The Internet is transforming the provision of library and information
services in an unprecedented manner. With Internet connectivity, libraries
across the globe have seamless access to quality controlled subscription
databases and freely available resources, depending on financial means and
possession of appropriate knowledge/skills, respectively. Chisenga 
and Katundu 
observe that African libraries were not taking full advantage of both
information categories to improve services. Literature attributes the lag
to a relatively severe skills shortage, inadequate infrastructure and
uncertainties regarding the volume, quality, organization and
accessibility of Africana and other materials on the Internet. In recent
times, poor funding, especially of African university libraries ,
has aggravated the situation.
In order to help improve access to Internet information and knowledge,
Southern African development partners have implemented projects such as
the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) ,
Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) ,
and Continuing Education: Libraries and the Internet (CELI) .
Other notable initiatives include: Catholic University of Angola's
E-Literacy project, (ii) United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) Leland project, and (iii) the School Net project .
Except for project documentation on the web and some recent articles by
and Eriksson 
not much is published on the totality of the experiences of these
projects. With respect to CELI, Taole and Eriksson focus only on the
subject-based information gateway (SBIG) component.
The purpose of this article is to contribute to the knowledge on
Internet projects in Southern African university libraries, with
particular reference to CELI. Specifically, the objectives of the
- To describe the origins, objectives, methodologies and coverage of
- To discuss factors influencing the implementation of CELI.
- To assess CELI, especially with regard to best practices and
- To examine the outlook beyond the CELI project implementation phase.
The article is based on CELI, PERI and HINARI project documentation
accessible on the Internet as well as on the author's participation in
The CELI Project
CELI originated from a Swedish International Development Co-operation
Agency (SIDA) funded conference, "The Electronic Library: Gateway to
Information, Resource Sharing and User Services in the Electronic
Library", held at Lund University, Sweden, June 2-6, 1998. Among the
outcomes of this conference was a resolution to develop and implement a
continuing education project to enhance Internet skills and applications.
Subsequently, Netlab, the development department of Lund University
Libraries, wrote a proposal that was approved by SIDA in 2001, giving
birth to the CELI project. Essentially, CELI was conceived as a
"learning-by-doing" project. With funding from SIDA, CELI was executed by
Lund University Libraries in co-operation with the University of Namibia
Library (UNAM). An invitation to participate in the project was posted by
UNAM on the African Libraries listserv in early 2001.
The selection of participants was based on the following:
- Possession of basic information literacy skills.
- Access to a computer with Internet connection, web browser, web
server and e-mail.
- Capacity of each participating library to assign two committed staff
members to CELI in order to minimize the negative impact of turnover and
to share the workload.
- Professional training and experience in librarianship.
On the basis of the above criteria, 15 librarians representing 10
university/college libraries from 9 Southern African countries were
selected to take part in CELI. The libraries are Bunda College of
Agriculture, Malawi; Malawi Polytechnic; National University of Lesotho
(NUL); Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), Mozambique; University of
Botswana (UB); University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; UNAM; University of
Swaziland (UNISWA); University of Zambia (UNZA); and University of
Zimbabwe (UZ). Lund University Libraries provided the resource persons and
technical backstopping. The project commenced in October 2001 and ended in
Web situation at CELI commencement
Of the 10 participating libraries, 6 had accessible web pages; 2
reported availability of inaccessible web pages; and, 2 did not have web
pages. In general, the web situation at CELI commencement was as follows:
- Lack of updates to some web pages.
- Web pages that were not user friendly in terms of content and
- Complicated web pages.
- Inclusion of dead links.
- Lack of explanatory notes.
- Over-use of images that take long to load.
- Lack of contact details.
- Use of unfriendly colors.
- Overlapping menus in some web pages.
- Typographical errors.
Of the 17 branch libraries at UEM, only a few were connected to the
Internet. The participants joined the project with differing levels of
hypertext mark-up language (HTML) and Internet searching knowledge and
skills. Some had no prior knowledge or experience with HTML, nor any
formal training in Internet searching.
Objectives of CELI
CELI's goal was to enable participants to develop skills needed to give
end-users the right resources at the right time and to find, evaluate and
present Internet resources in a methodical and structured way. In
particular, CELI aimed at equipping participants with skills to:
- Conduct structured Internet information searches.
- Select and evaluate Internet information.
- Create standardized descriptions of the selected information.
- Structure the information.
- Offer information about and services from their libraries on web
- Develop subject-based information gateways (SBIGs).
In addition, participants were expected to share the skills they
learned with colleagues in their parent libraries and to establish new
web-based services in cooperation with their user communities. The project
did not include the upgrading of technical infrastructure.
