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Library Philosophy and Practice 2011

ISSN 1522-0222

Computerization of the Fatiu Ademola Akesode Library, Lagos State University

E. Ademola Adekanye
Principal Librarian
F. A. Akesode Library
PMB Lagos State University
Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria

Introduction

The information age has permeated all aspects of human existence (Spies 1998). This has brought certain challenges to academics the world over (Pinfield 2001, Rader 2001); it is therefore clear that any attempt to have meaningful academic communication can only be successful through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), which is the application of the computer and its peripherals in communicating data within the shortest available time and over geographical space.

The university library is a dynamic unit within a dynamic system which underscores the need for the library to be proactive in its thinking. The library as the storehouse of knowledge is concerned with the acquisition of materials for teaching and research, processing of materials for easy retrieval, and the dissemination of information to facilitate the active and effective exploitation of the acquired resources. The thrust of all library services is the provision of up-to-date and timely information to her clients. The computerization of the academic library and digitization of records are significant changes that well shape the delivery of services and potentially affect the image of the librarian and status of the university library.

According to Eyitayo (1996), automated library systems have enormous potential in the management of vast resources available in the library. As a result of the information explosion and the development in information technology (IT) in the last three decades, it is imperative for an academic library to go outside the walls of its own collection to satisfy its clients’ information needs. The Internet, as the largest computer network in the world, can complement our array of learning tools (Achebe 1996). Many reviews of what can be done on the Internet and its benefits are available in the literature ( for example, Daniel 1999, Alasa and Kale-Chuckwu 1999, Eyitayo and Eyitayo 1999). To exploit the immense resources available in this global information village, a library must be computerized and academic libraries, in particular, stand to gain by joining this trend if they are to remain relevant to the community they serve. It was based on this premise that the Fatiu Ademola Akesode Library (Formerly Lagos State University Library) embarked on its computerization project. This paper describes the basic elements of managing the library’s automation planning process as an example of how this can be done in medium- to large-sized academic libraries. The paper provides a detailed overview of a planning process designed to help librarians make decision about library automation; offers practical suggestions on how library managers can effectively organize the process of acquiring a system, and shares the experience of Fatiu Ademola Akesode Library in the planning and implementation of its computerized system and sub-systems.

Literature Review

The history of automation in academic libraries in Nigeria dated back over 30 years (Sanni and Idiodi 2004). In 1973, Nigerian universities generated the first serials listings on computers, since then, various attempts were made and are still been made at full automation of library processes by academic, special and research libraries. In July 1984, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan blazed the trail of full automation when it converted its library’s catalogues to the online public access catalogue, thereby creating the information system ALISTRA (Automated Library and Information Services for Tropical Agriculture) (Adedigba et al 1995). The system integrates all catalogue, circulation and acquisition records so that they can be searched at the same time. Other research libraries like the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) followed suit in 1991 using TINLIB and the CD/ISIS software respectively. The RMRDC later introduced a more user-friendly software, X-Lib, which is complete library management software with provision for all aspects of library operations (Uga 2001).

University libraries in Nigeria took some time before adopting automation because of their large size and complex. The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, began with computerization of its acquisition operations in the 1988/1989 sessions, while the Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology Library, Ogbomoso, commenced computerization activities in 1991 using the TINLIB version 250 which it later upgraded to 270.

In 1994/1995, the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), through a World Bank facility, acquired and distributed ICL computer systems along with 4-user TINLIB software to some federal universities (Falaiye 2002). Only a few universities were able to make some headway with the TINLIB software after a lot of adaptations. As a resultm many university libraries had changed to more user-friendly library software.

The Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan was able to generate computer readable tickets as at December 1995. The library database now runs on library software called Alice for windows. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, created its own database with the TINLIB software and as being operational since September 1997, (Jagboro 2003).

Fatiu Ademola Akesode Library

Fatiu Ademola Adesode Library came into existence following the passing of the Lagos State University Law No. 15 of 1983 by the Lagos State House of Assembly. However, the Library did not become operational until the assumption of duty of the university librarian on 7th May 1984.The library system is made up of the main library and the law library at the main campus, Ojo; the College of Medicine library at Ikeja; the Epe branch library at Epe; and the School of Communication Library at Surulere, Lagos, Lagos. All the five libraries are centrally administered. From the collection of 2,281 volumes that it started with in the 1984/85 session, the library’s collection has grown astronomically to about 101,140 volumes. The library presently has a total number of 16,000 registered users, and has the responsibility of supporting learning, teaching and research of staff, students and university community with their diverse information needs.

At the inception of the Lagos State University in 1984, and conscious of the revolution permeating libraries all over the world, the university administration adopted as one of its priorities for r the acquisition of computer hardware and software to facilitate information retrieval in the university generally. Unfortunately, the library component of the project did not materialize due to unforeseen technical problems with the computer facilities selected for the university. Nevertheless, the university had not relented in its effort to join the league of automated libraries on the country because of the advantages this offers.

