Library staff from six different universities in Tanzania have recently undergone training on Digital Librarianship, aimed at enhancing librarian skills on the management of electronic content. The training was delivered by SemperTool, a Danish software development company specializing in delivering digital library services and products to university libraries.
The five-day workshop was hosted by the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and sponsored by the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), a Feed the Future project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The 18 library staff that attended the workshop came from SUA, Mzumbe University, the Institute of Finance Management (IFM), Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST), the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), and the Institute of Tax Administration (ITA).
According to the Senior Library Officer at SUA’s Sokoine National Agriculture Library (SNAL), Jabir A. Jabir, the training was also aimed at empowering SNAL staff and other universities in the country to be able to technically and administratively manage LibHub, which is an online information resource discovery tool. LibHub increases accessibility to online information resources, and SUA is one of the first universities in Tanzania to introduce it.
“SNAL’s role is on marketing, training, and making LibHub sustainable while sharing the knowledge with other libraries,” says Jabir, adding that this coordination role will eventually end up in the hands of the Consortium of Tanzania Universities and Research Libraries (COTUL).
Jabir explains that the use of LibHub is beneficial to both university students and staff. Having a single point of access for many databases and journals has simplified the access of electronic resources, and remote access makes it possible for users who are not in the library to retrieve electronic resources.
“In short, this service has made it possible for SNAL/SUA to be the same as universities in developed countries in terms of information access. It is a big achievement that through LibHub we have access to millions of updated scholarly articles,” says Jabir.
Salam Baker Shanawa, the founder of SemperTool, created the LibHub discovery search system and the Resource Management System (RMS). He facilitated the five-day training in Morogoro that covered different topics on; Acquisitions and Collection Development, End User Services (access, searching and browsing), Licensing, Usage and Reporting, Remote Access, Proxy Setup and Archives and Preservation.
Salam acknowledges that the training is important for university library staff, as the two tools – LibHub and the RMS – fill a vital gap when it comes to digital librarianship. While LibHub enables researchers and students to search across all available information resources through one single search interface, he says, the RMS simplifies the administration of the digital library.
“During the training participants showed an enormous interest in developing themselves and helping transform their libraries into modern digital libraries. It was great to work together with librarians, system administrators and decision makers on different issues related to digital library services,” explains the LibHub creator.
iAGRI, which is spearheading this initiative, is a Feed the Future project funded by USAID, aimed to prepare the next generation of agricultural and nutrition leaders and strengthen and integrate the core institutions of agricultural research, education, and extension in Tanzania. Ohio State University (OSU) is the managing entity for a consortium of six US universities including Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Tuskegee University, University of Florida, and Iowa State University. Key partners in Tanzania include the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC). The project aims to prepare teachers, researchers and extension practitioners in Tanzania to cooperatively and effectively address needs of smallholder farmers and the growing agribusiness sector, and to strengthen the capacity of Tanzania’s leading agricultural teaching and research organizations to find solutions to the country’s food security challenges.