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Managing Periodical Literature in Higher Education Libraries in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

At the General Conference of UNESCO held in Paris on 19th November, 1964, it was agreed that “a publication is a periodical if it constituted one issue in a continuous series under the same title” (Norman, 2008). Supporting this notion, a periodical literature is published at regular intervals over an indefinite period, individual issues in the series being unnumbered. On this note, a periodical literature is a publication with a distinctive title which appears at stated or regular intervals without prior decision as to when the last issue shall appear. It contains articles, stories, or other writings by several contributors. Periodical literature is used in its narrower sense as indicating transactions and percentages of societies, daily newspapers magazines, scholarly journals, trade journals, review journals. Like most underdeveloped and developing countries in the world inadequate funding of higher education libraries in Sierra Leone reflects on poorly developed periodical literature collection and as a result ineffective information service is provided to the dissatisfaction of users. Based on the value for research work in the academia, managing periodical literature in higher education libraries in Sierra Leone should be the need for a collection of standard periodical literature in academic libraries is necessary.

HIGHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone operates a 6-3-3-4 system of education are subdivided into six(6) years at the primary level, three(3) years at the Junior Secondary level, three(3) at the Senior Secondary level, and a minimum of four(4) years at the tertiary level. This sub-division allows the implementation of curriculum that takes account of the different pupils more fully. The general aim of education policy in Sierra Leone is to provide every child with an education which takes fully into an account: character development: his interest ability and aptitude; his emotional, psychological and physical well-being; the manpower needs of the country; the equal importance of both academic and non-academic education; the need for a literature and numerate populace.; the economic resources of the state, so that his education can be of use to the country and at the same time provide opportunities for him to be successful in life.

Higher education is post-secondary education given in a university, college or polytechnique and is the stage of specialisation. The objectives of higher education vary according to the institution and course of study but generally include the acquisition physical and intellectual skills necessary for the development of both the individual and his society. In Sierra Leone, higher educational institutions form the basis of educational advancement following the completion of secondary education. Higher education is the most effective means altering the outlook of people through the broadening of their horizon. Societal development to a large extent is dependent on the human resource empowerment and development. Against this background, higher educational institutions play a pivotal role in developing the human resource to contribute positively and meaningfully to the socio-economic, political and educational development of Sierra Leone.

Higher educational institutions in Sierra Leone are the University of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma University and Njala University which are state owned and University of Makeni and Limkonwong University which are private owned. The constituent colleges under the University of Sierra Leone include Fourah Bay College(FBC), Institute of Public Administration and Management(IPAM) and College of Medicine and Allied Health Science(COMAHS); Bo Campus and Njala University. The higher educational institutions of collegiate status include Milton Margai College of Education and Technology; Eastern Polytechnigue; Bonthe Polytechnique; Freetown Teacher. Port Loko Teachers College and these offer courses leading to the award of diplomas and Certificate. On the contrary, the state-owned and private -owned universities offer Certificates, Diploma, Undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses in various disciplines in the faculty of their respective institutions. The curricula differs from institution to institution and curricula and programmes that require the use of periodical literature include medicine, law, engineering, education, agriculture, arts and humanities, social sciences, pure and applied sciences, technology, management and administration. To a greater extent, the Central Government, through subventions funds for higher educational institutions to enhance their smooth-running, even though some donor agencies do render financial assistance to these institutions in addition to internal funds generated by them.

HIGHER EDUCATION LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

Libraries are storage of information and information is such a valuable commodity that its immense contribution to national development cannot be underestimated. Higher education libraries are the nerve centres of all academic activities. This simply implies that these libraries contribute to the teaching/learning and research programmes of the parent institutions by providing the needed information services for undergraduate and postgraduate students, teaching staff, researchers, administrative and technical staff. Effective academic work is dependent on quality information service and the library plays a significant role in this regard. According to Frederick Ken Nicol information is an important source used by organisations to deliver appropriate product or services to customers(2011 p.64). In this vein, higher education libraries manage information to satisfactorily meet the need of their clientele. Thus, information needs to be planned for in the same way that human and financial resources are planned to ensure increased productivity and efficient service delivery. Therefore, academic libraries like all other organisations that have thought out and systematic information planning process stand out to benefit more those that do not. Well-planned and organised information enhances effective service delivery.

