Use of RFID Technology in Libraries: An Automated Metheod of Circulation, Security, Tracking and…

1. Introduction

RFID is an acronym for Radio Frequency Identification. It is a technology that allows an item, for example a library book to be tracked and communicated with by radio waves. This technology is similar in concept to a Cell Phone.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a broad term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

2.Concept of RFID for Libraries

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is the latest technology to be used in library circulation operations and theft detection systems. RFID-based systems move beyond security to become tracking systems that combine security with more efficient tracking of materials throughout the library, including easier and faster charge and discharge, inventorying, and materials handling.

This technology helps librarians reduce valuable staff time spent scanning barcodes while checking out and checking in borrowed items.

RFID is a combination of radio -frequency-based technology and microchip technology. The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio frequency technology regardless of item orientation or alignment (i.e., the technology does not require line-of-sight or a fixed plane to read tags as do traditional theft detection systems). The RFID gates at the library exit(s) can be as wide as four feet because the tags can be read at a distance of up to two feet by each of two parallel exit gate sensors.

2.1 Components of an RFID System

A comprehensive RFID system has four components:

(1) RFID tags that are electronically programmed with unique information;

(2) Readers or sensors to query the tags;

(3) Antenna; and

(4) Server on which the software that interfaces with the integrated library software is loaded.

2.1.1Tags

The heart of the system is the RFID tag, which can be fixed inside a book’s back cover or directly onto CDs and videos. This tag is equipped with a programmeable chip and an antenna. Each paper-thin tag contains an engraved antenna and a microchip with a capacity of at least 64 bits. There are three types of tags: “read only”, “WORM,” and “read/write.

“Tags are “read only” if the identification is encoded at the time of manufacture and not rewritable.

“WORM” (Write-Once-Read-Many)” tags are programmed by the using organization, but without the ability of rewriting them later.

“Read/write tags,” which are chosen by most libraries, can have information changed or added. In RFID library, it is common to have part of the read/write tag secured against rewriting, e.g., the identification number of the item.

2.1.2 Readers

The reader powers an antenna to generate an RF field. When a tag passes through the field, the information stored on the chip in the tag is interpreted by the reader and sent to the server, which, in turn, communicates with the Integrated library system when the RFID system is interfaced with it.

RFID exit gate sensors (readers) at exits are basically two types. One type reads the information on the tag(s) going by and communicates that information to a server. The server, after checking against the circulation database, turn on an alarm if the material is not properly checked-out. Another type relies on a “theft” byte in the tag that is turned on or off to show that the item has been charged or not. It is then not necessary to communicate with the circulation database.

Readers in RFID library are used in the following ways:

Conversion station-where library data is written to the tag;

Staff workstation at circulation- used to charge and discharge library materials;

Self check-out station-used to check-out library materials without staff assistance;

Self check-in station-used to check in books etc. without staff assistance;

Exit sensors- to verify that all the books etc. leaving the library have been checked-out;

Book-drop reader- used to automatically discharge library materials and reactivate security.

Sorter and conveyor-automated system for returning books etc. to proper area of library;

Hand-held reader-used for inventorying and verifying that books etc. are shelved correctly.

2.1.3 Antenna

The antenna produces radio signals to activate the tag and read and write data to it. Antennas are the channels between the tag and the reader, which controls the system’s data acquisitons and communication. The electromagnetic field produced by an antenna can be constantly present when multiple tags are expected continually. Antennas can be built into a doorframe to receive tag data from person’s things passing through the door.

2.1.4 Server

The server is the heart of some comprehensive RFID systems. It is the communications gateway among the various components. It receives the information from one or more of the readers and exchanges information with the circulation database. Its software includes the SIP/SIP2 (Session Initiation Protocol), APIs (Applications Programming Interface) NCIP or SLNP necessary to interface it with the integrated library software. The server typically includes a transaction database so that reports can be produced.

2.2 Optional Components

Optional RFID system includes the following three components:

1. RFID Label Printer

2. Handheld Reader

3. External Book Return

1. RFID label Printer

An RFID-printer is used to print the labels with an individual barcode, library logo etc. When the print is applied, it simultaneously programmed the data in to the chip. After this process, the RFID label is taken from the printer and self-adhered to the book. It also checks each RFID label for function.

