Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 30, May 2002 



Education for Librarianship and Information Science in Africa, edited by Michael Wise

ISBN 0-9679101-5-3, 302 pp 2000, $24.95, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and International Academic Publishers, PO Box 26290, Colorado Springs, CO 80613, USA.

Review by Jean-Pierre Diouf
Jean-Pierre Diouf is Librarian, CODESRIA based in Dakar, Senegal. BP 3304, Dakar, Senegal. Email: or

Information and communication sciences have become more prominent in the backdrop of the knowledge economy of recent times and the book edited by Michael Wise relates to the increased importance of collecting, archiving and disseminating information today. The book sheds light on the status of information sciences and on the training offered to library professionals in Africa. It reviews issues surrounding libraries and the teaching of library science by analysing the profiles of librarianship teaching and training providers in selected African countries. It covers issues such as background information on the discipline, constraints and career prospects, and an account of new developments in the profession, particularly associated with the growth of information technologies, hence the importance of lifelong education. This book is useful to information professionals such as librarians, archivists and documentalists as it provides an element of comparison between the level of library development in several countries in Africa.

It also acknowledges the role played by individual and institutional international co-operation in establishing educational training initiatives for the development of library professionals in Africa. Michael Wise was one of those selfless individuals who can be referred to as a prominent actor in librarianship in Africa. He arrived in Africa in 1957 and spent almost twelve years working in libraries and lecturing at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. He researched and wrote extensively in this field. In his preface, Ian M. Johnson pays Wise a tribute for his contribution to the development of librarianship and information science in Africa. Unfortunately, he did not live to witness the publication of the book he had almost finalized.

In 15 chapters, Education for Librarianship and Information Science in Africa explores libraries and librarianship in 12 English-speaking countries - the largest in number - a French-speaking country (Senegal), and a Portuguese-speaking country (Mozambique). Each chapter traces the development of librarianship in a country from the colonial historical period, through the situation in the early years of independence, to the 1990s. This offers readers a broad insight into the establishment of information-gathering institutions as well as education for librarianship and information science.

In 'An Overview of Education for Librarianship in Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa', Diana Rosenberg meticulously describes the history of education for librarianship in English-speaking countries in sub-Saharan Africa, from the first School of Librarianship, which was opened in 1945 at Achimota in Ghana, to the post-independence era. In the early years of independence, librarianship developed rapidly, particularly with the establishment of universities in some African countries. Each newly independent state established its own educational institutions as a sign of sovereignty. This initiative allowed for the training of competent local professionals who could take over from the expatriates who had managed the national libraries until then. Skilled professionals always felt it was necessary to improve their educational standards. Thus, the training given, which varied from one school to another, started from ordinary certificate courses to doctoral courses in librarianship. Diana Rosenberg's article lists the various courses and qualifications offered and obtained in selected English-speaking countries in Africa.

The second article, by Colin Darch, discusses the case of Mozambique in particular, but it also reports on the context of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tomé and Principe. Portuguese-speaking African countries are characterized by a general low level of higher education and this tradition is clearly manifested in their library and information science sector. Using his own experience as an example, the author describes the lack of reliable data for this study. He recognizes that librarianship and information science are not fully developed even in the so-called developed Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Portugal. Long years of anti-democratic tradition that prevailed in some of the countries until quite recently had stifled the growth of higher education and information science. This factor contributed to Mozambique resorting to English-speaking countries for training in librarianship.

The Botswana study by Kingo Mchombo deals with a very interesting aspect of the establishment of libraries through educational institutions, which initially used teachers who were trained in librarianship. This experience has been used in the history of librarianship in many other African countries, particularly in Senegal and Mali.

Ghana has an age-old tradition of librarianship. Library services have been available in this West African country since the second half of the nineteenth century. It should however be recognized that public library services were then in the hands of elites mainly composed of officers and expatriates, traders, and a small number of western-educated Africans. According to C. O. Kisiedu, libraries developed quickly and it is in this context that Ghana is often cited as an example of success in the library sector in Anglophone Africa. At independence, the documentary facilities in the country included documentary resources estimated at 709,134 documents and 37 professionals (p.88). The first School of Library Studies in West Africa was established in Ghana (then Gold Coast) and its influence accounted for its coverage of a number of countries such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The syllabuses were improved over the years at the University of Ghana, thus reflecting on the training of librarians and archivists. The library school at the University of Ghana offers courses from certificate to M.Phil. levels.

