Building a Digital Library at the University of Zimbabwe: A Celebration of Team Work and Collaboration
Mamvoto, Jabes M.
Mbirizah, Joseph C.
Gurira, Josephine F.
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Over the past few decades, university education has been transformed by investment in electronic infrastructure and connectivity, as well as from the attention paid to e-learning and related approaches as key tools to enhance the quality of higher education and make it more accessible. University libraries are an important part of this transformation. They acquire, organize and deliver digital information. They enable and promote its use. Libraries provide the bridge between digital content and the end-user. They provide pathways through the Internet jungle. In many countries of the developing world, finance – or the lack of it – has prevented university libraries from developing a dynamic interaction with ICTs, building electronic information management systems and creating digital services for their users. The University of Zimbabwe is one of the exceptions. Its library was determined to stay on the cutting edge of 21st-century information provision and develop a digital library, despite the constraints experienced during a period of rapid national economic decline. This volume tells the story. Various members of staff from the University of Zimbabwe library have each contributed a chapter describing the ways in which the library’s digital future was built. Two chapters cover automation and the development of the OPAC, the basic building blocks of any digital library. The library then concentrated on the digitization of local information – theses, past examination papers and a repository of research papers and journal articles. The ultimate aim is for UZ academic output not only to be more accessible to the UZ community but also be available on the World Wide Web. In this way the university would not only be a consumer of the Internet but also input content to global information space. It was considered that developments in digitization would be meaningless unless they were accompanied by vigorous information literacy education and training for faculty and students. Chapter Five describes how this was made formal and integrated into the curriculum of the university. The final two chapters discuss in depth the effect of digital content and services in two subject areas, health and law, as examples of what has also happened in other disciplines. The then Librarian of the University of Zimbabwe is the overall editor; she also contributes an initial overview and context. Each chapter contains sections on lessons learnt, challenges faced and to be faced, and issues concerning sustainability. There is no doubt that the library has made enormous progress in a difficult economic climate. Its achievements in building and continuing to build a digital library are first-rate. It offers a quality service to users. It does not rest on its laurels but seeks new ways to utilize ICTs. Various factors can be identified as key to this success:• Digitization was adopted as the library’s own plan. It was not superimposed from outside on the library’s activities. Once the vision was there, resources followed. But the initiative always was with the library. It determined the targets. The library team was united behind the plan. • Winning the support and active involvement of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office was crucial. This was especially important at a time when there were many demands on resources from within the university. The library always worked within, and was seen to be contributing to the success of, the university’s strategic plan. The university proved willing to budget for maintenance costs, very important for sustainability. • External partner support was also crucial, and the library received funding – human, financial and material – from many different organizations, both within and outside the country. The fact that the library had a plan, and that it was receiving strong support from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, made seeking and acquiring partners an easier task. • Also important were partnerships within the university – for example, with the Computer Centre and faculty. Such collaboration was necessary to sustain the technical aspects of the library management system, to carry out the information literacy courses, and to populate the institutional repository. • Finally, the library recognized that the training of library staff at all levels was essential, both to pass on the necessary skills and for team-building. In addition, it set up a dedicated IT Unit within the library. INASP’s decision to publish a series of case studies arose from its Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI). The latter was established during 1999/2000 to provide assistance to developing and transitional countries in information production, access and dissemination using ICTs. Its objectives include facilitating the acquisition of international information and knowledge, as well as training in the use of ICTs and improving the production and dissemination of national and regional research. In 2004 a review of PERI was undertaken to examine its relevance, usage, management, sharing and sustainability. One of its conclusions was that some of the challenges reported could be resolved by sharing and archiving case studies, best practice, ideas, etc., relevant to PERI activities. This volume is the second of PERI’s Research and Education Case Studies to be published. We hope that it will assist libraries in developing countries as they travel the road of building digital content and services.
Available online <http://www.inasp.info/file/0de41efb22ba341445c16fea7eeca94d/book-building-digital-library-zimbabwe.html>
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