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Digitising library resources and building digital repositories in the University of Malawi Libraries
Mapulanga Patrick
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Mapulanga Patrick , (2013)," Digitising library resources and building digital repositories in the University of Malawi
Libraries ", The Electronic Library, Vol. 31 Iss 5 pp. 635 - 647
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Digitising library resources and Digitisingresources


building digital repositories in the

University of Malawi Libraries
Patrick Mapulanga
Chancellor College Library, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi Received 23 February 2012
Revised 30 March 2012
Accepted 12 April 2012
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to look at the prospects and challenges of digitising library
resources and building digital repositories in the University of Malawi Libraries.
Design/methodology/approach Data collected through online questions sent to college
librarians, ICT director and systems administrator (Chancellor College and Bunda College) and
assistant librarians or repository co-ordinators in the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi
(UNIMA) coupled with technical reports on digital and institutional repository projects in the UNIMA
Findings The results of the study have indicated that the UNIMA Libraries are digitising library
resources and building digital repositories though the pace is very slow. Bandwidth has increased
though accessibility of the resources is hampered by its inadequacy. The databases are frequently
attacked by viruses and are locally available through intranet. Policy statements were not drawn for
the projects, instead an insertion was done in the research and publications rules and regulations on
copyright for theses and dissertations. The majority of the projects lack technical skills, especially
running the systems in secure operating Linux-based system environments. Three of the five colleges
adopted Greenstone, two adopted DSpace and one adopted Procite depending on the training received
and the source of funding. The initial projects relied on external funding for their roll out.
Practical implications The study recommends that college librarians should lobby for training in
ICT skills in order to sustain the projects. Funding for digital repositories should be included in the
annual budget estimates of the college libraries. Librarians should draw policies specifically for
digitisation of library resources, copyright and building of digital repositories in the UNIMA Libraries.
ICT department should assist in migrating the repositories to Linux-based environments.
Originality/value There is little researched information on digitisation of library resources and
building digital repositories in Malawi, yet there is quite a variety of rare information about the
country. This research will add some information on the progress made in digitising Malawiana
collection which has cultural heritage, educational and research value.
Keywords Digital libraries, Academic libraries, Malawi, Digitisation, Institutional repositories
Paper type Case study

