Bienvenue Côte d'Ivoire! COBES-CI, the Consortium des Bibliothèques de L’enseignement Supérieur de Côte d'Ivoire, comprising 23 libraries at institutions of higher learning in the Ivory Coast, has joined EIFL’s global network of library consortia.
It has been a long journey. EIFL first began discussing formation of a library consortium with library leadership in Ivory Coast in 2011. But progress faltered after a social and political crisis that led to violence. Numerous lives were lost and property was destroyed, including administrative and scientific archives, books and equipment in libraries. Universities and libraries were closed, and all plans to establish a consortium had to be shelved.
Despite difficulties, library leadership and librarians kept talking, and so the idea of a consortium to connect libraries at institutions of higher learning and research across the country remained alive.
EXCITING INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL INITIATIVES
Meanwhile, there were exciting digital initiatives at international and national levels that highlighted the need for a library consortium. Key among them was a workshop organized by the European Union’s TransAfrican Network Development (TANDEM) initiative, which aims to strengthen National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. NRENS are high speed data communication networks, independent of commercial internet, that allow academics and researchers to share knowledge at reasonable cost.
By the end of the workshop it became clear that libraries should organize themselves into a consortium in order to speak with one voice and benefit from initiatives like NRENs. Encouraged by TANDEM and the Ivorian Telecommunication Network for Education and Research (the NREN-RITER), 23 academic and research libraries launched COBES-CI on 16 February 2017, and formally joined the EIFL network in May 2017.
“We are a new consortium with a large vision and many initiatives. There is hard work ahead of us. We will need the experience and support of EIFL and EIFL’s global network of library consortia to build our capacity, and to help us advocate so that we can achieve our vision of increasing access to knowledge in Ivory Coast.” - Cécile Coulibaly, EIFL Country and Licensing Coordinator for COBES-CI
The consortium is hosted by the recently-formed Virtual University of Ivory Coast, a public university under the Ministry of Higher Education and Research whose main goals are to increase opportunities for distance education and the use of digital technology by the higher education and scientific communities.
COBES-CI shares these goals, and also has a strong interest in a major project of the Virtual University, which is to build a digital library to connect all academic and research libraries in Ivory Coast. The Ministry of Higher Education and Research has promised to improve digital infrastructure at libraries to support the Virtual University.
COBES-CI TEAM READY FOR ACTION
The EIFL-COBES-CI team is in place and eager to start work. On the team are -
- Professor Tiemoman Kone, chair of the COBES-CI Board. Prof Kone is Director General of the Virtual University;
- Cécile Coulibaly, EIFL Country and Licensing Coordinator. Coulibaly is Deputy Director in charge of Scientific Commissions at the Virtual University;
- Bamba Zoumana, Deputy EIFL Country and Licensing Coordinator for Cobes-CI. Zoumana is a member of the technical team of the Digital Library Project;
- Hortense Ouattara, COBES-CI Open Access Coordinator. Ouattara works at the Library of the University Nangui Abrogoua in Abidjan, where she is responsible for the Department of Public Services, and
- Marie Claire Allou, Copyright Coordinator. Allou is Head Librarian at the UFR-STRM, University Félix Houphouët-Boigny, in Abidjan.
There is new and positive energy, although challenges remain – digital technology needs to be installed in libraries more quickly, and connectivity needs to be upgraded to allow COBES-CI members to reap the full benefits of EIFL’s programmes, especially the EIFL Licensing Programme which negotiates affordable access to commercial e-resources for member consortia.
Future activities include developing stronger links with the NREN-RITER, building digital skills of academic staff and students, and developing a social media strategy as an important means of communication with COBEC-CI members and library users.
With EIFL’s support and training, the new consortium will promote use of e-resources, increase librarians’ knowledge and understanding of copyright, and raise awareness about and advocate for open access strategies and policies so that research conducted in Ivory Coast becomes globally visible and accessible.