The changing role of librarians at Makerere University
Integration of ICT in the Library functions has had a great impact on the roles of librarians at Makerere University.
Traditionally librarians used to catalog, classify, handle loans and returns etc. However, the Information world is undergoing transition from a Library-centered to an information-centered entity, from a paper-based environment to a predominantly digital interface, i.e. using search engines, online databases, data mining, etc., from the Library as an institution to the Library as an information provider with IT skilled specialists functioning in an automated environment.
Makerere University Library (Mulib) automated its library functions to enhance access to its information resources while meeting the educational, research and information needs of the users. With automation, the library collection can be accessed online through the library OPAC (MakULA).
The library has continued to receive requests locally and internationally and this has increased its contribution towards resource sharing, an aspect that is very vital to the current economic challenges. Among the examples include; the president’s office, the parliament, and academia from research institutions and academic staff; we have also received requests from Austria public library, researchers from Europe and Asia.
Given such new opportunities and challenges, the Librarian’s daily routines have changed drastically. A cataloguer in the Africana Section within the library will provide reference services and at the same time attend to document delivery requests from users. Makerere University librarians are able to assess the information needs of Mulib users through conducting focus discussion groups, one-on-one interactions, feedback from trainings, at circulation service points, and suggestion boxes. This has further changed the role played by each individual librarian.
Librarians have engaged in designing and marketing value-added information services and products – thus meeting the Mulib users’ needs. They have participated in exhibitions, International Library Days (2009 and 2010) in which librarians showcase the libraries’ rare collections both print and electronic. After such events, circulation statistics have always shot up.
Mulib Librarians have attended information technology courses like the LATINA course in Oslo – and these courses have been instrumental in applying the acquired skills in their library activities. For example, librarians in Africana section have created and continuously updated the Mulib album in Picasa, updated the User education slides, created the OPAC video tutorial in YouTube. Most interesting was a photo story generated from the pictures of branch Libraries that was uploaded on youtube.com. Mulib’s visibility on the Web has increased tremendously through skills acquired for example in the use of the institutional repository (USDL). Mulib librarians have thus used ICT to acquire, organize and disseminate information.
In conclusion, the roles of librarians have tremendously changed from traditional to ICT-based – which in the long run calls for bigger financial investments in terms of training, hard and software; and subscription to electronic resources if they are not open source.
by Agnes, Fred, Irene & Monica