Challenges Facing The Library At West Africa Theological Seminary, Affiliate Of University Of Nigeri
The library has become “a place entrusted with the acquisition, organization, preservation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information in whatever format it might appear” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, ix). West Africa Theological Seminary Library is at the crossroad. The traditional library practices and modern technological advances must be developed and embraced if it is to be relevant in this information age. It is a very high price which must be paid otherwise the library will eventually become like the legendary character who slept for twenty years at Gasgill Mountain in Gulliver’s Travels and eventually woke up to find the world completely changed.
BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
The history of the above seminary could be realistically traced to the historic visitation by two American missionaries (Rev. Dr. and Rev. Mrs. Gary Maxey) who led a group of Nigerian and expatriate Christians to Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria in April 1989. (The Maxeys had initially worked creditably in religious education in Port Harcourt for seven years). The establishment of the seminary in 1989 was a practical demonstration of the need to actively participate in the training of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and teachers not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of the continent and the west. Presently, the seminary is the largest non-denominational evangelical holiness seminary in Nigeria that has attracted students from a broad spectrum of Nigerian Christian denominations, (and) ethnic groups. During a recently completed semester, WATS has students from thirty of Nigeria’s states, from over forty language groups, from (several) other African countries, and from well over eighty different church groups (West Africa Theological Seminary Prospectus 2004, 5).
The name of the seminary was changed from Wesley International Theological Seminary to West Africa Theological Seminary on 1 June 2001, the same year it relocated to 35/37 MM International Airport Road, Lagos, Nigeria. The institution is affiliated to the University of Nsukka, Nigeria and presently offers several programs of study including : Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Diploma in Theology, Certificate in Computer Studies, Diploma in Computer Studies, M.A. in Biblical Studies, Master of Divinity, M.A. in Christian Leadership and M.A. in Intercultural Studies. The seminary started publishing the West Africa Theological Seminary Journal in 2002.
One of the immediate plans of the seminary is to automate its library collection. A crucial aspect is to identify software that will be able to meet the needs of the seminary. In selecting software, the seminary must think in terms of networking and bear in mind that automation programmes normally require annual support fees.
WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY LIBRARY
It is a truism that “the library is the nerve center of educational institutions” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, vii) and West Africa Theological Seminary Library is no exception. This library uses the second edition of the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) and the twentieth edition of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC 20). The card catalog is divided, “a file of authors and titles kept in a single alphabetical order and a file of subject cards in alphabetical order” (Newhall 1970, 38) and the filing system is letter by letter, a system in which “entries are filed without considering the spaces between words” (Nwosu 2000, 61). There is a book catalog, which contains the projects (undergraduate and graduate) submitted by students of the seminary and some members of staff who studied in other institutions.
In 2003 the library benefited from a subscription paid by Asbury Theological Seminary to use the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Database on CD Rom. This is a comprehensive tool designed to support religious education and faculty research. The library serves students, academic and administrative staff of the seminary and external users (academic staff and students from other theological institutions).
Other relevant information include:
A. During term: Mondays to Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. ? 10:30 p.m.
B. Holiday: Mondays to Fridays: 9:00 a.m. ? 9:00 p.m.
NO OF BOOKS: 36,500
NO OF journal titles: 98
NO. OF VIDEO AND AUDIO CASSETTES: 114
PHOTOCOPYING MACHINE: 1
THE BOOK CATALOG: Projects (both card and book catalog)
NO. OF REFERENCE MATERIALS: 1,722
With the exclusion of the presenter, WATS library is presently manned by seventeen members of staff, nine of whom are student workers. These student workers mostly work in the evenings, manning the security and circulation desks (although no external borrowing is done during this period). In addition, they clean they library.
1. Training and recruiting professional librarians
Nine out of the seventeen members of staff are student workers who use this opportunity to raise a significant portion of their fees and, in some cases, some extra funds to maintain themselves as they pursue their theological studies. The presenter is unaware of any who has expressed interest in the library profession. Services rendered cannot be classed as professional. Unfortunately, only two of the regular members of staff have completed some form of library training at the senior supporting level. The implication is that the library is seriously in need of professional librarians otherwise it would continue to run sub-standard services. An irksome dimension is that in most cases, junior members of staff who are in the majority “are allowed to do professional duties in the absence of the right cadre who should do them” (Nwosu 2000, 103).
