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There have been radical changes in the Kenyan higher education sector and which are expected to continue in the foreseeable future. These include a significant increase in student numbers, changes in student funding with a shift away from government funding to repayable loans and parental contributions to fees, expansion of distance education, focus on teaching quality and the growth in the use of communication and information technology. At the core of the challenge of maintaining quality of university education in Kenya in the context of financial austerity is the question of how to improve management and planning. So far there is no evidence that public university are measuring to this expectation. There is no indication that private universities are financially deprived but they still face the challenge of maintaining high standards.

One of the most significant trends in public universities has been rapid expansion in the last two decades, which has been accompanied by deterioration of university education. This is because increase in numbers has not been matched by provision of teaching facilities and resources. It is now a common feature for students to listen to lectures while standing outside flooded lecture theatres. This overcrowding is also evident in libraries, which cannot comfortably accommodate the number of students and university staff and besides house outdated books and journals due to financial constraints1

Findings of this research indicate that libraries in the public universities in Kenya are no longer at the centre of teaching and learning activities of the university. The lack of financial support from university authorities is an indication that the university library does not range high on the priority list of university administration. Consequently, their present situation is characterised by extremely poor and inadequate resources in terms of [page 179↓]stock, equipment and staff. The services provided remain basically at the minimal level of lending out books and little of reference services.

One of the results of this trend is that the university library has become one among the various sources of information. Although there is evidence of appreciation of the role the university library play in the academic activities, the awareness that it has very limited information resources, and contains mainly out-dated materials has eroded the user confidence, resulting in minimal use. Some of the academic staff interviewed have created personal collections and maintained contacts with foreign scholars. For junior researchers and postgraduates borrowing of texts from staff as well as purchasing their own provides a way to acquire information. For undergraduates, there is high dependence on lecture notes leading mainly reading for examination purposes. As a direct consequence, it was reported that duplication of term papers and assignments is high among the undergraduate students.

There is evidence of erosion quality in public universities due to lack of adequate teaching resources and facilities are being felt. Sifuna,in a research finding has documented that there have been complaints where employers differentiate between the specific universities or preference for overseas trained graduates to local ones. This is not just confined to the employment sector alone, it applies to admissions to foreign universities abroad whereby graduates of public universities are viewed with suspicion when applying to overseas universities and in some commonwealth countries, and 8-4-4 applicants for university are compelled to take preparatory university courses before gaining admission.2

There have been reports of rampant cases of student’s failure, repeating of classes or large numbers taking supplementary examinations. This decline in examination performance can partly be attributed to poor educational experience brought about by inadequate provision of learning resources such as library and information services.

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5.2.1. Planning

Effective and efficient library administration systems are crucial if the university library is to deliver quality service and be seen to be producing a return on investment. For example inappropriate staffing structures, poor financial planning and management styles can lead to waste of investment and have negative results across all levels of the service.

In order for the university libraries to be prepared for the responsibility of providing information, planning is necessary.3 This study revealed that of the university examined, only USIU has been involved in strategic planning as a fundamental approach towards the development and provision of library and information services. While there are various planning approaches, strategic planning is highly recommended because it enables libraries to influence external environment in which the library operates in accordance with their needs and initiate new services for their users rather than respond to those imposed on them. At present library services especially in Kenyan public universities are characterised by lack of planning, ad hoc and disjointed projects and operate in a state of flux where even budget commitments are not adhered to. Strategic planning process if applied can introduce a more systematic approach to the allocation of resources on a priority basis to best achieve the library’s mission given the resources at hand. Strategic planning will also allow libraries to evaluate their role within the community they serve and thus establish goals based on user demand, which once established, can be used as guides for libraries as they organise, collect and disseminate information.

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5.2.2.  Funding Structure

University libraries in Kenya have three main sources of income; their budgetary allocation from parent organisations, donor funding, and income generation. While donor assistance has been for a long time significant especially in public universities, over the last few years it has declined to almost insignificant levels. Income generation, though having the potential as a viable means to improve libraries’ financial standing, has been hampered by lack of policy support from parent organisations. For example libraries involved in income generation have to channel all the revenue earned back to main university financial offices. Without evidence that such money is ploughed back to the improvement of the library, there has not been enough incentive for library departments to be aggressive in income generation. There is no doubt that university libraries can realistically supplement institutional funding through revenue generating activities but for this to be possible there is need to remove all legal and regulatory constraints that inhibit libraries’ alternative forms of investment. These include defining the kinds of revenue earning activities, establishing clear rules and training of library staff in marketing. The most important motivation is to ensure that revenue earned through this income generating activities is re-invested in the library service.

At present university libraries in Kenya depend mostly on financial allocations from their parent organisations. It is expected that this will continue into the foreseeable future. If that is the case then it is important to ensure that allocation to the library improve and in situations where it is good as in the private university, does not decline.4 One of the reasons for poor funding of university libraries has been the failure of university administrators to appreciate the role played by the libraries in the overall mission of the university. This combined with the inability by the library managers to demonstrate the centrality of the library has led to the neglect and marginalization of library services. There is urgent need to reverse this trend and the onus is mainly with the library managers. One of the ways is to ensure that librarians are proactive in the political [page 182↓]gamesmanship within the universities in order to influence the distribution of financial resources among programmes and departments.

As mentioned before, the Commission of Higher Education has come up with a draft of standards for the provision of library services. While these standards are applied to private universities vigorously, they are not enforced in the case of public universities mainly because each of these is an autonomous entity established by a separate act of parliament. Apparently part of the problem lies in the absence of a national policy towards investment in higher education libraries. There is therefore need for a policy to ensure that all essential aspects of library services are provided for, such as staffing, physical infrastructure, automation, and collection development and information technology.

Sustainability of the library funding in present situation requires a mechanism for cost recovery. Students and other users can pay towards library services without undermining access to information. This is already happening in private universities and can be introduced in public universities.

