Information partnerships and networking
by Peter Ballantyne and Diana Rosenberg
One of the hottest trends in the research and development sectors
has been the growth of 'networks' as mechanisms to mobilise
expertise and share knowledge. These networks have spread far and
wide and, fuelled by the ultimate network, the Internet, we can see
a new way of working - 'networking' - beginning to emerge.
The boom in networks and networking has also contributed to a
much wider interest in different forms of cooperation and
collaboration, often called partnership or partnerships between and
among various organizations.
While collaboration as a means to share resources has been practiced
by the library community for many years, partnerships are emerging
as key means by which all kinds of information resources and
capacities can be shared and made available to us all.
While precise definitions of networking and partnership in the
information and development sectors are still evolving, all around
us we can see people and organizations experimenting with both.
In this special issue therefore, we asked various people to tell us
about information networking and partnerships in their context. The
results illustrate how information professionals are networking
together to become more effective, how information itself is being
'networked' to reach more people, ways in which partnerships are
being set up to widen access to various information resources, and
how different types of consortia, cooperatives, and collaboration
are being set up to address different needs.
In the first two articles, Irene Lorete and Joel Sam illustrate the
operation of information exchange networks in the health and
agriculture fields respectively. While Joel's article gives a more
institutional picture of the set up and sustainability of a national
network, Irene shares concrete tips on how to attract users and
members to use a network's services.
Ibrahima Bob's short note argues that local health information
professionals in Africa need to network locally as well as more
widely, in his case through country chapters of AHILA.
Maurice Kisenyi shows how information workers in Kenya have got
together precisely to capture, document, and conserve their local
The following three articles all look at the development of library
consortia. Increasingly recognized as an important way to widen
access while also maximising the use of scarce resources, recent
developments in Malawi and Ethiopia are highlighted.
Monica Allmand's note on the CGIAR library consortium shows that
these approaches pay off even among relatively well-funded
organizations. As was mentioned above, scientific, learned and
professional associations have long been at the forefront of
information exchange and networking.
Three contributions explore how information professionals and
librarians can themselves benefit from the professional
opportunities and exposure that such associations offer.
Finally, we highlight several projects and initiatives that
illustrate different modes of cooperation among information and
UAICT-Africa is a joint venture by several university libraries to
share information on their uses of ICTs.
ELAND, Euforic, and AGORA illustrate different partnership
approaches that aim to enhance access to information in their fields
The final article on ALPSP shows how publishers are also beginning
to band together to gain greater exposure for their products.
Indigenous networking: Attracting and
keeping your 'clients'
by Irene Lorete
Running an information hub is similar to marketing, but with a
twist, and for the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN) this 'twist'
is harm reduction.
Our members are the clients, our services are the products, and in
order to 'sell' these products, we must ensure that they are useful
and accessible. Once they are known as such, 'marketing' snowballs
with little effort.
That in itself is the indigenous networking principle behind AHRN.
We capitalized on a 'niche group' - the centre of our mandates - and
started with one 'product': information dissemination.
Networking and internet-mediated communication
How do you link-up programmes with expertise attuned to local needs
without costly plane tickets? Where can people go for quick,
up-to-date information considering limited resources?
Information hubs are today's by-word where bridging time, distance
and resources are utmost. At its core is the Internet, the current
media of choice for quick, real-time exchanges of information or
discussions via websites or email.
But have we maximized the Internet according to our needs? Easy
access to information is excellent but it can also be overwhelming.
Providing userfriendly support services is then crucial.
The Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN) was conceived because of the
need to link people and resources involved in HIV/AIDS prevention.
The AIDS virus has found an entry vessel through the pointed tips of
shared needles, establishing epidemics among individuals who use
drugs in some Asian countries and threatening larger society.
The AHRN Secretariat in Thailand serves as a hub in order to carry
out its mandates: networking, advocacy, information sharing,
training, and programme and policy development for people keen on
promoting health among individuals who use drugs.
Since 1999, The AHRN clearinghouse has been collecting and
digitising resources which became available a year later from the
Information Sharing Facility at www.ahrn.net. Access generated
(free) memberships and members also received the AHRN newsletter by
regular mail. The ahrnlist - a discussion group hosted at yahoo
groups - also sent out news and queries and responses.
Our members are a niche of people interested in one thing: drug use
and HIV/AIDS in Asia. With these services, we captured their
interests, "But how do we sustain it?" we asked ourselves.
Windows of AHRN
So last year, we decided to spruce up these services with the hiring
of new staff. News on the ahrn-list were reformatted into the Drug
Use and HIV/AIDS News Digest - a compilation of current news in
easyto- use html format. A bi-monthly Network Bulletin followed,
stocked with trainings, vacancies, events, funding and new resources
related to drug use.
With more staff at the Clearinghouse, AHRN embarked on a more active
'backroom' service provision, replying to inquiries promptly,
keeping a keen eye on vital issues and establishing relationship
with individuals and organizations who are key players in harm
reduction in the region.
Keeping in mind that not everyone is wired to the Internet, the AHRN
newsletter started reporting on key issues in the field (policies,
programme, advocacy) and extended its network bulletin with country
updates, regional meeting reports, current news, etc.
Recently, the Information Sharing Facility underwent a facelift. It
combined AHRN's archive of printed and on-line resources and made it
accessible through a simpler, keyword search engine.
And how do we know that these information services work? ahrn-list
membership increased by nearly 50% after service reformatting, and
new members continue to register nearly daily. The newsletter is
also getting its share of good feedback from its recipients and
requests for new memberships.
The AHRN Clearinghouse has also started training in-country harm
reduction networks that will duplicate its services on a smaller
scale, hence supporting networking on a national level and making it
easier for AHRN to get country updates.