The card catalog for instance will be used to demonstrate the effect the paucity or lack of professional librarians is having on the library collection.
The most common form of library catalog in West Africa is the card catalog and “there is need for (one) to know the design of the system to be able to use it effectively” (Nwosu 2000, 57). A challenge for the library is to maintain a consistent filing rule. Although WATS library operates the system known as the “letter-by-letter” or “all-through” method, there are evidences of the other method, that is the “word-by-word” or “nothing before something”. The former is the common approach to alphabetization, where B must always come before C. In the latter, the space between words is taken into account since the focus is on each word. When it gets to the turn of the word in the alphabetic sequence, all its associates are considered along.
Marrying the two methods of filing or alphabetization may cost one the information that is needed.
Another problem is misapplication of the filing rules. The American Library Association Code (Rule 6) stipulates that “abbreviated words should be filed as if they were spelled out in full, with one exception, that is, the abbreviation Mrs. St. is therefore filed as if it were spelled Saint, and Mc… as Mac” (Harrison and Beenham 1985, 82). The above rule is unfortunately misapplied in WATS library. If the rule is not taken into consideration, the word scan will be filed before St. when it should be the other way round. In the same manner, the Dr. (doctor) will also be filed before down and not the other way round.
A third issue in filing (Rule 5) states that initials should be filed before words. (However, acronyms are treated as words, for example UNICEF, UNESCO, ECOWAS etc.) There are instances in the WATS catalog that this rule is not taken into consideration. A word like Aaron erroneously comes before A.G.M and A.L.A.
It is frightening that there is no clear room for upward mobility of library staff. In the absence of a professional scheme of service or promotion guidelines, members of staff have worked in one position since they received their appointment letters.
2. Computerizing the library
Some libraries in Nigeria have automated their services. Examples include the Institute of Tropical Agriculture Library at Ibadan and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Library, Oshodi, Lagos. Others, including WATS Library, are on the verge of putting their automation plan into action.
Automation can benefit the Acquisition, Cataloging and Serial Departments in the following ways :
Acquisition : Automation can help in fund control as well as in generation and dissemination of reports. List of items, including the accession list can also be printed.
Acquisition is generally defined as “the process of obtaining books and other documents for a library, documentation center or archive” (Prytherch 1986, 61). Incontrovertibly, it is “one of the most important functions of any library system” (Ali 1989, 66). Some means of acquisition of library materials include purchase, donation, exchange, Legal Deposit Legislation and membership of professional organizations. In most libraries in West Africa, it is observed that
acquisition rates are grossly inadequate to support both teaching and research even if judged by minimal standards accepted in developed countries. Attempts to alleviate the situation with various forms of aid though intrinsically meritorious offer little hope for long term improvement (Allen 1993, 232).
Donated materials extensively stock West Africa Theological Seminary Library. Since beggars are not choosers, there is a significant proportion of dated publications. There are many reading materials which are not even relevant to the general curriculum of the seminary. Weeding ‘unwanted’ stock is a big problem to the library since there are no suitable replacements.
An often-overlooked means of acquisition is membership of professional associations. If the library continues to distance itself from the professional register of library institutions, it will not be aware of current trends in the professional which will negatively reflect on the type and quality of services rendered.
4. Internet connectivity
The WATS administration released a letter on 2nd January 2005 announcing a significant reduction (about 75%) of the internet service provided on campus. This was attributed to the reduction in the bandwidth which made it impossible to support all the former work stations. A technological blow was dealt on the library cyber café since it fell prey to this decision. Students were advised to use the cyber café on the ground floor. The seminary administration must support the library in its embryonic stage to judiciously embrace the new technology. On the other hand, the theological librarians have a very crucial role “to ensure that the resulting use of computers and telecommunication and any other appropriate technology contributes in cost effective ways to the needs of scholarship and research since (they) have the expertise in acquiring materials in a variety of formats and make them accessible for a variety of purposes” (Simpson 1984, 38).
