Friday, July 13, 2007

The State of Acquisition, Organization and Use of Open Access Information Resources in Cameroon University Libraries

Full Title: The State of Acquisition, Organization and Use of Open Access Information Resources in Cameroon University Libraries: The Case of the University of Buea and University of Yaounde I Libraries Photo: Charles Kivin Wirsiy at PKP Conference

Presenter: Charles Kiven Wirsiy, Library Services, University of Buea, Cameroon
Time: 9:40 AM - 10:40 AM, 13 July 2007
Location: SFU Harbour Centre, Westcoast Energy Executive Meeting Room, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Photo: University of Buea

In 1992 Cameroon saw higher education reforms that led to the creation of 5 more universities that went to functional in May 1993. At the time the University of Yaoundé was the lone university in Cameroon. The new universities are either English, French or bilingual, including the University of Buea created in the Aglo-Saxon tradition. The University of Yaoundé has a bilingual and bicultural tradition but the French influence is more dominant. All six universities are funded by the government and suffer a perennial problem of inadequate funding. As a consequence, electronic journals can play a vital role in the delivery of information.

Wirsiy, of the University of Beau, examined the state of acquisition, organization, and use of electronic resources at the universities of Buea and Yaoundé I.

University of Buea:
- 14,000 students in 2006/7
- 80,00 volumes of manuals and serials (bulk in English)
- subscriptions to 8 journals
- access to electronic information on-line or on CD-ROM (including ADL, HINARI, AGORA, World Bank, TUFH, AJOL, OpenDOAR, DOAJ)
- connected to the Internet in 2003/4 but not functional due to issues with bandwidth
- automation underway
- directory of open access resources available on CD ROM and printed
- licenses with HINARI, AGORA, and World Bank - passwords provided to users to use from cafes or IT centre
- user education

University of Yaoundé I:
- 25,000 students in 2006/7
- 120,00 volumes of manuals and serials (bulk in French)
- no journal subscriptions
- access to HINARI and AGORA
- connected to Internet but not functional
- media center with 50 computers
- directory of open access resources available on CD ROM but not current
- licenses to HINARI and AGORA – passwords to users “timid”
- user education limited

Wirsiy’s comparison indicated that while open access is gaining ground in Africa, the state of affairs in Cameroon’s two prominent university libraries leaves much to be desired.

Improvement Prospects:
- improvement of ICT and bandwidth
- creation of “Centre Interuniversitaire des Resources Documentaires” (CIRD) and “Centre interuniversitaires des technologies de l’information et de la Communication” (CITI) by Minister of Education to act as clearinghouses
- creation of virtual libraries in state universities (UB given go-ahead but no prospects at UYI yet)
- increasing availability of cheap wireless broadband via mobile telephone companies (using mobile phones to download at UB)
- creation of Consortium of Cameroon University and Research Libraries (COCUREL) though assistance from the Electronic Information for Libraries Network (Helena Asamoa-Hassan from KNUST in Ghana went to Cameroon to help launch a functional consortium)
- creation of institutional information repositories

What’s Still Needed in terms of Open Access?
- improved Internet connectivity
- training
- increased knowledge of resources by those in education community

Blogger's Blurb:
“The publisher of an Africa scholarly journal is faced with the rapid expansion of higher education and an increased number of disciplines. This results in many small niche markers of isolated scholars, who either look to the North for specialized journals or are tempted into creating one of their own.”
- Jaygbay, J. 2007 Jun 29. The Politics of and Prospects for African Scholarly Journals in the Information Age. Developments in Scholarly Publishing

Wirsiy’s presentation was preceded by Helena Asamoah–Hassan’s presentation on the KNUST library in Kumasi, Ghana’s experience with electronic scholarly publishing The presentations are closely related to the extent that Helena visited Cameroon to help launch the Consortium of Cameroon University and Research Libraries. Both presenters, and the libraries discussed, suffer from a dearth of information and resources and are constrained by small budgets. While electronic journals and open-access seem an ideal means of enabling small libraries to access a wealth of information, the disparity of the “digital divide” is evident in the African context. Access to computers and reliable Internet connections were noted by both presenters and scholars at the University of Buea now depend on their mobile telephones to download and Internet cafés play a crucial role. Both presenters however expressed optimism and interest in electronic journal publishing and open access. Crucial insight was offered on how to introduce software such as OJS despite fear, skepticism and the challenges of government bureaucracy in Africa. While global access to information is the ultimate vision and hope, both presentations highlighted that global access still requires knowledge of regional and cultural issues.

Thomas Abraham’s presentation on scholarly publishing in India raised many similar concerns and considerations. His discussion of customizing OJS software in Hindi and the potential to extend this to other Indian languages seems particularly relevant in the African context. While the coordination and sharing between the libraries in Ghana and Cameroon is promising, extending such dialogue to other countries outside of Africa, such as India, would not only be valuable for all involved but very much in the spirit of expanding lines of communication with the aim of improving the quality of information that underlies the Public Knowledge Project.

Related conference presentations:

On libraries
"Rethinking Collections: Libraries and Librarians in an Open Age", "Librarians as campus OA leaders: the University of Alberta experience", "The Library as a mediator for e-publishing. A case on how a library can become a significant factor in facilitating digital scholarly communication and open access publishing for less web savvy journals", "The National Library of Australia: open access to Open Publish", "A content management strategy – implementing OJS and OCS at Swinburne University library", "Beyond the Experiment: The Scholarly Publishing Office and the Maturation of Library-Based Publishing", "Survey of Librarian Attitudes about Open Access", "A Critical Theory of Library Technology: Libraries & Electronic Publishing"

On Africa
"Strengthening African Research Culture and Capacities Project", "Scholarly publishing in sub-Saharan Africa in the twenty-first century: challenges and opportunities", "Open Source Software in Education in Africa", "Embracing Electronic Scholarly Publishing In Africa; The Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science And Technology (Knust) Library, Kumasi, Ghana As A Case Study"