How library mergers can be successful – showing the conditions
She describes the librarian profession as a passion.
"I value the role of librarians in the development of institutions and society at large," says Berthilde Uwamwezi, who did her undergraduate education in her hometown of Kigali in Rwanda and in Senegal. After a few years as a librarian, she was given a position in Kigali in 2012 as library director at one of the institutions that merged the following year to form University of Rwanda.
It was a process that later inspired her in her doctoral education at the University of Borås.
"Some problems arose during the merger, for example in connection with the lending of books to borrowers from different campuses and parts of the geographically dispersed university. The challenge was that different actors had different views on libraries, their role in their institutions, and how they should be governed,” she says and continues, "I wanted to contribute to an understanding of the role and governance of libraries in the context that previously autonomous, diverse, and geographically dispersed libraries were merged and then supposed to work together.
There is a lack of education in library and information science in Rwanda. Consequently, there is a lack of library research.
"There was no previous research in this area, in the African context" says Berthilde Uwamwezi, who wanted to make an effort.
A SIDA scholarship took her to Sweden and Borås where, six years ago, she began her doctoral education. The focus of the thesis is the question: In the merger of university institutions and their libraries, how can ideas about resource sharing, used as strategic ways to control libraries, promote the merging of libraries?
After conducting a qualitative study with interviews of library staff as well as university management plus observations of participants' workplaces and analysis of steering documents, Berthilde Uwamwezi has concluded that among the participants there is a two-way approach to resource sharing, depending on where in the organisational structure they are in relation to the libraries. "Such approaches also influence decisions relating to libraries, the work there, and how libraries are managed."
Berthilde Uwamwezi’s conclusions are that a successful merger requires a common approach among all actors involved, as well as a platform for discussion and activity-based decisions – which is available to both staff and management.
"There is no perfect way to conduct a merger. But the process can be efficient and smooth when there is a strategic plan. A common understanding of the purpose and expectations of the merger is crucial."
Useful for all kinds of organisations
She believes that as her conclusions are of a general nature, any library can use them. She also points out that mergers often create challenges, not only in the library and university world, but for all kinds of organisations. And that the results of her work can thus be useful on a broader front – all over the world.
"My conclusions can be applied in Rwanda but also adapted to other countries – taking into account socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions specific to each country."
Berthilde Uwamwezi looks back on her time in Borås as exciting and rewarding – and is extremely pleased to have received her doctorate.
"It feels like a relief, a success, to finally be done after many years of hard work. The next step is to use the acquired knowledge and skills at Rwanda University, and across the country, for the development of libraries, she says and continues, "I would also very much like to continue researching. And hopefully along the same lines. Mergers are a global trend and there may therefore be opportunities to learn from or collaborate with other universities that have been in the same situation as the University of Rwanda. That would be interesting.”
Lena Carlsson, translation: Eva Medin
Suss Wilén, Mostphotos