Bringing out the best from library staff has been an issue for the proper functioning of librarians in Sierra Leone (SL). Librarians, according to Crosby (2008) are information experts in the Information Age. Their expertise in the handling of information has not been seen or realised, even though these professionals have been around for a long time. Librarians and information professionals have not attained the status and position they should rightly occupy in society. In most Ministries, Departments and Government Agencies (MDAs), where information handling and records keeping are key functions, librarians, records managers and information professionals have not been employed to do these jobs. Instead, other professionals, mostly people with accounting and business management backgrounds have been employed. In essence, the work of librarians has not been so much felt and appreciated.
Library and information services in Sierra Leone
Information is a fundamental asset for any society to thrive well in this 21st century. It is the tool by which learning takes place and decisions are made. It provides the needed answers to people’s requests and longings from all walks of life. Therefore, the provision of library and information services to all is undisputable. Almost all types of libraries exist in SL, because no individual library can provide all the information needed by every potential user. In this regard, different libraries exist to serve different users and their needs.
The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) serves as both the National and Public library in the country. There are mainly nine (9) Academic libraries scattered throughout the country, all of these are found in the tertiary institutions (Universities, Colleges, Institutes and Teacher Training Colleges) providing higher education. School libraries are found in most Primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools. However, a vast majority of these are not functional. Special libraries are found in MDAs, private companies and individual established libraries. In addition to these are research and documentation centres, such as the Medical Research Centre; Information Resource centres, such as that established by the Embassy of the United States of America; and many small community information centres. These information centres are widely used by information seekers due to the main fact that they provide online services for almost free of charge.
The SLLB serves as the pivotal point for the provision of library and information services in the country. It is open to all: professionals, academics, researchers, students, pupils and for all children. There also, the general populace information needs are catered for. All of these are geared towards meeting our societal needs for information, education, research, entertainment and leisure activities.
Staff in libraries and information service institutions in Sierra Leone
There are two broad classes of staff employed in our libraries as is the case for libraries all over the world: those involved in library and information work, CISCO STAFF and those who provide back-up services. Library and information staff functions at different levels from non-professional, Para-professional, professional, specialists to managerial. At the support level, there are also manual/care taking staff, clerical/secretarial, technical and computer staff, and specialist staff. These all play a part in providing the information that users’ desire.
Library staff should function above the normal information provision role. Other important functions are:
I. Guide – providing physical, technical and intellectual guides to information resources in various formats;
ii. Collaborate – with others, known users as well as users who come for some manner of services over and over again, and even remote users;
iii. Prioritise – be flexible in performing new functions in order to incorporate new demands in procedures, structures and directions;
iv. Empower – delegate responsibility thereby empowering colleagues; and
v. Understand core capabilities – of the library, its environment, colleagues and most importantly the users.