Essentially, these services have become windows to what AHRN and its
members are doing under the network's five mandates. The
organization's role has since been extended into a specialized
information hub on drug use in the region. A stable five-year core
funding (approved in 2001) from the Royal Netherlands Government was
also key in achieving this status.
More information from:
Asian Harm Reduction Network
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Information networking for Ghana's
agricultural research and development
by Joel Sam
The Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS) was
established in 1992 as part of the National Agricultural Research
Project (NARP). Its aim is to facilitate the dissemination of
agricultural information to policy and decision makers, research
scientists, planners, lecturers, students, extension workers, and
farmers. GAINS links the libraries of all the main stakeholders in
agricultural information provision in Ghana.
Importance of information networking
Library and information systems in the agricultural sector in Ghana
used to operate independently of each other resulting in an uneven
development and duplication. There was therefore the need to
establish a networking system with the view to:
Reduce duplication of research activities - know what each other
Share information on research activities and findings
Learn information management skills
Bring together scattered agricultural research information
Make a greater impact on research efforts
Ensure even development of agricultural information infrastructure
Make available and easily accessible current information
Improve the planning, design and execution of research, including
the diffusion of research results.
Approaches to networking
A number of approaches to networking were adopted. It was agreed
that there should be a phased approach in which activities to be
undertaken in each phase would be clearly defined and discussed with
One basic principle agreed on was collaboration to facilitate
resource sharing, minimize unnecessary duplication of resources, and
to increase comprehensiveness in literature resources. A central
focus for agricultural information was therefore adopted with a
Coordinating Centre seen by all the partners as playing a leading
role in the implementation of the network. In addition, agricultural
information services should be perceived and provided in a holistic
manner to ensure even development. A Technical Management Committee
was set up from participating institutions to draw up detailed plans
for staffing, equipping, stocking and services.
Furthermore, agricultural librarians needed to collaborate in
identification of key literature resources, developing physical
structures, and in user surveys. It must be stressed that the
process of consultation and consensus building was used a lot during
the formative stages of the network. It was undertaken at various
levels (top management and middle management as well as the
information personnel level) where roles, responsibilities, and
benefits - both individual and collective - were discussed and
common strategies adopted. This approach was preferred to imposing
guidelines from a central point.
Results of networking
Though people generally appreciate the positive impact of
networking, they sometimes also think that by coming together they
are being asked to do more work than before. Thus the issue of what
benefits they will derive (individually and institutionally) was
The results of agricultural information networking in Ghana over the
past ten years have been tremendous. From the institutional point of
view, the main benefit was the development of a functional network
that coordinated all the fragmented agricultural information
resources and made them easily available and accessible to the
partners. This reduced considerably the time required to search for
information and to know which institute has what information.
Furthermore, the resources of the various information centres, which
previously were not available to outside users, could be accessed
through the network.
In addition, the GAINS Coordinating Centre was built and other
libraries were rehabilitated or extended. Basic items of equipment
such as computers, copiers, air conditioners, and phones were
supplied at the inception of the network. Each participating
institute was allocated 4-5 specialist journals yearly and
thirty-five books. CDROM facilities were installed at five sites.
A computerized database was also developed. This indexes Ghana's
agricultural research from the colonial period to the present and
contains largely unpublished literature such as research reports,
annual reports, consultancy reports and dissertations. It was the
first database to bring together the fragmented and scattered
agricultural research literature in Ghana.
Information personnel benefited immensely from local and overseas
training programmes. Nine local training programmes were also
organized for information personnel to update their knowledge in
areas like information marketing, CDS/ISIS, and information
retrieval. Training was also provided to personnel in participating
research institutions to help them keep abreast of new trends in
information management. Frequent face-to-face interactions fostered
unity and cooperation among the partners.
Lessons and challenges
In implementing the GAINS project over the past ten years, lessons
Commitment of partners is vital. Without this, the modest
successes would not have been possible.
Ownership of the process has been very important since no partner
has felt alienated.
Roles and responsibilities of partners needed to be clearly
defined from the onset.
Differences in opinion have been resolved in a transparent and
Benefits of networking needed to be made apparent to all partners.
Respect for and appreciation of each other's contributions is very
Involvement and commitment of top management contributed to the
A champion to drive the process is essential. It was emphasized
that the library was not for the librarians and there was the need
for the users to drive the process.
Resources to be shared should be clear to all partners.
All should adhere to deadlines.
In spite of the progress made, current challenges include:
Lack of qualified personnel and high staff turnover in some
partner institutes. This means there is a recurring problem of lack
of in-depth knowledge and skills in information technology in some
institutes. Even in situations where there was no staff turnover,
the frequent changes of staff representing an institute on GAINS
matters did not bring about consistency and continuity of work.
Lack of incentives for the staff of partner institutes hampers
project activities, as they are not motivated enough to carry out
project activities which some of them view as an additional
Inadequate logistical support continues to be a drawback in some
partner institutions. The main problems are access to the literature
and lack of computers.
There is an uneven development of basic infrastructure in the
partner institutes. Those with good management support have a
relatively better-developed basic infrastructure than in the others.
Late reporting, different formats or no reporting of project
activities delays the quarterly reports. Reports submitted in most
cases do not follow the reporting format agreed on.
Lack of library budget for some partner institutes has contributed
in no small measure to the uneven development of the network. The
tendency has been to depend on the Coordinating Centre for
continuous supply of basic equipment.
Networking of the agricultural information system has enhanced the
landscape of agriculture infrastructure and research activities in
Ghana. It has led to a steady growth and improvement in agriculture
information delivery and skilled personnel. For the system to have a
long-term sustainability, the partner libraries need to show more
commitment and to be better resourced by their parent organizations.