Finally the government and individual universities should create an environment whereby external development agencies can work effectively in support of library services. Whether they are donors or money lending institutions it is important that the actual needs be well understood. Libraries should be aware of opportunities for support from these agencies. There is need to establish a co-ordinating mechanism to encourage the most effective utilisation of external support. Above all it is important to bear in mind the temporary nature of most external support and therefore put in place mechanism for continuity when this support ceases.

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5.2.3.  Human Resource Management Staffing Levels.

People are an organisation’s most valuable resource and if managed appropriately, provide livelihood to the organisation.5 If managed inappropriately, the workforce becomes an expensive commitment that leads to few rewards and many problems. Therefore successful planning and management of human resources through appropriate staffing levels, staff training and motivation are critical for overall effectiveness.

While the library system in the public universities in Kenya had for a long time experienced low staffing levels, the continuing restructuring of civil service which started in 1999 has aggravated the problem through retrenchment of paraprofessional and support staff. This programme, while having noble goals has not been carried out appropriately and has created more problems for university libraries than it was able to solve. Due to shortage of support staff professionals have to perform a lot of routine work such as shelving, filing of catalogue cards to the extent of being left without time to perform their professional duties such as planning and reference services. University libraries have also experienced high staff turn over due to their inability to pay as well as private organisations. There is therefore need to establish standards for staffing provision that will guide universities to ensure that appropriate staffing levels take place. Staff Training

In all universities examined there is severe shortage of qualified staff both at the management and operation levels. Information technology illiteracy also remains high among library staff in Kenya and the profession has significantly failed to progress with improvements in information technology applications for library housekeeping and [page 184↓]information retrieval activities, multimedia technology such as CD-ROM technology and Internet based resources.6

Therefore librarians need basic and advanced training to facilitate the use of IT for both administrative and service provision purposes. With the increasing adoption of PC based information techniques, there is need for technical expertise if the library service workers are to provide user assistance. As electronic information becomes prevalent, all staff needs a level of understanding of its management and use and professionally qualified members of staff need an even greater understanding, as they are involved in the assessment and selection of electronic material for the library as well as the dissemination of knowledge about use. As libraries turn to the use of IT to enable them provide service, the usefulness of the traditional syllabi found in many of the library schools in Kenya is in doubt. If library schools in Kenya are to produce the appropriate manpower there is need to focus on the changing job requirements which rapidly becoming electronic based.

In order to be effective in the management of library services there is also need for programmes of continuing education for all categories of library staff to ensure that they remain up-to-date in their skills. The success of such staff training programmes will depend on factors such as: the existence of a staff development and training policy in the parent institution, understanding of employee training needs and appraisal of the programmes to gauge their effectiveness. Staff Motivation

In the institutions examined, only in public universities are professional librarians regarded as academic. In the two private universities, CUEA and USIU librarians are grouped together with administrative staff. Even in public universities, although librarians have similar salaries with academic staff, they have no access to benefits such as duty free car importation facility. Efforts are at present being made in public [page 185↓]universities to remove the academic status of librarians. In some cases librarians are not included in the senior institutional management and decision making structures which means that they are not involved in decisions relating to the library which ironically they have direct knowledge of its problems and needs. Librarians are not consulted on policy issues by academics or university authorities although they eventually have to participate in their implantation. For example it was reported that in many cases librarians are not involved in decisions to introduce new courses expansion of admission but are on last-minute basis expected to provide the necessary literature support.

What needs to be noted is that improving the status of librarians in universities is pertinent if the library and information services are to realise their full potential. Also, to effectively discharge their duties, library managers have to be part of the top management team and must fully participate in the decision making process. At the same time little will be achieved without measures that improve the service conditions and career prospects, which are important in recruiting and retaining, qualified staff.

5.2.4. Marketing of Library Services

University libraries in Kenya will need to justify their support by parent organisations by demonstrating that they are relevant to the core business of the university and that they contribute to meeting the institutional goals by developing and providing services that meet the needs of the different segments of the university. If they fail to do this they risk being perceived as irrelevant and become more and more marginalized in the university educational process. If they are to develop information services that adequately respond to user need, it is clear that university libraries in Kenya will need to be more aggressive in collecting relevant data from patrons about their needs and expectations. Therefore university libraries need to adopt strategic marketing approach to their services.

As already observed, university libraries in Kenya have tended to concentrate more on public relations, and promotion thus defining marketing in terms informing users about the services already available instead of finding out the user expectations. This is not to down play the role of these activities in the whole marketing strategy. Indeed there is need for university libraries Kenya to make their services more visible to customers by [page 186↓]creating better awareness for these services and policies. However to be useful, promotion activities need to be done within the broader perspective of marketing approaches such as Image analysis, customer satisfaction studies SWOT analysis, portfolio analysis, market segmentation which underpin all areas of service management. These methods can help measure the perception of people about the information service and identify the needs of the customers as opposed to what the service is providing. They are also useful in providing an indication as to whether existing information service is satisfying to the customers. From the information collected and as part of its marketing activity, libraries will be able to draw measures to provide adequate service and come up with market strategic plans that would spell out how these would be effected. Thus they will be able to create services that are based on firm knowledge of user needs.

There is need for marketing courses be taught in library and information education in Kenyan library schools. This is in line with worldwide developments in the library and information service field such as use of strategic planning, and increase in the use marketing strategy in library management. Possession of marketing skills will contribute to a better performance, more aggressive marketing and professional library and information service. Key areas that need to be covered include understanding and applying the theoretical and practical concepts of non profit marketing, how to carry out analysis of library and information organisations, effective measurement approaches to market survey, design and public relations activities that reflect marketing research.

In conclusion therefore it is clear that marketing approaches can provide university libraries in Kenya tools that can assist them in the task of designing, developing and delivering appropriate services. It can enable them to start with customers rather than seeing them as the finishing point in the supply chain and shift from product and service orientation to customer and need orientation. Therefore irrespective of methods used, Kenyan university libraries need to obtain information from as wide a customer base as possible about their information requirements and assessment of existing library services. Inexpensive methods that can be used include customer questionnaires, interviewing of new staff and postgraduate students, suggestion boxes, analysis of usage statistics and formal and informal discussion with users and non-users.