Although Kenya had its first library around the 1900s, by the 1960s there were few library facilities and the majority of the library staff were expatriates, with only five trained African members of staff. The first courses on librarianship began between 1951 and 1955, but most of the professionals were sent to Britain for training. This underdevelopment of libraries at that time found expression in the small number of professionals, a situation that continued until much later. Today there are several courses being offered at all levels of higher education except the doctorate.

According to Virginia W. Dike, some Nigerians were also sent to train in Britain. The first School of Information Science in Nigeria was established in 1959 in Ibadan and, thereafter, another was opened at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. However, there are still some problems in this field, with particular regard to the quality of the training.

Antoinette Fall Correa and Olivier Sagna's chapter on Senegal traces the origins of L'Ecole des Bibliothécaires, Archivistes et Documentalistes - EBAD (School of Library, Archival and Documentation Studies) at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. The school initially trained only librarians; archivists and documentalists enrolled there some years later. The institution currently offers bachelor and master's degree courses.

The study on South Africa conducted by P.G. Underwood and M.C. Nassibeni did not touch on the diverse levels of competence of South Africa, which could be of interest to readers given the history of the country. Librarianship was first taught in South Africa in 1939 at the University of Pretoria. Other universities in the country have also opened schools for library studies. An interesting feature highlighted in the South African study is the gender issue, which can be seen in the staff composition of developed countries where there are more women than men in the library services sector. The difference in the South African case is that positions of responsibility are still dominated by men. This chapter is a fascinating study and could have been developed much further.

In another chapter, Seth Manaka talks about lifelong learning and education in South Africa. He emphasizes the importance of training, and lifelong learning particularly, in view of the ever-changing trends in the profession. Manaka believes such training should be conducted in collaboration with the professional associations in order to fulfil the set objectives. Though the writer cites the South African example, it is evident that some of the problems he raises concerning lifelong learning are the same everywhere in Africa.

Librarianship and information science are not well developed in Uganda. Substantial efforts must be made in this regard to improve the status of libraries and the skills of library and information science specialists.

Andrew M. Kaniki shows the similarity in the state of the profession in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980 and started training its professionals only from that period. The case of Zambia is not very different because it took a long time for this country to start training its local library professionals, though it had attained independence much earlier. There is also a pressing need for continuing education in the two countries.

Wilson Olabode Aiyepeku describes the case of the African Regional Centre for Information Science (ARCIS) based in Ibadan, Nigeria, a West African institution contributing to the development of human resources founded in 1990. ARCIS was established with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The regional centre collaborates with several other institutions and schools to improve and promote further training in information science.

The importance of information technology to the work of librarians and information specialists today cannot be stressed too much. The use of various software and hardware tools such as computers and network peripherals and the internet has further impacted strongly on the profession. Jacinta Were's analysis of Kenya points to the computerization of libraries through the use of documentary software facilitating data management, data search and dissemination.
In the last chapter of the book, Kay Raseroka focuses on the knowledge that professionals need to better meet the aspirations of libraries in general. The article outlines some solutions with an emphasis not only on lifelong education, but also on some basic subjects such as management techniques, in order to accommodate the needs of library users.

The lacunae in the book particularly lie in the geographical and linguistic coverage of the country case studies. For instance, only two non-Anglophone countries were featured among a total of 15 chapters, and none from North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco which have some interesting developments in the fields of librarianship and information science. A much broader exploration of other parts of Africa would have been more judicious and provided readers with a richer view of the state of librarianship on the continent too.

However, this geographical and linguistic disparity does not reduce in any way the value of the articles published nor the importance of the book. This volume provides professionals with a reference tool of utmost importance to their fields of activity. The book is very useful to both teachers in this discipline, and academics reflecting on information science syllabuses.

International co-operation has made a considerable contribution towards the establishment of schools and promotion of education for librarianship and information science. Organizations such as UNESCO, IDRC, Ford Foundation, Carnegie Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation deserve to be mentioned as examples in this respect.  [end]  [BPN, no 30, 2002, pp 22-24.]


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