The West African Electronic Library Collaborative (WAELC)
WAELC tackles African scholars limited access to academic electronic libraries. Limited access to international research databases is a persistent problem for scholars at West African universities. West African lecturers, professors, doctors, scientists, and administrators struggle with sporadic access and limited eLibrary databases, limiting their research. Daily West African researchers navigate restricted content on international Open Source Digital Databases and journals. Researchers are often denied access to academic online journals because they cannot afford an electronic journal subscription or because their IP address is banned. These researchers are blocked from eLibraries with substantial information that, in theory, should be accessible to all researchers, not just those in the West. The research contribution of West Africans in higher education is viewed as central to the goal of infrastructural development in West Africa. Thus, university faculty and staff require a vast and current online database to further their work and contribution to the development of their respective nations. Improved access to eLibraries will enhance their knowledge and reinforce the development of African countries and global information exchange. For example, since health epidemics like the Ebola outbreak and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) there has been an increased emphasis on improving health care systems in African countries. The eLibrary will allow medical personnel to get the latest updates from WHO, CDC, and other medical centers. This eLibrary project will address these problems.
Collaboration of African and Western Scholars and Institutions
In contrast to the prevailing top-down approach of Western education reform models at West African universities, this project is a collaboration of West African and American scholars and institutions. Our research is guided by questions like:
- What is needed to build an equitable collaboration between researchers from the Global North and the Global South be facilitated?
- How can the Global South’s intellectual and financial investments be as equally recognized as contributions from the Global North?
The present collaboration between KERG and OAU provides a blueprint of what is needed to strengthen research libraries at West African universities and why a substantial library is needed.
KERG Pilot Project at OAU
The pilot project will begin with Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), located in Ile Ife, Nigeria. An American anthropologist with over five years of teaching and collaboration initiated this project with Obafemi Awolowo University. It developed from discussions with West African scholars and university administrators about the need for improved research libraries. The pilot project aims to establish stronger links to international digital library databases for OAU faculty and the student body. Improved access to digital library databases at this West African university will be the model for digital library access at other universities in West Africa.
DiasporaINFO (DI) is a multimedia platform that aims to be a primarily open-source virtual space to find scholarship and works of global Black scholars and creatives.
DI, envisioned as a hybrid portal and archives, will run on an open-source platform. This hybrid model features searchable global Black multimedia content (video, text, audio). The concept for the DI prototype is based on the following platforms: Digital Public Libraries of America; Google Search Engine; Smithsonian Open Access. The open-source model is essential to facilitate equitable, unfettered access to Black works minimally available on mainstream platforms.
The concept of the multimedia platform is informed by the Knowledge Exchange Research Group’s formal and informal research on the inequitable distribution of digitized global Black scholarship and West African scholars limited access to digitized databases. Discussions with Black scholars and artists in other parts of the diaspora indicate that barriers to scholarship and limited access to platforms highlighting Black creatives’ work is a global problem. A deep critique of knowledge production practices and tools reminds us that while accessible and inclusive tools and platforms are necessary, technologies and their application are not neutral. Technology is the product of historical, cultural, societal, and economic factors and thus shapes the development and use of digital platforms. Our multimodal platform must consider historical and present practices of knowledge production and technology to address inequities in digitized knowledge—publishing, access, dissemination, citation practices. The development and application of DiasporaINFO is a solution to the limited representation of digitized Black works.