Malawi is a small country formerly colonised by the British and wedged between
Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. It has two public universities: Mzuzu University
and the University of Malawi (UNIMA). The latter has five constituent colleges namely
Chancellor College, Polytechnic, Bunda College of Agriculture, Kamuzu College of
Nursing and the College of Medicine. Each of the five constituent colleges has a library, The Electronic Library
Vol. 31 No. 5, 2013
namely: Chancellor College Library, established in 1965; Polytechnic Library, pp. 635-647
established in 1965; Bunda College Library, established in 1967; Kamuzu College of q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Nursing Library, established in 1979; and the College of Medicine Library, established DOI 10.1108/EL-02-2012-0019
EL in 1991. The now defunct Central Library Services established in 1979 acted as a
31,5 co-ordinating entity for the UNIMA Libraries (UNIMA, 2008).
Just as many university libraries world-over have adopted the concept of
digitisation as a means of preserving information, the UNIMA Libraries also embarked
on digitising its rare resources by establishing repositories. In developing countries,
digitisation has posed serious challenges to librarians and other information managers
636 (Ezeani and Ezema, 2011). Propelled by information and communication technologies
(ICTs), the challenge for the information environment has widened further as many
libraries have been forced to adopt their use in order to preserve information. While
libraries in the developed world quickly adapted to challenges of the global
information explosion and the need to preserve useful information for posterity,
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libraries in Africa and the majority of the developing countries continually face serious
problems in the digitisation and preservation of their valuable information.
Digitisation has many concrete benefits in terms of access, support for preservation,
collection development, institutional and strategic benefits; and research and
publication (Hughes, 2004; Anderson and Maxwell, 2004). Digitisation goes beyond
accessibility by protecting originals from excessive physical handling and repeated
copying; and promotes preservation (Anderson and Maxwell, 2004). The primary
advantage of digitisation has been to broaden and enhance accessibility of information
to a wider community (Hughes, 2004). Digitisation has been useful to support
preservation by storing rare original objects that can provide access to users while
preserving the originals from damage (Anderson and Maxwell, 2004; Hughes, 2004).
Digitisation and establishment of digital repositories has had to overcome gaps in
existing collections and seen from institutional benefits has raised the profile of
institutions (Hughes, 2004). On the other hand, digitisation of cultural heritage
materials has tremendous benefits in research and educational purposes. Digital
information has the ability to change the way information is used, and for developing
new ways of preserving and accessing knowledge (Witten and Bainbridge, 2003).
In order to digitise materials, careful selection of the materials is essential as not all
important records within the collections can necessarily be digitised. Anderson and
Maxwell (2004) observed that the uniqueness of the materials, the demand for their
usage and the physical fragility counts in digitisation. Thesis and dissertations,
personal papers, artwork or historical artefacts have been considered as prime
candidates for digitisation and repositories. Coupled with materials to be digitised is
the formulation of a policy on what the collection must meet in order to be considered
for digitisation. In the policy are articulated guidelines on access, the conditions of the
materials, preservation issues, the audience for the materials, ownership of rights and
project support (Anderson and Maxwell, 2004). Hughes (2004) further observed that
costs of digitisation and building of digital repositories required a lot of time and
financial resources. Repositories require that legal issues bordering on copyright be
exhausted (Oppenheim, 2002). Worth noting is the fact that fundamental aspects in the
success of a digital programme lies in the ability to get permissions to use copyrighted
materials and the application of data protection rules on certain materials. Arms (2000)
also observed that careful management of the human resources related to all aspects of
the digitisation life cycle enables successful project implementation.
In Africa, digitisation is still novelty (Kanyengo, 2006; cited in Ezeani and Ezema
(2011)) and most digitisation projects have originated from outside Africa. Realising
that Africa cannot ignore digitisation because of the continents resources and the Digitising library
knowledge-based economies of the world, many university libraries have engaged resources
themselves in digitisation projects to preserve heritage materials. Despite all the efforts
to create digitisation programmes, roadblocks such as copyright issues, funding,
institutional support, technical drawbacks and conservation of originals have always
hampered meaningful progress in building digital libraries and institutional
repositories (Hughes, 2004). In many African countries, the digitisation of materials 637
and the setting up of institutional repositories has faced serious problems ranging from
low internet connectivity; software and hardware challenges; lack of highly skilled
personnel; inadequate power supply; low bandwidth; legal copyright laws; poor
funding; lack of organisational infrastructure and policies; project sustainability and
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many others (Ezeani and Ezema, 2011; Mbambo-Thata, 2007; Rosenberg, 2006;
Sibanda, 2007; cited in Mbambo-Thata (2007)).
However, despite the many problems there are success stories. Rosenberg (2006) in
her study of publicly funded university libraries in sub-Saharan Anglophone Africa,
excluding South Africa which has been seen to be more advanced than other African
countries, found out that 14 libraries had created e-indexes to local materials. The
Universities of Dar es Salaam and Namibia had several databases with the later having
full text documents. The databases were accessible on request though some libraries
had local area networks (LAN) or CD-ROMs, though the University of Namibia offered
direct web access. Rosenberg further reported that six university libraries had
databases at abstract level and four of them were submitting records to the Database of
African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD). Libraries then had not progressed very
far with the local content. In terms of repositories, Rosenberg noted that they were less
