Sarah Ogembo is 27 and is already Head of Kenya National Library Service (knls) Kisii branch library in Kenya. Her library is part of our Inspiring Readers thanks to funds from Players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Our school library programme and our Education Project Officer Ashleigh met Sarah while facilitating the librarian training as part of the programme. Ashleigh also witnessed Sarah putting her new skills into practice, training teachers and head teachers from local primary schools in Kisii. Ashleigh caught up with Sarah to find out how she got to where she is today.
Who is Sarah Ogembo?
I am a 27 year old lady that loves her job! The main things that typify me are that I am very passionate about children, I cannot stand injustice and I always try to be a very happy person. Professionally speaking, I would classify myself as an information provider. I chose this career path because I think that each and every person should have access to information to make positive changes to society – and these changes are cultural, social, economic and political. I believe that the role of libraries is to change the world one person at a time through access to information through books.
How did you get to where you are today?
When I was growing up, my mother worked at the Ministry of Land. The community library was opposite my mother’s ministry. We went there when my mum went to work and we stayed all day during the holidays until she came to collect us. I loved reading the books – I would read the whole shelf from left to right. I was lucky that my secondary school had a very good library with a lovely young librarian who was very good at her job.
When I got to university I really knew what I wanted to do. I studied library and information science and I picked this course because it was relevant to my strengths and passions. I attended the University of Kenyatta and I was there for four years. They had a very good library which I used all the time. Once I graduated and started looking for a job, I applied to work at knls and once I was successful, I was sent to Kisii straight away.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The daily interaction with lots of different people, especially the children. Seeing the ones that come in to the library to do an assignment but can’t afford to buy
the course book, they come in and use it in the library. This is one of my favourite things about this job.
Tell us about your work with Book Aid International
Since working at Kisii, I was invited into the partnerships that knls have with other organisations. I know that as an organisation we cannot do everything, so it is useful to work with other stakeholders. With Book Aid International in particular, I have worked on the Inspiring Readers programme as Kisii library is one of the hub libraries in the first ever tranche of the programme. The local schools involved have now become institutional members and the children are really enjoying their new books.
The relationship between our library and the teachers and head-teachers from the local schools have been strengthened and I think the schools will really benefit from the programme. My role within this programme is to act as a link between the schools and Kisii library. We are now monitoring what is happening and we are guiding and training the teachers to ensure that the children get the most out of their new resources.
How do you see the role that libraries can play in the development of Kenyan society?
There has been a big change in libraries from when I was a kid to now in terms of the advancement of technology. The primary role of the library might not change – every person should have access to resources to make sure their literacy levels are increased. But the resources and how we access them will change in the future. Libraries have a big role to play in helping people adapt to future societies, but with the same age old common goal.
Find out more about Inspiring Readers below.