The partners should also come to realize that the network is their
own creation and it is in their own interest to be part of it.
More information from:
Ghana Agricultural Information Network System
The GAINS network
Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute
Animal Research Institute
Crops Research Institute
Food Research Institute
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Institute of Industrial Research
Oil Palm Research Institute
Plant Genetic Resources Centre
Savanna Agricultural Research Institute
Science and Technology Policy Research Institute Soil Research
Water Research Institute
Faculty of Agriculture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and
Faculty of Agriculture, University for Development Studies
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ghana Ministry of Food and
School of Agriculture, University of Cape Coast
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Newsletters - vital tools to network library
by Anthony Olden
A library association is a professional network that binds together
individual librarians and advances the profession and the causes it
believes in. Many national library associations in Africa are
relatively small as yet, and need all the support they can get.
As part of the Carnegie Corporation of New York's Revitalization of
Public Libraries programme in Africa, INASP ran a scheme in 2000/01,
2001/02 and 2002/03 to assist associations to do more for their
members. Money was provided to bring out newsletters and put on
continuing education workshops. Botswana and Kenya were the first
beneficiaries of newsletter support, followed by Ghana, Malawi,
Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Newsletters provide news and opinion, as well as reports on
conferences, seminars and workshops. They keep people in touch and
provide a member with something tangible for his or her
Under the scheme editors exchanged newsletters with each other as
well as distributing them to their own members. This aids the spread
of good practice as well as of news. It needs to be said, however,
that producing a newsletter is a lot of work for its editor and for
the members of the editorial committee. Contributors need
encouraging (and chasing), and there are times when the editor has
to write a good deal of the text.
Good editors - like other good members of an association's executive
- are very committed. But what happens when they have to give up the
editorship? For example, when the opportunity to further their
studies or to take up a new professional post comes their way? This
happened in Uganda, Botswana and Zambia. Fortunately, equally
committed successors usually take over and continue on with the
work. Good editors progress quickly in their careers!
Newsletters help to publicize the profession, and a good newsletter
will impress anyone who sees it. Thus, the Principal of the
University College of Land and Architectural Studies in Dar es
Salaam was so impressed by the Tanzania Library Association's
newsletter that he requested one of its editorial committee (who
also happened to be the head of his library) to start a newsletter
for the College -and to bring it out quarterly instead of twice a
Thames Valley University
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Collaborating to preserve Kenya's information
by Maurice Kisenyi
The Kenya Information Preservation Society (formerly the Kenya
National Microfilming Society) had its beginning in an ad-hoc
meeting of a few librarians and archivists in June 1990. This
meeting had been called to discuss the problems of inaccessibility
of back issues of newspapers. This small gathering realized that
there was a serious need to conserve and preserve not only the
Kenyan newspapers but also deteriorating collections of rare
materials in the country - photographs, maps, books, and journals.
There was agreement that a cooperative microfilming programme should
be started, and thus the Kenya National Microfilming Society came
into being. The draft constitution was adopted in 1992, and the
Society was registered in 1993. The broad objective of the Society
was to facilitate the preservation and conservation of Kenya's
national information heritage.
The constitution provided for membership of academic and nonacademic
institutions as well as individuals. Membership subscriptions were
to cover the basic administrative costs of the Society. The
constitution also made provision for an Executive Committee to
handle day to day activities. The Society was officially launched in
July 1994 and, since that time, a number of projects have been
undertaken to fulfil the objectives of the organization. By August
2002, members of the Executive Committee realized that the name
Kenya National Microfilming Society did not adequately cover all the
activities of the Society and a new name, Kenya Information
Preservation Society (KIPS), was adopted.
The Executive Committee meets every other month at the National
Archives. As of September 2003, the Committee consists of three
university librarians, three archivists, one former government
librarian, and three librarians from public libraries. Thus far, the
Society has existed with no significant grant; a small amount of
funding, USD 500, was received for one project. The excellent
support of the National Archives in providing a meeting place for
the Executive Committee, assistance with photocopying, telephone
calls, and other communications must be acknowledged.
The following activities have been undertaken by the Society:
Small posters featuring aspects of preservation and
conservation of library materials have been distributed to
approximately 40 Kenya libraries. The colourful illustrations were
created by a local artist.
A conference was organized in March 2003, with approximately 50
participants to discuss Information Preservation Challenges in the
A booklet on the preservation of paper-based information materials
was compiled and made ready for distribution.
Details of Nairobi firms dealing with microfilming were compiled,
verified and made available to interested institutions.
A survey of the microfilms held in Kenyan libraries and research
institutions was undertaken and the results were published.
A union list of theses and dissertations held by universities and
research organizations in Kenya is being compiled. This list also
includes details of theses and dissertations which reflect research
undertaken in Kenya but which are held by institutions located
outside Kenya. The list is available on CD-ROM. Issue no. 1 of the
Union List, distributed in March 2003 contained citations of
approximately 3,000 theses/dissertations. This number does not
represent the complete listings of all the universities, but a start
has been made and more citations for the different universities will
appear in future issues of the Union List. Abstracts will also be
included, when available. The possibility of mounting the database
on the website of the Kenya National Archives is being explored.
The needs of the MacMillan Library, a Nairobi City Council public
library established in 1931, have been given significant attention
by the Executive Committee. A proposal for funding for the
much-needed preservation of newspapers, photographs, periodicals and
rare African books held by the MacMillan was drawn up.
A brochure giving details of the Kenya Information Preservation
Society has been published.