common as only five university libraries had full text past examination papers
collection with four libraries available through LAN while only one was available
through the internet.
As regards software, two libraries, Makerere University and the University of
Namibia, were using DSpace for their repositories, while the Universities of Zimbabwe,
Botswana, Zambia had either pilot projects, projects at the planning stage or were
about to be completed (Rosenberg, 2006). In all the three university libraries above, the
projects were successfully executed and to date, are still running.
In Malawi, digitisation projects have been rarely reported. Apart from the National
Archives of Malawi which started digitising national heritage materials mid-1990 with
donor funding such as the British Library under the Endangered Archives Programme
(EAP) (British Library Online, 2012), little information has been documented from the
academia world until mid-2000 when awareness on digitisation came into being. The
most notable project in Malawi was that of the College of Medicine Library at the
UNIMA which had loaded references to Malawiana health on a National Inquiry
Service Centre (NISC) database accessible on the web. In terms of repositories, the
UNIMA Libraries only had an intention to start digitising into full text documents of
its Malawiana collection (Rosenberg, 2006).
With this background, the present study was aimed at exploring the challenges and
prospects of digitising library resources and building digital repositories in the
UNIMA Libraries.
EL Literature review
31,5 In Africa, several digitisation studies by the academic libraries have been reported.
Ezeani and Ezema (2011) reported on the digitisation efforts at the University of
Nigeria, Nsukka which revealed that personnel involved in digitisation initiatives did
not possess the required digitisation skills such as rasterisation, book marking, digital
signature, web linking and internet skills. On a positive note, the study found that
638 hardware and software facilities for the project were adequate and reliable except the
server which was identified as being unreliable in the project. Work by Olatokun (2008)
of 15 universities in Nigeria found out that digitisation projects were rarely reported
basically because of lack of awareness.
Masakazi (2009) in the study of digitisation of South Africas arts, culture and
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heritage observed that South Africa was a way ahead of other African countries in the
digitisation of heritage materials. The National South Africa Library and the National
Museum were involved in the Digital Imaging Project of South Africa (DISA) with the
aim of implementing digital technologies from around the world to access South
African materials of high socio-political interest.
Mbambo-Thata (2007) in Zimbabwe during the implementation of Database for
African Theses (DATAD), electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) and the
institutional repository added that the University of Zimbabwe faced a number of
challenges mainly from lack of clearly documented set policy on copyright and no
clearly stated theses submission policy as every department followed different
channels with some theses lacking abstracts. The biggest challenge on copyright was
that the academic staffs were not aware whether their copyright agreements with
publishers allowed them to deposit content in the University of Zimbabwe repository
or not.
Rosenberg (2006) also captured challenges of universities in Africa as regards
collecting materials published locally and outside but related to their particular
countries such as theses and dissertations, research reports, papers presented at
conferences and journal articles. Rosenberg noted that the majority of the universities
at that time lacked funding as the projects were heavily dependent on external funding.
The projects also lacked ICT trained staff, continuing education for library staff, new
graduates from library schools with knowledge and skills to assist in the sustainability
of in-country projects.
Ngulube (2004) again noted that information study programmes in Africa did not
include many modules that specifically address preservation of information containers
and digital preservation. Hughes (2004) added that four steps are critical in developing
an institutional digitisation plan namely: a collections survey, user needs analysis,
cost-benefit analysis of the digitisation and a consideration of strategic and
institutional issues such as grants and funding.
In terms of bandwidth, the African Tertiary Institutions Connectivity Survey
(ATICS) (2005) collected information from 83 higher educations institutions in 40
countries in Africa. The findings concluded that the online connectivity was too little,
too expensive and poorly managed. The survey found out that North Africa had an
average bandwidth capacity of 4,352/4,403 kilobytes per second (kbps) whilst Central
Africa had 188/476 kbps with density of networked computers on campus ranged from
0.5 to 929 users per computer. As of costs, regional disparities existed from US$0.10 to
US$36.33 kbps with Africa averaged US$5.46 compared to US$0.12 at a US university
(ATICS, 2005). Aluoch (2006) further observed that connectivity in Africa was poor, Digitising library
unreliable, scarce and expensive and universities in Africa on average paid between resources
US$36 and US$40.50 per kbps per month which is far expensive to North Africa users
who paid less than US$10 per month for a three megabyte per second (mbps) digital
subscriber line link.
As regards policy issues, Gbaje and Zakari (2013) in their research in Nigeria noted
that institutional repository and preservation policies were entirely optional and 639
scarcely developed. The unavailability of the policies is not only in Nigeria but the
majority of the African institutions involved in digitisation and building of
institutional repositories. Lack of such policies has affected the level of commitment
in terms of institutional financing, staff capacity building, skilled man power,
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equipment and the general preservation issues (Gbaje and Zakari, 2013).
Ezema and Ugwu (2013) noted that the management, preservation and
dissemination of theses and dissertations in Africa fall below expectations. This is
despite the fact that with the advent of ICT, librarians have opportunities of preserving
and disseminating theses and dissertations in electronic form through the electronic
and dissertations movement (ETD). No wonder that, within Southern Africa, out of 15
member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), only three
countries namely Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have discoverable
institutional repositories (Ezema and Ugwu, 2013).