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5.3.1. Collection Development

Appropriate and sustainable development of collections is one of the key issues in the operations of a university library. A suitable collection development should take into account the range of subjects taught and the learning culture of the university. As indicated in the previous chapter, the acquisition of both monographs and journals in Kenyan public university libraries fluctuate but there is overall decline over the five-year period. This is especially with the ending of donor funded book programmes such as that were supported by the World Bank in public universities. On the other hand financial constraints in Kenya have reduced government funding of university education to more or less salary support and essential operating costs. Non-salary expenditures such as on instructional items, including the finance for library materials and laboratory equipment are at a minimal. The lack of financial resources in public universities for acquiring library materials makes the planning and implementation of coherent collection development policies very difficulty. Indeed at UON and KU collection development policies are virtually redundant because funds are lacking to implement them.7

Given the persistence of financial constraints in public universities, the absence of student grants to purchase textbooks and the increasing price of books, one of the options available is to place priority on the purchase of multiple copies of basic textbooks. This would involve the identification and acquisition of key course texts likely to attract high level of use. This ‘Book Banks’ supplemented by basic reference materials and other materials and a sustainable list of journals would ensure that students have access to some reading materials. This is already being practised in USIU. Of course in the latter case the textbook bank is more a supplement to ensure basic core texts are available. While it can be argued that textbook banks cannot replace the services of an effective library, and does [page 188↓]not support independent learning since it tends to support a more restricted centred approach to learning, it is an appropriate measure for some disciplines.

Another option of improving collection development especially in relation to journals is to explore ways of accessing the Internet which gives the students a wide information choice. Although bedevilled by financial crunch such that they cannot subscribe to online journals, extending the already existing Internet connections would widen its availability to student and thus increase the information available to the users. Besides there is still many ‘for-free’ journals in the Web which could be useful to the users and to which the library can provide access. While not an entire solution to the problem, this is a step forward in the difficult journey towards the provision of adequate scholarly information in the new electronic climate.

5.3.2. Collection Weeding and Preservation

It has been argued in the previous chapter that weeding of present university library collections in Kenya is a prerequisite to progress in collection management activities. It would lead to better space utilisation, more efficient and easier access to materials and hence better use of existing collections. At the same time libraries are experiencing several problems regarding weeding activities such as bureaucratic red tape, opposition from faculty members and above all lack of written policies to guide the weeding exercise.

The way forward in this area would be first to create policies on weeding. Without a policy any library management will always find itself lacking the mandate to administer weeding programmes and on collision course with different interest groups in the university. A weeding policy will formalise the recognition of the need for weeding among all the parties concerned, establish criteria methodology and procedure to be used in the weeding exercise and above all, it will establish the final authority for weeding decisions.

There is also need to educate faculty members on the need for weeding and procedures involved. Failure of faculty members to understand the need to weed resources or [page 189↓]discontinue periodical subscriptions will result in discontent and conflict whenever the library attempts to carry out weeding activity. However in all cases, there is need for sustained consultation with the faculty if any weeding programme is to be fruitful.

As already discussed in the previous chapter, Kenyan university libraries face several preservation problems that include theft by users, deterioration, moulds and brittle papers caused by high temperature, temperature fluctuation and high humidity in the tropics, vandalism of library materials and dust. These problems are exacerbated by the absence of preservation policies, funds to carry out preservation programmes and the lack of basic preservation skills among both library staff and users.

At the same time preservation is of critical value in a developing country given the limited resources and high student enrolment in relation to few reading materials hence higher chances of deterioration due to high intensity of use. The very climatic conditions of high temperatures, high temperature fluctuations and high humidity in the tropics, which are favourable to deterioration especially of print sources, make it necessary to integrate preservation into the management process.

The first major step in this process would be to control the environment in which books are kept by ensuring that temperatures and humidity are kept low. This can be achieved by installation and good maintenance of air-conditioning equipment. Specific housekeeping activities are also useful preservation efforts. These include regular and effective library cleaning especially to get rid of dust, avoidance of eating and drinking in the library, proper storage to ensure that shelving adequately supports items and does not damage them, establishing regular repair and maintenance routines, microfilming of deteriorated materials and purchase of multi-copies of highly used works.

Care and proper handling are essential elements of preventive preservation and therefore there is also need to educate both users and library staff on preservation with the aim of creating awareness of the need for preservation, creating an attitude of respect towards library materials and inculcating proper handling techniques of library materials during reading, photocopying, circulation or in transit. Education of library staff is especially important not only because they are in constant touch with library materials and need to [page 190↓]know how to store, handle, and transport these materials and also how to deal with users and dissuade them from damaging materials. Apart from these, library staff, especially those who are to be in charge of preservation departments need not only basic skills in practical book repair but also specialised education on materials preservation.


The overarching goal of the library is to provide services to the university community and therefore this is a crucial area of investment and development of the university library. All the resources and activities considered in the preceding sections are the tools with which the library staff develops programs of service. Library services in Kenyan public universities are characterised by increasing number of users, shortage of information materials, outdated reading materials, inadequate staffing levels, low information technology and lack of training in information technology. Private university libraries also experience these problems, albeit to a lesser extent. The foregoing conclusion is that Kenyan university libraries are facing many challenges that make it difficult to provide adequate services as expected. Due to lack of appropriate policies and procedures, even with the existing resources some libraries are unable to provide optimal access to their own collections and to the information resources available elsewhere.

Responding to user needs includes creating systems that are easy to consult for example catalogues and other bibliographical tools. Catalogues should accurately inform the user about what is owned where it is and how to find it. However in many cases public catalogues are not comprehensive and up-to-date while there are no indexes to guide users to the available journal literature. Still in public university libraries collections are not systematically arranged on the shelves, which make it difficult to trace and retrieve actual documents. In a many cases services are limited to lending out books to users while other services such as reference services have either collapsed or declined dismally. Service provision depends upon educating the users and understanding their needs yet there is little of this happening in public university libraries. User education programmes are few, poorly planned and implemented. Professional librarians should be available for consultation on the use of the information services. Apart from the broad skills of finding [page 191↓]information in the library, users need basic skills in computer usage in order to make good use of increasingly electronic information sources while lending and opening hours should be flexible to encourage greater use of the library facility.

