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IAMSLIC and the Africa Regional Group (AFRIAMSLIC) and the potential of the Z39.50 distributed library


Marian Jiagge
CSIR Water Research Institute
P. O. Box M32, Accra, Ghana


The International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) is an association of individuals and organizations interested in aquatic and marine science information. The aims and objectives of IAMSLIC are:

Membership of IAMSLIC is open to all persons having an interest in library and information science and related disciplines. IAMSLIC has a long history of co-operation with many international organizations and provides ample opportunities for international co-operation. Personal membership for individuals and institutions in the “developed world” costs $35.00 (US) per year and, includes voting privileges, the Membership Directory and a subscription to the quarterly newsletter. Membership for individuals and institutions in the “developing world” costs $20.00 (US) per year with the same benefits. The Sponsorship Program covers a three year membership to an organization in a developing country.

Regional groups of IAMSLIC provide networking opportunities among colleagues, facilitated by regional meetings, and they pursue projects of regional interest. The regional groups are:


The Africa Regional Group (AFRIAMSLIC) has been in existence since the 1980s, although only in recent years has communicating by electronic mail enabled more active participation. The IAMSLIC Membership Directory lists forty one members in twenty two African countries. In July 2003 AFRIAMSLIC held its first Conference in Accra, Ghana. The theme of the conference was Promoting the use of aquatic and marine science information in Africa for change and its objectives were to:


The following statement was issued as a result of the first meeting of the Africa Regional Group in Accra, July 2003:

1. AFRIAMSLIC shall be holding a Biennial Conference with the next one to be hosted in Tanzania in July 2005.

2. AFRIAMSLIC shall be the acronym of the Africa Regional Group of the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers.

3. Intra- and inter-country networking shall be established among members to promote resource sharing.

4. The need for information managers to change their mode of operation from collection oriented to user-service oriented will be promoted.


The IAMSLIC Z39.50 is a project aimed at facilitating international resource sharing among marine and aquatic science libraries. It was developed as a joint project of the IAMSLIC Resource Sharing Committee, California State University Monterey Bay Library and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coastal Services Center.

What is Z39.50?

The National Information Standards Organization Z39.50 Information Retrieval Protocol is a computer protocol that can be implemented on any platform. It dates back to the 1970s and it:

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute experience with RECOSCIX and ODINAFRICA for information exchange


James Macharia
Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute
P.O. Box 81651, Mombasa, Kenya

An overview is given of the many challenges faced during KMFRI library development, including the successes and failures experienced with the RECOSCIX/ODINAFRICA projects for information exchange.


The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) was established in 1979 from the defunct East African Marine and Freshwater Research Organization (EAMFRO). It is charged with the responsibility of conducting research and making management recommendations essential for the national exploitation of aquatic resources in the ocean waters, as well as freshwaters in the hinterland. There are eight research and field stations countrywide. KMFRI’s mandate is to undertake research in marine and freshwater fisheries, aquatic sciences, biological, chemical and physical oceanography, limnology, pollution, aquaculture, natural products and marine geology.


The library system comprises the Mombasa and Kisumu libraries serving marine and freshwater sectors respectively. The library accommodates books, pamphlets, periodicals and reprints. The stock includes publications deposited by government, international organizations and other institutions dealing in marine research worldwide. The Library inherited its initial collection from EAMFRO but the period 1979-1984 saw little growth in the terms of information resources due to budgetary constraints. In 1985 a joint Kenya/Belgium Programme in Marine Science was launched. Among the preliminary problems that faced the research team during the initiation of the programme was lack of relevant literature about the aquatic resources of the region. The Limburg University Centrum (LUC), Belgium, was approached and conducted a feasibility study.

Its recommendations were valid to KMFRI as well as other institutions in the western Indian Ocean (WIO) region:

With the above shortcomings in mind LUC and KMFRI made informal arrangements to supply documents to the researchers and the route to greater inter-library co-operation was initiated.


Regional Co-operation in Scientific Information Exchange in the Western Indian Ocean (RECOSCIX-WIO) was effectively launched in 1989 with funding from IOC of UNESCO, while KMFRI library hosted and provided the infrastructure and staff. RECOSCIX-WIO was an information project working towards establishing a lasting network of marine and aquatic institutes in the WIO region with Regional Dispatch Centre (RDC) in Mombasa as its central node. Through its information services to the scientific community the project aimed at promoting the scientific capabilities of the region.

The objectives of RECOSCIX-WIO project were as follows:

While RECOSCIX was mainly focused on the WIO Region, the Ocean Data and Information Network for Africa (ODINAFRICA) covered most of Africa’s coastal states. The ODINAFRICA project was launched a few years ago as a follow-up to the RECOSCIX-WIO project with the aim of enabling all coastal member states of Africa to:

Products and services

The services and products available at KMFRI Library cover relevant information and data on oceans and marine areas in Africa. These include literature services, data services and directories.

