Sierra Leone Book Trust Trip Report
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Sierra Leone Site Visits
Tim Nikula, Sabre's IT Training Manager/Program Officer, spent two months in Sierra Leone this summer as part of his graduate school course of study. While there, he had the opportunity to meet with members and staff of the Sierra Leone Book Trust, Sabre's new book partner in Sierra Leone. He conducted a two-day training session with members and staff of the Book Trust, and of the Sierra Leone Library Board. Mr. Sallieu Turay, the Executive Director of the Library Board, and the driving force behind the Book Trust, acted as host for Tim's visit. Sallieu had originally come into contact with Sabre during the Dialogue of African Partners Conference in Accra, Ghana, January 2002. (for more information, see www.sabre.org/dap.html)
Sierra Leone's library infrastructure was almost completely destroyed during the war. The main library building in Freetown was occupied by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and used as a staging ground and operational headquarters. One of the two Library Board vehicles was destroyed during the fighting, and while the main Library building was not badly damaged, seven of the nine regional library branches were completely destroyed. The Bo and Kenema branches were the only buildings to survive, although they both required extensive repairs. Sierra Leone has a lending-library system, but the majority of books were destroyed along with the buildings that housed them.
Sallieu Turay hosted Tim Nikula at the Freetown main library and at the Kenema branch library. The Freetown library is a two-story building, with separate rooms for Children's, Reference, Student, Cataloguing and Warehousing. The library staff catalogues and distributes books by hands. The Kenema branch is a one-room, recently renovated building that can seat approximately 50 readers, and also operates under the lending-library system.
Meetings with Library Board Tim had the opportunity to meet with most of the staff in both Kenema and Freetown, including the Chief Librarian, Ms. Lisk, and Mr. Coker, the deputy Chief Librarian. They discussed the issues surrounding the Library Sciences in Sierra Leone, and the specific concerns of the Library Board. Among their major concerns was the lack of information technology infrastructure and know-how; therefore, they were extremely grateful for the opportunity that the Sabre Foundation training sessions presented.
A press conference was held to celebrate the inauguration of the Sierra Leone Book Trust; the July 6th training session served as the first official activity of the Book Trust, one of the prerequirements for establishment of a Sierra Leone non-governmental organization. Sallieu Turay, the executive director of the Sierra Leone Library Board opened the proceedings with a welcome address. Sabre's Tim Nikula read a statement on behalf of Tania Vitvitsky, the executive director of the Sabre Foundation. David Tam-Baryoh, the Chairman of the Book Trust, then officially opened the training session. Media coverage was provided by the national radio and television network as well as three national newspapers. At the conclusion of the second day of training, there was a second press conference. Tim Nikula and Sallieu Turay also provided separate interviews to the national radio station. (see press clippings).
Meetings with Book Trust Board of Directors
David Tam-Baryoh, Chairman of the Board
Tim met with six of the seven board members during the first day of training. The board is composed of influential members of Sierra Leonean society, including the legal, media, education, library science and publishing spheres. Tim also spent considerable time with Mr. Tam-Baryoh, the chairman of the board, and the host of the computer/internet training sessions. Mr. Tam-Baryoh is a respected human rights journalist, and has traveled extensively to human rights and media/journalism conferences.
On August 1, Sallieu and Tim visited the future SLBT warehouse. They also met with the landlady of the building and took pictures of the warehouse in its current state. The warehouse is located in the port district of Sierra Leone. The building was damaged during the fighting, and is currently being renovated by the owners. The Book Trust is one of the pillars of the new building, and will begin by occupying warehouse space. The Book Trust has reserved an option to rent out one of the 2nd floor office spaces after renovations are complete. Renovations on the 1st floor are underway and should be completed by October/November.