Improvement in library services in Kenya can be achieved through focus on user needs, appropriate use of information technology, resource sharing, enhancement of user information literacy and constant performance assessment and evaluation of the service. Library staff plays a critical role in enhancing quality and therefore should be given the responsibility for quality and be made accountable for the quality of individual output. In order to perform effectively, staff should be aware of products and services offered by the library and its parent organisation as well as understand user needs. All this requires that staff be given training and skills in quality management, and measurement of customer satisfaction.

5.4.1. Focus on User Needs

Customer orientation has been seen in terms of quality information services and setting of realistic expectations and therefore the centre of focus is commitment to quality control, which allows for review of progress and evaluation of performance.8 In this case quality control includes timeliness of service delivery, in responding to information request, well-designed product or service that fits the purpose, ease of use of the service and service delivery by courteous and accurate staff. It calls for the development of services and strategies that keep the customer from defecting to competing services or ceasing to use the service through adding of quality and value to the standard products and services.9 Kenyan university libraries can achieve this by first, implementing online public access systems and installation of Internet service and secondly by tailoring services to meet customer requirements. The relationship between the library service and [page 192↓]the clientele is very important and therefore librarians should be receptive to feedback from customers and stakeholders about its service and products.

5.4.2. Strategic Use of Information Technology

To remain viable sources of information, university libraries have to strategically make use of information related technology. While Information Technology (IT) is not the entire solution of the library, it is an indispensable component in the quest for the success in provision of scholarly information. For example the use of CD-RM technology should be considered a partial solution to the problem of especially if backed by effective arrangements for document supply. CD-ROMs do not incur telecommunications or database search costs. Searching is generally user friendly and data is not lost through power cuts. CD-ROMs can be set up on stand-alone computers or networked through server system. Though it can't replace the need for books and journals on the other hand, it is of great value in accessing information in the third world.

There is evidence that manual systems in public universities are not functioning optimally. This has been occasioned by retrenchment of staff, and inadequate funding to purchase print information sources. However, the adoption of information technology in universities in Kenya has been slow and many public university libraries have not achieved basic automation such as office automation, automation of acquisition, cataloguing and card production and CD-ROM use. One of the problems experienced is that IT development in public university libraries is based on donated computer equipment, donor supported electronic journal subscription and not on policy framework which has led to problems of maintenance, cost of training and sustainability. Alternatively, application of new information technology in libraries can assist to acquire or make accessible information materials held externally or internally. For example through development of electronic catalogue databases, automated SDI and current awareness and internet access to regional and international databases is possible. Creation of virtual catalogues in university libraries can contribute greatly to resource sharing among university libraries in Kenya.

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At the same time Kenyan librarians are aware of the dramatic changes taking place in the academic and library communities worldwide. They are aware of the fact that advances in electronic technology have led to new ways of accessing information and communicating the results of research and view transition to electronic information delivery as the only viable way to achieve success in service provision. Therefore there is desire to take advantage of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) by the acquisition of international scholarly information scholarly information through application of electronic delivery.

Many scholars and libraries are not aware of the extent of journal publishing in their regions. Use of electronic technology would improve information dissemination and access in the developing regions. An example of such access is the African Journals Online, a programme of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). Participation in such initiatives would greatly aid in making the results of research undertaken in the developing regions to be widely known and accessible as well strengthen academic and scholarly publishing sectors in these regions.

A fundamental step towards the incorporation of electronic information in Kenyan library services is to provide awareness or training in the use and evaluation of electronic information communication technologies (ICTs). There is need to train librarians in Internet use activities such as searching the web, search engines and information gateways, evaluating quality of Internet information, as well as Web page design and use. Even more important would be training in issues related to the management of electronic such as supply models, searching, downloading, document delivery, archiving, software, copyright, licensing and managing and access. Unless there is development in electronic academic and scholarly publishing in Kenya, and the rest of the developing countries, these countries will continue to be dependent on the developed world for scholarly information and will miss out on useful experiences from countries in similar conditions or opportunity to contribute to international scholarship.

At this point in time therefore, critical issues towards enhancement of electronic access in Kenyan university libraries include the provision of more CD-ROM and online databases, the networking of catalogue resources, giving users access to e-mail and the internet, [page 194↓]provision of guides to the use of electronic resources and most important charting out a path towards acquisition and delivery of scholarly through electronic methods such as e-journals and e-books.

5.4.3. Resource Sharing

Resource sharing could be a useful means of alleviating the resource inadequacies that bedevil individual university libraries in Kenya. The exclusive form of resource sharing in Kenya is interlibrary loan system (ILL) and as observed earlier, its level is very low. The contributing factors include lack of union catalogues and lists, lack of up-to-date catalogues in individual libraries, limited information resources which many institutions would rather retain for their users as well as poor and expensive document delivery system

At the same time ILL is useful given the scarcity of information, need to access research findings and rare materials located in different universities. One of the steps to enhance ILL is through a long-term initiative to automate and create virtual catalogues. There is already a trend towards automation and initiatives have been launched towards enhancement Internet connectivity, which would allow different universities to co-operate in different, forms of scholarly communication. The best examples of these are the Kenya Education Network (KENET) which aims at making available Internet connection to all universities and which university libraries in Kenya can make use of Internet to create virtual catalogues.

There is need to formalise resource sharing among universities which has been in the past based on ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ and not any formal arrangement which requires setting up administrative structures and policies to facilitate co-operation the different institutions.

A viable interlibrary system exists formally among some institutions that have formed a consortium know as Kenya Religious Institutions Consortium (KRIC) consisting of CUEA, its constituent colleges and other religious training institutions. It has evolved a system where individual users with letters of introduction from their institutions can [page 195↓]borrow materials from other libraries in the consortium themselves. This saves the institutions time and library costs and can be emulated or expanded to cover other institutions.

