Improving access to information
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CTA. 1987. Improving access to information. Spore 11. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44704
workshop CTA and IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) brought together 15 reference librarians, agronomists, trainers and publishers based in anglophone Africa for a workshop from June 15-26, 1987 in Lilongwe, Malawi
Librarians and trainers working together in Africa If everyone involved in agricultural development had access to the right information, at the right time and in the right place, many problems in this field could be resolved overnight. In an effort to get closer to this ideal, CTA and IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) brought together 15 reference librarians, agronomists, trainers and publishers based in anglophone Africa for a workshop from June 15-26, 1987 in Lilongwe, Malawi. This workshop was held to complement one for francophone participants (held in December 1986 in Dakar) and saw ten countries represented: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The training team consisted of both ACP and European specialists in this field including S. Keena of IFD; W. Robert, J. Kinney, P. Wortley and M. Kinch. The major agricultural databases and principal suppliers of background information were represented by E. Lebowitz of AGRIS, J. Loder of CABI, K. Russel of the U.S. NAL, D. Hall of IFIS and D. Wood of the British Library Document Supply Centre. Identifying user needs This meeting not only enabled the participants to better appreciate analytical methodologies and identify user needs, but also increased their familiarity with primary and secondary information sources dealing with tropical agriculture. Emphasis was placed on the means of improving the publication, distribution and acquisition of documents as well as inter-library loans. The objective is to ensure the availability and accessibility of documentation through the supply of photocopies or microfilm. The potential of CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory; see Spore 9) was also covered. This new technology promises considerable advances for improving access to information. Furthermore, it appears to be quite appropriate for developing countries as it is sturdy, relatively inexpensive, easy to use and does not depend on unreliable telecommunication systems. The workshop also considered the role librarians can play as intermediaries between producers and consumers of information, an aspect which is unfortunately often underestimated. The approach taken by the workshop itself was to encourage the sharing of the practical experiences of the participants in the use of resources. The presentation of national reports and the ensuing discussion enabled the identification of a certain number of major problems that were subsequently treated in detail. This session had little in common with an academic course: the theoretical presentations were only used to introduce the practical work Concrete results Among other things, this part of the workshop dealt with the use of bibliographies, abstracts and directories. A concrete result was the compilation of several guides to inforrnation sources notably a 'List of agricultural periodicals in Africa', a 'Directory of research centres, universities and rural development departments in Africa' and a 'Bibliography of agricultural bibliographies dealing with Africa'. If the first two guides will remain as working documents, the third one will be developed further and jointly published by CTA and the International Federation for Documentation (IFD) in 1988. The value of this bibliographic directory is that it offers a synthesis of agricultural information relevant for use in Africa. Other practical results of the workshop included two project proposals. The first calls for the preparation of a bibliography on women and development in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia, and the second for the rehabilitation of the documentation resources of the Department of Agriculture in Ghana. Both of these projects may be funded by CTA or the FAO as a follow-up to this workshop. Exhaustive but productive Two field trips were organized for participants. The first one saw them visit the library of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Malawi (Bunda College) where they were briefed on a course erititled 'How to use documentation'. During the second visit, at the Department of Agricultural Research in Chitedze, they were given a demonstration on the use of micro-computers for literature searches, the development of local data bases, and access to international agricultural databases (notably CABI and AGRICOLA) with CDROM technology. Two aspects of this training proved to be particularly popular with participants: information retrieval from different sources (individuals, institutions and documents) and the collection of current agricultural documentation produced at the national level in order to stock a national agricultural library. According to the evaluation sheets, the workshop was exhaustive but highly productive. As a result of similarly positive reviews of the Dakar workshop, CTA intends to continue this kind of training activity. One is planned for 1988 in the Pacific region and another in 1989 for the Caribbean. A report on these activities, including an evaluation, is planned. For further information, contact Documentation Service CTA PO Box 380 6700 AJ Wageningen The Netherlands