The existence of the Kenya Information Preservation Society, through
the past ten years, has depended more on the energies and commitment
of the members of the Executive Committee than on financial
resources. The small number of librarians and archivists who have
participated in the various projects of KIPS have worked together
voluntarily to address national preservation and conservation
problems. The achievements have been worthwhile, but there are many
projects yet to be undertaken.
In future, special attention will be paid to increasing the
membership of the Society so that its projects are more widely
supported. The Executive Committee realizes that it must work
closely with a great variety of information centres to be able to
fulfil its objectives.
More information from:
Kenya Information Preservation Society
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AHILA - Health
information networking in Africa
by Ibrahima Bob
The 'globalization' of health information can be a bit of a
distraction for an African health information community that is still
trying to identify concrete strategies and approaches to solve local
problems. The long time habit to rely on global networking and
partnerships is now fading and the current trend is to use ICTs - both
traditional and modern - to develop networks at local and then
regional levels. These complement and extend the reach of global
efforts such as HINARI.
Health information specialists in Africa seek to improve healthcare
practice and health policy by utilising the best available evidence.
Good available evidence might be produced from research in the west,
but the best available evidence can also be at the local level - if
the key health stakeholders (those with the right and the relevant
health information that can solve local problems) get together. This
is why information networking and partnerships among the diverse
institutions (agencies, research labs, care providers, development
workers, advocates, NGOs etc.) in a particular region are vitally
important to the African health information community.
It is why the Association for Health Information and Libraries in
Africa (AHILA) decided at its last congress in Mali to put all its
efforts into health information partnerships and networking at the
To better respond to emerging local needs, AHILA local chapters, such
as SENAHILA in Senegal, are being developed. Working with groups like
UNESCO, the World Health Organization, INASP and many others, the
general aims of these chapters are to:
- reduce the lack of communication between
organizations and institutions working in the health sector;
- combine their resources;
- promote self-development through the use
of resources available among the members of the network.
Countries like Uganda, Malawi, Kenya,
Swaziland and Tanzania have started their local chapters. Perhaps when
all AHILA country chapters are live, we will be able to revive the
African Index Medicus - that aims to give access to health-related
information published in or related to Africa and to encourage local
Beyond this, a key challenge is to find groups that prioritize health
information and can also take it beyond the existing medical
structures to community development workers, youth, women, policy
makers, media, and health care workers.
More information from:
Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA)
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a consortium of Ethiopian academic and research libraries
by Teklemichael Tefera
Efforts to establish a library
consortium in Ethiopia began in September 1998, when academic
librarians in the country met for the first time to participate in
the Workshop on National Information Resources Sharing, organized by
the Addis Ababa University Library System.
Recognizing the ever-decreasing acquisitions budget on one hand and
the escalating prices of information resources on the other hand, it
was felt that collaboration through setting up a legal coordinating
body was vital. It was made top priority in the agenda of discussion
during the three days of the workshop.
Position papers on various areas of cooperation were presented and
discussed. However, detailed documents outlining consortium
objectives, activities, plan of establishment, strategies, and so on
were not prepared beforehand.
A steering committee to work on such matters was set up but no work
has been done from that day onwards. This partly explains why the
initial efforts less than successful.
A second attempt to establish a Consortium of Ethiopian Academic
Libraries was made in February 2003. It emerged from the Programme
for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) that helps us to
meet demands for current academic and research information through
access to e-resources.
The Addis Ababa University Library System, which is the coordinating
institution of PERI in Ethiopia, felt the pressing need to sustain
electronic information resources arranged through PERI and took the
initiative to draft a document to establish an academic libraries
consortium (which was lacking in the 1998 attempt). This was then
presented for discussion in the workshop organized by INASP and the
AAU Library System on Electronic Journals and Electronic Resources
Library Management, held between 24 and 28 February 2003, with
participating librarians from academic institutions in Ethiopia.
Experiences from Zimbabwe, Turkey, South Africa and some European
countries were used in the preparation of the establishing document.
Participants of the workshop deliberated on the issue and came up
with an action plan to go forward.
A steering committee was established to finalize the draft document
and follow through the rest of the activities. The draft document
was sent to all academic institutions in mid-April 2003. Higher
university officials have had the chance to see and give feedback on
the document through their librarians.
The final document incorporating all the feedback was submitted to
the Ministry of Education through the Addis Ababa University
President early in May 2003. At the beginning of June 2003, a
detailed explanation was given to Ministry officials who then
responded with an official letter written to the AAU President in
support of the effort.
A further step was to develop a draft memorandum of understanding,
which will be signed by each member institution of the consortium.
The draft was circulated to librarians, legal professionals and
researchers within AAU and a half day workshop was also conducted
(at the end of July 2003) to discuss and get feedback.
It was our initial plan to restrict membership to only academic
institutions; however, as we moved forward, we realized that the
involvement of research libraries is also very crucial and this is
incorporated in the draft memorandum of understanding. It has
brought a name change to the consortium: 'Consortium of Ethiopian
Academic and Research Libraries'.
The draft memorandum was presented in the follow-on workshop on
Electronic Journals and Electronic Resources Library Management,
held between 18 and 22 August 2003 for librarians from research and
development institutions in the country.
We are now in the process of finalizing the memorandum of
understanding based on various feedback and comments. It will
hopefully be endorsed by librarians from academic and research
institutions in a half day meeting tentatively planned for October
2003. Thereafter, it will be signed by officials of the
In a nutshell, in spite of some procedural delays, our efforts seem
to have been well received at every corner. This is partly because
the technical infrastructure that enables ready access to online
resources is now in place. Participating institutions and librarians
are also beginning to see that working together can vastly enhance
the access they each have to costly electronic resources.
