The Need For Digitising Fourah Bay College Library


In this Information Age, Information Technology has revolutionized every aspect of human life to an extent that the present generation could be referred to as digital natives. This Information Technology has brought the world to a point of being a global in terms of information dissemination. It is against this background that Sutton(2008) envisaged “Information Technology has rapidly changed the world today.” This is evidenced in the change of cultural, social, economic and educational aspects of life. In this regard, the impact of Information Technology has been felt in the home, education, health defense and security, finance and commerce, the industry and in the office. This technological development has also had an impact on traditional information institutions such as libraries.

Information Technology’s impact on libraries in academia has been on activities concerned with in-house keeping routines such as acquisition, cataloguing, serials control, circulation of library materials, managing statistics and retrieval of information. Academic libraries are now providing their clientele with much better and effective information services through the use of Information Technology. The application of Information Technology to information management activities has resulted in the overall improvement in the performance of academic libraries.

An academic library is the nerve centre of its parent institution thereby meeting the teaching and research needs of that institution. It is established with the main focus of providing effective information service delivery for students, teaching staff, administrative and technical staff of an academic institution. In this regard, current and relevant textbooks and journals as well as reference materials constitute the collection of an academic library to match with the information needs of the curricula. In an academic library, an adequate and conducive reading environment should be provided for users and it should be properly staffed. In a nutshell, an academic library supports research work and complements the teaching/learning programme of the institution.


Fourah Bay College Library is a three-storey building located in the centre of the campus housing various sections/departments. The functions/operations of the different departments of the Library are all geared towards one goal, thus the provision of effective service delivery in meeting the information needs of its clientele. Each department is headed by a trained and qualified professional staff supported by para-professional and non-professional staff who are all answerable to the Acting Librarian.

The lower ground floor of the Library houses the Sierra Leone Collection and Bindery. The Sierra Leone Collection houses materials written on Sierra Leone and the neighbouring countries; materials written by Sierra Leoneans; few copies of dissertations and theses; manuscripts, pamphlets and pamphlets-files; selected titles of local newspapers, Sierra Leone Gazette; Fourah Bay College and University publications; periodicals such as Sierra Leone Studies, Africana Research Bulletin, Sierra Trade Journal, Sierra Leone Language Review, Historical Journal of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Geographical Journal; Sierra Leone Chambers of Commerce Annual Reports; Sierra Leone Acts/Bills; CSM Reports, Parliamentary Debates and Proceedings; Annual Reports of the various Government ministries and departments; and Presidential Addresses. Attaching such importance to this department for research work, the Sierra Leone Collection is referred to as our national heritage. Located on this floor also is the Bindery which is the Conservation and Preservation Unit of the Library for the preservation of library materials to prolong their life span. It also operates commercially as a way of generating revenue for the College.

On the ground floor of the building on entering the Library are the Circulation and Cataloguing departments, American Shelf, the Librarian’s Office, the Reference Section of few stocks with a conducive reading area and a Photocopying Unit. The Circulation/Lending department of Fourah Bay College Library like all academic libraries is responsible for lending materials especially books for use outside the building or home-reading. The Circulations Desk which is adjacent to the Librarian’s Office and Reference Collection handles all lending procedures, thus charging and discharging. The Circulations staff also register new students and those desiring to become members by issuing them prepared library cards for the use of the library and its facilities. Recalling overdue books and reserving required books returned form part of the routines of the Issue Desk. The Issue Desk staff also maintain records of all materials issued for home-reading.

The operations of the Cataloguing Department which is also located in the ground floor include the classification, cataloguing and accessioning of all newly acquired materials especially books before placed on the shelves for accessibility by users. Typing and filing of catalogue cards and stamping of catalogue books with Library’s ownership stamp is also done by the staff of the Cataloguing Department. The American Shelf created by the American Embassy in collaboration with the Fourah Bay Aegean College Library is a collection of American literature, history and few titles of international magazines and provides a small reading space. Photocopying, printing, laminating as well as comb binding jobs are done on commercial basis in a rented room. This Photocopying Section located at the ground floor of the building. The entire first floor of the library houses the Periodicals Department which houses current and back issues of periodicals in almost all disciplines. These include journals, abstracts, indexes and magazines.

Lecturers, students and researchers find the Periodicals Department useful for preparing lecture notes, doing assignments and undertaking research activities. This Department also houses magazines for leisure reading as they contain information such as news items, announcements, statistical data, and advertisements about products and services. The routines carried out in the Periodicals Department include subscribing to journals, claiming back issues paid for but not yet to be received as well as missing issues, entering of received journals on kardex, preparing materials to be bound.

The Textbook Collection is partly located in the second floor of the Library and as the name implies, this department stocks recommended texts by the various faculty teaching staff in meeting the information needs of the curricula. Past examination question papers, dissertations and theses as well as prepared lecture notes by some departments form part of the Textbook Collection. This department is highly patronised by students and lecturers in enhancing teaching/learning programmes.


Academic libraries should move along with the global trends of information technological development. I is therefore viewed with much optimism that digitizing Fourah Bay College Library will significally enhance its operations and improve its information service delivery. A digitized library ensures an accurate and quick information processing, storage, retrieval and accessibility. The use of computers in collecting, processing, analyzing, retrieving of information and data for dissertation to users could be seen as a great privilege enjoyed by academic libraries in this Information Aged. According to Birdsall (2009) a digitised library operates within an electronic collaborative environment to access information regardless its location. This implies that easy access to electronic publications of books and journal is feasible and possible through a digitized library system. Digitised library allows information to be accessed by an unlimited audience at the same time and anywhere.

According to the fifth maxim of Library Science asserted by S. R. Ranganathan (1931) “The library is a growing organism”. Meaning that libraries especially academic libraries in Third World countries in this Information Age should not remain static but be dynamic and move along with the global trends of technological development in terms of information processing, preservation, retrieval and dissemination. Justifiably, Fourah Bay College Library needs to adopt and adapt this trend as a way of improving the services it offers in trying to meet the needs of information seekers.

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