2. Handheld Reader/Inventory Wand

The portable Handheld Reader or inventory wand can be moved along the items on the shelves without touching them. The data goes to a storage unit, which can be downloaded at a server later on, or it can go to a unit, which will transmit it to the server using wireless technology. The inventory wand will cover three requirements:

· Screen the complete book collection on the shelves for inventory control.

· Search for books, which are mis-shelved.

· Search for individual book requested.

Other applications can be written for the inventory wand, since the system utilizes a personal data terminal (PDT).

3. External Book Return

Libraries can offer a distinct service, which is very useful for users like ability to return books during off hours. External book return is a machine with a slot with a chip RFID reader integrated into the wall. It works the same way as the Self Check –Out Station. The user identifies himself/herself (if required by the library), and then puts the book(s) in to the slot. Upon completing his/her return, the user will receive a receipt showing how many and which books were returned. Since they have already been checked-in, they can go directly back onto the shelves. These units can also be used with sorter and conveyor systems.

3. Key Features of RFID in library

The reliability of the system, its ease of operation, and the flexibility of tagging all kinds of media easily, is important criteria in choosing an RFID system. The main aim for today’s libraries to adopt RFID is the need to increase efficiency and reduce cost. Automation and self-service can help libraries of all sizes toward achieving these aims, and RFID has the added advantage that it can also provide security for the range of different media on offer in libraries. The technology can also improve circulation and inventory control, which helps to optimise the allocation of labour and financial resources. This means that libraries can relieve their professional employees of routine work and operational tasks.

All of the tags used in RFID technology for libraries are “passive.” The power to read the tags comes from the reader or exit sensor (reader), rather than from a battery within the tag.

A few libraries use “smart” card, which is an RFID card with additional encryption, is an alternative to merely adding an RFID tag on staff and user identification cards. Not only does that identify users for issue and return of library materials, but also for access to restricted areas or services. This would make it possible to make it into a “debit” card, with value added upon pre-payment to the library and value subtracted when a user used a photocopier, printer, or other fee-based device, or wished to pay fines or fees.

3.1 Speedy and Easy User self-charging/discharging

The use of RFID reduces the amount of time required to perform circulation operations. This technology helps librarians eliminate valuable staff time spent scanning barcodes while checking out and checking in borrowed items. For the users, RFID speeds up the borrowing and returns procedures. The Library professionals, instead of scanning bar codes all day long in front of a queue of users, are released for more productive and interesting duties. Staff is relieved further when readers are installed in book drops.

3.2 Reliability

The readers are highly reliable. Several vendors of RFID library systems claim an almost 100 percent detection rate using RFID tags.

Some RFID systems have an interface between the exit sensors and the circulation software to identify the items moving out of the library. Were a library user to run out of the library and not be catched, the library would at least know what had been stolen. If the user card also has an RFID tag, the library will also be able to determine who removed the items without properly charging them.

Other RFID systems encode the circulation status on the RFID tag. This is done by designating a bit as the “theft” bit and turning it off at time of charge and on at time of discharge. If the material that has not been properly charged is taken past the exit gate sensors, an immediate alarm is triggered. Another option is to use both the “theft” bit and the online interface to an integrated library system, the first to signal an immediate alarm and the second to identify what has been taken out.

3.3 High-speed inventorying

A unique advantage of RFID systems is their ability to scan books on the shelves without tipping them out or removing them. A hand-held inventory reader can be moved rapidly across a shelf of books to read all of the unique identification information. Using wireless technology, it is possible not only to update the inventory, but also to identify items, which are out of proper order.

3.4 Automated materials handling

Another application of RFID technology is automated materials handling. This includes conveyor and sorting systems that can move library materials and sort them by category into separate bins or onto separate carts. This significantly reduces the amount of staff time required to ready materials for re-shelving.

3.5 Tag life

RFID tags last longer than barcodes because, the technology does not require line-of-sight. Most RFID vendors claim a minimum of 100,000 transactions before a tag may need to be replaced.

4. Demerits of RFID Systems

4.1 High cost

The major disadvantage of RFID technology is its cost. While the readers and gate sensors used to read the information typically cost around $1,500 to $2,500 each; and the tags cost $.40 to $.75 each.

4.2 Accessibility to compromise

It is possible to compromise an RFID system by wrapping the protected material in two to three layers of ordinary household foil to block the radio signal. It is also possible to compromise an RFID system by placing two items against one another so that one tag overlays another. That may cancel out the signals. This requires knowledge of the technology and careful alignment.

