Digital libraries are increasingly being recognized as efficient channels for the collection, storage, organization of information in digital formats and for their ease of searching, retrieval and processing of information via improved communication networks. Digital libraries have the potential to provide timely access to information, improve facilities for information sharing and collaboration and also reduce the digital divide among (Chowdhury and Chowdhury, 2003:11).
In universities, digital libraries serve as gateways to information and knowledge offering essential support for teaching, learning and research. They provide access to the intellectual and scholarly output of the university community and play an important role in promoting the university to the rest of the world by exposing works to the wider community. Access to information and knowledge is made available through the ever-widening range of digital library resources and services, including full-text online databases, faculty research, classroom materials, multimedia digital resources, electronic journals, electronic books and digital libraries from all over the world.
Some libraries in the developed countries (for example: University of California system--California Digital Library; University of Tilburg Library, Netherlands) have put measures in place to ensure the development and management of digital libraries. Lampert and Vaughan (2009) for instance, observe in their study of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) libraries' digitization programmes, that the majority of libraries had made provision for digitization activities in their library's strategic plans. Within that plan, the need for financial sustainability was emphasized in order to enhance, migrate and sustain resources over time. In the opinion of Azzolini (2011:14) a digital library should be regarded as an enterprise that is meant to fulfill specific goals and from the outset designed to be sustainable in order to provide value to those who invest in it and those who use it. In other words, the need for financial planning including short-term and long-term forecasting as well as benchmarks cannot be neglected.
This paper explores the views of university librarians from the three oldest public universities on strategic planning for the development of digital libraries and how the plan is being implemented. Specifically, the paper:
i. examines the availability of strategic plans or policies towards the development of digital libraries in Ghanaian universities;
ii. investigates sources of funding as well as disbursement of funds in respect of digital libraries in Ghanaian universities.
Theoretical insights into digital libraries
A plethora of frameworks and models proposed for the design, development and management of digital libraries has been widely discussed in the academic literature (Zachman, 1987; Yates, 1989; Levy and Marshall, 1995; Moen and McClure, 1997; Yang, Zheng & Wang, 1997; Marchionini and Fox, 1999; Rowlands and Bawden, 1999; Saracevic and Covi, 2000; Fuhr et al. 2001; Magnussen, 2003; Gongalves et al. 2004). In the view of the different authors, these frameworks serve as the basic architecture for the development of digital libraries.
Yates (1989) for instance, explains that documents, technologies and work factors are crucial for the development of both traditional and digital libraries. Yates contends that libraries have one thing in common, that is, they house and provide access to stores of documents. These documents are created and maintained using technologies and are deployed through the institution of the library to support work of researchers and staff. The consequences of Yates' framework for the development of digital libraries are examined by Levy and Marshall (1995) and Rowlands and Bawden (1999). Levy and Marshall (1995) stress that technical infrastructure does not, in and of itself, constitute a digital library. Digital libraries require content more specifically, managed collections of content for identified user communities. They conclude that digital libraries are characterized by documents, technology and work processes (which involves research and service). Yang et al. (1997) propose that the digital library should comprise four structural levels: user interface, networks and communications, information resources and reference service while Marchionini and Fox (1999) suggest four dimensions of digital library development, constituting community, technology, service and content.
Rowlands and Bawden (1999) on their part re-labeled the three elements of Yates as the informational (documents), the systems (technology) and the social (work) domains of the digital library. The informational domain examines knowledge organization and discovery, impacts on the information transfer chain and future studies and scenarios. The social domain examines human factors (non-machine specific), organizational factors, library management factors, information law and policy factors, impacts on the information transfer chain, future studies and scenarios. The systems domain also consists of human factors (e.g. human-system interaction), systems factors, knowledge organization and discovery (e.g. software agents), impacts on the information transfer chain (technical) and future studies and scenarios.
Saracevic and Covi (2000) also indicate that in the development of digital libraries, the social, institutional, individual, interface, engineering, processing, and content factors need to be considered. Additionally, a scheme for digital library development which contains four dimensions: data/collection, system/technology, users and usage is proposed by Fuhr et al. (2001). They explain that data/collection assessment mainly focuses on content, description, quality/reliability attributes, and management and accessibility attributes, while system/technology assessment is related to user technology, information access, system structure, and document technology. Users and their uses are represented by the types of users, what domain areas users are interested in, how they seek information, and the purpose of seeking information.
Magnussen (2003) presents a theoretical perspective of digital libraries designed specifically for Commonwealth libraries. These include a number of inter-related factors such as legal, financial, client, personnel, organizational, management, technical, collaboration and subject discipline issues. Another theoretical framework that has attracted a lot of attention is the 5S introduced in 2004 by Gongalves et al. The 5S framework representing Streams, Structures, Spaces, Scenarios and Societies together provide a formal foundation to define, relate and unify concepts of digital objects, meta data, collections and services.
In the absence of an agreed theory or concept, the question arises which of these perspectives present a holistic view of the development of digital libraries. In the view of the researchers, all models present some aspects of the core components needed for the development of digital libraries, namely, policies and planning, technological infrastructure and digital content and services. For the purpose of this study, the availability of policies and plans would be examined in the context of digitization in Ghanaian universities.
This study is significant as it will emphasize the need for effective strategic planning for digitization in university libraries. Furthermore, the outcome of the study will serve as a very useful tool for librarians in Ghana and indeed in other developing countries who desire to improve the digital status of their university libraries. It is hoped that the study would bridge the gap on unreported or underreported developments of digital libraries in Ghana.
The rest of this paper is divided into three main sections: a review of the literature on the strategic planning for digital library development is carried out. Then the study methodology is presented followed by the findings and discussions and recommendations for university librarians and administrators.
Review of the related literature
The term "digital library" is most certainly a recent one which can be traced from the mid-90s to 2004. It gained ground when research funding for digital libraries was made available to universities and other agencies in the United States of America (USA). It has been defined as:
"a managed collection of information, with associated services, where the information is stored in digital formats and accessible over a network" (Arms 2000:1).
Digital libraries require strategic planning on who uses what, how, why, at what charges and conditions of confidentiality and privacy. It requires the expertise and experience of decision makers, library and archive managers, curatorial and technical staff members to establish guidelines or policies to make them viable. In the view of Bryson (2004:6), strategic planning is a "disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it". Strategic planning typically involves a process of planning which results in the organization's strategic plan. A few authors (Hosmer, 1982; Bryson and Roering, 1988; Eadie, 1983) have designed steps in the planning process. Streib (1992: 341) for instance, identifies five steps in the strategic planning process:
i. A mission statement that establishes goals and objectives
ii. An environmental scan
iii. An organizational scan to determine strengths and weaknesses