2004 January Newsletter

African University Libraries and the Carnegie Corporation

The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will work with seven universities and their libraries in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda as part of the Carnegie Corporation’s focus on The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. The Partnership supports innovative programs that are revitalizing the universities and their libraries and equipping the universities to educate future country leaders and administrators.

While everyone recognizes the potential impact of strong universities and robust libraries on the growth of nations, it also is obvious that librarians need additional professional development to enable them to manage and implement sustainable changes. The Mortenson Center staff plan to consult with the Carnegie grantees about a needs assessment for their libraries and future training programs for library staff. The Mortenson Center specializes in providing short-term training for librarians from outside the United States. Founded in 1991, the Center has welcomed more than 600 librarians from 85 countries.

Staff from the Mortenson Center will visit the seven Carnegie grantees to assess the capabilities of their libraries. The review will focus on user access to information. It will assess the resources of the libraries in areas such as technical infrastructure, delivery of services, ease of access to and strength of collections and databases, staff development training, bibliographic instruction for users, understanding of international standards, and related services. New technologies and their role in libraries will be part of the assessment.

This assessment will serve as the first step in evaluating the need for a professional development program for grantees. Through the grant, Mortenson Center staff will visit with university library staff from the following institutions: University of Ghana Legon and University of Education at Winneba in Ghana; Ahmadu Bello University, University of Jos, and Obafemi Owolowo University in Nigeria; Dar es Salaam University in Tanzania; and Makerere University in Uganda.

University libraries in all countries have an exciting and challenging future. They must learn quickly and efficiently to select, implement, and manage new technologies to provide better access to information. Information today is no longer confined to a physical structure such as a library, and learning to provide access to virtual information is critical to the educational mission of universities. One way to help librarians transition into an open access information environment is to provide a professional development program that focuses on the new technologies and the skills needed to use them.

Barbara J. Ford, director of the Mortenson Center and Susan Schnuer, assistant director of the Center will oversee the project. Joyce Latham, a current instructor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, also will contribute to the project. The Mortenson Center staff look forward to working with these university libraries in Africa in identifying needed training and developing appropriate programs.