4.3 Removal of exposed tags

RFID tags are typically affixed to the inside back cover and are exposed for removal. This means that there would be problems when users become more familiar with the role of the tags. In Indian libraries this is a major challenge to keep the tags intact.

4.4 Exit gate sensor (Reader) problems

While the short-range readers used for circulation charge and discharge and inventorying appear to read the tags 100 percent of the time, the performance of the exit gate sensors is more problematic. They always don’t read tags at up to twice the distance of the other readers. There is no library that has done a before and after inventory to determine the loss rate when RFID is used for security.

4.5 Invasion of User Privacy

Privacy concerns associated with item-level tagging is another significant barrier to library use of RFID tags. The problem with today’s library RFID system is that the tags contain static information that can be relatively easily read by unauthorized tag readers. This allows for privacy issues described as “tracking” and “hotlisting”.

Tracking refers to the ability to track the movements of a book (or person carrying the book) by “correlating multiple observations of the book’s bar code” or RFID tag. Hotlisting refers to the process of building a database of books and their associated tag numbers (the hotlist) and then using an unauthorized reader to determine who is checking out items in the hotlist.

4.6 Reader collision

One problem meet with RFID is the signal from one reader can interfere with the signal from another where coverage overlaps. This is called reader collision. One way to avoid the problem is to use a technique called time division multiple access, or TDMA. In simple terms, the readers are instructed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read at the same time. This ensures that they don’t interfere with each other. But it means any RFID tag in an area where two readers overlap will be read twice.

4.7 Tag collision

Another problem readers have is reading a lot of chips in the same field. Tag clash occurs when more than one chip reflects back a signal at the same time, confusing the reader. Different vendors have developed different systems for having the tags respond to the reader one at a time. Since they can be read in milliseconds, it appears that all the tags are being read simultaneously.

4.8 Lack of Standard

The tags used by library RFID vendors are not compatible even when they conform to the same standards because the current standards only seek electronic compatibility between tags and readers. The pattern of encoding information and the software that processes the information differs from vendor to vendor, therefore, a change from one vendor’s system to the other would require retagging all items or modifying the software.

5. Best Practices guidelines for Libraries

As libraries are implementing RFID systems, it is important to develop best practices guidelines to utilize the technology in best way and to keep the privacy concern away. The following may be the best practices guidelines for library RFID use:

· The Library should be open about its use of RFID technology including providing publicly available documents stating the rational for using RFID, objectives of its use and associated policies and procedure and who to contact with questions.

· Signs should be pasted at all facilities using RFID. The signs should inform the public that RFID technology is in use, the types of usage and a statement of protection of privacy and how this technology differs from other information collection methods.

· Only authorized personnel should have access to the RFID system.

· No personal information should be stored on the RFID tag.

· Information describing the tagged item should be encrypted on the tag even if the data is limited to a serial number

· No static information should be contained on the tag (bar code, manufacturer number) that can be read by unauthorised readers.

· All communication between tag and reader should be encrypted via a unique encryption key.

· All RFID readers in the library should be clearly marked.

· ISO 18000 mode-2 tags should be used rather than ISO 15693.

6. Installations

While there are over 500,000 RFID systems installed in warehouses and retail establishments worldwide, RFID systems are still relatively new in libraries. Fewer than 150 had been installed as of the 2004.

Most installations are small, primarily in branch libraries. The University of Connecticut Library; University of Nevada/Las Vegas Library, the Vienna Public Library in Austria, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and the National University of Singapore Library are the only sites that appear to have tagged more than 500,000 items each.
So far in India only two University libraries have Installed the RFID system. First among them is Jayakar Library of Pune University and second is Dhanvantri Library of Jammu University. The use of RFID throughout Indian libraries will take at least four to five years.

7. Recent Developments

Recent developments in hardware and software for RFID systems have increased the potential of this technology in library automation and security. ‘Today, the one important result for libraries is the ability to use non-proprietary systems, now that the new generation of RFID-chips with standard ISO 15693 (to be integrated into ISO 18000-3) is available,’ explains Dr Christian Kern, system development manager of Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems, a Swiss company specialising in such systems for libraries. ‘With this technology, libraries do not have to depend on one single supplier for tags. As libraries make a long-term investment, which mainly consists of the quantity of tags needed, this is a very important requirement.’

