The library has become “a place entrusted with the acquisition, organization, preservation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information in whatever format it might appear” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, ix). West Africa Theological Seminary Library is at the crossroad. The traditional library practices and modern technological advances must be developed and embraced if it is to be relevant in this information age. It is a very high price which must be paid otherwise the library will eventually become like the legendary character who slept for twenty years at Gasgill Mountain in Gulliver’s Travels and eventually woke up to find the world completely changed.
BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
The history of the above seminary could be realistically traced to the historic visitation by two American missionaries (Rev. Dr. and Rev. Mrs. Gary Maxey) who led a group of Nigerian and expatriate Christians to Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria in April 1989. (The Maxeys had initially worked creditably in religious education in Port Harcourt for seven years). The establishment of the seminary in 1989 was a practical demonstration of the need to actively participate in the training of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and teachers not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of the continent and the west. Presently, the seminary is the largest non-denominational evangelical holiness seminary in Nigeria that has attracted students from a broad spectrum of Nigerian Christian denominations, (and) ethnic groups. During a recently completed semester, WATS has students from thirty of Nigeria’s states, from over forty language groups, from (several) other African countries, and from well over eighty different church groups (West Africa Theological Seminary Prospectus 2004, 5).
The name of the seminary was changed from Wesley International Theological Seminary to West Africa Theological Seminary on 1 June 2001, the same year it relocated to 35/37 MM International Airport Road, Lagos, Nigeria. The institution is affiliated to the University of Nsukka, Nigeria and presently offers several programs of study including : Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Diploma in Theology, Certificate in Computer Studies, Diploma in Computer Studies, M.A. in Biblical Studies, Master of Divinity, M.A. in Christian Leadership and M.A. in Intercultural Studies. The seminary started publishing the West Africa Theological Seminary Journal in 2002.
One of the immediate plans of the seminary is to automate its library collection. A crucial aspect is to identify software that will be able to meet the needs of the seminary. In selecting software, the seminary must think in terms of networking and bear in mind that automation programmes normally require annual support fees.
WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY LIBRARY
It is a truism that “the library is the nerve center of educational institutions” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, vii) and West Africa Theological Seminary Library is no exception. This library uses the second edition of the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) and the twentieth edition of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC 20). The card catalog is divided, “a file of authors and titles kept in a single alphabetical order and a file of subject cards in alphabetical order” (Newhall 1970, 38) and the filing system is letter by letter, a system in which “entries are filed without considering the spaces between words” (Nwosu 2000, 61). There is a book catalog, which contains the projects (undergraduate and graduate) submitted by students of the seminary and some members of staff who studied in other institutions.
In 2003 the library benefited from a subscription paid by Asbury Theological Seminary to use the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Database on CD Rom. This is a comprehensive tool designed to support religious education and faculty research. The library serves students, academic and administrative staff of the seminary and external users (academic staff and students from other theological institutions).
Other relevant information include:
A. During term: Mondays to Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. ? 10:30 p.m.
B. Holiday: Mondays to Fridays: 9:00 a.m. ? 9:00 p.m.
NO OF BOOKS: 36,500
NO OF journal titles: 98
NO. OF VIDEO AND AUDIO CASSETTES: 114
PHOTOCOPYING MACHINE: 1
THE BOOK CATALOG: Projects (both card and book catalog)
NO. OF REFERENCE MATERIALS: 1,722
With the exclusion of the presenter, WATS library is presently manned by seventeen members of staff, nine of whom are student workers. These student workers mostly work in the evenings, manning the security and circulation desks (although no external borrowing is done during this period). In addition, they clean they library.
1. Training and recruiting professional librarians
Nine out of the seventeen members of staff are student workers who use this opportunity to raise a significant portion of their fees and, in some cases, some extra funds to maintain themselves as they pursue their theological studies. The presenter is unaware of any who has expressed interest in the library profession. Services rendered cannot be classed as professional. Unfortunately, only two of the regular members of staff have completed some form of library training at the senior supporting level. The implication is that the library is seriously in need of professional librarians otherwise it would continue to run sub-standard services. An irksome dimension is that in most cases, junior members of staff who are in the majority “are allowed to do professional duties in the absence of the right cadre who should do them” (Nwosu 2000, 103) MONOGRAFIAS PRONTAS.
The card catalog for instance will be used to demonstrate the effect the paucity or lack of professional librarians is having on the library collection.
