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Research Summary: Meeting Information Needs of Researchers in Zambia

From time to time TWL will publish condensed versions of certain articles submitted to the Editor. In this way a greater number of discussions and investigations will be presented to readers of the journal than would otherwise be possible.

Research Summary: 1. Meeting Information Needs of Researchers in Zambia

Three Zambian institutions are prominent in production of research: the National Council for Scientific Research, Copperbelt University, and the University of Zambia. Other notable research centres are the Tropical Disease Research Centre, the Mount Makulu Agricultural Research Station, the Technological Development and Advisory Unit, the Small Industries Development Organization, and the Institute for African Studies. In 1991/1992 a survey was undertaken to determine how well the information needs of researchers in Zambia were being met. Questionnaires were distributed to 100 scholars in the institutions named above; 71 usable responses were received.

The respondents, 84.5 percent of whom were males, were mostly active in science and technology (69 percent). Other fields included socials sciences (18.3 percent), education (8.5 percent), and medicine/veterinary science (2.8 percent). Forty–eight percent had master’s degrees, and 21.1 percent had doctorates. Fifty–one of the 71 respondents said they were currently engaged in research projects. All had access to library services in their institutions.

Asked why they went to their libraries, the respondents indicated their main reason was to borrow or consult books or journals. Twelve individuals mentioned other reasons as well, including requests for international interlibrary loans. All the researchers were served by standard reference services, and they also reported having current awareness services or selective dissemination of information. However, no online searches were carried out in any of their libraries. Asked whether their information needs were being met by their libraries, 88.7 percent answered affirmatively (fully or to some extent). Just 11.3 percent answered “no.”

Other sources of information were noted as well: 18.3 percent of the researchers obtained data from friends and institutions abroad; 31 percent mentioned friends or institutions within Zambia. Personal collections of books and journals were cited by 16.9 percent (though it is likely that all the respondents made some use of their own materials).

Despite these generally favorable responses, 33.8 percent of the researchers said that lack of information impacted seriously on their work, and another 52.1 percent said that information gaps affected their work to some degree. Just 14 percent had no problems with lack of information resources.

Not many personal subscriptions to journals were reported; 15.5 percent took just one title, 9.9 percent took two, and 4.2 percent more than two; 64.8 percent had no personal subscriptions. There were concerns about lack of access to the major periodicals in their fields.

Final analysis of the survey responses presents an uncertain picture. While considerable satisfaction was expressed with resources available, it is unlikely that core literatures in their fields were in fact accessible to the researchers. The absence of online search capability suggests that the latest data are not being provided. It appears that librarians made strong efforts to overcome the weakness of their collections by providing awareness services and by requesting loans from foreign sources. Further study should address the question of quality in the research materials available to Zambian scholars.

floral device About the Author

Justin Chisenga is Sub–Librarian and Head of Public Services at Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia. His previous work was as Librarian, Office of the Auditor General, Lusaka. His master’s degree in information science is from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Mr. Chisenga’s publications have appeared in Zambia Library Association Journal and in Microcomputers for Information Management. His special interests are systems analysis and microcomputer applications to library processes. The German Foundation for International Development awarded him a scholarship to attend a training course in Bonn in 1992.

© 1993 Justin Chisenga.


Chisenga, Justin. “Research Summary: Meeting Information Needs of Researchers in Zambia,” World Libraries, Volume 4, Number 1 (Fall 1993).

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