More information from:
Addis Ababa University Libraries
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Malawi library consortium: Learning as we go
by S. S. Mwiyeriwa and M.
A moment of refreshment at Lake Malawi
SOLINET trainers and MALICO members.
In common with several other
countries in Southern Africa, Malawi has recently established its
own Library and Information Consortium - MALICO. In 2002, a
Consortium Startup Grant was provided by the eIFL (Electronic
Information for Libraries) project of the Open Society Initiative.
This was one of the catalysts - together with the access to
e-literature offered by the PERI project - that gave rise to a flood
of activity that resulted in the birth of MALICO on 7 May 2003 at a
Leaders of academia, chief librarians from a wide variety of
libraries, representatives of ISPs and NGOs and others, including
the media, gathered at a pleasant new hotel in Blantyre. 'Mutu
umodzi susenza denga: one head cannot hold up a roof' was the
Chichewa proverb presented to the gathering by the guest of honour,
Dr. Chrissie Mwiyeriwa in her opening address, showing clearly the
benefits of working together. Other papers were presented on the
potential role of a consortium, the benefits of access to electronic
information, and future Internet scenarios for Malawi. In the
afternoon, after reaching consensus on the necessity for a library
and information consortium, participants considered issues such as
'How can MALICO be sustainable?' and 'What are the core functions of
MALICO?' It was decided that in order for an organization to join
MALICO, it must pay a fee of MK 20,000 (about USD 200 at the time).
The proceedings of the workshop were produced shortly after the
meeting and became a key resource for MALICO. In addition a web site
and e-mail address and an e-Newsletter were initiated to keep
members in touch.
A training workshop was held at Bunda College on 18-20 June 2003,
facilitated by two resource persons from SOLINET in the USA, Loretta
O'Brien Parham and Sandra Phoenix. Librarians who would have a major
responsibility for running the consortium, and others such as a
representative of SchoolNet Malawi participated. The task was
challenging - brand new territory for many present: to turn the
concept of MALICO into a functioning reality through development of
a mission, vision, constitution and terms of agreement. The core
functions were refined and consolidated into four task forces whose
output will be vital to the success of MALICO: Advocacy,
Collaboration, Products and Services, and Funding and Fees. Almost
to the surprise of the participants, success was achieved!
MALICO currently has six member organizations: the University of
Malawi, Mzuzu University, National Research Council, National
Library Service Malawi, Bureau of Standards, and the Reserve Bank of
Malawi, with several more potential members. The lawyer's advice is
that MALICO should be a trust. MALICO is in the process of
registering, as much depends on being a legal entity.
At the first Council meeting, an Executive was put in place for one
year initially in that it is expected that membership will be
considerably expanded by next year. The Chair is provided by the
University of Malawi library; the Vice-Chair by Mzuzu University
library. Some tough issues had to be resolved, and the process is
ongoing. The relationship between MALA, the Malawi Library
Association, and MALICO was subject to much thought. It was realized
that the two organizations are mutually supportive but have
different functions. MALICO, an institutional membership
organization functions primarily in the area of purchasing
electronic information and in connectivity matters. Another
challenge is representation of the various institutions; for example
the University of Malawi has 5 sites, each of which is a beneficiary
of MALICO, but should each be on the Council?
Shortly, MALICO will come of age, in that it must collect a first
financial contribution from its members towards our e-subscriptions.
This is healthy for MALICO in that, currently, the purse holders of
the parent organizations may be asking what the benefits of MALICO
are to them. These e-resources are 'deliverables': our
training workshop emphasized that deliverables are vital.
In spite of the wide variety of electronic resources that are
available to Malawi through the PERI project and HINARI, the quality
of Internet connectivity is often a great hindrance to access. This
constraint was presented to eIFL at the St Petersburg General
Assembly in December 2002. This has resulted in support from eIFL
through the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa for the
provision of VSATS to improve connectivity at four MALICO sites.
This may give MALICO the opportunity to become an Internet Service
Provider for the library and academic sector, with the accompanying
challenges. We are living in exciting times!
The past few months have been action packed and the next few promise
to be more so. The profile has been raised through good publicity,
contact between various types of libraries is being enhanced and
there is every indication that MALICO is here to stay!
More information from:
S. S. Mwiyeriwa & M. E. Ngwira
Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO)
by Monica Allmand
Librarians and information managers working in the Consultative Group
for International Agricultural Research recently established the CGIAR
Libraries and Information Services Consortium (CGIARLISC).
Driven by constantly changing information needs of end users, advances
in information and communication technologies, and limited financial
and human resources, consortium members committed themselves to:
- Share resources and knowledge, such as
joint journal subscriptions, document delivery services, content,
expertise, technologies, and processes.
- Facilitate access to information held at
all the CGIAR Centres.
- Contribute to the dissemination of CGIAR
- Jointly develop and execute projects
within the CGIAR and in collaboration with other institutions and
- Exchange best practices in knowledge and
So far, the group has:
- Developed and maintained a CGIAR library
portal providing access to all CGIAR library resources.
- Set up and maintained a union catalogue of
serial holdings of the various CGIAR centre Libraries.
- Negotiated discounted joint subscriptions
to journals and databases such as Science Online and eCAB.
- Agreed to work with a common journal
aggregator for all centres (Swets Blackwell).
- Collaborated with other organizations like
FAO and INASP in promoting free access to electronic documents.
- Purchased a document delivery software -
Ariel - which legalizes inter-library loans and hastens electronic
document delivery across the centres.
Overall, the benefits realized through the
consortium include stronger buying power, access to collective
technical expertise, greater resource sharing (digital and traditional
media), enhanced staff development, risk sharing, and joint
grant-seeking and lobbying.