Preparation for Computerization

The computerization effort dated back as far as 1984 when the university took off with a computer department with the sole aim of computerizing the activities of the university. In a paper presented at a workshop on computer in university education and administration, Falade (1994) emphasized the importance of computerization in university education and management. He stressed the importance of computers in library operations and services. In 1998, library sponsored a 5-day workshop on library automation in collaboration with the computer department of the University for its Staff. Though the library started its automation effort since 1984, the actual process of computerization operation was between 2002 and 2004. The computerization effort of the branch libraries is in the pipeline. The library has qualitative human resources and most of the senior staff and typists are computer-literate. In addition, staff training in automation was accorded a topmost priority by the library management.

The library needed a system beyond the card catalogue that would provide multiple accesses to the entire collection of books, pamphlets, microforms, reprints, periodical articles, chapters in books, annual reports and other publications. The desired system was expected to provide for acquisition, cataloguing, serial control circulation and online public access. The system was supposed to be integrated in two ways, by accommodating records of all forms of publications in a single database, and through the unification of operational records.

We decided in 2003 that the system we wanted must facilitate the following operations:

  • Fast and efficient pre-order checking;
  • Acquisition record keeping and correspondence
  • Pre-cataloguing checking and processing;
  • Speedy and reliable serial tracking and control process;
  • Consistent organization of library materials through controlled description;
  • Production of shelf lists and appropriate collection guides;
  • Adequate, easy and fast access to the library’s information resources;
  • Current awareness services, including selective dissemination of information (SDI);
  • Circulation operations and
  • Online public access from various offices in the university

It is evident from the above specifications that the system will need would require a large computer storage capacity and a rather sophisticated software for database management.

The Computerization Process

The process of computerizing the library was in 3 phases. The first phase was the supply and installation of hardware, the second phase was the installation of library software and the last phase was the data conversion. Each of these phases will be discussed in detail.

Phase 1: Hardware Installation

The requirements of the computer and network cabling to the Cisco 2960 series switches in the Management information systems room (server room) were determined by advertising in the Nigeria daily newspapers for bids. The bids were submitted to the Project Implementation Unit consisting of the University librarian and experts from computer department of the university. Costs, compatibility with the existing computer in the university and after sales services are some of the criteria used in selecting the hardware. Table 1 shows the list of items and the quantities supplied in by Omatek Computers based in Lagos, Nigeria. Invitation for bids was advertised in Nigeria daily newspapers and the Project Implementation unit of the university did the selection.

Table 1: List of items supplied to Lagos State University library

Serial

No

Quantity

Item

1

2

Server, HP Proliant ML 5120 G5 Server 4GB RAM

2

40

Pentium IV Personal Computers

3

40

Uninterruptible Power Supply System (UPS)

4

2

HP Desk Jet 5653 Printer

5

2

2HP Scan Jet 7450C scanner

6

2

Bar Code Reader

Other accessories include: Barcode label papers, printer papers, CDs, diskettes, computer tables and power cables.

The library has client-server LAN architecture. A Star network has the entire network devices connected to one central computer, which is often used as the file server. The central node of the network, often called the hub or nexus, is a computer, which has separate connections to each computer/terminal. The network cards and the hub is Ethernet Base 10/100 with unshielded twisted pair cable.

Management Information System Room

This is the central control room of the network. It is the network administrative center manned by the System Analyst and a support staff. It houses the main server, backup server, and shared devices like printers, scanners etc. The HP desk jet 5652 Printer is connected to the main server while the 2 barcode readers are connected to two workstations in the cataloguing room and each server has 1.5KVA UPS. All the networked systems will have the capacity to perform multiple tasks, especially electronic mail services and web browsing when the library VSAT is eventually installed. The MIS room is served by one 2HP window unit air conditioner. It is the focal point of the network set-up. The importance of the MIS room is to ensure proper coordination and security of the library database, and to provide a center for network administration and control.

The automation of the F. A. Akesode Library is a pilot project being executed with the Education Trust Fund Library Intervention Fund, which will soon be extended to other branch libraries of the university. The distribution of the computers is as follows:-

a) Two workstations are dedicated to the acquisition department of the library for its daily operations;

b) Two workstations are assigned to the cataloguing department of the library;

c) 3 workstations are assigned to the circulation department of the reader services division of the Library;

d) 4 workstations are assigned to the OPAC, these are located strategically in the library

e) One workstation each for the University Librarian, the university librarian secretary’s office, the deputy librarian (technical services), deputy librarian (readers’ services) and the Secretary, and deputy librarian collection development.

f) 20 workstations are assigned to the post graduate section of the library

g) 3 Workstations at the Administrative office of the University Librarian

All the workstations are linked to the central hub.

