Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Challenges of Broadening Access to Scholarly E-Resources in Africa - the Jstor Example

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Challenges of Broadening Access to Scholarly E-Resources in Africa - the Jstor Example

Article excerpt

Introduction and background

African libraries at higher learning and research institutions have undergone a lot of transformation with the advent of the internet. The structural adjustment programmes introduced by the Bretton Wood institutions that emphasised cost sharing in higher education and reduced spending by governments on education resulted in the near collapse of African libraries since most could no longer afford to subscribe to journals due to reduced grant funding for institutions and subsequent cost cutting measures at these institutions (Banya & Elu, 2001; Teffera & Altbach, 2004). In the 1990s it became imperative that drastic measures needed to be taken in order to reverse the deteriorating situation in which most African institutions were becoming cut offfrom current research and thinking from elsewhere. Several initiatives to increase the availability of scholarly information in Africa emerged, mostly driven by donors and non-governmental / non-profit institutions. These efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of African institutions accessing these resources. Among the initiatives are: INASP's PERii program, eIFL.net , AJOL, JSTOR, schemes funded by commercial publishers and the UN, namely HINARI, AGORA and OARE. In this paper, we shall focus on JSTOR's Africa Access Initiative (AAI), but a general overview of JSTOR and the organisation to which it belongs is appropriate to put the paper into context.

JSTOR is a part of ITHAKA (www.ithaka.org), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping the academic community take full advantage of rapidly advancing information and networking technologies. We serve scholars, researchers and students by providing the content, tools, and services needed to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways. ITHAKA's services include Ithaka S+R, the strategic and research arm of ITHAKA; JSTOR (www.jstor.org), a research platform that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive of over 1,400 academic journals and other content (over 37 million pages of scholarly research); and Portico, a service to preserve scholarly literature published in electronic form - more than 14,000 electronic journals and books - and ensures that these materials remain accessible to future scholars, researchers, and students. The archive comprises 57 disciplines drawn from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as monographs and other materials valuable for academic work. The main resources offered by JSTOR are the classic JSTOR archive (www.jstor.org), JSTOR Plant Science (www.plants.jstor.org), and Aluka (www.aluka.org). Since the beginning of 2011, JSTOR also offers current journal content in more than 200 titles under the Current Scholarship Programme.

JSTOR Plant Science is an online environment that brings together content, tools, and people interested in plant science. It provides access to foundational content vital to plant science - plant type specimens, taxonomic structures, scientific literature, and related materials, making them widely accessible to the plant science community as well as to researchers in other fields and to the public. The database currently has over 1.2 million objects and is expected to grow to over 2.2 million by 2013.

The Aluka collections consist of primary source materials of scholarly value from and about Africa. Aluka resource types are organised around three initial content areas, namely, Plants, African Cultural Heritage Sites and Landscapes, and Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa. The resource types range from high resolution images of plant type specimens, 3D models of selected sites such as rock hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia, rock art images, ancient Islamic manuscripts from Timbuktu, Mali, documentation of the antiapartheid movements in southern Africa and oral histories. …

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