Another constraint to ILL is that of low level of stocks in each of the libraries whereby each library is not willing to lend out its resources, which is already in high demand from its own users. A solution to this constraint would be to facilitate photocopying of journal articles and book chapters rather than lending. This can be done without infringing on the copyright requirements.

5.4.4. Performance Evaluation and Assessment

Performance measurement and evaluation are important management activities in assessing how well the information service is doing and as a way of accounting itself to stakeholders. This research found out that this activity is not undertaken in Kenyan university libraries. At the same time, it is clear from the views of librarians that its incorporation could solve some of the problems faced by Kenyan university libraries. But if evaluation is to be possible there is need to establish an appropriate process of measuring and evaluating performance and adopting procedures for acting upon the outcomes of such evaluation. It requires the establishment of specific objectives and developing performance indicators. These objectives should define the intended level and quality of service, the outcomes achieved and time frame as well as resources available to achieve the outcome. An example of this is the need to establish a methodology to enable libraries contact user needs analysis, which would entail close attention to the users, level, form and quantities of required information services.

5.4.5. Information Literacy

The fundamental purpose of higher education is the preparation of students for their future. If Kenyan graduates are to flourish in the modern, fast-paced, high-tech world, they must have information seeking skills as well as technology skills. This research established that a variety of user education and information literacy programmes are carried out in Kenyan university libraries. These include library orientation, library skills [page 196↓]courses, individual instruction, use of library manuals and guides and even use of signs and notices. All these methods of user education are used with varying degree of success, with main hindrances being lack resources and lack of user education policies to facilitate proper planning and execution of meaningful user education programmes.

Library orientation, library manuals personalised reference services, and computer oriented training programmes and library skills courses are useful in that they focus on the main problems of fresh undergraduate students: finding materials they need and knowing when and from whom to ask for assistance with confidence. The experience gained through these information literacy programmes can be useful in the use of any other information centre. However information literacy training for university students in Kenya is not a complete success story. It is observed that in spite of scattered efforts majority of students are forced to pass through the university systems without ever mastering the art of information retrieval and use

The main hindrances that university libraries face in contacting information literacy programmes are lack both financial and human resources and inadequate support by their parent organisations in terms of policy. There is also failure on the part of librarians to push to the fore the information literacy as part and parcel of the university library function. Their ability to provide computer skills is hindered by lack of both financial and human resource. In most cases there are only a few computer units available for library use, with little or no resources to acquire others. There is also a lot of computer illiteracy among Kenyan librarians hence shortage of personnel to give the IT training. With absence of institutional policies as far as information technology is concerned, libraries find it hard to mount effective training in the use of information sources for their users.

There is increasing recognition world over that proper use of information is a prerequisite for any progress and that libraries services should be regarded as an integral resource and not merely optional part of higher education. All university students as well as the rest of the populace should be able to effectively obtain and use information whatever the source, location or format. For this to be possible they need to understand how information is structured and organised. Therefore information literacy should be regarded as a key aspect of the university learning activities. Librarians with their [page 197↓]expertise in information organisation and retrieval are best placed to realise information skills needs of fresh university students and address them appropriately.

However librarians alone cannot accomplish the task. To have practical application information literacy instruction are best carried out in the context of the students’ daily information use. The teaching faculty can contribute to effective information literacy programmes by encouraging the use of libraries by students and build information usage into their teaching programmes. There is need to evolve programmes that address the different information needs across the courses of university curriculum. Therefore success can only be achieved through collaboration between the library personnel and experts in the different disciplines. From the organisational perspective there is need for campus-wide policies that integrate information literacy as an integral part of the university curriculum, which will facilitate the support that libraries need in terms of facilities, finance, and staff training.


Distance education in Kenya is still in the early stages but it is rapidly gaining popularity. In the past most courses have been correspondence based as is the case with UON and KU, but lately there has been developments towards e learning pioneered by institutions like USIU and the African Virtual University. While these trend needs to be encouraged, checks and balances need to be put in place to ensure that quality of the learning process in distance education is ensured and particularly in the university setting, which is the apex of Kenya’s education system, the market motive as well as pragmatic considerations should not be allowed to override sound pedagogic principles.

From this research it is clear that although efforts have been made to satisfy the library and information needs of the distance education students, these efforts have been hampered by various factors which include poor planning of distance education programmes that do not from the outset address the information and literature needs of the students, inadequate physical facilities and professional staff, lack of adequate funding and poorly developed internet infrastructure in the country. At the same time it is important that any institutions providing distance education provide library services for [page 198↓]this category of learners just like those in the campus based regular programmes.10 It is especially noted that the high drop out rate in distance education in Kenya has been partially attributed to lack of viable library services whereby learners are expected to purchase reading materials or make trips to the university library to do extended reading.11

There is need for innovative methods that will ensure that the distance learning community in Kenyan universities are not disadvantaged compared to their campus bound counterparts and that they too gain adequate library and information experience that will enhance their critical thinking and enhance their degree of exposure to knowledge. These methods should take into consideration the unique setting of Kenyan distance learners that is characterised by a poor national library network especially in the rural areas, predominance of print based courses and also the increasing use of e-learning techniques through out the world.

Effective learning in the university is a collaborative effort between the curriculum planners, implementers, administrators and those providing the support services. To ensure that distance learners are well provided with the literature and information they require there is need for partnership between those who plan and implement these programmes and the library and information personnel. This partnership should start right at the planning stage, where it is agreed how the literature component will be supplied. In regard to this there is need for a set of policies that recognise the need for library services for distance learners and gives guideline of how these will be provided as well as giving consideration to the financial resources, personnel and physical facilities required.

One particular method is to create a special collection targeting the distance learning community only. This collection should be composed of core texts for each of the courses on offer. It would be advisable to have multiple copies of these texts to ensure access by large number of students. Secondly, libraries should also come up with access and [page 199↓]delivery mechanisms of information that favour peculiar circumstances of distance learners. The commonest borrowing period in the universities is two weeks for undergraduate students and up to a month for postgraduates. Longer borrowing periods should be allowed for distance learners to avert situations where they have to make expensive journeys now and again to the institutional libraries to borrow and renew materials. Photocopying of specific materials should be encouraged without infringing on the copyright laws. This would ensure that students have access to materials that are not available for out-of-the-library use. Through approved methods such as vouchers, libraries can facilitate distance borrowing whereby students do not have to personally come to the library. By use of postal and courier services, requested materials can be delivered to the learners.

