Open access and the role of the librarian

The University of Nairobi is the oldest university in Kenya and is a keen supporter of open access. Alongside its open access policy it is a BioMed Central Foundation Member and operates an institutional repository. We talked to Agatha N. Kabugu, Deputy Director, and Milkah Gikunju, Repository Administrator of the University of Nairobi Library about the role of the librarian in the 21st century, research at the University of Nairobi and open access.

University of Nairobi by Kenyaverification
University of Nairobi by Kenyaverification

How do you feel the role of librarian is changing?

The librarian’s role has changed from being a passive purveyor of information to an active participant in the research and scholarly communication cycle. The digital era has brought with it new challenges that the librarian has to rise up to in order to connect the information seeker with the appropriate information resources. Librarians have to learn new skills like digitization and management of digital repositories, licensing and negotiation of electronic resources, management of electronic resources, marketing and promotion of library services among many others.

How do you feel scientific research at the University of Nairobi has changed in the last decade?

There is more transparency in research and there is increased visibility of research outputs through the repository and other open access platforms, like BioMed Central among others. The increased visibility had led to enhanced research collaborations and more researchers are active in ensuring that research informs decision making. There is also better access to research outputs and more networks have emerged enhancing researchers’ access to otherwise unavailable information

And how do you think it will progress?

There will be enhancement of already existing collaborations and research outputs will be more visible due to further open access developments. We also think that there will be improved research quality and the institution impact on the global stage will be enhanced. More research visibility will also have a bigger impact on the national economy. Most of the research output that is available in the university has not been very accessible in the past but with the open access repository more researchers and policy makers will be able to access this research and apply it in decision making and advancement of the research agenda in the country. A more informed citizenry will have a positive impact on the market economy.

Has your institutional repository been a success?

agatha kabugu (2)The University of Nairobi Digital Repository has been a huge success evidenced by its being ranked No.1 in East Africa and No. 9 in Africa in the Webometrics Ranking Web of Repositories in January 2014. Also, since its inception in December 2012, it has grown tremendously in terms of documents submitted ranging from theses, articles, books, chapters and conference proceedings among others. As of today, it has a total of 65,000 items.

Are researchers at your institute aware of open access?

Researchers at University of Nairobi are increasingly getting aware of open access mainly because of continuous sensitization from university management and the library department. However, since this is a new initiative to them, a lot needs to be done to dispel myths about open access and ensure that many more embrace the initiative. One of the most common myths about OA is that it is not peer reviewed and that it is of poor quality and sub-standard whereas we know that OA journals are peer reviewed and highly ranked. Another myth is that OA will contribute to plagiarism because authors do not own copyright whereas this is wrong. OA uses CC licenses to ensure that more people are able to get access to the resources.

Do they support open access?

A number of researchers have published in Open Access journals, hence they are aware and they support it. They are also submitting their publications into the University Digital Repository which is an indication that they appreciate the impact of OA.


About the authors:

Milcah Gikunju is the Repository Administrator at the University of Nairobi. She has a Master of Library and Information Science and a Bachelor of Education, both from Kenyatta University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Information Sciences at Moi University.

Agatha Kabugu is the Deputy Director in charge of Planning at the University of Nairobi Library. She holds a BA from University of Nairobi and a Masters Degree in Librarianship from Leeds Metropolitan University. She currently serves as EIFL licensing and negotiations coordinator for the Kenyan Consortium. and also serves as the Treasurer of the National Consortium.



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