CAMEROON: Libraries need digital updating

Universities in Cameroon need to make more progress in updating their libraries and digitising their documentation. Earlier this month, Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education, and university presidents met for the presentation of a feasibility study carried out on the country's Inter-university Centre of Documentary Resources, or CIRD, project.

The study by SFERE, a consultancy for training and technical assistance for human resources and education systems set up by the French government in 1984, found that much needed to be done regarding "identified weaknesses", reported Le Messager of Douala.

"The discrepancies that struck us most concerned provision of information at the level of university libraries as much as at national level; the delay in modernising these libraries; the fact that they have none of the computerised systems that libraries in developed countries have, particularly computerisation for management, access to digitised connections for students, and so on," said SFERE'sMarie-Dominique Heusse, director of library networks at Toulouse University.

CIRD was established by government order under the higher education ministry in 2006 to be a support system for circulating and producing documentary resources, and promoting their use throughout the national university community. Its headquarters are at University of Yaoundé-1.

CIRD should provide the means for Cameroon to equip itself with the infrastructure necessary to recover its technological backwardness. "Today, scientific information, journals and collections are mostly in electronic form. It is much easier to make up lost time through access to an electronic document than if you have to buy collections," explained Heusse.

Under her plan, said Le Messager, the centre would be Cameroon's national agency for scientific and technical information, enhancing and disseminating research and updating the services of university libraries.

It would have three responsibilities. The first would be locating, acquiring and making available relevant information, journals, conference proceedings in digital form, both paying and free. Second, it would be a centre of digital publishing and digitisation for distributing natonal research, including theses, research centres' work, university journals. Third, it would encourage modernisation of the university library network.

*The Cameroon Ministry of Higher Education has introduced new medical courses, entry to which will be through competitive exams held later this month. At the University of Dschang's faculty of sciences 105 places are on offer for medicine, pharmaceutics and biomedical science; while the University of Ngaoundéré has 120 places for biomedical science and health science.