Study objectives and methodology

The purpose of the this study was to explore the challenges and prospects of digitising
library resources and building digital repositories in the UNIMA Libraries.
Specifically, the study had the following objectives:
Examine library resources and repository projects being considered for
digitisation in the UNIMA Libraries.
Explore policy guidelines on access, type of materials, preservation issue, the
audience for the materials, ownership of rights and project support.
Analyse software and hardware requirements, staff development and training on
knowledge surrounding digitising of library resources and building repository
centres in the UNIMA Libraries.
. Explore the challenges and prospects in the implementation and sustainability of
the digital and repository centres in the UNIMA Libraries.

Data were collected through online questionnaires sent to college librarians, ICT
director and systems administrator (Chancellor College and Bunda College) and
assistant librarians or repository co-ordinators in the constituent colleges of the
UNIMA coupled with technical reports on digital and institutional repository projects
in the UNIMA Libraries.

Results and discussion

The study revealed that digitising library resources and building digital repositories in
the UNIMA has gone through ups and downs. Among other aspects identified were
policy issues, staff education, viral attack, funding and levels of ICT.
EL Digital and repository projects being undertaken in UNIMA
31,5 The Malawiana sections, present in all the five college libraries of the University of
Malawi, among other collections are composed of Malawiana collection. Malawiana
collection is any publication/information on Malawi or by Malawians (Salanje, 2008).
Table I shows the composition and statistics of the materials available in the repository
as of March, 2012.
640 As can be seen from the table the majority of the Malawiana collections are theses
and dissertations at postgraduate level. The collection is from both students and
academic members of staff within the University of Malawi. The establishment of
digital and institutional repositories targeted theses and dissertations at postgraduate
level which is a unique collection but also rich in terms of information value. Of all the
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colleges, Bunda College Library is more organised than the rest.

Policy guidelines in UNIMA

Here, we look at policy guidelines on access, type of materials, preservation issue, the
audience for the materials, ownership of rights and project support. A repository policy
articulates issues on the type of materials that would qualify for digitisation, whether
issues of preservation would be considered as part of the projects when selecting
materials, audience allowed to use, downloading of full text or abstracts; charges if any
for the repository use; rights of ownership and how authors would be protected of their
works. Table II shows the position of the repositories in relation to who owns the
copyright in UNIMA Library repositories.
On policy issues, Table II shows that specific repository policies were not drawn.
Instead reports indicate that a proposal was put to the UNIMA postgraduate
committee to consider revisiting the research and publications rules and regulations
especially on content and collection policies, submission process, copyright and license
issues, metadata, privacy and service policies (Chinyamu, 2007). However, much as the
issue of policy was mentioned, Chinyamu noted that a policy specifically on
digitisation and institutional repositories was not drawn. A taskforce team was
expected to develop an institutional repository policy for UNIMA by November 2007
with the cut off point for content to become mandatory for postgraduate students to
submit electronic theses (Chiotha, 2007). This agrees with the study by Gbaje and