8. Vendors

The products of six manufacturers of library RFID systems are available in India through their business associates: Bibliotheca, Checkpoint, ID Systems, 3M, X-ident technology GmbH represented by Infotek software and systems in India and TAGSYS— the last represented by Tech Logic, Vernon, Libsys in India and VTLS .

There are several other companies that provide products that work with RFID, including user self-charging stations and materials handling equipment.

Conclusion

It is quite clear from the above discussion that an RFID system may be a comprehensive system that addresses both the security and materials tracking needs of a library. RFID in the library is not a threat if best practices guidelines followed religiously, that it speeds up book borrowing and inventories and frees staff to do more user-service tasks. The technology saves money too and quickly gives a return on investment.

As far as privacy issue is concerned it is important to educate library staff and library users about the RFID technology used in libraries before implementing a program.

It may be good for librarians to wait and watch the developments in RFID for some time before the cost of tags comes down to $.20 or less, the figure which librarians has determined is the key to their serious consideration for the use of technology.

While library RFID systems have a great deal in common with one another, including the use of high frequency (13.56 MHz), passive, read-write tags. Lack of Standard and Compatibility of tags produced by different vendors is a major problem in implementation of RFID in Libraries. Current standards (ISO 15693) apply to container level tagging used in supply chain applications and do not address problems of tracking and hot listing. Next generation tags (ISO 18000) are designed for item level tagging. The newer tags are capable of resolving many of the privacy problems of today’s tags. However, no library RFID products are currently available using the new standard. Apart from that cost of the RFID Tags and equipments is also a major problem for libraries to implement the same in a developing country like India.

References:

Ayre, Lori Bowen, The Galecia Group (August 2004) Position paper: RFID and libraries. Retrived from [http://www.galecia.com/weblog/mt/archives/cat_rfidandwireless.php]

Berkeley Public Library (n.d.) Berkeley Public Library: Best Practices for RFID technology. Retrieved from [http://berkeleypubliclibrary.org/BESTPRAC.pdf].

BIBLIOTHECA RFID Library Systems AG (2003) RFID Technology Overview
Retrieved from http://www.bibliotheca-rfid.com

Boss. R. W. (2003). RFID technology for libraries [Monograph]. Library Technology Reports. November-December 2003.

Boss. R. W. PLA Tech Notes (May 14, 2004) RFID Technology for libraries. Retrieved from [http://www.ala.org/ala/pla/plapubs/technotes/rfidtechnology.htm]

FAQ RFID Journal (OnlineVersion) Retrieved from http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/207

Koppel, T. (March 2004). Standards in Libraries: What’s Ahead: a guide for Library Professional about the Library Standards of Today and the Future. The Library Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.tlcdelivers.com/tlc/pdf/standardswp.pdf.

Molnar, D., Wagner, D. A. (June 2004). Privacy and security in library RFID: Issues, practices and architectures. Retrieved from [http://www.cs.berkeley.edu~dmolnar/library].

Sarma, E. S. Weis, S. A., Engels, D.W. (November 2002). White paper: RFID systems, security & privacy implications. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AUTO-ID Center.

Guide to Preparing For a PhD in Health Education

Having a PhD in Health Education allows you to educate on others on health and wellness. Much about it is that you will need to be keen on researching, formulating, implementing, and evaluating health promotions. So how do you get yourself one of those qualifications?

First, you will need to search for universities that offer PhD in Health Education. Find out what are the prerequisites, such as what paper qualifications you need and experiences needed, so that you roughly know what the things you may require from graduate school are.

Second, you will need to research on the credibility of the PhD’s given out by those universities. Check how they are accredited and what other people has to say about the programs. You do not want to end up paying for and spending much time on a hoax program. You may also want to narrow down the list by choosing the areas that are more convenient for you. There are even some accredited online PhD’s available at your convenience as well.

Third, inquire about the admission and testing processes. For anyone accredited with a graduate program in Health Education, you are required to sit for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), where you can register yourself with the Educational Testing Service website. The study and exam materials are available in the website and libraries as well.

You might also want to seek for financial advice from your graduate school on how you can be aided financially. You can also inquire about you’re the options available so you are able to make an educated decision on the best program for you, whether it is one that is a campus PhD, or an accredited online PhD.

Fourth, after completing your admissions at the graduate schools you have enrolled for, you will need to attain your GRE scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Once you have chosen the program that you will pursue, you will need submit your GRE scores and transcripts to them, and settle your admission process. You will also need to take note of the curriculum details. Plan your time table according to the curriculum so that you may complete the course within your allocated time.

