To mark National Libraries Week, we continue our focus on librarians with this next installment from the Research4Life publication, "Unsung Heroes: Stories from the Library", featuring Dr. Grace Ada Ajuwon, Senior Librarian of Reference and Information Services at the E. Latunde Odeku Medical Library, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
When the World Health Organization held its first HINARI training programs in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2002, librarian Grace Ada Ajuwon was there. “I was among the first group of librarians in Africa to be trained in the use of HINARI,” says Grace, Senior Librarian of Reference and Information Services at the E. Latunde Odeku Medical Library, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Since that training program, more than a decade ago, Grace has used HINARI to conduct her own research and taught faculty, students, doctors and other healthcare providers to become proficient in the use of Research4Life programs. In 2003, Grace wrote a research paper, published in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, which concluded that first year clinical and nursing students in Ibadan, Nigeria were not taking full advantage of the opportunities computers and the Internet offered to enhance their medical education.
She recommended the inclusion of computer education in medical and nursing curricula and the installation of computer laboratories to increase students’ access. Turning her words into action, Grace has organized about 30 Research4Life workshops attended by an estimated 4,820 medical and research staff and students from her institution, as well as visitors from other parts of Nigeria and other regions of Africa.
Using HINARI, she has also continued her research on the role of the Internet in health information and patient care, with a number of additional papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
Using the institution’s Research4Life user names and passwords, researchers and students can access up-to-date, quality information electronically from their computers in the comfort of their homes, offices, classrooms, residence halls, computer laboratories and other locations where they have internet access. The library’s sessions empower them to conduct their literature searches without assistance from a librarian, as was customary in the past, “This enables them to write better literaturereviews for their dissertations and manuscripts,” Grace explains.
Challenges remain. Power outages plague the country, often making access to the Internet difficult. The installation of inverters in the library, paid for by donors, has helped mitigate the problem. Funds are needed for more training programs and additional bandwidth. Access to full-text articles is sometimes denied to researchers even though Nigeria is on the list of countries entitled to such access, and librarians need to report the problem to get the issue resolved. Despite all this, however, the continuing improvements brought to access to Research4Life programs have transformed the work of librarians and researchers.
The days of carrying out tedious, time-consuming and often fruitless manual searches are over. Access to electronic journals, e-books, databases and other relevant resources enable Grace to promptly retrieve information and send it on request to the library users, while also giving them skills to access information themselves. These successes have increased Grace’s visibility as an academic, given her more self-confidence, and brought her the joy of sharing her knowledge with students, faculty members and medical professionals.
“I feel fulfilled because, from the personal testimonies I receive from the researchers I have trained, I am meeting an important need,” she declares.