Retrospective conversion in two Nigerian university libraries: a comparative study of Kenneth Dike Library and Obafemi Awolowo University library.

Author:Okoroma, Francisca


Retrospective conversion has to do with change from manual to automated or computerized system. In consideration of the inefficiency, slow and inadequacy of the existing library manual processes, libraries all over the world are resorting to automation as a means of coping with enormous literature output and greater demand on their services in this era of information explosion.

Nigerian libraries are not left out. Automation in Nigeria is not new, rather it dates back to the early 1970s (Ehikhamenor, 1990). According to him the first product of computerization in Nigeria was the catalogue of serial in March 1975 by the Ibadan University Library.

It is obvious that information technology (IT) has come to stay considering the immense benefit derived from it. The issue now is not whether libraries are going to embrace it, rather it is when will those libraries that are not yet automated, going to do so? In answer to this question, many libraries are in dilemma as to how to go about retrospective conversion (RECON) successfully. For a successful automation, libraries need to learn by examples and for them to learn in this way there must be documents to fall back on.

A number of studies have been conducted on the topic automation, and retrospective conversion. Some of these studies examined the prospects of the use of IT and the development of information systems in developing countries (Taylor and Obudho, 1977, Mills, 1983, Uladimir 1985). While some others delved into problems and the procedures of retrospective conversion (Ehikhamenor, 1990, Ajala, 1997, and Faniran and Oyemakinde, 2000).

This study is necessitated by the fact that there is still need to examine the various processes and problems encountered by one library retrospective conversion in this recent times, and then compare it with those of another library so as to identify the better alternative for the benefit of those Nigerian Libraries who are still looking forward to the actualization of their dream of automation.

Literature Review

In the light of the foregoing, the literature has been reviewed under the following sub-headings:

* The need for retrospective conversion.

* Decisions over acquisition of programme software for libraries.

* Planning and procedures for RECON.

* Approaches to retrospective conversion of card catalogue.

* Problems and prospect of retrospective conversion in Nigeria

* Computerization of university libraries in Nigeria .

Need for Retrospective Conversion

Kesner and Jones (1984) as cited in Oketunji (2000) suggested that in choosing an automated library system the library should do a need analysis so as to review the existing system; its strengths and weakness. It has however been identified that retrospective conversion of library system to computerized or automated system is of tremendous benefits both to the users and the library staff:

Some of the benefits as outlined by Tedd (1984) include the provision of online access, ability to access with ease more information via the online, saves time and cost, and makes for more accurate completion of tasks.

Cochrane's (1992) list of advantages of information technology complements this. They are summarized as follows: It allows easy integration of various activities, facilitates cooperation, helps to avoid duplication of efforts, eliminates repetitive work; saves money and increases efficiency.

Mabawonku (1999) noted that a computerized cataloguing system enables the use of centrally produced bibliographic record, and thus saves time and ensures uniformity of cataloguing procedures as well as standardization of cataloguing rules and procedures. Indeed, computerization of libraries will not only facilitates globalization of information, but will make for effectiveness and efficiency in information handling.

Nwalo (2003) adds that computerization of libraries in Africa will permit the acquisition and use of literature on CD-Rom, which has immense benefit both in terms of cost and durability. It collapses time, space as well as reduces the incidence of mutilation, defacing and theft of library materials.

Edoka (1992) highlighted the advantages of using computers in libraries as speed; improved performance, permanent storage of information, dependability and creation of new services.

Lang (2007) noted that catalogers use the Internet as a tool for locating cataloging documentation and other information. She posited that the main strengths of electronic cataloguing over traditional cataloguing are its ease of use and its ability to reduce the amount of time required to access information.

Generally, computerization enhances various operations and services in the library such as acquisition, serials, catalogue, circulation and information networks as well as library management. Edoka (1992).

Ajala (1997) stated that the great flood of information and the need to avoid keeping backlog of unprocessed materials, the increase in the volume of research activities resulting to mass of materials as well as the need to make bibliographical information accessible to researchers in remote site and satellite campuses have necessitated new and fast techniques of processing information.

In consideration of the inadequacies and dissatisfactions associated with manual system, it is obvious that retrospective conversion is a need that should be embraced by every library, hence the saying of Aramide (1974). "Mechanization has proved its superiority over traditional method in terms of accuracy speed and consistency. Manjunath (2004) added that automation eliminates cumbersome job of printing the cards, enhance simultaneous access to the same database as well as quick and remote access to information on the network.

From the aforewritten, there are two basic objectives of automation: to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in what is already done and to offer more services, which could not be achieved manually. This has been summed up in the statement of Adeyemi (2001).

"Today, the librarian can rely on the computer to perform all the functions of a cataloging system and more. Using an appropriate software, cataloguers can input data for each piece of item on pre-designed work-sheets resident on the system, as well as edit or revise such entries.....Besides, it is now possible to go beyond the traditional fields of information on the catalogue card to provide additional access points using other criteria like the affiliation of authors, key words in the title, or thesaurus descriptors which the economics of manual cataloging and classification did not encourage".

Retrospective conversion is simply "a need not a luxury", hence libraries are really about providing quick and easy access to information.

Software Decisions

According to Ajala (1997) the most important decision in automation are the hardware and the software requirement, and which of software development and use of software packages should be adopted in the automation process. Gibbarelli (1996) suggested that an automation exercise should start with the acquisition of software.

From the study conducted by Valantin (1981) CDS/ISIS possesses the following attributes: it is able to handle variable length records, variable length file, variable occurring fields, sub-fields and long descriptive abstracts. It uses more than one index per file to generate the inverted file in order to ensure rapid access to stored data; the user specifies the field to be indexed. According to Shirley, Perry and Willet (1983), the inverted file consists of a set of lists each of which contains pointers to the document records, which have been previously indexed by one particular term in the set of terms used for the characterization of the documents in the collection.

Manjunath (2004) advised that if a library wants to make a beginning; CDS/ISIS is best suited as it involves minimum investment on both hardware and software. He advocated the following criteria that will help in software selection:

To identify the developers, whether they are institution, reputed company or few individuals (The preference is for institution). Also to find out how many times the software has been revised since the time of its first launch and the number of parameters available for each module. He went further to say that there is also need to find out whether the software has facility to import bibliographic data in 1802709 format and similar export of data in this format; And whether there will be training and guidance after use as well as availability of such software on the major operating systems. From the study conducted by Ajala (1997), TINLIB seems to be the toast of libraries most especially university libraries. He continued that despite the fact that CDS/ISIS is given free of charge, it is still not as used as TINLIB. TINLIB is more user friendly, versatile, and takes care of all library operators and so suitable for large academic libraries. Nevertheless CDS/ISIS is distributed free of charge and so libraries with limited resources can make adequate use of the software and it can also be used to meet peculiar needs of the library.

Apart from choosing the appropriate software, another decision that has to be made in connection with retrospective conversion is to decide whether to adopt in-house software development or buy existing software package. In-house software development is the designing programming, documenting and testing a system locally from the scratch (Eyitayo, 1990).

Marron and Fifa (1976) lamented that no definite formular for choice of microcomputer software for in-house databases is possible because software choice is ultimately dependent on each individual situation.

Pratt (1980) noted that there does not seem to be anything (software) presently in the market aimed at libraries. Thus it is necessary for libraries to write their own programs suitable for the purpose. This view was supported by Lundeen (1980) that much of the...

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