There is no doubt that the future of distance education lies in Internet based techniques of delivery. Already a number of universities in Kenya such as USIU and the African Virtual University have pioneered in this direction. These methods of delivery will need to be accompanied by Web based delivery mechanisms of the relevant literature. At the bottom line of this endeavour is the need to improve the national telecommunications infrastructure, which presently in Kenya is restricted to urban areas, expensive and inefficient especially due to state monopoly.

Key to the development of library services for distance education in Kenya is the existence of a forward looking personnel that will create and manage the library service effectively. There is therefore need for appropriate training and re-training to ensure that the library personnel have the appropriate skills for example web design and electronic publishing in the case of web based library services. Library schools also need to put in place courses that will focus on techniques of library services for distance learning including planning, administration as well as service provision.


The library building is one of the most used facilities in the university and therefore requires planning from the initial stages. The successful library building is the one, which clearly expresses and provides for the functions that are performed within it. It [page 200↓]should provide adequate working area for staff, reading and study area for users and, storage for information materials. All these functions have to be considered carefully in the design of buildings. For students it provides the most conducive study space available.

This study has established that in some cases such as CUEA, KU and USIU population and collection have increased greatly without corresponding increase in library facilities or seating space. The lesson learned from these cases is that designing library buildings should be based on the proposed rate of growth of the library collection and users. Failure to consider these issues may lead to extra costs to the parent organisation incurred through extensions to the library building and adapting other buildings for library use.

Sometimes there are no adequate funds to construct buildings that will still be adequate for expanded user population and collections over a long period of time. This makes it necessary to construct a building to cater for present needs with the expectation of expanding it in the future as the demand rises. This requires that such a building be both flexible, with a layout, and structure that are easy to adapt and extendable, to permit future growth with minimum disruption.

Adaptation of buildings for library use is a very relevant issue to the Kenyan situation given the rapid expansion of university enrolments and present economic constrains. If adaptation is to be done, the aim should be to create a library suitable for library use, which is compact for economic use by readers and constant in the environment for preservation of library materials and the promotion of efficient use. This requires that adaptation be made only after a feasibility study has been contacted whose goal is to ascertain the functional, technical and financial feasibility of such an undertaking. Tropical countries such as Kenya experience high temperatures, and poor supply of power and therefore as much effort as possible should made to ensure that the library building does not heavily rely on electricity for air conditioning, and lighting. As already mentioned the library may be the only space available for study by students and therefore the space allocation need to be generous enough to provide more seating space as well as discussion area where students can meet and discuss the materials they are working on in addition to silent reading space.

[page 201↓]


5.7.1. Summary in English

The main objective of this research was to investigate the present trends, practices, and performance of both public and private university libraries in Kenya. Specifically, the research focussed on four areas. In the first place it studied the state of university libraries in Kenya in terms of resources such as funds, personnel, and information materials. Secondly, it investigated current library practices in terms of library administration and service delivery. These included collection development, weeding and preservation, as well specific management activities such as, budgeting, human resource planning and library marketing. In terms of service provision, the types of information services to different categories of users, as well as for distance education were investigated. Thirdly, the study investigated the perception of students, faculty members, as well as librarians of the present performance of university libraries in Kenya. Finally, the study assessed the present state and impact of modern information and communication technology on university library services. In this case the study investigated the level of automation and adoption of electronic media and how this has affected the management as well as the provision of information services.

This research covered two public and two private universities and involved four chief university librarians, 80 postgraduate and undergraduate students and 40 members of academic staff. Data on the perception of the adequacy of university library services was collected first, from academic staff using questionnaires, and secondly from students using focussed discussion group technique. Interviews with chief librarians were conducted to collect data on library management practices. Chief librarians also provided library statistics relating to budget allocations, book and journal purchases, human resource level and training, user populations as well as data on automation and use of electronic resources. Descriptive information obtained was summarised and compared to bring out similarities and differences of the situation in various university libraries. Library statistical data was summarised in the form of actual total figures, ratios and percentages and presented in tables accompanied by textual explanations.

[page 202↓]

Generally, findings of this study indicate that the provision of university library services in Kenya is inadequate. In the first place, library collection development in public universities has deteriorated to the extent that in some cases budgets to purchase books and subscribe to journals do not exist due to diminished funds allocation to public universities by the government. Secondly, there is inadequate staffing and training, which has been aggravated by government policy of retrenchment and freeze on recruitment of civil servants. Thirdly, there is evidence of overcrowding, as library buildings cannot comfortably accommodate staff, library materials and the increasing number of students. Consequently, the present situation of public university libraries is characterised by extremely poor resources in terms of books, journals and electronic sources equipment and staff. The information service provided is at the minimal level, mainly that of lending of materials and limited reference services. Private universities also experience these problems though to a lesser extent.

This study has found out that modern information and communication technology is slowly being incorporated in the management of university libraries in Kenya. This includes automation of library procedures such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing and public catalogues, purchase of information databases in CD-ROMs, subscription to electronic journals as well as setting up Internet access. Private universities have been particularly faster in this respect. However, this trend has been hindered by first, lack of funds to purchase equipment such as computers and set up networks, secondly by lack of skilled personnel in information technology, and thirdly by poor telecommunications infrastructure in the country.

The study also found out that library services for distance education are poorly developed. In most cases distance learners are expected borrow books from their respective university libraries, which is inconvenient for those in remote rural areas. At the same time alternative sources such as public and research libraries do not have information materials suitable for university learning. The major problem facing library services for distance education is lack of planning and policies on the part of curriculum planners as well as library administration.