More information from:
|Members of CGIARLISC:
CGIAR - CGIAR Secretariat, USA
CIAT - International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Colombia
CIFOR - Centre for International Forestry Research, Indonesia
CIMMYT - International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre,
CIP - International Potato Centre, Peru
ICARDA - International Centre for Agricultural Research in the
Dry Areas, Syria
ICRISAT - International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics, India
IFPRI - International Food Policy Research Institute, USA
ILRI - International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya and
IITA - International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria
IPGRI - International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Italy
IRRI - International Rice Research Institute, Philippines
ISNAR - International Service for National Agricultural
IWMI - International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka
WARDA - West Africa Rice Development Association, Cote d'Ivoire
World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya
WorldFish Centre, Malaysia
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professional associations - Lessons from the Tanzania Library
by Alli Mcharazo
I have been the Chair of Tanzania Library Association (TLA) since
early in 2000. I accepted this responsibility when the TLA was not
performing well. Among the reasons for this poor performance was the
lack of clear strategic vision/objectives and lack of management
skills amongst TLA leaders.
The new Executive Committee of TLA realized the magnitude of these
problems. As a remedy, TLA embarked on the task of developing an
action plan, with clear strategic objectives, that would set the
association back on the move. The components of the plan were:
- a strategic document with a clear vision
and realistic achievable development components;
- membership revival;
- constitutional changes to reflect new
- organization and sound leadership
- co-operation and international
- resource generation;
- professional training and education;
- revival of publications;
- standards (creation, enforcement and
- assessment of needs of various types of
library and information institutions.
Some of these strategic development
components have started to be realized:
- a strategic plan document and a revised
constitution are in the making and expected to be tabled at the
annual general meeting in Zanzibar in February 2004;
- a permanent office and address for TLA
has just been obtained;
- a programme to revive and recruit new
members is in place;
- the Association has renewed its
membership to relevant national, regional and international
organizations such as East African Book Development Council,
Standing Conference on Eastern Central and Southern African
Library and Information Associations, International Federation
of Library Associations and Institutions, Commonwealth Library
In the course of implementing and realising
the above activities, the TLA leadership came to realize that the
strength of any library association emanates from its membership.
But members have to be assured of benefits that they can gain from
the association. TLA had approached INASP for support towards the
publication of Matukio Newsletter. INASP kindly agreed to support
the Association and the first issue was released in December 2001
and distributed free-of-charge to various institutional and
individual members. This went hand in hand with publicity in the
media and various forums, on the significance of having a strong
Many organizations are strategically changing and TLA felt that
libraries and information units have a significant role in effecting
these changes. But not many library personnel are aware of aspects
of strategic planning and thinking. A workshop on strategic planning
for library and information units was organized and successfully
conducted in Morogoro in February 2002. About 120 library and
information personnel attended it. Library associations are
democratically-run organizations, so the workshop ended by having an
annual general meeting that elected TLA office bearers. These
activities instilled a sense of confidence and reassurance in the
TLA and its new leadership by the actual and potential members.
Various professional meetings in the form of workshops and seminars
on the issues of the day were conducted and well attended by members
and other interested non-members. Some of these were on the role of
libraries and information units in the war against HIV/AIDS;
planning for library automation; Internet use for libraries; and
Internet for long-serving librarians.
The above meetings would not have taken place without the financial
and material support from stakeholders and library sympathizers and
lovers. This reminds us of the significance of working in
partnership to bring about best results. Various institutions were
approached for their donations, and most of them, such as INASP,
British Council, Norwegian Library Association, IFLA, Tanzania
Commission for Science and Technology, University of Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania Book Development Council (BAMVITA) and some publishers,
reciprocated well. Some institutions supported the association in
other areas. The Equal Opportunities for All (EOTF), for example,
donated office desks and chairs. The Honourable Mama Anna Mkapa (the
wife of His Excellency President Benjamin Mkapa), chair lady of
EOTF, handed over the desks to the Chairman of TLA at the official
ceremony that took place at the National Central Library. Prior to
this, the Norwegian Library Association (NLA) had offered TLA two
scholarships for members of TLA to study at the School of Library
Archives and Documentation Studies (SLADS), Bagamoyo. A meeting at
IFLA Berlin with NLA officials revealed that the scholarships are
available again in 2004.
The need to have strong publicity machinery to reach the wider
audience has also been in the TLA agenda. So apart from the regular
publication of Matukio Newsletter, there is also a well-designed and
informative TLA website that was launched at the TLA workshop and
AGM in by the Mayor of Morogoro. It was developed with the support
from the British Council Dar es Salaam Office. To empower the
machinery and contribute towards capacity building of the TLA
office, the British Council was kind enough to donate a computer and
a fax machine. This is what has been referred to as 'a helping hand
to the working hand' or 'working in partnership'. TLA is extremely
grateful to its partners.
What remains to be done is to speed up the process of developing a
strategic plan document for TLA. The ideas and experiences that TLA
has received so far have laid a strong foundation for visualising
the way forward. The new TLA administration also realizes the
difficulty of achieving the very objectives they have set due to
resource limitations and the fact that the office bearers are only
volunteers; but they will never rest until the last library and
information personnel is enrolled with TLA.