Materials available College library Statistics Total

Theses and dissertations, Bunda College of Malawiana publications 34

technical reports, working Agriculture Students degree projects 249
papers, conference papers, (fourth year undergraduates)
re-prints, post-prints, rare Theses and dissertations 209
books on Malawi, local Past examination papers 379
newspapers, magazines and Polytechnic Theses and dissertations
journals concerning Malawi College of Medicine Research papers 501
Table I. as a country Kamuzu College of Nursing Theses and dissertations
Composition and Chancellor College Theses and dissertations 69
statistics of the materials Central Library Services
available in the
repository Source: Field data; , data not available
Zakiri in 2013 in Nigeria which indicated that policy issues are optional and scarcely Digitising library
developed. resources
In the absence of the fully fledged policy, a clause was included in the UNIMA
Research and Consultancy Policy stating specifically on who retains copyright in
digitised or repository works. In the clause, the UNIMA retained the copyright for the
theses and dissertations. However, in the case of materials not published within the
university, the biggest challenge has remained on copyright. A similar study at the 641
University of Zimbabwe revealed that academic staffs were not aware whether their
copyright agreements with publishers allowed them to deposit content in the
University of Zimbabwe repository (Mbambo-Thata, 2007). Authors in the digitisation
field have strongly argued that copyright issues and other legal requirements must be
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planned at the outset of the projects (Anderson and Maxwell, 2004; Hughes, 2004).

Software requirements for the projects

In the case of software, several options were identified for the digital project. Chinyamu
(2007) stated that the issue of software was a problem. Initially, Greenstone was
identified though not agreed upon as appropriate software to be taken on board. The
idea of using Greenstone followed a workshop at Bunda College of Agriculture
organised with funding from International Network of the Availability of Scientific
Publications (INASP) and Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL) with funding
from the Koha Foundation in the USA (Salanje, 2008). Table III gives the divisions on
the choices of software for the repositories in the UNIMA Libraries.
Table III shows that three of the five college libraries opted for Greenstone while the
other two opted for DSpace while the central repository funded by the Association of
African Universities (AAU) under the DATAD project opted for Procite and Endnote.

College library Repository policy Copyright

Bunda College of Only policy is a request for authors University of Malawi retains the
Agriculture permission to scan their works copyright for all theses and
Polytechnic Not available dissertations
College of Medicine Not available
Kamuzu College of Not available Table II.
Nursing Institutional repository
Chancellor College Not available policy and copyright
Central Library issues in UNIMA
Services Libraries

