This blog explores library science issues from a Zimbabwean perspective with the aim to improve and advocate for change. Libraries in Zimbabwe have long suffered neglect in relation to funding and priority. Through this blog all these issues are put under spotlight to find a lasting solution to improve library services in the information age.
Library outreach programmes are still relevant in the information age than before and have taken a new dimension at a faster rate than expected. Library outreach is the activity earmarked to promote library services to the underserved communities and mostly the non users. Library outreach programmes aim at identifying and promoting library services that support equitable access to the knowledge and information stored in our libraries.
The underserved community is a challenge to library staff who is concerned about making information accessible by all at minimum cost in the best possible time. The advent of technology in libraries has made it easy to reach out to underserved communities. This however, has forced librarians to acquire moreIT related skills in web designing, blogging, setting up wikis, using social media, and definitely to spend more time sprucing library web pages with all sorts of links that avail information to users from around the globe. So, library outreach are no longer limited to the physical geographical areas but has transcended that due to technology.
World over libraries are a cornerstone for valuable information that promote democracy, human rights, good governance, education and sustainable development. The traditional outreach programmes involved sending a library material through mobile library services to prisons, schools and remote communities as well as the elderly. With budget cuts getting into librarians nerves such services have been discontinued and fears are that information accessibility has been threatened. Outreach programmes have benefited libraries through PR, new patrons and high visibility.
Gut (2010) noted that outreach typically serves those who would not get library services any other way and are a wonderfully endless source of feel good stories. It is an advocacy tool used to create harmony with the community and one should be able to relate the how impressive an outreach programmes is when more the disabled, terminally ill and focused groups are reached.
Library outreach is designed to bring in new patrons. Gut (2010) asserts that outreach brings the library to people who had no previous service. Definitely it should bring more users to the library to utilise wealth information stored in the library. Possible outcome of outreach programmes are an increased influx of user in the library and rising check out statistics within a period of time. New patrons require additional library materials so the library should be prepared to add new books and to design more interactive programmes to share with the increased users. Perhaps the outreach staff may update the library web page with more open access resources, consider information literacy skills training, and discussion for the library to remain relevant. Social media platform such as Facebook, You tube and perhaps a blog may be used to keep users posted on latest developments in the library. This is not only limited to public libraries but academic libraries can also do outreach programmes to ensure maximum utilisation of resources that the librarian spend thousands of UD dollars acquiring reading resources.
Libraries should resuscitate the outreach programmes in order to obtain new users and fight competition with other information providers, to maintain goodwill with society and to improve on visibility that may have a positive bearing on budget allocation. The more instrumental the library becomes in a community the more management realise the need for increased financial support. Libraries have long been neglected but outreach services provide an opportunity to regain visibility.
Librarians should start to do more outreach programmes the traditional way and also using emerging tools on social media. Try to open up a Facebook page for your library or hey start a library blog to market your library service.
This month of October feature the Open Access Week, from October 24th through the 31st that seeks to recognise the importance of free access to information for research and communication. It is an important week for librarian’s world over who have been involved in the movement since its inception. A number of activities are lined up to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.
According to McLennan (2010) in her blog “Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.” She further noted that Open Access (OA) has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship.
Libraries can plan a number of activities to promote open access and to bring awareness to the user community. Plan events that create awareness and do presentation of some of the open access resources the library has. It is also beneficial to do group discussion on open access pinpointing on the benefits to users and scholars. The library also benefits through having access to free full text content that would have a positive bearing on budgets.
Library association can also take the opportunity to promote open access materials to librarians. Probably the association can organize a march to make the event which is running for the fifth year. Zimbabwe will definitely need to promote the open access movement through promoting establishing functional institutional repositories (IR) that are a convenient mode for open access. The challenge lie in academic community that is reluctant to deposit their research output with the IRs. Students too should be engaged in the promoting of open access so that they understand the concept and to participate in the open access to support the publishing and likely foreseeing the continual of the movement through their publishing participation.
The user community does have a role to play in the open access week. Firstly they should see that they effectively use the open access content for research and development. Secondly, they have to tell some one about the usefulness of open access content to promote its adoption.
The Open Access week give librarians, users, publishers and writers an opportunity to share ideas on developing the movement and see continuity with participation from all sectors. Take this opportunity to organise something at your school, college, library and community as the information is key for development and sustainable livelihood.
The Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) is joining hands with the International Association of School Librarianship Africa Sub Sahara region to host a Regional School Library seminar at Masiyephambili College in Bulawayo from the 8th – 9th of February 2012.The event will allow school librarians, school library media specialist, LIS lecturers library science students and interest people to meet, learn and share ideas an all aspects of school librarianship in Africa.
The theme is: ‘School libraries in Africa in the 21st century: learning from each other.’ Sub-themes are: information literacy skills across (from print to ICT; national school library policy; school libraries for reading skills; regional school library cooperation in Zimbabwe/Africa cooperation; joint school/community library cooperation; mobile library service in Zimbabwe/Africa; creative ideas for school libraries with limited resources: best practices; a library in every school campaign; any other topics related to the main theme (e.g. dissemination of HIV and AIDS information in school libraries).
The first call for papers has been announced and the abstracts should be no more than 200 words and should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org . The deadline is 31 October 2011. Conference presenters and participants will come from Zimbabwe, SADC, Africa and beyond.