We Built a Community! Presenting at the OCLC EMEA Regional Conference, in Cape Town Feb. 24, 2014

by Naomi House, MLIS

We Built a Community!
Presenting at the 5th annual OCLC EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Regional Conference, in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 24, 2014

Formal Pic OCLC EMEA RC 2014

“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”  –African proverb

It was my pleasure to present and serve on the Breakout Talk panel, We Built a Community! at the fifth annual OCLC EMEA regional council meeting on February 24, 2014.  The focus of the conference was, Library Community in Action: advancing knowledge, collaboration and innovation.  The African proverb that inspired this theme, “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” is very much at the heart of INALJ’s community of volunteers.  We strive as CAM01597a team and as individuals to provide job hunters in the US, Canada and internationally, with well sourced quantity and quality jobs for information professionals, such as librarians.naomi at oclc 1

I was privileged to speak with Stephanie Diakité and Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata and our talk was facilitated by OCLC’s Fiona Leslie.  From saving manuscripts from Timbuktu through an indiegogo campaign, to collaborations between a public library system and local colleges, to building a volunteer base from the grassroots up, our talks all focused on building cooperation through new channels of collaboration.

Our Presentations

  • Stephanie Diakité spoke about crowdsourcing and the T160K / Timbuktu Knowledge for Peace Initiative Indiegogo Campaign.  She focused on the successes including raising over $60k as well as what she would do differently.  She will be working further with the rescued manuscripts to help build a team to catalog them.  She was also a keynote speaker on the story of the Timbuktu Archives  and the dramatic rescue of over 300,000 manuscripts to Mali from Timbuktu by her colleague Abdel Kader Haidara, where they were nearly destroyed.
  • Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata spoke about a fantastic collaboration between the UNISA (University of South Africa) Library and Tshwane City Libraries.  Recognizing that the students who attended the team we built a community 2university were mostly community members, the university and city libraries collaborated on an initiative that based its premise on the shared community of students that both served.  Buhle published findings in 2013 in the Proceedings of the IATUL Conferences.
  • Naomi House  spoke about the founding of INALJ.com and how she cultivated a group of 180 volunteers.  Focusing mostly on the strategic aspects of the process including successes and failures.  Constructing a community takes a strong core (in this case one leader), a set of boundaries or set constrictions establishing what the group is as well as what it is not, and the cooperation of all involved.  There was great interest in founding INALJ Africa pages for several countries and I look forward to launching several this year!

OCLC EMEA and beyond

The 2014 Meeting addressed the importance of ‘library as community’ and what the greater collaboration between libraries can really offer, as well as the concept in the context of sharing and innovation.

The spotlighted areas of community-based activity for the 2014 EMEA Regional Council Meeting were the following:

  • Advocacy
  • Research
  • Shared Services
  • Technology & Innovation

In addition to the breakout talks presentations were made by some of South Africa’s most esteemed librarians and OCLC leaders such as OCLC President Skip Pritchard; OCLC EMEARegional Council Chair Robert Moropa; Charles Leadbeater, an independent and strategic adviser on innovation; Ellen Tise, Senior Director of Library and Information Services at Stellenbosch; John Tsebe of the National Library of South Africa; Barbara Lison and Ton van Vlimmeren spoke to their European campaigns using Geek the Library.

One of my favorite presentations was the Lightning Talks portion of the program.  Denyse Knipe of Tshwane University of Technology, Nazeem Hardy of the City of Cape Town Library and Information Services Department, Anne-Lise Fourie of the Biodiversity Heritage Library Africa, and Mpho Regina Masienyane of the Lintle Community Awakening  power packed into 5 minutes each far more than I could have anticipated.

The depth and breadth of presenters made this conference one of my all time favorites!

For me one of my favorite aspects of attending a conference where I truly do not know anyone at all is theIMG_6350 how much my community grows during the experience.  I have gone into some detail about my favorite community building experience at OCLC EMEA, riding the boat back from Robben Island, but I was also delighted at how many connections I met as well, including fellow Rutgers MLIS graduates and Wayne State’s own Sandy Yee, was also in attendance.  Also a big thanks to ‘Mabafokeng Makara, of the National University of Lesotho who kept us company on the boat ride and at dinner the next day.

I was also able to speak with LIASA (Library and Information Association of South Africa) president Ujala Satgoor, and found out the many ways that South African librarians are celebrating 20 years of democracy since the end of apartheid

OCLC has many opportunities for librarians to serve on committees and many conferences you can attend globally. I know I will be attending more in the future.

Attending conferences

Just do it!  I am always looking for conferences when I travel because I gain so much from them.  And don’t fret about missing this opportunity in beautiful Cape Town; IFLA is in Cape Town in 2015!  I know I want to be there and hope to see you there as well!


All photo credits Naomi House or Sana Khan except the head shot of Naomi taken during her presentation and group shot at the Suikerbossie Restaurant at Haut Bay which were provided for this publication by OCLC and the collage created with http://www.photovisi.com/




Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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