College library Software in use Free and open source (FOSS)/proprietary

Bunda College of Agriculture Greenstone FOSS

Polytechnic Greenstone FOSS
College of Medicine Greenstone FOSS Table III.
Kamuzu College of Nursing DSpace FOSS Software for the
Chancellor College Procite/Endnote Proprietary or commercial repositories in UNIMA
Central Library Services Libraries
EL Preceding the repository projects was a study finding by the University of Waikato and
31,5 UNESCO in 2005 which revealed the need for organisations to promote the Greenstone
Digital Library software. The study revealed the need to support African users in
initiating, developing and sustaining digital library projects; provide a permanent
training resource facility which will back up national training efforts; develop and
maintain an African Digital Library portal; encourage the availability of developmental
642 content on the internet and on CD-ROMs; collaborate with both local and international
institutions; organise general promotional awareness seen as a vehicle for increasing
collaboration and technical know-how, creating wealth and attracting foreign
investment in Africa (Salanje, 2007). Bunda College and the College of Medicine
Libraries adopted Greenstone for their institutional repositories and Bunda College
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Library was chosen as a national centre in Malawi. Bunda College Library partnered
with College of Medicine Library in the use of Greenstone software in the country though
the later lost part of the database they created through viruses (Salanje, 2007).
On the other hand, INASP championed the use of DSpace for building institutional
libraries. One library personnel from Kamuzu College of Nursing Library received
adequate training on the use of DSpace in South Africa. As a result, the library
personnel initiated the establishment of an institutional repository at Kamuzu College
of Nursing using DSpace as the software platform. Chancellor College Library and the
Central Library Services opted for Procite (commercial software) and then Endnote
because of the support from AAU through the DATAD project (Chinyamu, 2007).
AAU through the DATAD project hosted a number of international workshops in
Kenya and Ethiopia to share experiences of e-theses and e-dissertations database
initiatives in African universities; to discuss new approaches for DATAD; and to find a
suitable software platform to provide online access to both abstracts and full-text theses
to African researchers and students (Chinyamu, 2007). The Procite software that
DATAD was using was found to be wanting since it only allowed access to theses and
dissertations at abstract level. Hence, the Nairobi workshop proposed exploring use of
Virginia Tech ETD-db, DSpace, and Endnote for metadata exchange (Chiotha, 2007).
None of UNIMA college libraries tried the alternative software for the institutional
repositories, except DSpace and Greenstone. As earlier indicated Central Library
Services, a co-ordinating body for all UNIMA Libraries based at Chancellor College
Library housed the DATAD/UNIMA Libraries project which initially adopted the use of
Procite as recommended by DATAD before abandoned it for Endnote, another
proprietary software. Certainly, due to lack of policy issues as regards software adoption,
different college libraries adopted different software for the same projects. This was
attributed to the fact that the workshops were being funded externally. As a result, the
participants had very little say on what would have been the common software for college
libraries to adopt and have support from within and outside the country.

Hardware for the repository projects in UNIMA Libraries

As regards hardware, DATAD promised to source funds for purchasing equipment
(computers, scanners and software) to help countries wishing to develop institutional
repositories (Chiotha, 2007). Table IV shows the hardware for the repositories in the
UNIMA Libraries projects. The table reveals that four of the five sites are using IBM
servers for their repositories. The four IBM Servers were part of the Japanese Grant to
the Malawi Government meant for library automation projects early 2000. These were
Pentium III servers with a speed of 4.8 gigahertz per second, 1,024 Megabytes per Digitising library
second and 30 gigabyte hard disk space. As for the central repository, AAU through resources
DATAD donated a Hewlett and Packard server (ProLiant ML330 G3, with one
gigabyte memory and 34 gigabyte hard disk space and speed of 2.8 gigahertz per
second); disk array system (with 1.5 terabytes of hard disk space); Plasmon V series
(with 1.5 terabytes hard disk space) and a scanner (Canon DR-9080C for document
scanning) (Chinyamu, 2007). 643
Bandwidth requirements
Almost all the colleges of the UNIMA have limited bandwidth which affects internet
connectivity. Limited bandwidth is due to insufficient channel capacities, whereas in
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some cases, it is due to bottlenecks caused by viruses and spam (Gombachika and Kanjo,
2005). Gombachika and Kanjo further observed that coupled with limited bandwidth
were limited number of workstations and powerful servers to support the demands of
ICT within the colleges. Table V shows the bandwidth in the colleges in 2005 and 2012.
The Taskforce formed when the repositories began in UNIMA colleges considered
bandwidth issues. Knowing the problems that are there regarding bandwidth, in one of
the taskforce meetings a proposal was put forward that it might be necessary to buy

College library Hardware Source of equipment

Bunda College of Agriculture IBM server series Japanese Grant

Polytechnic IBM server series Japanese Grant
College of Medicine IBM server series Japanese Grant
Kamuzu College of Nursing IBM server series Japanese Grant Table IV.
Chancellor College HP ProLiant ML330 AAU/DATAD Hardware for UNIMA
Central Library Services Libraries projects

