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Home / Know your civil servant - Transforming into a knowledge-based society…as govt libraries embrace automation

Know your civil servant - Transforming into a knowledge-based society…as govt libraries embrace automation

2021-11-26  Staff Reporter

Know your civil servant - Transforming into a knowledge-based society…as govt libraries embrace automation
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The government librarian at the Katutura Intermediate Hospital Library Russel Shihepo has hailed the transition of government libraries from card-catalogue filling systems into technologically advanced automated ones as a success.

According to Shihepo, the digital library has been beneficial to the public service and ministries, as it enables the state libraries to provide the masses with access to information virtually and remotely. 

“Given that the Covid-19 pandemic caused numerous limitations, it has been very challenging for libraries and librarians to provide access to library services and information,” he said. 

Shihepo said automated systems have enabled the national libraries to remain relevant in the times of the pandemic, while keeping up with technological advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, to meet the users’ ever-changing needs.  

“These libraries are now having the ability to virtually and remotely offer access to library services and reliable information sources to clients of different demographics and geographical settings,” he said. 

Shihepo said his involvement in the implementation of library automated systems and databases got him international recognition by VuFind from Nepal, where he is currently serving as the Country Coordinator of both VuFind tool, and Opensource packages such Koha, Dspace, WordPress, and Subject Plus. VuFind is an open-source library resource portal that enables users to search and browse all library resources, replacing the traditional online public access catalogue.

 

On the job

Shihepo holds an Honours Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Namibia. He joined the public service on 1 December 2018, and before that, he worked as a volunteer librarian at the National Museum of Namibia Library.

Currently, the 26-year-old, who is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Information Technology: Information Science, through the University of Pretoria, is working as a librarian at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, which falls under the Directorate of Namibia Library and Archives Service, attached at Katutura Intermediate Hospital Library. 

He is part of the team that is responsible for the implementation of the electronic library management systems, digital libraries, databases, and training other librarians on how to use different technologies in order to improve the overall information service delivery. 

“I have to systematically organise the library collection and resources so that they are easy to retrieve,” he said.

He said his vision is to see more librarians and information specialists equipping themselves with ICT skills so that libraries could remain relevant.  

“It is my wish for the librarians to put more effort into transforming libraries into hybrid libraries and digital libraries, that would be able to cater for the needs of the advanced library clients of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Asked why he decided to join the public service and whether it was his dream to work for the government, Shihepo said, growing up in a society where access to information was a challenge, inspired him “to become a facilitator of equitable information access, retrieval and dissemination through the means of technological infrastructures and advancements”.

“I have always aspired to bridge the gap in knowledge and the digital divide in our communities, thus, I figured that the perfect place to accomplish that goal is through the government as a civil servant,” he said. 

Shihepo said his day-to-day duties involve assisting medical students/researchers, scholars, and the general public to gain access to relevant and appropriate information sources.

“The most satisfying thing about my job is helping citizens to access relevant and reliable information that helps them to make informed decisions. I enjoy guiding people to become informed and digitally literate and transforming the lives of the citizens through libraries every day,” he said. 

He said, what he found most challenging about his work is meeting the researchers with their information needs due to various reasons, for instance, when an article is not freely available or unavailable through subscriptions, or the servers happen to be down or the Wi-Fi connection is off.

Shihepo further thanked the Namibia Library and Archives Service management “who capacitated me with the knowledge that enabled me to implement the library automation technology and train the librarians from various ministerial libraries and public libraries across the regions”. 

“The government managed to create a safe environment for us as the librarians. Our collections are updated constantly and we can meet users’ information needs most of the time.” 

 

Misconception

Shihepo rubbished, as fallacies, claims that civil servants are unproductive and inefficient. 

“I do not agree with this sentiment, especially working in the area of providing access to quality and adequate information. The information sector requires us to ensure that users are having access to information at the right time and in the right format, hence, there is no time to be unproductive and inefficient,” he said. 

“What I can assure you is that in some of the government institutions, the officials are making use of the little resources available, to perform their utmost best, to be productive and efficient public servants,” he added. 

When asked about how long he is planning to serve in the public service, Shihepo maintained that he cannot predict the future.

“However, I am aspiring to one day be at a level where I would be able to bridge the knowledge gap, continue to add more value to the institution and continue to improve public service in terms of facilitating equitable access to information and knowledge through the use of technological innovations,” he said. 

On a personal level, Shihepo revealed that he is working on growing his skills as well as expanding his knowledge-base and expertise, with the aim to improve the world of libraries and information science and at the same time transform Namibia into a knowledge-based society.

 


2021-11-26  Staff Reporter

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