Higher education libraries in Sierra Leone support research work, community development and complement the teaching/learning processes in their respective parent institutions. In this regard, good management of higher education libraries is the organisations and maintenance of a well-balanced and vibrant collection in ensuring that the information needs of users are satisfactorily met. The different collections stocked in these institutions include but not limited to general book collection on all disciplines to loan by users out of the library building, specialised collection, reference collection and periodical literature and the quantum of their contents depends on the size of the library and its readership. Developing and maintaining a well-stocked collection as well as recruiting and empowering competent and qualified staff is largely dependent on the financial strength of the library. Therefore academic libraries need to be prioritised by their parent bodies when it comes to annual budget approval and allocations for their effective operations.

Managing academic libraries could be linked with the services they offer. Since the operations of academic libraries are gear towards the provision of effective services, this is only actualised by purchasing multiple copies of textbooks, recent journals and a good collection of recommended texts for background reading to develop and organise an academic library for effective academic work.

PERIODICAL LITERATURE IN HIGHER EDUCATION LIBRARIES AND MANAGEMENT

The provision of higher education libraries is necessary in complementing the teaching/learning process and for effective research work. In this regard, premium should be put on the management of periodical literature in higher education libraries taking into account their significance in providing current and researchable information.

Since periodical literature forms part of the collection of an academic library, a large percentage of its budget allocated should be utilised for the purchase of current and popular journals. The periodicals to be acquired should be titles recommended by faculty members in collaboration with the periodical Librarian across disciplines offered in the institution such as Library Quarterly; Journal of Sociology; Chemical, Abstracts; Soils Science Journal; International Journal of Management; Clinical Science Quarterly. It is important to note that organising and maintaining periodicals in higher education libraries differ from institution to institution.

Initially, periodicals were published to enable philosophers and Scientist to communicate their new ideas and thought to others interested in the same or similar subjects. Today, periodicals are principal media for publishing original learned papers and the state-of-the-art reviews. They are increasingly important as they can be useful for both current and retrospective information needed by academics.

Lawson(2014) opined that the significance attached to periodical literature necessitates the development of a strong periodical literature collection as part of the library stock. The writer of this article, however revealed that periodicals are of great significance in higher education libraries in that:

  • new topics new discoveries and technologies are usually introduced in articles in periodicals;
  • they supply generally the latest possible information on a given subjects;
  • they are often the purely source of materials on new subjects;
  • they supply a particular article to a reader who has seen it cited in a book or another journal; and
  • they provide an overview of the state of a given discipline at a particular time.

Also periodical article may remain invaluable information sources for a generation or indeed for a longer period. Periodical articles are usually fairly concise, often very reliable and frequently well-illustrated. A point to note is that periodical carry current information on most disciplines.

Further significance of periodical literature in higher education libraries as asserted is that they are primary source of new information, whether it be the result of research, news items, statistical data, announcement, correspondence, advertisements about a products and services or whatever. Each type of periodical is important to at least a group of people in academia, relating to their work, or leisure activities; some have ephemera existence; others may be useful for many years, even indefinitely. Taking into the consideration the significance of periodical literature in higher education libraries, their selection and acquisition either by subscription, donation or exchange should be a collaborative effort between the libraries and staff of the various colleges and universities.

Periodical literature in higher education libraries in Sierra Leone include journals, indexes, abstracts, magazines, serials and their organisations and management differs from library to library. Issues of all received periodical literature are recorded on a kardex and any missing issue should be claimed from the publisher. Before displaying and shelving them, all recorded issues are claimed with the ex libri stamp of the library in question. When all the issues to complete a volume are received, they are then put together to be sent to bindery or conservation unit for either hard cover binding or stitching. Users of periodical literature in these institutions include students, lecturers and researchers. Periodical literatures are to be used within the walls of the Periodical Department. However, users are allowed to take them out to photocopy the required pages after signing for them. Lecturers are given conception to loan them on short term basis and loan records are kept to recall overdue issues. The maintenance of periodical literature is as importance as the other collections of the library.

CHALLENGES

The major challenge higher education libraries in Sierra Leone face is funding. These libraries are inadequately funded by their parent bodies to a point that the smooth-running of their operations in ensuring effective information service delivery is greatly hampered. For an academic library to develop and maintain a vibrant periodical literature collection depend on how well it is funded. Collection development in higher education libraries in Sierra Leone has faced challenges of fulfilling the demand of their clientele with an increasing scarcity of funds to cope with the high cost of periodical publications. As the result of the law budget allocated to run these libraries, subscribing to the required journal title poses a serious problem for the Acquisition Librarian. Some volumes are incomplete; missing issues are hard to replace and the purchase of kardexes on which received journal issues are recorded is not quite feasible since the library operates within a limited financial resources.