[page 203↓]

Although there is widespread opinion among students, lecturers as well as university administrators that university libraries play a critical role in the teaching, research, and learning activities, there is also awareness that university libraries in Kenya, especially those in public universities are not effectively providing services. This has led to devaluing of the role of libraries and their marginalization in the university set up. It was observed that comparatively, libraries in private universities are doing better in terms of acquisition, service provision and adoption of information technology. This is partly because they are better funded by their parent institutions and operate under the Commission of Higher Education and therefore are under pressure to adhere to the set standards.

This research concludes that university libraries in Kenya are not effective and that urgent measures are required to redeem their situation as a way of enhancing the quality of university education in Kenya. These measures include, first, adoption of strategic planning in all areas of library management such as human resource, collection development and service provision. This will enable libraries to evaluate their role in the university, establish goals based on user demand and therefore introduce a more systematic approach to the allocation of resources on priority basis. Secondly, library managers need to demonstrate the centrality of libraries in the overall mission of the university as well as be proactive in the political gamesmanship within the universities in order to influence the distribution or resources among programmes and departments. Thirdly, to remain viable sources of information, university libraries in Kenya have to make use modern information and communication technology.

There is an overwhelming evidence that manual systems are not functioning optimally due to retrenchment of staff, inadequate funding as well as change in information seeking behaviour of users. Application of new information and communication technology can assist university libraries to facilitate better access to local and global information through CD-ROMs, electronic catalogues, Internet technology and resource sharing.

[page 204↓]

5.7.2.  Zusammenfassung in deutscher Sprache

Ziel der Arbeit ist es, die gegenwärtigen Entwicklungen, Arbeitsmethoden und Leistungen der Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia zu erfassen und darzustellen; hierbei werden sowohl die Bibliotheken der Universitäten in staatlicher wie diejenigen in privater Trägerschaft berücksichtigt. Die Arbeit konzentriert sich im einzelnen auf vier größere Bereiche. Zuerst geht es um den Stand der Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia hinsichtlich ihres Haushalts, ihrer Personalausstattung und der von ihnen vorgehaltenen Informationsmaterialien. Zweitens wird die aktuelle Bibliothekspraxis auf den Gebieten der Verwaltung und der Dienstleistung in den Blick genommen; dabei werden Themen wie Bestandsentwicklung, Bestandsrevision und Bestandserhaltung betrachtet, aber auch spezifische Verwaltungsprobleme wie Haushaltsführung, Personalplanung und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. Auf dem Felde der Dienstleistungen wird deren Typologie in Beziehung zu den verschiedenen Benutzergruppen und auch im Hinblick auf das Fernstudium dargestellt. Drittens befasst sich die Arbeit mit der Wahrnehmung der Bibliothek durch die Benutzer, und zwar sowohl die Studierenden wie die Lehrenden, aber auch durch die kenianischen Bibliothekare selber. Schließlich analysiert die Arbeit den gegenwärtigen Stand und die Wirkung der modernen Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik auf die Dienstleistungen der Universitätsbibliotheken. Insoweit wird der erreichte Stand der Automatisierung und die Anwendung der elektronischen Medien untersucht und ebenso die Frage nach den Auswirkungen auf die Bibliotheksverwaltung und die Informationsdienste.

Die Untersuchung erstreckte sich auf zwei Universitäten der öffentlichen Hand und zwei private Universitäten; beteiligt waren vier leitende Bibliothekare, 80 Studierende (einschließlich postgradualer Studenten) und 40 Mitglieder des akademischen Personals. Die Daten zur Einschätzung der Bibliotheksleistungen wurden zunächst von den akademischen Mitarbeitern durch Fragebögen erhoben, sodann von den Studierenden in gezielt arbeitenden Diskussionsgruppen. Die Interviews mit den leitenden Bibliothekaren sollten in der Regel Daten über Verwaltungspraxis liefern. Die leitenden Bibliothekare stellten auch Bibliotheksstatistiken zur Verfügung, etwa zu den Haushaltsansätzen, zur Buch- und Zeitschriftenerwerbung, zu Personalstand und -ausbildung und ebenso zur [page 205↓]Benutzerschaft in den vier Universitäten, schließlich wurden auch Daten zur Automatisierung und zum Einsatz elektronischer Medien erhoben. Die beschreibenden Informationen, die zu erhalten waren, sind in der Weise zusammen fassend dargestellt worden, dass die Ähnlichkeiten und die Unterschiede im Betrieb der verschiedenen Universitätsbibliotheken deutlich wurden. Die statistischen Bibliotheksdaten sind in Form von Gesamtzahlen, Verhältniszahlen und Prozentzahlen wiedergegeben und in Übersichten, begleitet von Erläuterungen, präsentiert worden.

Ganz allgemein zeigen die Ergebnisse der Untersuchung, dass die vorgehaltenen Dienstleistungen der Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia unzulänglich sind. Erstens hat sich in den Universitäten der öffentlichen Hand die Entwicklung der Bibliotheksbestände bis zu einem Maße verschlechtert, dass es gar keine Mittel für Bücherkauf und Zeitschriftenabonnements mehr gibt. Die Ursache liegt darin, dass die Regierung, die die Hauptquelle der Finanzierung darstellt, die Haushaltsansätze für die staatlichen Bibliotheken minimiert hat. Zweitens besteht eine ungenügende Ausstattung mit Personal und ungenügende Weiterbildung des Personals, verschlimmert durch die Politik der Regierung, den öffentlichen Dienst einzuschränken und den Nachwuchs "einzufrieren". Drittens gibt es insofern eine Überlast, als die Bibliotheksgebäude das Personal, die Bibliotheksmaterialien und die wachsende Zahl der Studenten nicht mehr verkraften können. Folglich ist die gegenwärtige Lage der staatlichen Bibliotheken durch extrem geringe Ressourcen für die Bücher-, Zeitschriften und Mediensammlungen und hinsichtlich Ausstattung und Personal gekennzeichnet. Die tatsächlich erbrachten Dienstleistungen sind auf niedrigstem Stand, was Ausleihe und Auskunftsdienst betrifft. – Private Universitäten haben diese Probleme in weit geringerem Maße.