Literature services




There were marked changes as a result of these projects in many areas including:



Library automation

The Inmagic software, a fully integrated library automation system which includes circulation/loans, acquisitions, cataloguing and retrieval modules has been installed. Library staff are no longer slowed down by repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This has led to more interesting information-oriented work, such as alerting services to researchers.

Electronic document delivery

With the installation of the Prospero document delivery software, the speed of delivery of documents is much faster i.e. a half day compared to at least two to three weeks by post previously.


Issues and problems will no doubt arise in any projects to improve accessibility to fisheries information in Africa by means of networking. These should be tackled from the outset in order to streamline cooperative efforts. Some of the potential problems could be avoided if all participants are involved in the planning stages and if there is broad understanding and agreement about the following important issues:


The purpose of networking should be to greatly expand the information resources available to users. It should be based on the premise that every library in the region has something of value to share with others in the network, whether it be material resources or staff expertise.

Inter-library exchange agreements and an African repository for fisheries publications


Victor Clarke
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
Grahamstown, South Africa


There are many potential benefits to exchange partnerships. Partnership institutions can build up their collections at minimal cost; and gain access to a wider base of information and secondary links through connected institutions. Partnerships provide potential for growing the African information network and for building capacity-building opportunities.

This paper outlines the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)’s interest in expanding existing exchange partnerships and makes a case for SAIAB to act as a repository for print collections. In doing so, I present a case study of SAIAB’s past and present operations that have relevance to exchange partnerships.

SAIAB’s interest in expanding existing exchange partnerships

The library’s traditional role had been seen as a repository of information, much of it donated by scientists, purchased with available funds or accessed through the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) duplicate exchange programme. SAIAB is keen to increase the capacity of our library collection with relevant information on fisheries and aquaculture, acquired from national and international sources. This intention needs to be seen in the context of budget constraints experienced as a result of the declining value of the South African Rand against foreign currencies, and the effects of inflation on the library budget. As a result of these financial constraints the libraries ability to access relevant information and build up its collections has been seriously compromised.

SAIAB currently has exchange agreements with 240 institutions worldwide, as indicated in the table below:

North America

44 institutions

South America






Middle East






We send our ‘peer reviewed’ scientific publications (Smithiana: Bulletin and Smithiana: Special Publication) to other institutions in exchange for their institute publications and papers.

Promoting SAIAB as a repository for print collections

‘Serving Africa’s needs in understanding fishes and aquatic environments is an important part of SAIAB’s Vision Statement. The Mission Statement is as follows: ‘To be an interactive hub focused on serving the nation through generating, disseminating and applying knowledge to understanding and solving problems on the conservation and wise use of African fishes and aquatic biodiversity.’

Among SAIAB’s stated goals the following is appropriate to this paper: ‘To be able to meet these goals one needs access to relevant information. The institute scientists need to have the resources with which to make informed decisions, whether it be describing a new species or to plan programmes for sustainable aquaculture and fisheries, which will benefit both the country and the local individuals concerned, e.g., fishing communities.’

The extent to which SAIAB is able to fulfil its vision and mission and to meet its goals is directly related to the type and quality of literature and information available.

SAIAB is a national research and teaching facility, with close ties to the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science (DIFS) at Rhodes University. SAIAB’s fields of research include freshwater, estuarine, marine, and aquaculture projects. The number of students supervised by both SAIAB and DIFS staff (2003) total 29 Undergraduates, 7 Honours, 23 M.Sc. and 24 Ph.D. candidates.

A number of arguments can be made for proposing SAIAB as a core repository for print collections:

The SAIAB Library: from past to present

In 1998 the library reviewed its collection activities and set in place guidelines for what was to become its strategic plan for collection building.

In 1998 the library subscribed to 64 periodicals. However, as a result of the decline of the South African Rand, this figure had dropped to 45 periodicals by 2001, a net loss of 19 publications. An increase in library funding in 2002/03 arrested this decline with the result that periodical subscription grew by two to a total of 47 subscribed periodicals. However, it was felt that a pro-active approach was necessary for the SAIAB library to expand its provision of current literature to staff and students of both the Institute and the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science of Rhodes University.

The library has a long history of building partnerships with other scientific institutions by which we exchange publications. By 1998 we had exchange agreements with 198 institutions. It was realized that this was one area of potential growth and consequently the library aggressively set about building exchange partnerships. By 2002 our institutional partnerships had grown to 240, an increase of 42 new partnerships within five years. We also have an agreement with 160 individual scientists who provide us with reprints of their papers in exchange for the Institute publications.

Our association with NISC SA has also been a great advantage with regard to capacity building of the library collection. NISC SA builds the FISHLIT database from the SAIAB library. Publications from which NISC SA builds its database are housed for NISC in the SAIAB library, which assists us in building up our literature sources.

The number of periodicals/publications involved is represented in the following table:

Periodical subscription

Exchange Institutions

NISC Holdings

















It should however be noted that the number of publications that one receives may vary from year to year. Reasons for this include the fluctuating dollar/pound exchange rate, and changing relations with existing or new exchange partners.

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