The fourth CERN-UNESCO School on digital libraries aimed to establish the scientific presence of Africa on the internet, has taken off at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Kumasi.
The one week programme, which brought together 35 librarians from Europe and other African countries, also aimed at providing access to scientific and educational content originating from Africa.
It was organised under the auspices of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in collaboration with the Prempeh II Library of the KNUST.
A digital library is a virtual library with a focused collection of digital objects that include text, visual material, audio material, video material, stored as electronic media formats, along with means for organising, storing, and retrieving the files.
At the opening ceremony on Monday, the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. Kwesi Obiri Danso, in a speech read for him, underscored the importance of digital libraries saying “our institutions hold various collections, derived from teaching and research, held in various formats that could benefit our students if made digitally accessible.”
Libraries and librarians, he said, were well placed to curate such resources and provide seamless open access to them, from one central access point, “to our large student audience, thereby enhancing their learning experience and also bridging the digital divide.”
Realising the many digitised learning resources already existing in the developed world such as the world digital library project and national libraries global projects, the Vice-Chancellor said “there is no reason why we in Africa cannot initiate similar projects to digitise and make available content that can promote development on our continent.”
According to Prof. Danso, libraries provide access to information and play a vital role in the democratisation of knowledge for development and lifelong learning, therefore, “the development of digital libraries holds great potential for breaking down information barriers and promoting access to virtual knowledge collections that connect communities across different cultures.”
He urged the participants to champion the cause of digital content development, and promote the value of digital libraries in the 21st century education, stressing “you need to forge closer links among yourselves and with other stakeholders, to bring information closer to the doorsteps of your users, and thereby enhance the learner experience.”
Dr. Samuel K. Nikoi, Chief Librarian at KNUST, noted that digital libraries provided opportunity to improve the quality of library services to offer to users and to bridge the digital divide which had become pertinent in the world.
Mr. Jens Vigen, head of Librarians at the CERN, expressed his outfit’s readiness to provide technical support for repository installations and maintenance for participating countries, saying “there is so much research topics in Africa which neighbouring countries can benefit if published online.”
Dr. Helena Asamoah-Hassan, Executive Director, African Library and Information Association, for her part, noted there was no academic library in Ghana that was digital, and applauded the efforts of CERN-UNESCO for creating the platform to build capacity toward digital content creation.
From Kingsley E. Hope, Kumasi.