More information from:
Tanzania Library Association
professional networking - Reflections on a COMLA presidency
by Elizabeth F. Watson
In 1971, a group of Commonwealth librarians founded the Commonwealth
Library Association (COMLA). COMLA's principal mandate is to link
Commonwealth library associations (LAs). It also assists in the
formation and development of LAs in the Commonwealth. COMLA is
therefore very active in developing and strengthening the profession
at the LA level. The Commonwealth-linked genesis of this association
is quite distinctive in international librarianship because many
common factors serve as a nexus across countries in the
Commonwealth. Networking is therefore easily facilitated within
COMLA. Between 1996 and 2002, I had the privilege of serving as
President of this unique library association.
A unique networking forum
Membership of COMLA is open to any member nation of the (British)
Commonwealth. Thus, COMLA's membership is representative of the
cultural, ethnic, geographical and social mix that gives the
Commonwealth its unique character. Networking within such a diverse
group is naturally a unique experience. During my Presidency, I was
able to make contacts with librarians from every continent. Without
my involvement in COMLA such opportunities would have been almost
impossible, especially for a librarian from a small Caribbean
This networking impacted positively not only on how I practised my
profession, but also on my understanding of the world. The ability
to share, not only professional developments, concerns and interests
with colleagues but also information in other areas extended the
boundaries of librarianship in many unique and mutually gratifying
A library school student whom COMLA sponsored to attend a workshop
in Zimbabwe, expressed how honoured he felt to be able to attend a
professional event that enabled him to meet senior professionals
from his country and someone from the Caribbean. The workshop was a
turning point in his career development.
In 1996, a connection between COMLA and CoL (the Commonwealth of
Learning, another Commonwealth-based institution) led to the
publication of a reader on distance librarianship in Commonwealth
countries. This 22 article publication explored various issues
associated with meeting the information needs of this new cohort of
learners. It remains a seminal publication in the field.
While being at the helm of an international LA was professionally
and personally rewarding there were also several challenges.
As many LAs in developing countries are hard-pressed to ensure their
survival, a frequent question is: how will membership of COMLA be
beneficial? The opportunity to network with colleagues; the sharing
of common experiences (especially within the south-south divide);
the provision of continuing educational opportunities and the
strengthening of national LAs are some of the benefits derived from
At a personal level, time management, communication, recognising
cultural differences that affect interpersonal relationships and
even fluctuations in national currencies were challenges. Time
management within an international LA is of a different order.
Contact with colleagues in the Pacific had to be done between my
Sundays and Thursdays in recognition of their working week!
While it seems that ICT-based communication is fast becoming the
norm, in many developing countries, outside of large urban centres,
no assumptions can be made about the reliability of ICTs. During the
planning process for a workshop in Botswana, after many unsuccessful
attempts to send emails and faxes, a telephone call was attempted.
This was only successful after the Barbadian telephone operator
called the international telephone operator in Johannesburg for
assistance with dialling Botswana.
Networking at an international level requires that one is ever
mindful of cultural differences, which, if not observed, can derail
even the noblest of intentions. Maori culture does not allow women
to be at the periphery of a gathering. That is reserved for the
males who assume such a position to protect the females. As someone
who suffers from claustrophobia, for me to sit on the inside of a
row is an uncomfortable position. However, my own personal
discomfort had to be subjugated in order to observe the protocol of
The needs of our profession in 2003 and beyond are considerably
different from those that existed in 1971. Nevertheless
international associations such as COMLA further our profession in
many ways. An imperative however is that mandates remain pertinent
to members' needs. Periodic reviews facilitate this. Despite the
many known and unknown challenges, active participation in the
affairs of international associations such as COMLA provide
unparalleled opportunities for networking, professional enrichment
and personal growth.
More information from:
Elizabeth F. Watson
University of the West Indies, Barbados
UAICT-Africa: Creating an
information service through collaboration
by Jörgen Eriksson
The 'Use and Application of ICT in Education and Information
Provision in Africa' (UAICT-Africa) project is a joint venture by 10
university libraries, one library science teaching department in
Southern Africa, and the R&D department of Lund University
Libraries in Sweden. Using content contributed by the various
university libraries, the aim is to set up an Internet Resource
Catalogue (IRC) on ICTs in education. So far, around 200 resources
have been added. The main problem has been slow and unstable
Internet connections in the African universities, making resource
discovery and adding resources very time consuming.
Why joint Internet Resource Catalogues?
IRCs offer their intended users a set of Internet resources that
have been selected with the help of quality criteria, and then
described and structured in a standardized way. The main argument to
spend time on this is that these resources often drown in a sea of
garbage in major search engines, making it a time consuming process
to find relevant resources. This is especially true in African
universities with low bandwidth and slow connections. There, a
pre-selection of quality resources has the potential to save much
time of users.
A key aspect of this project is to build an IRC through
collaboration across the Internet. The main reasons being: First, by
working together the libraries could reduce or avoid duplication;
second, by dividing the work among partners, more resources and
links can be found and maintained and offered to users; and third,
to share costs.
Building the service
The basic idea was that workshops would be the starting and ending
points for collaboration. Between the workshops, tasks were assigned
to sub-groups with their own mailing lists. The sub-group results
were finalized and decided on at the next workshop, where new
elements were introduced and new tasks assigned.
Individuals joined different sub-groups according to their
competencies and interests. A sub-group chairperson was appointed in
each group to ensure that tasks were completed on time. We found out
that it was important that the chairperson was very active and could
assign clear and concrete tasks to the sub-group members. Otherwise
the work easily ground to halt. This problem was more prominent in
the earlier stages of the project before participants knew each
The last two workshops became more like business meetings where
final versions of documents where produced and decisions taken, all
based on the preparatory work done in sub-groups, via the general
e-mail list and published on the web site.
