As a young student growing up in a remote village in southwest Kenya, Fredrick’s secondary school lacked electricity and running water, not to mention a library and science laboratory. So it’s not surprising that Fredrick looked forward to his school holidays in order to travel to his public library, which was many kilometers away. The library represented a calm sanctuary for Fredrick, now Head Librarian at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology. “During school holidays, I would always visit the public library just to have the feeling of a quiet reading environment that I lacked at our school,” he reminisces.
After undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University, he followed his dreams of working in his sanctuary, earning a Masters Degree in Library and Information Sciences at Moi University. “This is where my dream of becoming an academic librarian strengthened,” he explains. Fredrick began work as an assistant librarian at Dedan Kimathi in 2010. The institution, which gained its charter as a university in December 2012, offers programs in Engineering and Technology, Business and Nursing.
But it wasn’t all tranquility for this newly appointed professional. “Students and lecturers were always complaining about our insufficient resources,” he says, “Before joining Research4Life, we used to rely on hard books and journals which were not recent and up-to-date. The library users had no faith in the library services.” He also realized the need to learn more about electronic data resources to better serve the research community. “Researchers used to pester us to subscribe to the Research4Life resources. We were even surprised that most researchers had more knowledge about the resources than some librarians.”
The institution registered for Research4Life and in 2011, Fredrick attended a training workshop at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, where he began to see the possibility of mastering the tools needed to provide top-notch library services. He was soon certified in Research4Life and TEEAL programs.
He used the skills and knowledge he gained to train researchers, doctors, lecturers, students and the other university librarians.
Together, the university librarians and e-learning staff conduct training workshops in the computer laboratory using PowerPoint™ presentations, practice sessions and quizzes. All new university students now participate in the workshops within a month of beginning classes. Nursing students, who train at hospitals and healthcare centers off campus, have also benefitted.
Ever since we introduced and conducted training for these students on HINARI information resources, an impact of satisfaction has been evident. These students are now able to access useful medical information resources without necessarily visiting the University Library.
Research4Life has also contributed directly to the advancement of Fredrick’s academic research with the publication of a book and six peer-reviewed research papers on Library Science. He would welcome refresher courses designed to keep librarians up-to-date on developments in electronic resources.
“Libraries are supposed to embrace the new information technology and communication lest their role become redundant,” he says, “If librarians are equipped with relevant knowledge and skills on electronic resources, they will be able to first appreciate the new knowledge; they will then be able to train more library users.”
Fredrick would like to pursue a doctoral degree in Information Studies. His research area of choice is an examination of the impact of information technology on the future trends of academic libraries in developing countries.
The above story is excerpted, with permission, from the Reseach4Life publicaiton: Unsung Heroes: Stories from the Library.