Tailor-made training for digital library software

Six librarians and IT engineers from Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Morocco are currently spending several weeks at CERN as a follow-up to the 5-day CERN-UNESCO Digital Libraries School held in Dakar, Senegal, last year. During their stay, they are honing their mastery of CERN’s Invenio digital library management platform in order to put it to a variety of uses once they return home.


From left to right: Essaid Ait Allal (Morocco), Guillaume Nikiema (Burkina Faso), Eric Guedegbe (Senegal), Fama Diagne Sene Ndiaye (Senegal), Abdrahamane Anne (Mali) and Jens VIGEN (CERN).  Cécile Coulibaly (Ivory Coast), who was also taking part in the training programme, is not in the picture.

“We plan to use Invenio to build a portal for all African university dissertations to make them accessible to the global academic community. We need a system which can harvest data from various existing platforms, then convert the bibliographic records and make them available at one central point,” explains Essaid Ait Allal, network and system administrator at the Moroccan Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. Guillaume Rewende Nikiema nods. He can identify with the need outlined by Essaid, working as he does for the African and Madagascan Council for Higher Education located in Burkina Faso, which also means bringing together library information from many different sources and platforms.

“Our interest is rather different,” says Fama Diagne Sene, chief librarian at the University of Bambey in Senegal. “All the original documents from the French colonial administration of what are now eight independent African states, dating from 1895 to 1958, are in Senegal. Unfortunately, the papers are slowly deteriorating due to heat, moisture and simply the passing of time. So by learning more about Invenio, we are building up the expertise to digitalise these unique historical records to preserve them and make them available to researchers not just in Africa but worldwide.”

These are just two examples of the kind of important and ambitious projects envisaged which need advanced digital library technology and training in how to use it. This is why this group of six librarians and IT specialists is intensifying its knowledge of Invenio at CERN. “It’s crucial to have these follow-up sessions, which are partly financed by UNESCO, like we did after the previous school too,” underlines Jens Vigen, head of CERN’s Scientific Information Services and organiser of the training. “This way, we can enable in-depth training for selected participants in so-called ‘multiplier’ positions. These are decision-makers and specialists in key institutions who can ‘multiply’ and pass on the knowledge gained at CERN as part of their day-to-day work.”

As for the participants, they appreciate the unique quality of this training at CERN. “The advantage of being here is that we are sitting in offices right next to the people who develop the system and work with it every day,” explains Abdrahamane Anne from the University of Bamako, Mali. And Jens’ organisation of the training is making sure that proximity translates into productive contact. “Whenever we hit a problem, Jens puts us in touch with the right person or arranges a workshop,” says Abdrahamane. “That way the training is truly tailor-made to our needs.”

“It’s also an opportunity to share,” adds Eric Guedegbe from the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning. “Sometimes we ask the developers things they hadn’t thought about before. We have also been able to participate in an international Invenio user group workshop. So being here has really allowed us to become active in the international Invenio community.”

by Joannah Caborn Wengler