The library main server and the backup server run on Window 2000 Server and they serve as dedicated file server, print server and mail server. All the workstations run on Window 2000 professional. The servers control the workstations located all over the library via local area networking.

Phase 2: Software Selection and Installation

The management of the library having clearly defined what computerization should do to improve information processing in the University, had to identify a software that could support integrated library management system while meeting the following additional criteria: perform the tasks specified above without undue redesigning, obtainable at a reasonable cost, and could be run cost effectively.

In a large-drawn process, many software packages were evaluated in 2003 against the stated requirements. Short-listed were Unesco Micro CDS/ISIS, IME TINLIB – Information Navigator, Konlib pro-library Manager, X-Lib and Alice for Windows.

Apart from the stated operational requirements of the library, the five packages were also assessed on the following criteria:

  • Producer/Vendor reputation and reliability based on the performance of previous installations;
  • Software functional flexibility and expandability;
  • Indexing and searching capabilities;
  • Interactivity of input and output interfaces;
  • System security provisions;
  • Good system documentation and manuals;
  • Cost;
  • Scope of customer training and
  • Possibility of system upgrading.

Finally, the library wanted software that had reasonable assurance of being well supported and that are being used by many academic libraries with the hope of forming users’ group in future to highlight common problems and proffer solutions to them, and that would be continually improved by its producer.

At the time of our investigation, there was virtually no Micro CDS/ISIS installation site in any university library. This we believed may not be suitable for our library.

IME’S TINLIB, while meeting most of our requirements could be faulted on at least two important areas. It was the disk operating system as against the window version that was marketed to the library management, which was not very users’ friendly. The management would not like to run into the problems, which some federal universities ran into with the software, which made most of them to abandon it for other library software.

We rejected the Library Manager marketed by Concept Computer Nig. Ltd because it would be incapable of meeting the requirements set by the Library Management for its operations.

The X – Lib, though locally developed library software was far cry of need of the University library like ours with a potential to hold a very large collections.

Alice for Windows, produced by Softlink Europe Limited and marketed by Library and Information Support Services (LISS) met absolutely all our requirements except that it was not cheap, but when compare with other software and our requirement it was considered the best. It is an integrated, window based and modular software that makes it easier to run. It was eminently suited to the processing and retrieval of large bibliographical data. Modules can be added as the need arises, or can even be exchanged for new ones at minimum cost. According to Anyaogu (2003), the advantages of Alice for Windows are far more than its disadvantages. The library management purchased the core modules such as management, circulation, acquisition and inquiry. In addition to these modules, 2 barcode readers were bought to scan the resource and patron during cataloguing and circulation respectively.

Post-Installation Training

Five - day vendor post installation training was conducted for the library staff. The first day of the training session was devoted to installation of the software and major system set up decisions taken and preset into the server. These setup decisions include resource loan category, loan category; fine, scholastic yearetc. Subsequently, one module per day was considered with hands-on-practical sessions. The vendor training officer extensively treated all the modules bought except that the training manuals were not available during the training. This had adversely affected the comprehension of the participants. The last day of the training was devoted to general overview of the training with interactive questions and answers. Having personal access to a local vendor representative was also very useful to overcome any problems that might arise during the usage of the software.

At the end of training session the vendor’s training officer provided the basic on-site training manual for Alice for windows. However, the Alice for Windows easy guide documentation which accompanies the software in electronic format, is more detailed and it has been printed out for the use of the library staff training exercise.

Ongoing Training

The question that normally comes to mind is what happens after the exit of the trainers? The library counts on the assurance by the vendor’s willingness to assist as the need arises. The library management has slated many training program for all category of staff in the library with basics of computer and computer appreciation courses to allay the fear of some of them that are not computer literate. Creating an in-house program is both the best and most difficult way of training. A common pitfall of internal instructional programs is to select individuals to do the training who already have the knowledge, regardless of their teaching ability. If a poor choice is made, this expedient solution can exact a price over time that can range from staff dissatisfaction with the training (at best) to a training program that actually repels staff from learning the topic. If one were to err on one side or the other, clearly it would be better to select an individual capable of distilling a topic to its essentials and presenting it clearly and understandably over some one who knows the topic.

User Training

The library intends to organize special OPAC sessions for the library users on one-on one basis, which will include how to search the OPAC with minimum supervision. The user-friendliness of the system, as well as the proximity of the OPAC to the reference desk will be of much assistance to the patrons. The library had included the inquiry (OPAC) easy guide into the university library guide book for ease of reference by the users.