Die Studie zeigt, dass die moderne Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik nur langsam in die kenianischen Universitätsbibliotheken Einzug gehalten hat. Dies schließt die Automatisierung der Bibliotheksroutinen ein, wie Erwerbung, Benutzung, Katalogisierung und Bearbeitung öffentlich zugänglicher Kataloge, aber auch den Erwerb von Datenbanken auf CD-ROMs, von elektronischen Zeitschriften und den Zugang zum Internet. Private Universitäten sind in all diesen Punkten schneller gewesen. Doch ist die Entwicklung zum einen durch die Finanzierungslücken behindert worden, sodass [page 206↓]Computer nicht angeschafft und Netze nicht aufgebaut werden konnten, zum anderen durch das Fehlen von geschultem EDV-Personal und durch die kümmerliche Telekommunikations-Infrastruktur im Lande.

Die Studie zeigt ferner, dass Bibliotheksdienstleistungen für das Fernstudium ebenfalls nur dürftig entwickelt sind. Normaler Weise wird von Fernstudenten erwartet, dass sie die Bücher aus ihrer jeweiligen Universitätsbibliothek entleihen, was in den ländlichen Gegenden allerdings höchst unbequem ist. Andererseits bieten etwa Öffentliche oder Forschungsbibliotheken keinen Ausweg; denn sie haben die für Fernstudenten passenden Lehrmaterialien nicht. Das Hauptproblem ist das Fehlen einer Planung und einer Politik für derartige Dienstleistungen auf Seiten der Curriculumplaner wie auch der Bibliotheksverwaltung.

Unter Studierenden, Lehrenden und Universitätsbeamten ist durchaus die Ansicht verbreitet, dass Universitätsbibliotheken eine entscheidende Rolle in Lehre, Forschung und Studium spielen. Man nimmt allerdings auch zur Kenntnis, dass die Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia, besonders diejenigen der staatlichen Universitäten, keine wirkungsvollen Dienstleistungen erbringen. Dies hat zur Entwertung ihrer Rolle und zu ihrer Marginalisierung in der Hochschullandschaft geführt. – Man kann die Beobachtung machen, dass die Bibliotheken der Privatuniversitäten auf den Gebieten Erwerbung, Dienstleistungen und Einsatz der Informationstechnik vergleichsweise besser arbeiten. Das kommt daher, dass sie von ihren Trägern besser ausgestattet sind, unter der Commission of Higher Education arbeiten und sich deshalb an die vorgegebenen Standards halten.

Diese Untersuchung kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass die Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia ihre Rolle nicht effektiv spielen und dass dringend Maßnahmen erforderlich sind, ihre Situation zu verbessern – dies auch als ein Weg, die Qualität des Universitätsstudiums in Kenia zu steigern. Diese Maßnahmen umfassen zunächst die Aufnahme einer langfristigen Planung auf allen Gebieten bibliothekarischer Arbeit, Personalplanung, Bestandsentwicklung und Dienstleistungen. Dies wird die Bibliotheken in den Stand setzen, ihre Rolle in der Universität neu zu bestimmen, sich so Ziele zu setzen, die auf den Benutzerbedürfnissen basieren und zu einer sinnvolleren Ressourcenplanung auf der [page 207↓]Grundlage bestimmter Prioritäten führen. Zweitens sollten die leitenden Bibliothekare die zentrale Bedeutung der Bibliotheken hervor heben, welche ihnen im Zusammenhang der gesamten Universität zukommt; die Bibliothekare sollten auf dem Feld der Universitätspolitik aktiv mitspielen, um die Verteilung der Mittel auf Programme und Fakultäten zu beeinflussen. Drittens müssen die Universitätsbibliotheken in Kenia, um nutzbare Quellen der Information zu bleiben, die moderne Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik einsetzen.

Es ist offensichtlich, dass manuelle Systeme in staatlichen Bibliotheken nicht mehr optimal arbeiten können, einmal wegen der Personalknappheit, der ungenügenden Finanzierung, aber auch wegen des gewandelten Benutzerverhaltens bei der Suche nach Informationen. Die Anwendung neuer Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik kann den Bibliothekaren an den Universitäten helfen, besseren Zugang zu örtlichen und zu globalen Informationen zu schaffen, zum Beispiel durch CDRom, elektronische Kataloge, Internetzugang und Ressourcenbündelung.

Footnotes and Endnotes

1 Abangi, Okwach: Revitalising Financing of Higher Education in Kenya: Resource Utilization in Public Universities. – Accra: AAU, 1995. - p.18

2 Sifuna, D.N. : The Governance of Kenyan Public Institutions. – Nairobi: Lyceum Educational Consultants, 1997, p. 60

3 Planning is viewed as analytical process that involves assessing the future, setting objectives, developing alternative courses of action to reach such objectives and selecting an appropriate agenda from among those courses of action. Several reasons have been advanced why planning is necessary however many authors are in agreement that it is at the centre of effective management activity. (see Stueart and Moran, p. 35)

4 It has been observed in this study that in private universities the administration tends to be more supportive to the library and listens more to the ideas emanating from the library.

5 People are the key to effective functioning of any library or information agency. This is especially true because libraries are labour intensive organisations and therefore the quality of service will depend a lot on how well the management of human resources is done.

6 Were, Jacinta: Computerization of Library Services: Development in Kenya. In: Wise, Michael. - Information and Libraries in Developing World. Vol.1 Sub-Saharan Africa. – London: Library Association, 1990, p. 45

7 As this study has revealed, some university libraries are operating without current and updated collection development policies. A review of existing literature indicate that the importance of a written down collection development policy cannot be overestimated. It acts not only as basis for the library budgeting process but also as a communications channel between the library and the parent organization.

8 The idea that customer needs are at the centre of any effort to improve services has been endorsed by many authors. Drucker (see Drucker, Peter: Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices. - New York: Harper and Row, 1974. - p.25) has argued that business is not determined by the producer but by the customer and therefore services must be developed to meet buyers’ needs.

9 Ibid.

10 Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services / Association of College and Research Libraries. – Available: http://www.ala.org/acrl/guides/distlrng.html. (10/08/02)

11 Otiende, p.6

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