Methodology of CELI
The CELI training methodology, equipment and tools comprised the
- Four workshops conducted through lectures, demonstrations, practical
exercises, PowerPoint presentations and discussions at UNAM, Lund
University, and UB. Workshop hosts and facilitators supplied printed
handouts, references to Internet resources, Internet connectivity,
computer hardware, software and digital data projectors that assisted in
easing the learning processes.
- Practical follow-up tasks at the participating libraries.
- Where appropriate, task team formation to resolve specific issues.
- CELI web site with work areas for all participants.
- CELI mailing list and sub-lists for SBIG metadata, scope policy,
user interface and marketing task teams.
In between the workshops, tasks were executed and progress reports and
ideas shared and discussed virtually through the CELI web site and mailing
CELI CoverageThe CELI coverage can be categorized by the four
workshops comprising the whole CELI project.
- Workshop 1
Workshop 1 took place November 5-16,
2001, at Neudamm Agricultural College Library, UNAM. Participants
learned about writing HTML; conducting structured Internet information
searches (including using the Development of a European Service for
Information on Research and Education (DESIRE) model 
for finding and fetching quality information efficiently); evaluating
and annotating Internet resources; building web sites; building link
collections; using e-mail and listservs; and building SBIGs (including
theories, metadata standards such as Dublin Core (DC) 
and use of classification systems). Participants drew up link collection
development work plans and discussed the aim, scope and subject of the
SBIG envisaged in the project objectives. It was agreed to (i) develop
the SBIG "Use and Application of ICT in Education and Information
Provision in Africa (UAICT-Africa)", (ii) come up with a metadata
structure, classification system and scope and quality criteria for
UAICT-Africa, and (iii) install the ROADS software 
at UNAM for running the SBIG. Also, all the participating libraries' web
pages accessible at the time were evaluated and suggested improvements
Following Workshop 1 and in preparation for Workshop
2, participants and facilitators carried out the following tasks:
- Implemented the suggested improvements to their library web pages.
- Built web pages where they were not available.
- Trained colleagues in web page design and maintenance.
- Developed link collections in collaboration with user groups.
- Selected and proposed appropriate fields from the 15 DC metadata
elements, including a classification system for use in developing and
- Drafted the UAICT-Africa scope and quality criteria.
- Commenced work on installing ROADS at UNAM.
- Workshop 2
Netlab held an international
conference, "Netlab and Friends" focusing on recent digital library
solutions and policies, in Lund, Sweden, from April 10 to 12, 2002 .
CELI participants were sponsored to attend the conference where they
gained more insight into the DC metadata scheme and the role of portals
in providing seamless discovery of Internet resources. Immediately after
the international conference, CELI participants held Workshop 2 at Lund
University, April 15-19, 2002, covering the following:
- Discussion of the UAICT-Africa metadata scheme, adoption and
implementation of a slightly modified selection from the DC elements.
(The selection includes title, author, summary, subject, date,
Internet address, geographic coverage, relation and publisher. It was
decided that title, author, summary, geographic coverage and publisher
would be searchable elements. In addition, it was agreed that title,
summary, and Internet address would be mandatory elements. The
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) thesaurus was adapted
to provide for the education, libraries and information browsing
- Discussion and adoption of the UAICT-Africa scope and quality
- Demonstrations on how to work with ROADS in building UAICT-Africa.
- Practical exercises in searching, evaluating and adding resources
- Presentations and reviews of ongoing work on web page and link
In between Workshops 2 and 3
participants performed the following tasks:
- Searched and added resources to UAICT-Africa.
- Edited new resources for quality.
- Continued building link collections.
- Identified colleagues to train in building UAICT-Africa.
- Drafted a UAICT-Africa user interface and search functionalities
- Drafted a UAICT-Africa marketing proposal.
- Workshop 3
Held at UNAM, November 11-15, 2002,
Workshop 3 covered:
- Revision of the scope of UAICT-Africa to achieve greater clarity
in the interpretation of subjects, resources to include, and
geographic coverage. It was decided that ICT infrastructure
development, project sites and the whole of Africa (not just
Sub-Saharan Africa as previously envisaged at workshops 1 and 2)
should be included.
- Modification of the UAICT-Africa browsing structure to include the
terms: Open learning; Resource sharing; ICT projects; Copyright;
Interactive learning and Online courses.
- Practice in alternative Internet search approaches for
- Discussion and adoption of user interface and search
to provide for simple searches and advanced searches.
- Discussion and adoption of a marketing plan for UAICT-Africa,
identifying potential sponsors and partners.