College library Bandwidth around 2005 Bandwidth in 2012 Costs

Bunda College of 256 kbps downward link and 4 mbps downward link and
Agriculture 128 kbps upward link 1 mbps upward link
Polytechnic 128 kbps downward link and 2 mbps downward link and
64 kbps upward link 2 mbps upward link
College of Medicine 1,024 kbps downward link 6 mbps downward link and US$1,670/mbps/
and 512 kbps upward link 6 mbps upward link month
Kamuzu College of (US$10,002/
Nursing (Blantyre) month)
Kamuzu College of 128 kbps downward link and 1 mbps downward link and
Nursing (Lilongwe) 64 kbps upward link 1 mbps upward link
Chancellor College 1,024 kbps downward link 4 mbps downward link and US$7,000-
and 512 kbps upward link 1 mbps upward link US$12,000 per
Central Library
Services Table V.
Bandwidth in the UNIMA
Notes: kbps kilobyte per second and mbps megabyte per second; , data not available colleges as of 2005 and
Source: ICT Directors Interview (2012), Eneya (2008) and Salanje (2006) 2012
EL bandwidth just for institutional repositories (Chiotha, 2007). From Table V we can see that
31,5 bandwidth has increased from 2005 to 2012 in almost all UNIMA colleges. online
questionnaire to the ICT directors revealed that rough estimates of the bandwidth were in
the range of US$7,000-US$12,000 per month per college. One of the directors indicated
that the amount of bandwidth versus the money spent leaves a lot to be desired.

644 Accessibility of the repositories and funding

In terms of accessibility of the repositories, Table VI indicates that all the repositories
are accessible through the LAN or intranet and not internet.
An ICT technician at the College of Medicine Library indicated that it was possible
to configure Greenstone to be accessible via internet since it is web based, but due to
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copyright issues they configured it to be accessible locally; thus LAN only. This might
have also been the case with the other colleges because there are no institutional
repositories or digital repository policies which could have partly addressed copyright

Human resource needs for setting up the digital and repository centres
UNIMA Libraries have faced a lot of problems with ICT and the majority of the
librarians did not have enough expertise in ICT skills (Salanje, 2006). Projects in
digitisation and institutional repositories were slowly being implemented partly
because of lack of technical expertise to implement and sustain the projects. Apart
from DATAD workshops in Kenya and Ethiopia, the Greenstone workshop at Bunda
College Library and DSpace workshops in South Africa, the majority of the projects are
slowly being implemented because of lack of technical expertise to start and finish the
projects and have them running sustainably. At the then Central Library Services, the
repository was full of ups and downs as materials populated in the database today
would not be visible come tomorrow because of viral attack as the systems were based
on Windows and not Linux-based operating system.

Challenges facing the digital and institutional repositories in UNIMA

There are four min difficulties that stand in the way of successful implementation and
sustainability of the digital and institutional repositories in UNIMA. These are viral
attack, ICT skills, software platforms and finance.
Viral attack. One of the serious challenges faced with building digital libraries and
institutional repositories has been viral attack on the systems. This has made it
difficult to populate the databases as the systems would simply collapse (Chinyamu,
2007; Chiotha, 2007).

