Institutional repositories and heritage materials in selected institutions within three African countries.

Author:Fasae, Joseph Kehinde


Academic libraries have always been allotted the role of curating information and providing access to resources to support the work of parent institutions; this role is broadening to include digital resources and to accommodate data management requirements (Tarver & Phillips, 2013). Schofield and Urban (2015) noted that both academic libraries and archives have increasingly used digital mediums to preserve materials and provide access to users, allowing them to serve more diverse, and much more distributed populations by digitizing collections with unique or rare material that otherwise has limited circulation in order to improve long-term preservation and expand access to cultural materials. As a result of this, academic institutions therefore decided to develop digital repositories which are a mechanism for managing and storing digital content, following open standards to ensure that the contents covered is easily accessible, searchable, as well as retrievable for later use. These repositories could be subject or institutional in nature, but the focus of this study is the institutional repository which is described by Lynch (2003) as a set of services that an institution offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials.

Repositories provide services to faculty, researchers, and administrators who want to archive research, and historic materials. Their collections contain the memories of people, communities, institutions and individuals, scientific and cultural heritage, and the products of our imagination, craft and learning throughout time, while these are thereby creating the heritage of the future (Nimnoi & Rao, 2014). Various definitions from the literature reviewed, state that special collections in institutions are tangible in nature and these collections are images, videos, maps, rare books, Thesis/Dissertations, Articles, and Inaugural lectures/Speeches. When these collections are made available on an electronic platform (Institutional Repository), it becomes a digital heritage material for the institution, thus making hidden materials accessible. The establishment of Institutional Repositories (IRs) is driven by various aspects including the open access and open archives movement, the need for changes in scholarly communication to remove barriers to access, and the increasing awareness that universities and research institutions are losing valuable digital and print materials (Drake, 2004). Ogden (1993) noted that traditionally, libraries and archives independently have undertaken activities to preserve their heritage. Ogden (1993) stresses that many countries have realized the value of preserving heritage resources which make those in advanced areas in developing strategies to effectively manage and preserve their digital heritage resources and to establish national digital memories.

Digitizing of cultural heritage materials and its preservation has not yet become firmly rooted in in the selected African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda). As a result of this, the study therefore looks at the types of heritage materials in IRs, purpose of digitizing heritage materials in libraries, benefits of digitizing heritage materials as well as challenges faced in implementation and use of institutional repositories in some selected African countries.

Statement of the Problems

IRs has been known worldwide to provide free access to a seamless amount of information materials. It is also the means or medium through which an academic institution or organizations can showcase their holdings to the global community. However, researchers have observed that challenges exist with the implementation and uses of IRs holding special collections. It is against this background that this study is designed to look at how institutional repositories are making digital heritage materials accessible.

Objectives to the Study

The main objective is to investigate how institutional repositories are making hidden or lost cultural digital heritage accessible in academic environments in Africa. The specific objectives are:

  1. to identify the types of heritage materials available in institutional repositories;

  2. to ascertain the purpose of digitizing heritage materials;

  3. to determine the frequency at which staff members access the institutional repositories;

  4. to ascertain whether the use of IRs are of any benefits to its users; and

  5. to find out the challenges faced in the implementation and use of an institutional repository containing heritage materials?

    Research Methodology

    The research conducted was in the form of a survey research. The targeted population is all members of library staff in some selected academic libraries in three African countries namely; Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. A structured questionnaire, which is the main instrument for data collection, was prepared using Google forms. The questionnaire was sent through e-mail to 40 members of library staff (Librarians, Support Staff and IT Personnel) in some selected academic libraries in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda using convenience sampling techniques. The e-mail address were obtained from group of young librarians and LIS Faculty who converged for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes organized for qualified librarians from Carnegie countries in Africa (Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania). It took place in March 2016 at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Due to the limited time for the programmes, few participants were able to be contacted for the study. The academic institutions used were selected randomly. In all, 35 responses were received generating a 87.5% response rate. Data collected was analyzed using an excel spreadsheet. Search tools adopted for this study was ProQuest/Serials Solutions Summon, a web-scale discovery tool that indexes a wide variety of databases. We also performed advanced search on databases such as Library and Information Science Source on the University of Pretoria Library Website.

    Review of Related Literature

    Overview of Institutional Repositories

    Various authors have defined Institutional Repositories (IRs) but the most frequently cited definition is that of Johnson (2002) who described an Institutional Repository as "a digital archive of the intellectual product created by the faculty, research staff, and students of an institution and accessible to end-users both within and outside of the institution to access". The essential characteristics of an institutional repository are that it is institutionally defined, scholarly in scope, cumulative and perpetual, open and interoperable (Crow 2002). Many institutions of higher education generate documents (journal articles, conference papers, reports, thesis, teaching materials, research notes, research data, etc) which need to be managed, by providing proper housing, protection from mutilation and theft, library binding, and occasional repair and restoration.

    Drake (2004) noted that the main purposes of institutional repositories are to bring together and preserve the intellectual output of a laboratory, department, university, or other entity, the incentives and commitments to change the process of scholarly communication. Ball, Groenewald, and Van der Westhuizen (2016) pointed out the benefits of an institutional repository as; enhanced global visibility, interoperability with other repositories, sharing of knowledge internationally and tool for peer reviewing. Boama and Tackie (2015), stressed that a challenge posed with this type of materials is that they become obsolete very fast, which can lead to loss of important heritage resources, and if this loss of heritage materials is not checked, it can create gaps in future memories. Ngulube (2007) asserts that "scholars use research findings to generate further research, models and archetypes." Thus findings accruing from research should be made available for others to build upon and for the society to benefit, while advances in digital technologies have led to the development of technical solutions geared towards creating and managing digital assets through IRs. This assertion was supported with the findings of Anenene, Alegbeleye, and Oyewole (2017) who stated that the opinions of the respondents as highlighted in their study revealed that regardless of the money spent on establishing IRs, the benefits far outweighs the demerits.

    Overview of Cultural Heritage Materials

    Culture connotes the beliefs, arts, morals, values, traditions, customs, food habits, religious beliefs and various behavioral traits needed to survive in a given...

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