With partial support from the MLA ICS Reis Grant, I attended the 16th Biennial Congress for Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA) from October 14 to October 18 in Ibadan, Nigeria. It was a wonderful experience! I am very grateful to all those who made it possible for me to go to the conference. The 16th Biennial AHILA Congress was attended by 137 delegates from 22 countries, so this was a much smaller conference compared with MLA but all the same it was an exhilarating experience!
In addition to being an attendant at the conference I gave one of the plenary speeches on Health Sciences Librarianship training. Two of us presented on this topic so delegates could compare the findings from the perspective of the USA and Africa. Interestingly our presentations were very similar which led to training of health sciences librarians as one of the resolutions of AHILA. Additionally I moderated a concurrent session on “Application of ICT’s to support Medical education quality health care and well-being”.
Towards the end of the conference, at the AHILA General Assembly I was pleasantly surprised by being presented with an AHILA Recognition Award which I will cherish for the rest of my life!
With Grace Ajuwon, the president of AHILA who was reelected for another term.
The conference was in Ibadan, the capital city of the state of Oyo in Nigeria. Ibadan is home to the University of Ibadan (1948) with a university library which has the largest library collection in the country and one of the oldest library schools on the continent of Africa; it made the top 1000 in Times Higher Education rankings in 2016! Ibadan university has 13 colleges including College of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Public Health, Veterinary Medicine, Renewable Natural Resources, Education, and Social Sciences. The National Archives of Nigeria has a branch on the campus. We were treated to a tour of the very large Ibadan university one evening after the conference.
Nigeria itself is a very large country of about 357 square miles (roughly the size of Texas) and over 190 million people. One other unique thing about Ibadan is that virtually every street is a market stall. It was unbelievably exciting to see all the markets as we drove from the hotel to the conference center on the university campus.
The conference started with a preconference program of workshops which included conducting systematic reviews and synchronous online teaching. We were also honored to have The Royal Father of the Day, The Olubadan of Ibadan land, His Royal Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji offer a few remarks at the opening ceremony which was also attended by the vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, professor Olayinka.
The delegates were entertained by traditional dances performed by students from the University of Ibadan. It was such an exquisitely exciting experience! The Nigerian Medical Library Association of Nigeria (MLA-NG) was also celebrating its 10th anniversary at the same time and we celebrated with cake! MLA has a bilateral agreement with the Nigerian MLA.
Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the MLA-NG
Among the challenges at the conference was the bandwidth of the Internet but other than that the conference was very successful with seven resolutions reached in the end which include training for health sciences librarians, a subject dear to my heart.
This was a very exciting opportunity for me, and I am very glad I went. Nigerian librarians were very welcoming and are among the most accommodating hosts. I forged relationships with AHILA members that I hope will last a lifetime and will foster building of stronger bilateral ties that will benefit all. The next AHILA conference is going to be a joint ICML-AHILA conference in Pretoria, South Africa in 2021 and I urge anybody who wants to have an amazing experience to plan to attend the next conference. Consider yourselves invited! You will love it!
My thanks go to the MLA International Cooperation Caucus and its committee for awarding me the Avraham Reis Travel Grant, Shannon Jones, the Director of the Medical University of South Carolina Libraries for additional support and time off work, Shane Godblot, Donna Flake, Xan Goodman and Ayaba Logan for additional support and giving me so much courage and confidence to travel to Nigeria when my resolve was waning. Ladies, you are absolutely amazing!