Libraries all over the world have always placed emphasis on the preservation of recorded information and this has posed serious challenges to librarians and other information managers. Preservation no doubt, has increasingly continued to take a centre stage in information management and handling particularly with the proliferation of publications and other recorded information in different formats. The present global information environment propelled by information and communication technologies has made preservation of information resources, particularly institutional repositories more critical to information professionals than ever before. Research outputs of any institution are considered to play critical roles in the assessment of intellectual and cultural growth of any society particularly in developing countries where knowledge production and dissemination have been considered very low. The preservation and dissemination of these research outputs to a very large extent add to the international prestige of the institution.
The major goal of any preservation technique is to hand over the society's civilization to another generation and equally make them available and accessible to the international scholarly community. Therefore, transmission of institutional repositories which are part of the cultural heritage of a people is paramount to library and information professionals and record managers (Banjo 1998). As part of the cultural heritage of a people, these research outputs will eventually form part of the of the organization's institutional repositories which evolve gradually from research and other intellectual work of people in a community particularly in an academic community (Etim, Ukpak and Ukpanah, 2009). An institutional repository is like a growing organism which accumulates with the organization particularly universities which have the mandate to continuously produce knowledge through teaching, learning and research. The digitization of research outputs of an institution is a step in the right direction for the building of institutional repositories of such organization. This is based on the fact that without electronic version of the research outputs institutional repositories will be difficult to establish. This perhaps gave rise to the definition of institutional repository as "a repository established, owned, developed and managed by public or private institution or organization, and/or its surrogate" (Mohammed, 2009). According to Mohammed, the repository contains active and inactive documents which accumulate over time in the life of the institution. Usually IR is mainly a collection of grey literature and other publications from the staff of the institution.
The rationale for the collection and preservation of institutional repositories has been underscored by Crow (2002) when he explained that IR creates ennobling environment for scholarly publishing and makes the research productivity of a particular institution more visible globally. It therefore adds value the credibility of a university in terms of its intellectual capital. In any organization, institutional repositories play very important roles in establishing the identity, the accomplishments and values of the people. Masakazi (2009) has therefore argued that in the present information society every nation has to ensure the preservation, promotion and dissemination of its arts, culture and the overall heritage using the tools in the present age. This is because IR as a heritage material is a source of strength and confidence that puts the changes of the society into perspectives and therefore, enables the society to build a better future.
Over the years, the library has accepted the challenge of preservation of cultural heritage of the people it serves. The present information age where revolution technology is compressing the world into a global village has made preservation of IR much more relevant than ever. The consequence of inability to preserve one's heritage materials will be a loss of identity and influence in the global community.
Preservation of recorded knowledge in the present information environment is basically through digitization (Tsebe 2005; Gaston, 2008, Masakazi, 2009). According to Masakazi, digitization is the creation of multimedia databases enhanced by digital information and thus offering easy access to cultural and scientific heritage for large population of the users. Digitization therefore, involves the conversion of non-digital materials to digital formats. Tsebe (2005) has identified materials that can be digitized as follows: maps, manuscripts, moving objects, audio materials and in addition institutional repository and other heritage materials.
Masakazi (2009) noted that digitization of heritage materials was pioneered by organizations such as European Union. According to him the European Union adopted a policy action on digitization in 2002, and in 2004 made recommendations on digitization, preservation and online accessibility of cultural materials. The G7 countries had earlier given prominence to digitization at the G7 and Information Society Submit held in Naples in 1994. The leaders laid emphasis on the need to encourage worldwide information society. The G7 countries and European Commission selected projects where international co-operation could be beneficial to all the role players. Therefore, these have created awareness of the benefit of digitization to both developed and developing countries. In line with this Tsebe (2005) has noted that digital imaging technology provides unprecedented advantages to institutions with some collection of some scholarly resources since these resources can be accessed by wide range of users no matter their location. The implication of this is that digitization encourages globalization of local information resources and localization of globalized information resources.
In Africa, digitization is still a novelty (Kanyengo, 2006), and as a result Tsebe (2005), Britz and Lor (2004) have regretted that most digitization projects in Africa have always originated from outside Africa. Britz and Lor have even argued that digital technology is a form of cultural imperialism since very little digital resources are in African languages. However, Africa cannot afford to ignore digitization of the continent's resources in the present knowledge-based economy where nations are assessed in relation to their information power. What Africa may take serious is to initiate digitization project in Africa by Africans so that we can preserve our own heritage materials ourselves.
Some digitization projects in African have been identified by Tsebe (2005). Some of these include:
* The German colonial society collections of 55,000 photographic impressions from Africa, which was completed in 1999.
* The West African Research Centre completed the digitization of 150 colonial reports in 2002
* Sabinet online digitized 40 scholarly journals in 2002 and by 2004 another 141 titles were completed.
* The University of Cape Town in co-operation with the National Library of South Africa digitized 345 drawings of the Black collections in 2003.
* Michigan State University had digitized ten African journals by 2004
* The National Library of Egypt had digitized 100,000 pages by 2004.
From available literature (Brit & Lor 2004; Tsebe 2005; Kanyengo 2006 Masinde & Rajai 2008; Masakazi 2009;) South Africa is far ahead of other African countries in the...