- Presentations and reviews of ongoing link collection development
Participants' and facilitators' homework after
Workshop 3 included:
- Implementation of search functionalities and user interface.
- Addition of resources to UAICT-Africa.
- Preparation of project documents in respect of UAICT-Africa
- Preparation of a marketing brochure for UAICT-Africa.
- Design of a logo for UAICT-Africa.
- Workshop 4
Workshop 4 took place at UB, Gaborone, June
25-27, 2003. The workshop covered:
- Verbal evaluation of the CELI project.
- Adoption of a UAICT-Africa logo.
- Revision and adoption of a UAICT-Africa marketing brochure.
- Discussion and adoption of project documents for the continuation
of UAICT-Africa. The documents are: a project proposal with a budget;
job description for the UAICT-Africa coordinator; and a draft
UAICT-Africa consortium agreement that envisages the joining of
additional partners over and above the libraries that took part in the
- Plans for the launching of UAICT-Africa at the 16th Standing
Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Librarians
(SCECSAL) to be held in Kampala, Uganda in mid-2004.
- Designation of a participant from UB, Babakisi Fidzani, as interim
In order to transform UAICT-Africa
from a SIDA-funded project to a self-sustaining service, it was agreed
- The project proposal should be submitted to potential sponsors.
- The draft consortium agreement should be circulated to
participating libraries for comments and signature.
- UAICT-Africa should be marketed to participating libraries and all
other interested parties.
- The addition of resources to UAICT-Africa should continue.
CELI did not cover the electronic commercial scientific information
market to avoid duplication and, at the same time, to complement the work
in progress under PERI. CELI's thrust was to enhance skills to optimize
the exploitation of freely available quality Internet resources.
Institutional responses to CELI
Among the documented management responses to the implementation of CELI
at the participating libraries are the following three examples:
- A team comprising the web coordinator, serials librarian and the
CELI participant was tasked to design and issue a training programme for
implementation by the end of June 2002. The program and training
materials were circulated under the signature of the University
- The CELI team was allocated a space on the university server to
publish their work.
- The project was well received by library management.
In general, there were no reported cases of rejection. Primarily, this
was because participating libraries were aware of their skills needs. CELI
was a timely and welcome intervention. Nonetheless, harmonizing the goals
and work programs of the multiple CELI partners in the context of their
unique institutional, organizational and cultural settings posed
The challenges for the CELI project included: local administrative
hurdles, human factors, an inadequate technology backbone and limited
availability of UAICT-Africa resources.
- Local administrative hurdles
administrative hurdles that threatened the project included: end of
semester examinations, vacations, and, student and staff strikes (at
three institutions) shifted time lines for link collection user
requirements studies and skills dissemination; at one institution,
bureaucratic systems and lengthy discussions to achieve an understanding
of the concept of gateways and link collections threw time lines out of
synchrony; one institution delayed link collection development to build
web pages from scratch; overall, CELI deadlines were difficult to meet
due to pressing institutional demands on participants' time; because of
revised time frames, a group used to conduct the user requirements study
graduated before they could fully use and evaluate the link collection
at one of the institutions; and, the target biennial SCECSAL forum at
which UAICT-Africa was initially supposed to be launched lay outside the
CELI time table.
- Human factors
The human relations challenges included
the following: in the early phases of the project, as the CELI team got
to know each other, task team chairpersons were not easy to select, and,
in some cases, selected chairpersons were hesitant to assume the
required leadership role; five members from the original CELI team left
the project, and, except for one, they were replaced by new members who
required time to get acquainted with the project and the team; at one
library, management changed and the new leadership did not fully
appreciate the CELI objectives; one CELI participant assumed a senior
management position with increased responsibilities that cut into the
time available for CELI tasks; in a number of cases, the full
participation of user communities was not readily forthcoming due to
lack of familiarity with the concepts, which created some sense of
vulnerability among users; colleagues trained in link collection
development and SBIG-building were re-deployed leaving little time for
them to apply their skills; lack of Portuguese Internet resources
dampened interest in the link collection development component at UEM;
at times, workshop debates went astray; and requests for comments
through the mailing lists did not always elicit sufficient responses.
- Inadequate technology backbone
Slow and unstable
Internet connections (including inaccessible servers, a faulty modem, an
unusually large number of prolonged power cuts and a lack of search
terminals) frustrated the development and use of link collections and
UAICT-Africa. The UZ's plans to use ROADS to develop a broader SBIG were
stillborn because the software failed to run smoothly on the university
platform. More importantly, the installation of ROADS at UNAM was
postponed due to understaffing.