Problems and Pitfalls

Specific problems that were encountered during post installation training, along with some proposed solutions are as follows:

  • There is a time lag between training for a specific module and actual use of the module. The module should be put into use immediately otherwise details are forgotten.
  • Few days of vendor training can lead to difficulties in absorbing the required information effectively. Trainers should allow sufficient time for questions and answers. Considerable follow-up training on site after the staff has had a chance to get familiar with the system.
  • Built in funds for training on a system just as you would budget money for slick new Computer equipment. It is critical to the success of the automation project.

It is found that there is hardly any financial provision for on the job training after few days of vendor training.

  • Factors that may affect installation can unexpectedly cause difficulties. As at the point of purchase of the software, it was not clearly stated that it would not run on LINUX, which was the operating software installed on our Server. This caused the management additional cost and delay in the smooth take off of the automation project.
  • External interferences such as site preparation delays and telecommunications/networking difficulties affected the training. There were some networking difficulties even after we made troubleshooting before the training commenced. These details must be factored in before training begins.
  • Poor training logistics resulted in a training group that was too large. We had twenty two participants with different level of computer literacy while I think ten participants per trainer will be better off. Sharing workstations is not as effective as having one terminal per trainee, which was our experience during the training because the trainer had difficulty dealing with a large group. Providing a physically appropriate venue for training, away from the normal work environment with little noise and traffic is the best. The staff attending the training should not be compelled to continue with their regular jobs. Hence, off site training is recommended for the library staff.
  • Training not suited to the present levels of staff expertise can be frustrating. Training should be designed for different categories of library staff depending on their cadre. This was witnessed during the Vendor’s training, which merged professional staff and non-professional, which resulted in slow pace of the training session.
  • Flexibility is critical. The library should request for a detailed training plan that would be tailored to meet the specific needs of the library and well-defined objectives.
  • Ensure the availability of excellent documentation.
  • High job mobility of computer literate librarian affected the computerization effort of the library. Let me add parenthetically that some of the staff earlier trained for the take off of the computerization left the university. This confirms the assertion made by Agha (1986) and Alabi (1986) on the importance of continuous computer literacy programs for library staff.

The user support for any software consists of three major areas: training, documentation, and direct customer interface (via phone, fax or in person); but the greatest of these is documentation. The complete documentation of all the modules purchased by the library was made available to the various department of the library for reference.

Phase 3: Ongoing Data Conversion

The library has made considerable progress in its automation project. All the departments of the library are linked to a local area network except the serials section, which houses the government publications, Lagosiana, journals and the archive. These collections will be taken care of in the next phase of the library automation project. The followings are the tasked planned to be executed in order of priority:-

a) Recon - version of the existing 59,900 – card catalogue records into machine-readable format.

b) Provision of Internet access to the library users

c) Developing the library website.

Recon - version of the existing card catalogue records to machine-readable format is considered topmost in the priority lists. The database must be built before circulation and other reference services could go on-line. The library began its full automation in January 2005; all new books catalogued from that date were keyed in directly to the library database. Various - recon version options are being presently considered but one feels that the library staff should be actively involved to ensure that the integrity of the database is maintained.

Internet Access for Library Users: This will be made possible immediately the library VSAT is installed and linked to the Library Main Server whereby all the workstations will be connected.

Developing the Library Website:The Library is planning to have its own website, which will make the library bibliographic holdings and services available on the Internet within and outside the University Campus.

Conclusion

Few years after the installation of the system, we can express great satisfaction with its operation, and are pleased with the choices made and procedures adopted. The library can boast of functioning computerized integrated system that has enable us to offer a great number of services and to improve the quality of our services greatly. I believe that through the services rendered by the Library, the respect and recognition for the library, which were always high, have continued to grow. A related issue in a computerized integrated library system is the great interdependence of all the departments of the library. For example a mistake in one department of the library affects all other departments hence; all library staff must work much more closely than is traditional. All proposed changes should be discussed with all professional librarians and concurrence obtained. Decisions must be made through close consultation and with all Staff acting as a team. To get all professional staff to think not only of their own departments but to consider themselves as only members of one team can be a great managerial challenge.

The library has to implement its organization structure to reflect our new ways of doing things. The library is organized in four sections: reader services; technical services; collection development and administration. Readers’ service is responsible for circulation, reference, and other specialized services as well as for organizing training courses for readers in the use of the online public access catalogue. Technical services create and maintain the catalogue, have primary responsibility for editing the database and maintain its integrity. The collection development maintains records of acquisitions, gifts and exchanges, legal deposit and serials section. The administration section of the library oversees the management information system unit. The management information system unit sees to the day-to-day maintenance of the database, develops new applications and the technical support for the software. With the local area networking going on, users would be able to access the library collections from all over the campus without the need to physically come to the library. This is an experience worth having by the library staff, the student and the university community.

References

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