Lastly, you will need to maintain good grades and submit your well-researched dissertation.

Problems In Managing Government Publications In Academic Libraries In Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

In Sierra Leone the terms ‘official publications’, official documents’, and ‘public documents’ are synonymous with government publications. Government publications, simply put, are documents created by government and local and quasi-government bodies explaining and integrating views and polices. They represent the historical and current development authorities of government and provide data on a wide variety of subjects to include Political Science, Economics, Finance, Statistics, Labor, Industry, History, International Relations, Agriculture, Geology and Meteorology. Katz (1997) classed these publications into: (1) records of government administration (2).research documents for specialists including a considerable number of statistics and data of value to science and business (3).popular sources of information. Their physical form being either a book, pamphlet, magazine, report monograph or electronic, especially CD-ROM (p.387).

Bibliographic control in many parts of the world is seemingly unsatisfactory due largely to lack of awareness of the importance of bibliographic tools in research in government publications. The United States of America, for example, was for a long time a pioneer in this field. As far back as 1895 the Printing Act of January 12 of that year (28 statute, 601-624) not only established centralized printing and distribution of federal documents but also instructed the Superintendent of Documents to provide appropriate tools for bibliographic control of the documents published. Great Britain is an outstanding exception for as far back as 1807 collections of parliamentary papers were printed. Countries such as Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Japan began separating government document bibliographies mainly in the 1920s and 1930s (Palic,1975). However a great need for the use of government publications was felt following World War 11 (1939-1945), when there was an increased interest in the authoritative information contained in such publications as posited by child’s (1942) in his introductory notes that ‘more and more the importance of government documentation is being recognized despite the refractory nature of some of these materials’

In parallel the emphasis made on the usefulness of government publications in Sierra Leone is associated with the development of printing which can be traced as far back as the founding of the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1787. Although the industry didn’t survive the French attack of 1794 the foundation stone of what later became known as the Government Printing Department was laid in 1925 when it was charged with the production of small notices for official use. Currently the Department prints all government publications and supplies stationery and office equipment of government departments. It also undertakes a fair amount of commercial printing as income generating measures.

Government publications usually have the advantage of being among the best in their subject fields often not easily available to others (Smith, 1993). In lieu of the extent and complexity of government activities there is a need for the widespread dissemination of information about these activities and for popular integration of government policy. No wonder why government publications have special value to academic library collections and their authority is permanent. In academic libraries in Sierra Leone these publications are put aside into a special collection manned by a curator as at Fourah Bay College Library. Some are kept in vertical files; others are placed in pamphlet boxes, while those like maps and surveys are given specialized storage. These publications are acquired mainly by purchase, deposit, donation, exchange and photocopying. The Government Printing Department is responsible for their publication

DIVISIONS OF GOVERNMENT AND THEIR PUBLICATIONS

The expansion of government in Sierra Leone’s post-war reconstruction era at local, national and international levels has resulted in increasing her influence on the life of the citizenry. Simultaneously with this expansion is the proliferation of official and semi official agencies, commissions and bureaus which continue to publish works such as directories, regulations, reports, bills, Acts and technical literature which many a researchers, educators, public service functionaries, welfare recipients and the unemployed can not do without reference to such publications. Since librarians serve as interface between users and government they have for long recognized the problems which such a plethora of collection can pose and have been making tremendous strides to address the issue. The essence here is to provide systematic controls to avoid the disappearance, into oblivion, of essential official publications.

In Sierra Leone government publications fall within three general classes: Executive, Legislative ands Judicial. The Executive publications include those issued by the Offices of the President and the Vice President, and various independent offices and establishments such as National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), National Revenue Authority (NRA), Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and the Office of the Ombudsman. Also included are government ministries such as the Ministries of defense; Education, Youth and Sports; Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Tourism and Cultural Affairs; Local Government and Community Development; Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security; Trade and Industry; Internal Affairs; labor and Industrial Relations; and Development and Economic Planning.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry, for example, is responsible for both internal and international trade and the promotion of exports. It has powers over customs and excise, tariffs, insurance, patents, trademarks, standards, weights and measures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is responsible for Sierra Leone’s relationship with foreign and Commonwealth countries while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security is responsible for administrating government policy on agriculture, horticulture and food security. This Ministry offers practical guidance to farmers, commercial producers of horticultural crops and research.The Ministry of Internal Affairs deals with the maintenance of law and order, the Police and Fire Forces, administration of the prisons and the treatment of offenders. Other miscellaneous matters dealt with by this ministry include explosives, firearms, dangerous drugs, prisons, shops, public safety, entertainment, cremation, bylaws and good rule and formal business. The aforementioned functions and similar ones carried out by other ministries require the creation and maintenance of publications. There is also documentation of press briefings given by the varied heads of ministries and newsletters, which are channels for respective ministries there-by making them more public-relations conscious.