- Limited availability of electronic resources
participants experienced difficulties in finding information resources
to add to UAICT-Africa.
By and large, it appears that some form of disharmony between CELI and
institutional targets almost always lurked in the background. Arguably,
this did not detract from the ultimate goal of enhancing Internet skills
Did CELI meet its objectives?
ably addresses the question of whether or not CELI met its objectives. It
is, however, important to shed more light on the outputs of the skills and
knowledge honed by CELI, especially the extent to which the project
delivered on the creation of link collections, UAICT-Africa, enhanced
library web pages, and skills cascading programs at the participating
libraries. Below is an indicative measure of CELI's reach in this regard.
- Link collections
Overall, participants were familiar
with the development of link collections by the end of CELI. Of the 10
participating institutions, 5 developed link collections that are
accessible from their library home pages. One institution has its link
collection accessible from the main university home page because the
library web pages were in prototype form and were not yet publicly
UAICT-Africa is accessible on the web .
However, its relevance remains to be seen. Due to the tightness of the
CELI time frame, an SBIG user-needs assessment was not conducted.
Instead, UAICT Africa was born out of assumptions held by CELI partners
regarding what might be relevant to users.
By the end of the
CELI project, UAICT-Africa had only about 200 resources, and locating
new resources continued to be a challenge. Whether or not this number is
enough for an SBIG worth its salt is moot. At the same time, it could be
argued that this is further reinforcement of previously reported
propositions regarding the continued scarcity of Africana resources on
the Internet. Between July 2003, when CELI ended, and November 2003,
only one of the participating institutions had linked UAICT-Africa to
its web site. In the final analysis, however, UAICT-Africa was a
successful learning experience in SBIG creation and maintenance for CELI
- Library web pages
Of the 10 participating
institutions, 5 reported updating their library web pages following the
CELI evaluations; 1 institution that did not have web pages at CELI
commencement developed a web site; 1 institution updated its previously
inaccessible web pages and mounted a prototype on the Netlab server; 2
institutions had not up dated their web pages; and 1 institution did not
build a web site.
The CELI evaluations were comprehensive.
Introducing wholesale improvements to existing web designs was
potentially disruptive, as it could be misinterpreted as an outside
imposition. It was necessary to judiciously temper CELI suggestions with
considerations that governed previous designs. It is perhaps in this
light that by the end of CELI, only one library could confidently report
a major overhaul in their web pages.
- Skills cascading programs
In nine institutions,
Internet searching and evaluation skills were cascaded to colleagues
within the CELI time frame. The tenth institution shared in the training
experience after the CELI project. The target audience was generally
users and other librarians. With respect to HTML, only two institutions
reported cascading these skills to colleagues including production of
online manuals. One institution circulated a print HTML manual but was
unable to hold a training session. Only two institutions reported
sharing of the SBIG creation and maintenance skills.
the one major skill component that seems to have been widely shared is
structured Internet searching and evaluation. In spite of this
imbalance, CELI played a major role in raising the level of Internet
awareness in the participating libraries.
The foregoing analysis is incomplete without addressing the overarching
question of lessons arising from the CELI project implementation
experience, which in all probability may have wider relevance to similar
projects in Southern Africa and the developing world at large. Broadly, a
major project of CELI's magnitude requires comprehensive planning based on
wide consultation and sharing of information and knowledge between
sponsors, executing agencies, beneficiaries and interested development
partners, in the following areas:
- Level of ICT infrastructure development
simultaneous development of a robust ICT infrastructure is essential, it
lay outside the CELI ambit, thereby exerting a negative influence on the
attainment of project objectives. A coordinated holistic approach
covering both infrastructure and skills development, in which interested
development partners share responsibilities, delivers the required
- Internet knowledge, skills and attitudes
insufficient Internet knowledge and skills, users at most institutions
and, in some cases, colleagues were reported to exhibit negative
attitudes. In order to circumvent the delay arising from poor user
participation, one institution went ahead with a prototype link
collection while another created prototype web pages.
surveyed only the competencies of the course participants and did not
have enough information on user communities (i.e., faculty and students)
and participants' colleagues. An understanding of the competencies of
the whole universe of the Internet information service community is
important in setting realistic project parameters. Where conditions do
not support the development of the ultimate product, prototypes should
substitute in order to promote new concepts and create an appetite for
Indigenous resources for UAICT-Africa and for
some link collections were scarce. Evidently, it is not advisable to
implement single Internet project components in isolation. A
collaborative approach among multiple development partners in addressing
an integrated suite of components comprising Africana e-publishing
initiatives, skills augmentation, infrastructure upgrading, etc. is
critical to the success of sustainable Internet projects.