Overall, this way of working went well and was a good exercise. This
comment from the project evaluation illustrates participant views on
the way of working: "The listserv acted as a means for virtual
meetings but could not act as a platform where a consensus could be
reached as compared to workshops where people acted on a single
issue once and for all. The listserv also acted as the cheapest way
to meet and share ideas and pass information rather than workshops
that are expensive and cannot be organized frequently."
A lesson from this project is that the practical creation of a
service can be fairly straightforward, but that the time and effort
needed to create the collaboration should not be underestimated.
Moreover, as participants came to learn from each other and to build
their own capacities, the role of Lund University became more
coordination and coaching instead of being the 'expert' with all the
Sustaining the service
The project participants are now working on the sustainability of
the service by trying to get their home institutions to support a
consortium to become the 'owner' of the service. It is not very
straightforward since in many ways this is a new way of working for
the libraries involved. However, most libraries have already agreed
to support the maintenance of the service by allocating four hours a
week to editorial tasks in UAICT-Africa. If the institutions
involved will agree to turn UAICT-Africa into a sustained service,
it could illustrate how collaboration in creating and maintaining
information services across institutional and national boundaries
can be done.
About the AICT-Africa project: <netlab.lub.lu.se/sida/celi>
AICT Africa coordinator:
Ms. Babakisi Fidzani
Deputy Director Information and Research Services, University of
Lund University Libraries
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ELAND - A European
library network for development
by Chris Addison
The European Library Network for Development, ELAND provides access to
the catalogues of 10 major development library collections in Europe.
It aims to provide access to a joint index of over 1 million articles,
books, monographs and full text online resources identified by the
participating libraries. The project comprises a web interface to
search these catalogues, a translation index of 500 terms in 4
languages, the opportunity for joint working between libraries, and
linkages with Southern organizations.
The project arose from the recognition by information managers in some
member organizations of EADI (the European Association for Training
and Development Institutes) that their services could reach a wider
audience by working together. The key notions leading the
organizations to work together were:
- The common challenge of promoting and
delivering web services
- The added opportunity to work with similar
organizations on related activities not just the main project
- The ability to use complementary skills to
develop a joint service.
In building the service it has been important
to ensure there was joint ownership of the project, complementary
inputs, a clear governance structure and equal influence by the
partners. To ensure sustainability, partners needed to be convinced
that their inputs were linked with those of other partners and that
they were all involved in project applications for support.
More information from:
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access to agricultural information
From October 14th, 2003, students,
researchers and academics in some of the world's poorest countries
will gain free or low-cost access to a wealth of scientific
literature under a new initiative announced by the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a range of public and private
Involving bilateral agencies, UN agencies, private foundations and
international scientific publishers, the AGORA (Access to Global
Online Research in Agriculture) initiative provides access to key
journals in food, nutrition, agriculture and related biological,
environmental and social sciences.
Initially, the AGORA initiative will offer literature via the
Internet to 69 eligible countries with per capita annual income of
less than US$1000. The AGORA website will provide access to more
than 400 key scientific journals in agriculture and related fields.
Founding publishers of AGORA are: Blackwell Publishing; CABI
Publishing; Elsevier; Kluwer Academic Publishers; Lippincott,
Williams & Wilkins; Nature Publishing Group; Oxford University
Press; Springer Verlag; and John Wiley and Sons. Cornell University,
the Rockefeller Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for
International Development, and the United States Agency for
International Development are also providing support.
More information from:
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information sharing network on international cooperation
by Huub Mudde
Euforic - Europe's Forum on International Cooperation - is an
independent cooperative, and a publicly accessible and Internet-based
platform for debate and information on Europe's development
cooperation. Its three main roles are: (i) to share knowledge and
information, (ii) to connect people and ideas, and (iii) to act as a
platform for joint action. Euforic believes in the need for a
comprehensive and interactive Internet service with a focus on
Europe's international cooperation, and it strives to stimulate
critical analysis with its collection of diverse and independent
information. Euforic ultimately encourages coherence within
Euforic uses a co-branded approach to build on the expertise of its
member organizations. Being a member of Euforic is a symbol of
knowledge-sharing, partnership, and capacity building for development.
It is about combining resources, disseminating databases, and sharing
know-how to speed progress in development activities. Co-branding
means that members build the identity of Euforic and promote the
cooperative and, in turn, each other. Through cooperative efforts,
like the ACP-EU Civil Society Information Network, Euforic is evolving
into information platforms centred on themes or countries - each with
its own individual look, format, and criteria.
More information from:
Europe's Forum on International Cooperation
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partnerships - building the ALPSP collection
by Pippa Smart
Although cooperation between libraries is long established,
publishers usually viewed one another as competitors - particularly
in times of diminishing subscriptions - and few cases of public
collaboration and partnership exist. However, there are now
increasing reasons for publishers to join forces, particularly in
building new distribution channels for their products.
The way in which online journals are being sold is changing, and
some publishers now offer large journal collections for a single
payment ('bundled' online collections). This offers libraries good
value for money, but uses substantial amounts of the library budget
and often ties this up for several years.
Publishers realized that the purchase of individual (or small groups
of) titles was being eroded. Some smaller publishers thus decided to
engage in collaborative marketing and selling, and the development
and launch of the ALPSP Learned Journals Collection.
Working with 247 journal titles from members of the Association of
Learned, Professional and Society Publishers (ALPSP), including two
publishers from Africa, Swets Blackwell (the facilitator) manages
the negotiation and sale of the group of journals to individual
libraries or consortia of libraries. The revenue is divided among
the journal publishers. Swets also manages the access and gives
users a seamless electronic interface to the collection.
Although there has always been an amount of collaboration between
publishers with regard to setting standards and protocols, this
initiative shows that there is further scope for publishers to work
in partnership, even when their products are in competition.
More information from: