Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Academic Libraries in Cameroon in the Digital Age

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Academic Libraries in Cameroon in the Digital Age

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Republic of Cameroon is a country located in Central Africa. It is usually referred to as Africa in miniature due to its great ethnic, geographical and cultural diversity ("Cameroon Africa in Miniature," 2019). It is a bilingual country with English and French as the official languages. Cameroon has a population of about 24.8 million inhabitants and covers a surface area of about 475.442 sq. km (183,568 sq. miles). It is boarded by Chad to the North, by the Republic of Central Africa to the East, by Nigeria to the West and by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to the South ("Cameroon Population 2019 "). Cameroon is endowed with abundant natural resources that spreads across all ten regions as well as its capital Yaounde.

Universities and higher institutions of learning in Cameroon are placed under the ministry of Higher Education, which is headed by a minister. According to the ministry of higher education website, there are eight public Universities and two hundred and thirty five private universities and higher institutions of learning in Cameroon ("MINESUP Cameroon," 2019). All universities and higher institutions of learning are attached to academic libraries.

Academic libraries are libraries attached to tertiary institutions such as universities, Polytechnique institutions, Higher Colleges of Technology, and Higher Teachers Training Colleges. Teaching, research and learning including preservation and access to knowledge and information is the main mandate of academic libraries, alongside supporting the mission of their parent institutions which is teaching and research. However, the digital era, it is not enough for academic libraries to support teaching and learning, they must actually foster research, teaching and learning, and become partners in these areas (Delaney & Bates, 2015).

Academic libraries are expected to be leaders of providing information services to their communities which is made up of students, lecturers and researchers. Several scholars including (Hart, 2011) and (Klain Gabbay & Shoham, 2017) have emphasised on the crucial role of academic libraries in research and scholarship in universities and other institutions of higher learning in the digital era. In many occasions, (Abubakar, 2011b) the academic library has been referred to as the heart of the university, the nerve centre or the hub of academic activities. However, this perception has changed in the 21st century, which I refer to as the digital age. The advent of information and Communication Technology (ICT) has dramatically transformed the role and position of academic libraries. Innovative methods of scholarly communication, the development of the library's virtual space, the proliferation and use of social media, and the explosive growth of mobile devices, like tablets and related applications, have collectively altered the traditional academic library beyond recognition (Raju, 2014).

The global trend is now characterized with a fundamental shift from traditional information environment to an e-environment where emphasis is placed on the acquisition of electronic resources such as e-books, e-journals as well as online databases. However traditional library and information services and functions still remain relevant especially where the mechanisms for change are absent.

Most universities in Cameroon have quickly embraced new methods of teaching, learning and research like online teaching, distance learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), yet academic libraries are lagging behind vis-a-vis changes presented by this new information and learning methods. Declining budgets, totally absent or inadequate state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure, lack of trained human resources, the cry is the same for all public and private academic libraries nationwide. As a senior librarian with more than thirty years working in the academic library sector, I am concerned about the status and extent to which academic libraries in Cameroon are responding to the 21st century information scenery. …

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