- Local commitment
From the onset the CELI executing
agencies communicated with and selected course participants directly. In
most cases, local library managements seem to have been presented with a
fait accompli. Not all participants may have had sufficient influence to
give CELI due prominence among other institutional projects. On the
other hand, library managements lent support but were not necessarily
accountable. Thus, at one institution the CELI web development ideas
were subsumed in the university-wide decisions while at another, the
link collection originally conceived under CELI was changed to fit in
with the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD) project,
which was already in progress. Be that as it may, the CELI approach was
refreshing; it cut bureaucracy and entrusted responsibility squarely on
the shoulders of course participants. All the same, prior local
management commitment and compromises are essential in securing priority
attention and buy-in, respectively.
- Practical tips
Among CELI's noteworthy results is a
record of practical tips for enhancing Internet services, namely: use
individualized searching training sessions, on demand, in order to
circumvent the practical problem of organizing groups and also to get
through to users effectively; adopt a policy for developing content and
maintaining links, e.g., use of paraprofessional staff to maintain links
while professional staff focus on content development; collaborate with
the computer science department to secure the services of students in
HTML tagging and editing, e.g., request final year students to do a
useful project with the library; minimize use of images to improve
loading time; arrange link collections by subject and have explanatory
notes to guide users; and ensure that top library management leads and
creates space for the introduction of new ICT concepts.
Besides the primary outputs, CELI had a wider skills and knowledge
development influence on the participants. Other skills areas that were
- Project proposal writing - In recognition of the need to sustain
UAICT-Africa after CELI, participants jointly wrote a project proposal
to submit to potential sponsors.
- Project management - Implementation of the work plans adopted at
Workshop 1 and task teams, mailing list exchanges, and workshop
consensus building discussions constituted a practical project
management experience for participants.
- Thesaurus development - Participants developed new subject terms to
meet the needs of UAICT-Africa.
- Marketing - Participants jointly wrote a plan and a brochure to
- Use of SBIG software tools - The UZ implemented the Scout Portal
to develop an Internet catalogue and shared the experience with all
- Interacting within multicultural settings - CELI participants
attended the "Netlab and friends," conference which brought together 24
countries. Among themselves, the CELI participants represented different
cultural backgrounds in Southern Africa. These interactions were a
lesson in tolerance and appreciation of cultural diversity.
- Workshop organizing - Workshop hosts gained insight and experience
in organizing international events.
At UEM, CELI gave impetus to Internet connectivity at more libraries
that hitherto were unconnected.
and Taole 
present interesting scenarios, which, on balance, depict a not so
promising picture especially for UAICT-Africa. Subsequent developments
include the following:
- At least four libraries reported terribly slow Internet connections.
One institution experienced prolonged industrial action that paralyzed
services. These factors frustrate the up-scaling of initiatives
stimulated by CELI.
- To date (i.e., ten months after the conclusion of CELI), none of the
participating institutions had indicated their intention to enter into
the proposed UAICT-Africa consortium agreement.
- The UAICT-Africa project proposal document was submitted to the Open
Society Initiative for Southern Africa at the beginning of December
- Between July - December 2003, only one resource was added to
UAICT-Africa. A total of 11 links were dead at early December 2003.
Also, it remained unclear which institution will assume responsibility
for hosting UAICT-Africa.
The outlook seems less than satisfactory in the short term. In the long
run and in the context of CELI's preponderate objectives, the evident
skills, knowledge, attitudes and competencies nurtured by the project have
contributed to a further deepening of Internet services at participating
libraries. To the extent that this legacy is acknowledged, and all
variables outside CELI's control being satisfied, it can be said that the
Internet service prospects for participating libraries are promising.
University and college libraries in Southern Africa, and in the world
at large, are financially strained. In Southern Africa, the provision of
continuous education and training is adversely affected. Consequently, the
skills required to harness the Internet are sparse. The primary objective
of CELI was to assist in enhancing Internet skills among librarians in
some of the affected libraries. Through a combination of workshops and
practical work, CELI stimulated practical applications that represent
positive steps in long-term programs aimed at harnessing the Internet to
enable Southern African university libraries to attain a competitive edge
in information services provision. Further progress is dependent on: (a)
library leadership styles that create space for the application of new
skills; and (b) deliberate convergence of development partner interests to
forge holistic and integrated approaches that address all Internet project
critical success areas including upgrading of skills and ICT
infrastructure, focused indigenous e-publishing, etc.
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Copyright © 2004 Paiki Muswazi