The Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) has become one of the first universities in Tanzania to introduce an online information resource discovery tool, known as LibHub, aimed at increasing accessibility to online information resources.
This project is being implemented by the Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL), and supported by the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), with support from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). iAGRI is supporting the adoption of LibHub by the SUA community by sponsoring training, promotional events, and a remote access system that allows users to download scientific papers and other resources even from off-campus locations.
According to iAGRI’s Program Director, Professor David Kraybill, the initial implementation process of LibHub involved a number of factors, such as setting up the remote access, sessions on training of trainers for staff to help them prepare for and understand the system, adding electronic journals to the new tool, as well as embarking on a marketing campaign of the new product. LibHub is geared towards serving stakeholders in the SUA community and beyond.
“SNAL is a national agricultural library that serves not only the SUA community, but also other members outside the university. The up-to-date resources that are available through LibHub showcase how SUA can be an example of how far Tanzanian universities can go in librarianship,” explains Professor Kraybill.
SUA’s Senior Library Officer, Jabir A. Jabir, says that the establishment of LibHub has made it easy to access e-resources, compared to how it used to be before. Previously, he says, users had to access online resources by opening a number of different websites, and they were limited to only the sources that they were familiar with.
“I must say that our students and researchers were not really able to explore a variety of e-resources, especially since each site required them to have a different username and password, something that was very inconvenient,” explains Jabir. He adds that with LibHub, users only require a single username and password, which gives them access to millions of resources from different sites, through a single search.
Another advantage of LibHub, says Jabir, is the fact that users can access it from anywhere they are. Previously, those who wanted to access e-resources could only do it while located at SUA, but right now they can have access from anywhere in the world, as long as they have a SUASIS username and password, which allows them to log in to the SUA network.
According to recent statistics, the use of LibHub at SUA is increasing each month. About 2,562 texts were fully downloaded last year from April till December, while this year alone shows a total of 9,461 texts to have been fully downloaded from January up until September. SNAL expects the number to increase even more by the end of this year. LibHub currently has over 15 million peer-reviewed journals dating back to 1965, with 1,984,000 of them being from 2013 alone. Furthermore, there are more than 35,000 e-books, 17,500 journal titles, and 380 databases and links.
While only a few universities in Tanzania are currently using LibHub, SUA is pioneering the involvement of other universities in the country so that students and researchers all over Tanzania could have easy access to online resources. Efforts have already started through the Consortium of Tanzania Research and University Libraries (COTUL), whereby the creator of LibHub, Salam Baker Shanawa from Denmark visited Tanzania recently on a visit hosted by SUA. Another COTUL meeting is slated for November this year, whereby one of the agenda items expected to be discussed is for COTUL to subscribe to LibHub so that it could be managed by the Tanzanian universities themselves.
The Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) is part of the Feed the Future initiative in Tanzania funded by USAID. iAGRI prepares the next generation of agricultural and nutrition leaders and strengthens and integrates the core institutions of agricultural research, education, and extension in Tanzania. Ohio State University (OSU) is the managing entity for a consortium of six U.S. 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.