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Online resource enhances Botswana research

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Naniki Maphakwane, library manager at Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning, describes how ProQuest has been working with the Botswana Libraries Consortium to provide valuable research tools

The Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) is an organisation of all types of libraries, information resource centres, documentation centres and archives. It was officially registered as a non-governmental organisation in 2005, with a mandate to bring together all libraries and information centres to achieve a common objective and benefit from economy of scale especially in database subscription fees.

The vision of the BLC is to provide sustainable easy access and dissemination of information to all Botswanans through a strong cooperation among libraries, information providers, technologists, government ministries and other stakeholders who will, under the consortium umbrella, pool the necessary services and resources together to ensure timely delivery of relevant information and contribute to the national aspirations as enshrined in Botswana’s Vision 2016 which  defines Botswana’s plan for its long-term future of being a competitive, winning and prosperous nation.

Objectives

The BLC was established to ensure cost effective availability and dissemination of information in all relevant formats, to develop library and information resource centre co-operation and links amongst stakeholders, and to work together to build strong libraries and information resource centres and a strong co-operative information framework for all people in Botswana.

As libraries have gradually been moving away from collections which are predominantly print-based to include electronic resources, they continue to adopt various technologies to enable them to deliver effective services to their customers.

This shift has forced libraries to spend more money acquiring electronic resources because subscriptions to these resources are very high and it is difficult for an individual library to be able to subscribe to all publishers’ titles on its own. Therefore, BLC negotiates with publishers to offer their members joint access to e-resources at a discounted price.

Challenges faced

Botswana Library Consortium has more than 50 members from diverse libraries. Such a big membership needs staff to undertake administration and management and also to focus on exploring new opportunities coming in e-resource provision, new technologies in the market and creating partnerships to also increase areas of co-operation. There is therefore a need for staff and budget for such activities.

The member institutions experience poor connectivity to the Internet within their institutions making it difficult to use the available e-resources to the fullest. Some institutions have limited bandwidth and inadequate server space. This creates competition for the libraries’ facilities and other institutional activities where in most cases libraries are not put on the priority list.

Libraries are allocated insufficient budgets for subscriptions to all required resources. In some cases where institutions have to cut annual budgets the libraries’ budgets are the ones that are targeted.

Furthermore, the costs of e-resources can be exorbitant and some publishers do not support consortia prices, while many librarians do not have sufficient ICT skills to use the new technologies or to train their users. Therefore, there is a need for publishers to create skills-training funds to support local consortia.

The marriage between BLC and ProQuest:

BLC has improved its scholarly content offering for researchers by signing a contract with ProQuest to support research within its member institutions. BLC chose ProQuest Central, the multidisciplinary database for its members, which provided the following:

  • Access to high-quality research materials: ProQuest Central provides a very large and diverse set of research content, with access to not only key scholarly journals, but also to other sought-after items that researchers need such as market research, country, economic, and industry reports, essential pre-print working papers, e-books and full-text dissertations, professional trade publication and newspapers, as well as general interest periodicals;
  • A user-friendly platform: the layout is clean and it simplifies the workflow for library clients because they are able to navigate the interface easily;
  • BLC also uses Refworks from ProQuest, an online research management, citation and bibliography tool. Refworks allows users to import references from a text file and is an invaluable tool for simple and efficient referencing; and
  • The selection and promotion of local content. Alongside globally-renowned publications, ProQuest offers locally-produced materials across a range of content types.

Carlos Mascorda, vice president of international sales at ProQuest, said: ‘We have developed a strong working relationship with the Botswana Library Consortium and we are committed to helping them provide valuable research tools for their members. ProQuest Central provides coverage across a range of academic subject areas and is the perfect solution for libraries that want to provide students at all levels and faculty with the diversity of content essential to successful teaching, learning, and research outcomes.’