Guest Blog Post – Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL)

Guest Blog Post – Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL)

In the first of our guest blog series, Jabir Jabir, Senior Library Officer and E-resources Project Coordinator (iAGRI/SNAL) describes changes in the use of digital resources supported by iAGRI. Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL) is not only SUA’s library but also the national library of agriculture for Tanzania. Digital Librarianship is one of the institutional strengthening initiatives led by iAGRI at SUA. The project aims to increase the access to digital resources and promote the use of tools such as LibHub among agricultural researchers and students at SUA. Jabir Jabir supervises as staff of 17 academic assistants and 24 administrators at SNAL. Here, he tells us about the change occurring at SNAL and how this is helping SUA students complete their studies.

Most students are not that advanced when comes to finding information. We help them to find anything, make effective use of those resources, and apply this knowledge to their research. If the resources are there but people do not utilize them, they are not worth it until people use them. With LibHub, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the use of access to resources at SUA. LibHub enables open access to scientific journal articles. SNAL also provides access to institutional libraries that are now becoming digitized as well as archival information such as dissertations from previous students. In facilitating the access to information to its users, SNAL has agreements for inter-library loans with several neighboring academic institutions and libraries.

iAGRI staff and volunteers handing out pamphlets promoting LibHub outside of the Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL) on SUA's campus.

iAGRI staff and volunteers handing out pamphlets promoting LibHub outside of the Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL) on SUA’s campus.

The premise of LibHub is that students will be able to access all e-resources through a single portal or window. Previously, SNAL had approximately 24 subscriptions to different resources. To access them one had to know the different passwords and usernames for separate journals and scientific publications. Some of the resources were not even being used. With LibHub, these disparate sources of information are available at their fingertips, allowing students to access a wide range of materials more quickly.

Now, we are able to gauge the use of different journals and resources that we subscribe to. If they are not being used by the students, we are able to assess this and restructure our acquisitions and subscriptions accordingly in the future. Now, all of the resources we have subscribed to are being used by students, allowing us to be more cost effective in the services we provide at SNAL. The resources are being used more now not only because we tailor them, but also because we provide training to students on the use of the LibHub search engine. This has greatly increase the effective use of the tool by students. To date, more than 270 library users have received the Libhub training.

There has been a lot of change from when iAGRI became involved. Two to three years ago, if you came into our library computer laboratory, there would be a line of students. Now, the flow is minimized because people can access the same information through the online portal remotely, either in their dormitories or in the courtyard. Because information is streamlined, students no longer have difficulties finding what they need on their own. They are more independent and self-sufficient, decreasing the time it takes for them to gather the necessary materials for their research. They are even able to access the resources using their smart phones.

Jabir Jabir, Senior Library Officer and E-resources Project Coordinator (iAGRI/SNAL)

Disparities in the quality of education are often exacerbated the information divide. Limited information accessibility, lack of suitable information services, and inadequate technical competencies are among the main barriers to delivery of information services. By increasing access to information and communication technologies. The changes at SNAL highlight the importance of access to information for a new generation of academics. With iAGRI’s support, SNAL is helping to nurture a rising generation of scholars who will contribute to the continued development of agricultural science in Tanzania.

Jabir Jabir in spreading the news about the use of LibHub to other library services specialists. He is presenting a paper on “Resource Management Usage and How it facilitate Library Services and Collaborations: Case of Libhub Use at SUA” at the 2016 Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Souther Africa Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL) on “Digital transformation and the changing roles of Libraries and information centers in the sustainable development of Africa” in Swaziland 25-29 April 2016.

For more information on SNAL, visit their website at: http://www.lib.suanet.ac.tz/
For more information on ways iAGRI is supporting SNAL, visit here: http://iagri.org/core-activities/organizational-transformation/ongoing-experiments/digital-librarianship-at-snal/