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. www.iacademicpublishers.com
Jean-Pierre Diouf is Librarian, CODESRIA
based in Dakar, Senegal. BP 3304, Dakar, Senegal. Email: Jean.email@example.com
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
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
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
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.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 30, 2002>>