New broadband access and low-cost digital tools like smartphones and mobile applications hold great promise for African libraries and universities, enabling students, scholars, and researchers to take deep dives into the rich histories of their countries, to explore and enrich postcolonial identities, and to create the sort of cross-boundary scholarship that can propel the continent’s interests forward.
But technology itself isn’t enough to unleash that potential. What else is needed? Tech-savvy librarians.
“If you are building strong postgraduate education, you need good information professionals,” said Claudia Frittelli, program officer in Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Higher Education and Research in Africa program. “Academic librarians who are themselves participating in new forms of knowledge-sharing are better equipped to inform and engage researchers in low- or no-cost communications, in networking, and in joint research to increase their visibility, relevance, and research productivity.”
The program [at the University of Pretoria] introduces students to the wide world of technology-rich information science, including open content and open-access literature, techniques for digitizing and creating research-friendly repositories of historical materials, and tools that help researchers access information more readily.
The aspiring librarians then put that knowledge to use through a range of hands-on projects. Students have built several new online collections of research materials, such as a repository focused on healthcare research in Ghana and electronic theses and dissertation collections in Uganda. Some have already implemented simple low-investment, high-impact digital tools at their own institutions, including library Facebook pages, shared Google Docs, wikis (websites that allow for collaborative editing), and online “ask a librarian” support.
African Libraries Are Bridging a Digital Divide
Filed by September 27, 2019on