5. Online resources
An online resource that was used at West Africa Theological Seminary (and which is highly recommended for other theological libraries in Africa) is the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Index, useful for accessing articles, reviews, essays, dissertations and monographs. The use of databases, which overlap subject fields, that is, interdisciplinary database searching, is an often over-looked aspect of online searching.Users of West Africa Theological Seminary Library do not have access to an incredible amount of online resources because it is not subscribing to use these materials. An example of a very important online resource is the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC). This center, a bibliographic utility based in Dublin, Ohio is a global electronic information co-operative serving about 39,517 libraries in seventy-six countries. It runs an Online Union Catalog. There are approximately twenty eight million cataloguing records and the database (using MARC tapes and other online input data for users) provides reference services and interlibrary loan, qualifying it probably as the world’s most comprehensive database of bibliographic information that produces the First Search System through which a library can subscribe to thousands of academic and professional titles from about seventy publishers available electronically.
6. Functional photocopier
Although the library has a photocopier, the machine is frequently out of order. This second hand machine needs to be replaced to enable the library to realistically benefit from its services. The seminary administration even took a decision recently to hand over photocopying services to a student who is presently running a better business.
7. Audio visual collection
Audio visuals are non-paper based information carriers. They have been introduced into the library through advances in technology. They are called audio-visuals because they require auditory and visual appreciation. One of their chief advantages is storing a large amount of information in a small space. Audio visuals include audio tapes, microforms, filmstrips, charts, slides, video tapes, television etc. Some of these appeal only to the sense of hearing (audios), some only to the sight (visuals) and others to both the auditory and visual senses (audio visuals). Although WATS library has received quite a few audio visual materials, there is need to purchase the necessary supporting equipments to make the audio visual collection a reality.
The seminary has been receiving several research tools in the form of CD ROMS for a considerable period. The library is yet to make these available to users by installing them in a functional computer.
It is true that “once any item is selected for the collection, the library promises to preserve it” (Goodrum and Dalrymple 1985, 65). The absence of a bindery collection within the library is adversely affecting the physical condition of books. It must be borne in mind that since a significant portion of library materials are donated, many are received in a very poor physical condition.
The bindery could also be very instrumental in binding back issues of newspapers and journals to facilitate a relatively easier storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.
9. User instruction
A major weakness of library practice is the failure to instruct users in the use of the library to the best advantage. From experience, “surveys have shown that public use of such tools as catalogues are minimal, largely because they have never been shown how they operate” (Jackaman 1989, 3). Many students in WATS go through the seminary without a reasonable grasp of basic library principles. This means that the one hour orientation conducted at the start of every semester is insufficient.
10. Serial collection
Various journals subscribed to by the library are selected, ordered and received, processed and shelved by this collection. It is constantly checked to determine if there are any missing issues already due but have not been received in order to make such claims. This section also stocks newspaper. The relevance of such an invaluable collection in the library cannot be overemphasized. It is unfortunate that WATS library is not subscribing to journals and this explains why there are many distinct gaps in periodical literature. The library is at the mercy of donors who normally send journals at random.
Newspapers are directly purchased by the WATS administration and these are subsequently sent to the library in most cases not on the day of purchase. This defeats the purpose of newspapers since they come late to the library. Providing recent information must be the primary concern for the library or information worker. Consequently, “currency should therefore be a requirement and not an option” (Wilson 1993, 636).
11. Heat in the library
The present heat in the library is detrimental to the books since humidity is a threat to their survival. If not sprayed periodically, fungi easily develop within the pages and damage the writing. Many researchers are unable to stay for a considerable period simply because of the discomfort caused by a very hot environment.
12. Internet searching
When the library cyber café was functioning, user statistics of users indicated that ninety percent of those who used the Internet did so to send mails and chat with friends. The remaining ten percent use it to conduct research and perform other functions. The insignificant percentage that uses it for research purposes heavily rely on Google. A student and a library staff opined that they adopt the ‘google only’ approach because they are not aware of any other cite.
It is observed that “most users locate (information) through subscription-free search engines such as Google” (Harding 2004). This over-reliance is a serious limitation. The effectiveness of Google is assessed thus:
A recent search on Google of ‘Ancient Near East’ resulted in over 150,000 results. While many of these are probably excellent sites, many more are probably not. The ETANA site, interestingly, does not appear in the first one hundred listings. Thus, the researcher who would benefit from access to ETANA but who does not know of its existence will likely not stumble across it using Google (Limpitlaw 2003, p.5).
