15 September 2006

Tanzania's national agricultural library at SUA

The Sokoine National Agricultural Library (SNAL) is an academic unit of the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania. Having a central role in the university’s mission of teaching, research and public services, its vision is to become a center of excellence in the provision of agricultural information in Tanzania by meeting the information needs of its end-users in the most efficient and effective way possible.

SNAL was established by the Act of Parliament of 1991, which elevated the former university library to a national agricultural library. Therefore SNAL serves both the university community as well as others, including farmers in need of information in agriculture and related fields in the country. It is a single largest agricultural library in the country and has a branch library at Solomon Mahlangu Campus of SUA.

SNAL is a legal depository of materials published in Tanzania and collects materials published elsewhere about Tanzania. It collects all the university publications as well as theses and dissertations from SUA graduates and its staff. It is also a depository for publications from the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and receives publications by International Organizations particularly those dealing with agriculture in its broadest sense.

The library is fully automated using WEBLIS, a free-of-charge web based Library Integrated System based on CDS/ISIS. SNAL decided to use free software, CDS/ISIS to begin with, for sustainability considerations. While the library avoided the expenses for the system purchase, it concentrated on staff training and capacity building. With the open source advantage inherent in CDS/ISIS and WEBLIS, the library has gradually tailored the system to its requirements. In this context SNAL has a unique system. Through the library, users can access many electronic journals (through the INASP/PERI and AGORA programmes, more than 500 CD-ROMs, as well as the Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL) and the E-granary database, both of which are available through the Local Area Network in the library.

SNAL also provides access to its own databases - SUALIB and SUAPER for books and periodicals respectively, and SUASPJ a database of undergraduate Special Projects. The library catalogue is available online (OPAC) at http://snalwww.suanet.ac.tz

SNAL conducts regular seminars and workshops on Information Literacy (IL) to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and to academic members of staff through the University Teaching and Learning Improvement Programme (UTLIP) at SUA. However the IL workshops to students have not been accorded official status by the university, making them to have less impact than envisaged. This is a challenge to SNAL because lack of information literacy skills on part of users is one of the main reasons why the library resources are not being used to their full potential.

More information about the library and the university is available on the web sites of the library or the university. The official national web site at http://www.tanzania.go.tz/ has valuable and up-to-date policy documents on agriculture and various issues in the country. Other useful documents (full text and abstracts) about development issues in agriculture, rural development, poverty alleviation in Tanzania, and much more may be accessed at http://www.tzonline.org/.

This is the second in a series of profiles introducing information services and initiatives related to agriculture. It was contributed by Doris Matovelo.


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