This is a summary of the interview with Mr. Andrew Ojulong, University Librarian, Lira University in Uganda.
In February 2022, the IFLA Management & Marketing Section organized a webinar “Oh, The Places You’ll Go: Library Managers around the World”.
The webinar shared interviews with library managers from around the world. Each interview was focused around four themes: unique challenges, recommended skills for emerging managers, skills they are developing, and motivations.
Greetings from Lira University (https://lirauni.ac.ug/) in Uganda, my name is Andrew Ojulong (www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-ojulong). I am humbled to be contacted by IFLA Management and Marketing Section as one of the Library Leaders around the world to share my thoughts on my experience as a manager. I am an Information Professional in Uganda happily serving as a Senior Librarian/Ag. University Librarian responsible for management of library resources, strategic development of the library infrastructure, deployment and coordination of all Library and Information Services of the University. I have also worked on the national ADB/HEST Project as ICT requirements facilitator; and on the Erasmus/AHEAD EU project as a researcher, ICT technical facilitator, supervisor of the AHEAD Innovations Hub and currently as Patron for the innovations club and debating society.
In support of popular causes using my professional experience, I am profoundly excited to be volunteering with Mentoring Generation Africa thru Global Give Back Circle and Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme (https://mastercardfdn.org/all/scholars/), the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action (https://www.sdgactioncampaign.org/) and Consortium of Uganda University Libraries (CUUL) – previously as a Vice Chairperson and currently as Director Public Relations (https://cuul.or.ug/). I was the founding Librarian of Lira University (https://lirauni.ac.ug/) in 2015, and Gulu University (https://gu.ac.ug/) Constituent College in 2011, and previously had professional development engagements with YMCA, Warid Telecom Company (U) Ltd and Center for Basic Research (CBR) in Kampala Uganda. My wish is to make a valid contribution to society through avenues and platforms that are dedicated to making a difference as such I have provided outreach to the consortia and community as a national Trainor of Trainers on e-resources/Research4Life, bibliometrics, reference tools, ICT entrepreneurship and innovations management while participating and presenting at workshops and conferences (Nationally & Internationally).
What are some of the other unique challenges that you face in managing your library?
Based on that background, I work with people and organisations to ensure authenticity of information and promote inclusive access. And I am of the view that the challenge that I’m facing currently is broad in nature, because it involves managing my own library and also volunteering and multitasking as a compassionate information professional.
Specifically, I am faced with space limitations and slow adoption of technologically driven services. Furthermore, we are facing persistent digital divide problems in terms of inability to achieve equitable access to robust information systems, inclusive e-resources and up to date equipment (We do not have the purchasing power to leverage digital resources and equipment that promote instant access to information services in a timely and efficient manner). Yet libraries elsewhere have transformed services. The requirement for libraries to meet user changing needs and expectations have simultaneously been dictated by the effects of covid 19 pandemic that radically changed libraries priorities; and the impact 4th industrial revolution trend.
And then we are also faced with the challenge of growing user numbers. As we introduce newer programs as done in any emerging university that is attempting to meet the country’s teaching and training demands at a higher education level. We feel that the size of the library needed to be considered when initial planning was taking place. However, Lira University did not receive a seed grant but we have recently produced a concept and architectural drawings as lobbying tools for seeking funding. In a meantime, we are managing by incorporating the e-learning strategies, e-library platform and e-resources utilization with remote access which enables users to access some of our services from anywhere.
What skills would you encourage emerging managers to develop to be successful?
I would encourage emerging managers to focus more on learning: How to bring the best out of people; How to encourage and award innovation; How to avoid compromising objectives in favor of shortage term benefits; How to retool the existing business models and reconfigure the library’s services value; How to develop a purpose-driven leadership strategy; And how to cultivate human capital and talent as a strategic corporate asset for enhanced productivity.
What management skills are you currently developing and learning?
I’m currently developing and learning: People Skills including emotional intelligence; Conflict Resolution techniques; How to operate among leaders in an increasingly complex and deeply connected global environment; How to harness technologies that enable free flow of information and collaboration worldwide; How to develop a culture of leadership – being innovative and strategic about direction; And how to build technology-driven cross-cutting collaboration capabilities.
What motivates you as a manager?
I am motivated by my: Thirst for knowledge and wisdom; Willingness and ability to learn new skills; Ability to influence and motivate others and knowing that all humans are bound to error. And then the fact that I’m still young and energetic, as Jack Ma [Chinese Businessman] put it, “the best asset that you have is the fact that you are still here”. So, I would like to use that as an opportunity to grow in leadership and also the ability to really align other things and then configure, collect the energy within me and be able to push forward and engage with other leaders across the globe. With that, I certainly feel like I’ve stepped into a much healthier and more evolved version of myself.