It is rather unfortunate that even lecturers are incredibly proliferating reliance upon one web site (Google). The issue is that “if faculty researchers themselves are relying almost exclusively upon Google, however, how many of them are likely to encourage students to expand their searches beyond Google, to at least explore the resources and materials their libraries maintain?” (Norlin 2004, 56). The library staff must be very instrumental in directing users to many other relevant sites and free online libraries, for instance Africa Digital Library in South Africa. Continuing education for the library staff must be encouraged to enable them to be abreast of technological changes. It is opined that “a successful training program is also dependent on the commitment that top management shows for the training process” (Martey 2002, 14). An incontrovertible reality is that “librarians need to know how to access and filter what is on the web” (Rosenberg 1997, 15). Among several suggestions to shake the evident frost off the African church in its theological mission, Tienou (1990) proffers the improvement of theological libraries, and (by implication), the theological librarians who intersperse between the information and the user. The training of library staff and information professionals is very crucial in coping with the astronomically fast development that is evident in the information age. It is rather unfortunate that the theological librarians have not generally accompanied the introduction of Internet service at West Africa Theological Seminary Library with a thorough training on its use.
Indubitably, unless … librarians receive this staff training, there is a danger that the potential of this technology for sourcing and repackaging for information transfer will remain insufficiently exploited and that it will not become integrated with more traditional print-based library services” (Asamoah 2003, 17).
It is incontrovertible that “every good collection is an expression of adequate and sound financial backing, and no collection development can achieve this objective if it is financially handicapped” (Alemna 1994, 47). In their commentary on the challenge in the field of librarianship, it is observed that “library funding will probably be the issue which consumes the energy of library managers to the end of this century (and the next)” (Moore and Shander 1993, 19). WATS library must be realistically budgeted for if it is to continue to be the academic nerve center of the seminary.
THE WAY FORWARD
Like Ato Yawson in Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost, the question is, shall WATS library go to Cape Coast (representing the traditional) or Elmina (representing the modern’)? In the field of librarianship, a realistic response lies “in preserving traditional services and embracing the technological advances” (Harding 2002, 9).
The following are proffered for consideration to assist WATS library to face the inescapable challenges:
1. Professionally trained staff
The library profession is in crises. It is observed that “the need to find and retain quality leadership for libraries is a core issue for the future” (Hisle 2002, 211). Library staff at WATS must be professionally trained. Acquisition of relevant library qualifications cannot be overemphasized. Relevant training must include use of software applications. The modern theological librarian is standing on a crossroad and must maintain a very useful balance between traditional and modern research techniques to be relevant in this information age. Substandard services will continue to be provided if staff are employed just because they are Christians with little emphasis on professional training. Theological librarians need the kind of training conducted by ACTEA (Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa) East Africa Library Staff Training Institute in Daystar University in Kenya in July 2004. Untrained librarians need courses in cataloguing and classification, management of the library and answering reference questions. Furthermore, they must receive training in searching the internet, using Boolean operators to consult full-text journals, accessing reference materials on CD Roms, using MARC, and compiling lists of important websites and reference CDs.
Seminary, library, training, recruiting, librarians,
2. Scheme of service
In order not to make a continued mockery of the library profession, it is recommended that the professional guidelines for the appointment and promotion of library staff at all levels be drafted and implemented. The seminary administration could compare the scheme of service of several institutions in Nigeria and the sub-region as a guide to reasonably maintain the standard.
Positions which should be taken into consideration within the various categories include:
a. Junior staff
ii. Library attendant III
iii. Library attendant II
iv. Library attendant I
v. Library assistant I
vi. Library assistant II
vii. Library assistant III
b. Senior supporting staff
i. Trainee Librarian/Senior Library Assistant II / Admin. Assistant II
ii. Senior Library Assistant I / Admin.
c. Senior staff
i. Library Officer
ii. Librarian II
iii. Librarian I
iv. Senior Librarian
v. Deputy Librarian
vi. Head Librarian
The criteria for scoring senior library staff should be taken into consideration. Some of these areas include :
Academic and professional qualifications
Research and publications
3. Revamping of internet services in the library
The library cyber café must be resurrected if the library is to be relevant in this technological age. The library staff should receive training that will enable them to creditably handle databases in their library.