The most common form of library catalog in West Africa is the card catalog and “there is need for (one) to know the design of the system to be able to use it effectively” (Nwosu 2000, 57). A challenge for the library is to maintain a consistent filing rule. Although WATS library operates the system known as the “letter-by-letter” or “all-through” method, there are evidences of the other method, that is the “word-by-word” or “nothing before something”. The former is the common approach to alphabetization, where B must always come before C. In the latter, the space between words is taken into account since the focus is on each word. When it gets to the turn of the word in the alphabetic sequence, all its associates are considered along.
Marrying the two methods of filing or alphabetization may cost one the information that is needed.
Another problem is misapplication of the filing rules. The American Library Association Code (Rule 6) stipulates that “abbreviated words should be filed as if they were spelled out in full, with one exception, that is, the abbreviation Mrs. St. is therefore filed as if it were spelled Saint, and Mc… as Mac” (Harrison and Beenham 1985, 82). The above rule is unfortunately misapplied in WATS library. If the rule is not taken into consideration, the word scan will be filed before St. when it should be the other way round. In the same manner, the Dr. (doctor) will also be filed before down and not the other way round.
A third issue in filing (Rule 5) states that initials should be filed before words. (However, acronyms are treated as words, for example UNICEF, UNESCO, ECOWAS etc.) There are instances in the WATS catalog that this rule is not taken into consideration. A word like Aaron erroneously comes before A.G.M and A.L.A.
It is frightening that there is no clear room for upward mobility of library staff. In the absence of a professional scheme of service or promotion guidelines, members of staff have worked in one position since they received their appointment letters.
2. Computerizing the library
Some libraries in Nigeria have automated their services. Examples include the Institute of Tropical Agriculture Library at Ibadan and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Library, Oshodi, Lagos. Others, including WATS Library, are on the verge of putting their automation plan into action.
Automation can benefit the Acquisition, Cataloging and Serial Departments in the following ways :
Acquisition : Automation can help in fund control as well as in generation and dissemination of reports. List of items, including the accession list can also be printed.
Acquisition is generally defined as “the process of obtaining books and other documents for a library, documentation center or archive” (Prytherch 1986, 61). Incontrovertibly, it is “one of the most important functions of any library system” (Ali 1989, 66). Some means of acquisition of library materials include purchase, donation, exchange, Legal Deposit Legislation and membership of professional organizations. In most libraries in West Africa, it is observed that
acquisition rates are grossly inadequate to support both teaching and research even if judged by minimal standards accepted in developed countries. Attempts to alleviate the situation with various forms of aid though intrinsically meritorious offer little hope for long term improvement (Allen 1993, 232).
Donated materials extensively stock West Africa Theological Seminary Library. Since beggars are not choosers, there is a significant proportion of dated publications. There are many reading materials which are not even relevant to the general curriculum of the seminary. Weeding ‘unwanted’ stock is a big problem to the library since there are no suitable replacements.
An often-overlooked means of acquisition is membership of professional associations. If the library continues to distance itself from the professional register of library institutions, it will not be aware of current trends in the professional which will negatively reflect on the type and quality of services rendered.
4. Internet connectivity
The WATS administration released a letter on 2nd January 2005 announcing a significant reduction (about 75%) of the internet service provided on campus. This was attributed to the reduction in the bandwidth which made it impossible to support all the former work stations. A technological blow was dealt on the library cyber café since it fell prey to this decision. Students were advised to use the cyber café on the ground floor. The seminary administration must support the library in its embryonic stage to judiciously embrace the new technology. On the other hand, the theological librarians have a very crucial role “to ensure that the resulting use of computers and telecommunication and any other appropriate technology contributes in cost effective ways to the needs of scholarship and research since (they) have the expertise in acquiring materials in a variety of formats and make them accessible for a variety of purposes” (Simpson 1984, 38).
5. Online resources
An online resource that was used at West Africa Theological Seminary (and which is highly recommended for other theological libraries in Africa) is the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Index, useful for accessing articles, reviews, essays, dissertations and monographs. The use of databases, which overlap subject fields, that is, interdisciplinary database searching, is an often over-looked aspect of online searching.Users of West Africa Theological Seminary Library do not have access to an incredible amount of online resources because it is not subscribing to use these materials. An example of a very important online resource is the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC). This center, a bibliographic utility based in Dublin, Ohio is a global electronic information co-operative serving about 39,517 libraries in seventy-six countries. It runs an Online Union Catalog. There are approximately twenty eight million cataloguing records and the database (using MARC tapes and other online input data for users) provides reference services and interlibrary loan, qualifying it probably as the world’s most comprehensive database of bibliographic information that produces the First Search System through which a library can subscribe to thousands of academic and professional titles from about seventy publishers available electronically.