In effectively operating higher education libraries, both the human and financial factors should be balanced as these two are inseparable in achieving the desired goal of an organisation. Against this background, colleges and universities in Sierra Leone with the support of the Ministry of Technical and higher Education should re-defined their respective libraries so that premium could be placed on the subscription of relevant journal titles as well as claiming missing issues from publishers and their agents.

Another challenge higher education libraries in Sierra Leone faced in managing their periodical literature collection is that of storage space. Most of these libraries with the exception of Fourah Bay College(FBC) library which has a separate Periodical Department, do not have enough space for newly acquired titles. The storage problems these libraries faced leads to the frequent weeding of periodical literature to create space for subsequent issues.

The cost involved in conserving and preserving periodical volumes and issues is another challenge in managing periodical literature in higher education libraries. Unbound, unstitched issues can be easily snatched away especially for those in heavy demand. Completing the problems are those of heavy use of limited copies. Opening hours of periodical literature collection and loan system; inadequate staff situation and capacity building for staff to effectively manage periodical literature collection which implies that recruited staff should be trained academically and professionally to enhance their competence and efficiency; misuse and abuse of periodicals in terms of theft mutilation of important articles thereby depriving other users and rough handling that causes damage which simply means insecurity; digitisation of periodical literature collection as a way of modernising it in this information Age whereby information is processed, preserved and retrieve electronically in ensuring speed and accuracy; unavailability of online copies and photocopiers taking into account the growing number of periodical literature.

Any treatment of collection development in higher education libraries cannot afford to overlook the question of periodicals which can be seen as a challenge. As valued sources of recent and reliable information for researchers and academics, periodicals are of great significance. The role they play for the advancement of knowledge to combat illiteracy cannot be underestimated. Periodical literature remains vital sources of information for a generational period. Higher education librarians may not be able to judge the intrinsic value of periodicals but should know something about their value to the institution in question and pattern of use which are important criteria for judging their value.

Periodical literature can be of great significance in higher education libraries in Sierra Leone and so their effective management should be of concern to the librarians and university authorities. In developing periodical literature collections in academic libraries ensure balanced collection of current journal titles in subject areas relevant to the curriculum, librarian-faculty collaboration is crucial. The adequacy of periodical literature collection depend on journal titles selected and acquired to be added to the existing stock to meet the needs of the curriculum of the institution and those of users. In view of these challenges, the authorities of higher education libraries in Sierra Leone should see the need to solicit adequate funds through lobbying the Government, NGOs, parastatals and philanthropists to render financial assistance for the effective cooperation of their libraries. Advocating by librarians for good budget allocation is quite in place and the step in the right direction.

CONCLUSION

Higher education libraries in Sierra Leone need to build and maintained vibrant periodical literature collections but this is dependent on how adequately they are funded by their respective parent institutions. Therefore, there is a need for an increase in the budget allocation of these libraries so that they can achieve their desired goals. A point-worth noting is that the appointment of qualified and competent staff in running the periodical collection of these libraries should be taken into keen consideration as both the human and financial factors should be well balanced in enhancing effective service delivery. Capacity building of the recruited staff to a large extent is fundamental for efficient performance ensures their upward mobility which is seen as a motivational factor. Staff of the periodical literature collection should be security-conscious to avoid the misuse and abuse of periodicals. The use of periodical should be closely monitored by staff so that pages are not mutilated and heavily used issues are not taken away by users whereby others are deprived. Photocopying facilities should be provided within the library, so that needed pages are photocopied by users on request. The availability of adequate funds enhances the digitisation of periodical literature collection thereby ensuring the availability of online copies which makes the management of periodical literature in higher education libraries in Sierra Leone advantageous. The librarians of these institutions should endeavour to revisit the opening hours of their periodical literature collections as long hours could allow profitable use of the time of users.

REFERENCES

Donaldson, Frank H. (2010). Managing periodicals in academic libraries. New York: Prentice Hall.

Findlay, Jane Rose (2011). How to develop and run a periodical collection in a college library? London: ELM Publications.

Lawson, Eric J.(2014). What is a periodical and its significance for researchers? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nicol, Frederick Ken(2011). How to acquire and manage periodical publications in research libraries? New York: Academic Press.

Norman, Betty Ann(2008). The use of periodicals in college libraries. London: Clive Bingley.

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