Legislative publications include the records and debates of Parliament and the reports of hearings of the varied Parliamentary Committees. Included here also are multiple policy statements in reply to parliamentary questions. The Hansard is another rich source for public matters as it provides official information and views about parliamentary debates.

Publications from the Judiciary branch of government consist mostly of reports of government decisions by the Magistrate, Appeals and Supreme Courts. Found in this arm of government are law books, ‘annual registers’, state trials and rulings, the constitution, international treaties, protocols, peace accords, Acts, bills and digests of local newspapers. These publications provide the judiciary with pertinent information on multifarious legal matters. Such information is required to be factual and politically impartial.

The City and District Councils, being quasi-government institutions, provide documents classified as government publications. These include building codes, educational development, health and sanitation, regulations on waste disposal, use of firearms and fire machines. Also there are government departments which provide statistical information on a vast range of economic, industrial and social demographic data. Of central importance are Statistics Sierra Leone (formerly Central Statistics Office-CSO), responsible for national population census and home surveys; the Office of Births and Deaths which registers and produces annual statistics of births and deaths in the country; the Office of the Registrar General responsible for statutory registration of marriages, patents and trademarks; the Chamber of Commerce which specializes on business information. These offices bring together important economic and social statistics supplied by government departments. Other important government departments are the Meteorological Office, which continues to give pertinent weather information, and the National Archives, which serves as repository of all non-current government publications inclusive of national newspapers. The afore-mentioned government publications vary in size and length. Written by experts in the subject, government publications are not only authoritative but also timely published and deal with topics of current interest. Their purpose, according to Katz (1969), is to provide information and answer questions and not to provoke discussion or organizational cataloging and administration. They are useful primary reference sources.

ACADEMIC LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

Academic libraries in Sierra Leone are those in the constituent units that form the country’s two universities, namely the University of Sierra Leone and the University of Njala. These libraries represent the bibliographic foundation of the nation’s research interest. They participate actively in the distribution and exchange of book and non-book materials to sister institutions all over the country. Collectively these institutions serve students, faculty, scholars and researchers that are engaged in work in the sciences and humanities as well as the general public. These libraries have combined resources of over 500,000 volumes, most of which are of unique scope and quality. Included in these massive collections are government publications such as treaties, Acts, statistical tables and compilations, conventions and records of diplomatic relations, reports of government departments, committees, bureau and commissions, census schedules, proclamations and laws. The maintenance, preservation and development of these publications are responsibilities shared by academic librarians as their libraries continue to serve as national resources.

JUSTIFICATION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES

Varied reasons have been advanced for the inclusion of government publications in academic libraries in Sierra Leone. The purposes of the country’s universities are teaching, service, research and interpretation and dissemination of research. Society views government as a reliable and impartial source of authoritative information that should be accessible to its citizens through its numerous publications. Since academic institutions deal with students who in turn will be future citizens these should be informed accordingly. Government’s stance should be known when there is public discussion on health, international relations, education, agriculture, social security and trade, to cite a few examples. Thus the need for the development of government publications in academic libraries as such materials could speak for the government in varied activities. Further academic libraries have the objectives of preservation, conservation and service. And government publications form part of society’s cultural heritage which need conservation and preservation not only for research purposes but also for posterity as tangible primary sources of information which academics can constantly refer to. Little wonder why as a measure of bibliographic control of these publications librarians continue to provide catalog’s, checklists, guides, indexes, accessions lists and selected general bibliographies containing substantial information on government publications.

1991-2001 was a period of doom in Sierra Leone as it marked the civil war. Fought as a result of bad governance, nepotism and massive corruption it led to the un-wanton destruction of lives and properties. Essential government buildings0 destroyed to reckless abandon included the National Treasury, Sierra Leone Police premises, law courts and the offices of the Freetown City Council all of which housed important documents constantly consulted by researchers, government functionaries and the public. Not withstanding the country is gradually recovering with the re-establishment of local government, multi-party democracy, improved human, women and child rights, the provision of a conducive atmosphere to investment, and a new system of education (6-3-3-4), to cite but a few developments, the effective operation of which requires constant use of government publications.