4. User instruction
The library should be more proactive in user education strategies. More current awareness or selective dissemination of information should be done to attract students and staff. A course on the use of the library could be introduced as a compulsory subject for all categories of students. It is evident even in West Africa Theological Seminary that “librarians can no longer assume the same level of interest in and support for the library from a faculty that increasingly rely upon their own search strategies and abilities in an electronic world they can access from their offices” (Norlin 2004, 56). Theological librarians need to be carefully attuned to the concerns of the students and faculty. If librarians at WATS discharge professionalism in identifying the problem of the researcher, searching for specific pieces of information efficiently and expeditiously and transmits the result of the search by any convenient means to both faculty and student users (telephone, email, personal call, short letter to mention a few), the interest in the library as information intermediary would gradually be revamped.
The library of West Africa Theological Seminary should spend several weeks offering “faculty only” and “students only” training sessions on the use of American Theological Library Association database (after paying the current subscription). An incontrovertible fact is that “unless theological librarians consciously view the faculty (and students) as the primary target for (their) activities, (they) would become irrelevant to…students, faculty, administrators and institutions” (Norlin 2004, 55).
5. The role of the seminary administration
Management at WATS must recognize that the library is not an optional extra and that the impending doctoral programme in the seminary will only become a reality when the library attains a particular professional standard. Seminary authorities must support its progress by developing existing collections (for instance, subscribing to scholarly journals for the serials collection) and by assisting in the setting up of a vibrant Digital Library Collection which should be manned by a professional librarian. Providing server upgrades and disk storage space must be seriously considered. There should be regular in-service training to assist library staff gain relevant skills in information technology.
The issue of funding cannot be overemphasized. The WATS Library can only be relevant in this information age if the seminary administration would recognize “the centrality of its academic nerve centre (the library) and ensure the sustainability of the library programmes and services” (Harding 2002, 9). Introduction of user charges, more fund raising activities in the library (such as book sales), increase in the support from donor agencies could yield an increase in income needed to purchase and maintain necessary equipment.
When the library is adequately funded, it will be in a position to subscribe to relevant journal titles, purchase standard theological texts, build a vibrant audio visual collection, provide air conditioning facilities to control the heat, replace the photocopier and provide other necessary services as and when necessary.
Professionally trained staff, scheme of service, revamping of internet services in the Computerize, cataloging, acquisition, internet, user instruction, audio visual, serial, bindery, funding, scheme of service,
6. Membership of professional organizations
WATS library should enroll as an institutional member of professional library associations such as Nigeria Theological Library Association, Christian Librarians’ Association for Africa, American Theological Library Association and Christian Librarians’ Fellowship. (The presenter is a member of all but the former). It was through the American Theological Library Association that the author was informed that the twenty second edition of the Dewey Decimal Library (DDC) classification has been published. (WATS is using the twentieth edition). The DDC numbers include all headings newly mapped to the 200 Religion Schedule, as well as others considered to be of interest to theological libraries.
Below is an illustration:
Subject heading Call number
All Souls’ Day in art 704.9493943
Islamic modernism 297.09
Nymphs (Greek deities) in art 704.9489221
Open-air preaching 206.1, 251
Social capital (Sociology) ? Religious aspects 201.7
Venus (Roman deity ) in art 704.9489221
(Osmanski 2003, 2-1)
It is indubitable that the role of the library as information intermediary would never change. However, the means to fulfill this invaluable role keeps changing and the library must adapt to maintain its relevance. WATS library is a unit of a self-supporting institution with several challenges. Traditional library practices must be fully developed and the best of modern technology must be embraced. This high price must be paid as the library journeys to ‘Cape Coast’. The seminary librarians have a major challenge to move from being mere keepers of the book to guides through a universe of knowledge, thereby playing an invaluable role as information intermediary (Kargbo 2002). Since the mission of the library to facilitate the free flow of information endures even in the midst of technological changes, the librarians in all types of libraries, including WATS, “must find a very useful balance between the conventional/traditional library functions and the methods of the new challenges in order to maintain their leadership role in (the) information age” (Harding 2002, 10). Librarians in West Africa Theological Seminary could only be relevant in this age if they gear up to possess the necessary skills to enable users to creditably use materials for reading, study and consultation in whatever format they might appear. This cannot be realized without the invaluable support of the seminary administration. With this realization, “the students will be taught the art of electronic information retrieval, which they can use to write their project work and thesis” (Asamoah 2003, 17).
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Article Source: Oliver Harding