College library Accessibility

Bunda College of Agriculture Intranet (LAN) and CD-ROMs

Polytechnic Intranet (LAN)
College of Medicine Intranet (LAN)
Kamuzu College of Nursing Intranet (LAN)
Table VI. Chancellor College Intranet (LAN)
How accessible are the
repositories Source: Interview data with library staff
ICT skills. As earlier observed the other problem with the projects has been lack of Digitising library
technical expertise in Linux-based systems (Salanje, 2007). Where progress was made, resources
the systems were Linux-based and where progress stalled, the systems were
Windows-based. The final report of the DATAD Nairobi meeting on outcomes of the
discussions on country updates observed that the University of Malawi, in spite of the
assistance it had received from the DATAD Secretariat, had not delivered on DATAD
activities and the AAU wondered whether the UNIMA Libraries had the basic 645
requirements to participate in the project (Chiotha, 2007).
Software platform. Different colleges of the UNIMA identified different software for
the same projects because of different training received and the technical expertise
available in the college libraries (Chinyamu, 2007; Chiotha, 2007; Salanje, 2007). This
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meant that there were many different systems with the same purpose within the
college libraries. The implications of such stand alone projects meant that colleges
could not share expertise when one is lagging behind.
Finance. Economically, acquisition, managing and maintenance of information
technology gadgets require consistent financial resources. However, the UNIMA
Libraries depended on locally available machines some of which were outdated (Eneya,
2008). Sibanda (2007, cited in Mbambo-Thata (2007)) also observed that maintaining
databases requires increasing financial commitment and due lack of financial
resources and investment at the University of Zimbabwe, the institution failed to
purchase new equipment or upgrade hardware and coupled with skilled staff shortages
the project proved hard. However, librarians at the institution learned how to use the
technologies themselves.

Prospects for digital libraries and digital repositories in UNIMA

Establishment of ICT departments. The UNIMA has realised the need to incorporate
the use of ICT in its colleges. Initially, ICT technicians used to do the majority of the
work in the colleges including libraries. However, the colleges have upgraded ICT to
directorate level heralded by the ICT Directors. This means that all ICT projects,
hardware and software requirements for projects, budgets and procurement of
equipment need to be negotiated with the directorates. The hope for the college
libraries is that the ICT departments will assist the libraries to roll out projects.
Already, the strategic plans for the ICT departments are featuring library projects that
are likely to be implemented with their technical support. The short and long-term
implications are that libraries stand to benefit from the interaction with the ICT
departments in terms of technical expertise, hardware and software requirements and
actual implementation of the projects. Currently, at Chancellor College Library an
institutional repository has just been re-organised using DSpace as the software
platform and the repository is running on Fedora Core which is Linux-based.
Staff education. Staff development and training has been a challenge for the UNIMA
Libraries (Salanje, 2007). However, as of the last five years, the trend has been
encouraging. The acquisition of additional qualifications and new knowledge in
modern librarianship has spurred the need to consider full implementation of projects
in library automation, institutional repositories and digitisation of rare collections in
the UNIMA Libraries.
Management support. The implementation of projects has been hitherto hampered
by support from management. It is thus encouraging that top management, including
EL the vice chancellor, has shown keen interest in full implementation of library
31,5 automation in the UNIMA Libraries.

The information infrastructure has changed tremendously over the years and we are
now living in the digital era. As this study has shown, the UNIMA Libraries have
646 responded to the demands of the digital era by among other aspects considering
digitising some of its library materials and establishing digital repositories. However,
the pace of implementation of the projects has been slow and not encouraging. Among
other things, the projects lack policy guidelines, technical expertise for their
sustainability and funding within the library budgets. College librarians should lobby
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for increased funding for their libraries on library projects such as digitising library
collections and establishing digital repositories. Librarians should also consider
employing library staff with expertise in ICT to oversee the implementation of
computer related projects within the libraries. Librarians should further lobby for
increased funding towards bandwidth in the colleges. Moreover, librarians should also
write proposals to local and international organisations requesting funding for staff
development and workshops to enable library staff get well equipped with skills
required for the digital era. Such measures would greatly help Malawi step more
forcefully into the digital age.

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About the author

Patrick Mapulanga has been working for Chancellor College Library, University of Malawi as an
Assistant Librarian (technical services) since July 2010. He worked for the Central Library
Services, University of Malawi as an Assistant Librarian (cataloguing) from 2006 to June 2010.
He possesses a Master of Library and Information Studies degree from the University of
Botswana, obtained in 2011. Patrick Mapulanga can be contacted at:

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