MAKERERE UNIVERSITY'S LIBRARY GOES DIGITAL

Digital Content

Makerere University Library is undergoing a digital revolution with the new Digital Library Project. According to Elly Amani Gamukama-the Systems Administrator of the main Library, the University has created a local digital content.

"In order to enhance e-learning, the library has started digitalising selected collection for online access through the library Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) also known as MakLIBIS (Makerere University Library Information System)," he says. Gamukama who is also the Project Manager MakLIBIS hints that an electronic card-based catalogue will replace the print-based periodical indexes.

The Library, which is the lifeblood of academia in Uganda, has also introduced electronic journals and e-books that can be easily accessible to all its users through a local area network. Already, many leading Social Science and Humanities Journals are available online in the library. Library users are able to browse, search and link to any academic information within the shortest possible time. With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Support for Research Corporation (SAREC), and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the library so far runs a document delivery service through which students and staff can acquire scholarly or research articles not available at Makerere.

This will be done using the Ariel Software called the Electronic Document Delivery Service (EDDS) that enables online delivery through mail to individuals. Makerere has subscribed to Partner Libraries like The British Library, University of Bergen and University of Tennessee respectively. Besides, Gamukama says the conversion of the library's paper photographs to digital will soon be done to enable accessibility of this rare collection in the library for researchers who may need a selection for their academic work. Even a Computer Laboratory has been established to cater for blind students where their special reading material will be made available.

The USD 200,000 Project covering the years 2000-2005 aims to create a capacity for the collection, management and dissemination of theses and dissertations electronically. With this donor money, Makerere University has obtained Information Communication Technology (ICT) equipment for Science based libraries such as Photocopiers, Scanners, Printers, Servers, CD Towers, Computers and more. All these computerised activities will solve the problem of insufficient library resources.

The other tidings are that there will be scanned online copies of rare books which all registered students can access where ever they are. One can book via email if you know the title, author, volume, and page range of any journal or book. Gamukama explains that every Department is setting up Computer libraries and the Institute of Computer Science has ordered about 200 computers.

"The university has made it a policy that every first year student must go through a computer course. We are aiming at reaching the International Standard which is at 1pc per 50 students, this will ease e-learning for our students," he says. But who will train the Internet ignorant students to use these facilities? Won't it be expensive? "Starting next year, all students will undergo an end-use training in the use of the available Databases and other library resources that will be compulsory and carrying credit," Gamukama says adding that even most of the University Library Staff have, through collaborative partnership with the University of Bergen received specialised library training in security and library systems.

And talking of security systems, the project has also ensured the installation of Book Check Systems to minimise the loss of the acquired books. It comes after the Science based Faculties and the Department of Gender were boasted with text and reference books. The soft-spoken Gamukama who holds a Masters Degree in Computer Software says the library is collaborating with the Institute of Computer Science Makerere to ensure distinctive automation.

"We deal with GTZ a German company that deals with library solutions. We bought their software and made an agreement that they will train our staff in implementation of the software," he says. The Visual Integrated Library System (VIS) that Gamukama says is very new, expensive and the cutting edge of this information infrastructure is being used. He says the library may need more skilled staff in the near future, as the process of selecting, scanning, and hooking everything on the Internet is full time. In fact, President Yoweri Museven has directed the Ministry of Finance to fund a special Internet expansion programme for Makerere University that will broaden its Internet bandwidth from 2.5mega-bites to more than 10. This will be achieved in a period of two years and will fasten multiple access work so that more people will access the Internet through the local portal. Information by users will be accessed quickly.

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