The use and sustainability of information technology (IT) in academic and research libraries in Tanzania.
Katundu, Desdery Rutalemwa Mushumbusi.
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The main purpose of this study was to investigate the current status of information technology (IT) and strategies which academic and research libraries in Tanzania can adopt in order to facilitate the sustainability of information technology which has been acquired through external donor assistance. The motivation for undertaking the study emanated from the researcher's long working experience of twelve years in a university library. Through this experience it has been observed that many of the donor-funded or supported information projects like the introduction of information technology in libraries, thrive well and offer good information services when donor support is still available. However, once the donor project or donor support comes to an end very few of these have been able to continue delivering the intended information services and products. What this implies, is that very little is known by both donors and recipient libraries alike about factors or strategies which can affect the future sustainability of such donor-funded information projects in libraries. The study assumed that if information technology is effectively sustained it would reduce the vulnerable dependence of libraries on donor funding and support, and in turn facilitate effective local planning and development of the technology and related information services which responded to the needs of the library clientele. Eighteen libraries possessing and using some form of information technology were studied. The survey research method comprised the questionnaire; interview schedule and observation through visits as data and information gathering instruments was used in the investigation. Its selection was determined by the under-researched nature of the problem. Data and information generated by the instruments was content analyzed and formally presented by the use of descriptive statistics. The major findings of the study revealed that despite donor support to libraries, the status of information technology reflected early stages of its introduction in almost all the libraries. No all-round IT infrastructural development existed. Shortages or non-availability of various IT equipment and accessories resulted in differences in the quantity of the technology possessed by each of the libraries studied. Consequently, effective use of the technology was hampered by the scarcity or inadequate availability of the equipment and accessories as well as limited IT skills, knowledge and competence among library staff. While all the libraries indicated that they had great needs for IT training, the levels at which it was required differed from one institution to another. As a result, not many of the IT-related information needs were currently being satisfied. The findings also reflected positive concurrence on the feasibility of IT sustainability by the libraries. Most of the libraries agreed that despite being under-resourced, the sustainability of information technology based upon own library resources could be feasible provided all or most of the proposed sustainability strategies were effectively and concurrently implemented by the libraries. Proposed sustainability strategies have been presented in the study. These could be conceived within three broad categories namely, strategies related to: the need for adequate resource-generation, formulation of IT policy informed by effective IT planning and management practices, and the enhancement of the role and value of information and related services as vital elements for its adequate support. All these strategies affect library parent organization managements, library managements and professionals as well as donors of the technology. The study concludes that libraries need to become more involved in charting out the required direction of IT development which would ensure the availability of adequate and appropriate technology in response to user needs and its effective sustainability. This would involve improvement of the status of IT; formulation and actual implementation of IT policies and planning; the need for continuous assessment of user needs, and effecting continuous IT education and training in libraries. The recommendations and areas for further research put forward by the study were based on the implications reflected by the study findings.
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