring communities.

Currently I serve voluntary as the Executive Secretary for the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa - Uganda Chapter, which I joined in 2010 having tested the ups and downs of working in isolation. Being affiliated to this professional network has provided professional solidarity and opened doors to more rewarding and excellent opportunities in my career – one of which is my new role as a Health Librarian.
My professional journey hasn’t been all rosy as I have had and still face challenges such as poor internet accessibility. However, this has been an incredible dream-come-true given the limited opportunities available to young LIS professionals in developing countries like Uganda face. 

The sky is the limit!!!

-Glorias Assimwe

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