The broad programs in academic institutions include many areas of life with the teaching of historical and geographic concepts; scientific studies are undertaken for improved health and food security; international relations and inter-religious understanding are fostered. Also modern community life and the philosophy of democracy, peace and conflict resolution, good governance, human rights and other ideologies are taught in order that intelligent decisions could be drawn. These designed educational programs bring enrichment and information to students in such fields as economics, government, health and sanitation, agriculture, international relations, human rights and diplomacy. In support of these varied disciplines academic libraries provide huge collections to include local materials some of which are in the form of government publications whereby students, faculty and researches could share their experiences and interests and develop satisfactory personal adjustment with regard varied government functionaries in society. By so doing students are provided the opportunity to grow in social usefulness and develop their intellectual interests and capabilities in order to become responsible members of society. This in turn could help promote nationalism. In lieu of these factors academic libraries attempt to provide liberal collections to include books, serial publications, audio-visuals and government publications.

PROBLEMS

Government publications are among the most useful materials in academic libraries in Sierra Leone. Apart from the public library, the national archives and parliament library which serve as repositories for such publications academic libraries continue to develop these publications in their huge collection. However such moves are not bereft of problems. These range from poor formats through lack of trade bibliographies to unsatisfactory methods of distribution. The basic problem to all these libraries is the volume of publications received, much of which is nothing but raw data and statistics used to support arguments or gathered more for the sake of gathering rather than for any specific reasons. Since these libraries have limited space to house their numerous collections the continued acquisition of government publications poses problems to staff.

Academic libraries acquire government publications mainly by donations although a few are acquired by purchase, exchange and photocopy. Once these materials are received they are expected to be processed and organized for use in the library. Sadly there has been no fixed pattern in classifying and organizing these materials in these libraries. Their organization is either by government ministry/department, subject or format which is often confusing to users. At Fourah Bay College library, for example, these publications are placed separately from the general collection which often constrains users in having to leave their reading area to consult these materials with limited sitting accommodation. Libraries at Njala University College, Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMHAS), which are relatively small in size integrate the publications in their general collection thereby posing retrieval problems to users.

Keeping track of government publications is another problem as there are no trade bibliographies printed out to help trace them. Hardly are these publications mentioned in the national bibliography, Sierra Leone Publications, prepared by the public/national library. Besides the Government Printing Department responsible for the production of government publications does not have any comprehensive lists of its publications. Most times these publications are either returned immediately to the respective ministries/departments owning them upon completion or sent to the Government Bookshop for sale or sold by the Government Printing Department upon completion, thus making it difficult to locate retrospective publications. Worse still both the Government Printing Department and the Government Bookshop are not interested in publicizing these publications and as such many customers including academic librarians are not aware of the availability of relevant government publications for acquisition thus causing lapses in the development of these materials in academic libraries. In parallel one would expect academic libraries to compile comprehensive lists of such publications but this has not been the case due to the limited number of staff manning this collection and the quantum of work they have to perform especially during peak periods when libraries are heavily used which is time consuming.

There are also problems of collection development. Academic libraries are under-funded and therefore librarians prioritize their collection development needs. Purchasing government publications has not been a priority for academic librarians as they always look forward to the Government Printing Department for donations which are frequently not forthcoming. Hence many relevant government publications are not found in academic library collections. What is more this limited collection is grossly misused and abused by users (especially undergraduate student users) in their academic pursuits. Thus most of these publications have dingy covers; others have a couple of pages either written on or pilfered while some are intentionally mis-shelved to deprive colleagues of using them.

CONCLUSION

The incorporation of government publications in the mainstream of academic library services should be considered a priority by university authorities and academic librarians in providing access to government-produced information in Sierra Leone. Representing a significant and integral part of the national resources government publications are major sources of information in practically every field of endeavor and are crucial to informed public-decision making. Academic librarians should therefore review their collection development strategies and processing and organization methods of these materials if they are to be persistently used by their numerous clientele. Especial thought should be given to increased funding, resource sharing, compilation of lists and adequate staffing, sitting accommodation and storage space if they are to maintain standards in serving their numerous clientele.

AUTHOR NOTE

John Abdul Kargbo is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Library, Information & Communication Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Mail can be sent to him on