Creating An Open Access To Library Information: A Critical Tool in Eradicating Educational Poverty

LibraryThe Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln of USA on 22nd September, 1862. The proclamation declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1963.

Even though the proclamation was enacted in 1862, it wasn’t until 1864 that the slaves in Texas heard about this Act. So, for two years, they remained in voluntary servitude. Why, because they lacked access to information about their freedom and emancipation.

Today, one can say with a fair degree of certainty that the 21st century is the century of information. The advent of the information revolution, the mobile phone, and other communication devices have facilitated this process.

Access to information have great potential for human development. Access to information is key to achieving the Millennium Development goals, The eight goals are centered on national targets for poverty reduction, providing universal primary education, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, improving maternal health, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development, all by the target date of 2015, which is this year.

For the global community to meet the above goals, they’ll need access to critical information that will emancipate and extricate those at the base of the pyramid from these challenges. It is often said that information poverty is the biggest obstacle to development.

The right of access to information has become a benchmark of democratic development.

Organizations have been formed to promote access to information at various levels, be it government information or information from the library.

As you are well aware, libraries are repositories of information. The traditional definition of a library is a depository that houses books and other materials for reading and study. Traditionally, the information is usually housed in a building.

With the advent of the information revolution in the early 1990s, a major transition has been made from print to electronic resources. Through this new medium, it is now possible to make library materials available to anyone, anywhere, with computer access. This movement has given birth to the electronic, virtual, wall-less, or digital library, a library whose holdings have been digitized and made available to users via electronic resources.

In this knowledge age, the issue is not limited only to access to information but, speed of access is important. In some cases knowledge is obsolete before it can be incorporated in a book and distributed. The same knowledge put online can become available to students and teachers and all interested immediately.

Users who need to be informed, are faced regularly with the problem of finding just the right information they need to answer a particular question, and solve a particular problem. And this information may be anywhere in the world, in a laboratory or on the desk of a researcher. Information of this kind is placed online daily, hourly, and the worldwide volume of such knowledge is immense and growing hourly. Students and teachers—all of us—need to learn how to find what we need to know in this torrent of information, using search engines and other tools that can take them to the document they need.

As people become more self-directed learners, librarians should be trained in the use of the new technologies of electronic information retrieval to enable them assist library users.

Given the reality of shrinking budgets, we cannot afford NOT to digitalize. We cannot afford to keep building rooms to accommodate printed books which are increasingly expensive. We cannot afford to have each institution try to develop and maintain its own collection for its own students: we will be forced b y budget realities to learn to share.

When you think of the physical space and maintenance that is required for a growing physical library, the growing personnel expense, and the growing budget for physical materials, it may actually be less expensive, to go digital from the beginning, and end up as in Fielding with no physical library at all.

Since one digital book, one digital video, one digital journal can be shared by all our institutions, we might create a common online digital library whose materials will be available to all of us.

Ii behooves on African institutions of higher learning, both public and private, get together to create a shared digital library of materials available online.

That is, instead of each institution creating an expensive library for its students only, we should lobby tertiary institutions to contribute to the creation of a library that uses all of the library budget of he various institutions to create a large library of materials available to students from member institutions. The general public could then have access to this wealth of information through membership and institutional subscription.

We should lobby seriously to bring all the tertiary institutions together to talk about a new library strategy for the country, a shared digital library.

And, we need to learn about, and make use of, the Open Educational Resources, or OER, movement, an Internet empowered worldwide community effort to create an education commons.

Access to information should be popularized in all our socio-economic activities. Let’s use access to information to eradicate educational poverty.

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