Tag Archives: Africa

Women in Prison and Their Information Needs: South – South Prison Libraries Perspective

Reviewed By: Traci Willard, Maida Paxton, Amanda Mellor, Maria McCord, Alyssa Key, and Annie Andrew

Link to article: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1640/

Article synopsis:

In their 2018 article “Women in Prison and Their Information Needs: South – South Prison Libraries Perspective,” authors Sambo and Ojei investigate incarcerated women’s information needs in Nigeria’s South-South prisons. The study used a descriptive survey and interviews by prison staff to determine incarcerated women’s information needs in the South-South prison system and how those needs were being met. Sambo and Ojei found that the incarcerated women had generally not received education beyond secondary school. Previous research studies demonstrate the importance of educating prisoners so they can lead productive and fulfilling lives in prison and especially upon release. This study determined that the prisoners faced multiple problems including, but not limited to, sexual abuse, lack of access to healthcare and medical information, and lack of time for interaction with family and friends outside the prison. The women did not feel their information needs were being met. The incarcerated women were especially eager for more medical information and information about prison security; and most women surveyed found the prison’s library was not adequately meeting their information needs. Thus, the authors conclude that there are various improvements that can be made to the conditions in women’s prisons in Nigeria to ensure prisoners’ information needs are being met; especially when it comes to incarcerated women’s needs involving better and more comprehensive medical information, contraception, and people and resources outside of prison.

Description of how this article represents an international perspective:

This article provides an international perspective from outside of the United States by focusing on incarcerated women’ information needs in Nigeria at South-South Prison, among other regional prisons. It offers an opportunity to observe how this population’s information needs are impacted by their marginalized position within their country, as well as their country’s unique position in the world. Although Nigeria is considered a developing country, the universal information needs and personal challenges identified by respondents likely mirror those of incarcerated women in developed countries like the United States (Investopedia, 2019). Consequently, the international perspective this research offers can point to new ideas for providing programs and policies that meet incarcerated women’s information needs in the U.S.

Core research questions:

The authors identified the following research questions they sought to answer through their surveys and interviews:

1. What are the information needs of the women in prison?
2. What are the condition of the South-South prison libraries?
3. To what extent are the South-South prison libraries meeting the information needs of women prisoners?
4. What are the challenges confronting women in prison?

(Sambo & Ojei, 2018, p. 3)

Combined, these questions point to research that will lead to a broader understanding of the information landscape in the prisons profiled as well as the corresponding information needs, behaviors, and challenges of the women in this setting.

Methods used to answer the research questions:

The research methodology involved the researchers providing a descriptive survey questionnaire to 356 inmates in six prisons throughout the country. The option for an interview was available, led by three research assistants who were also employed as prison staff. However, it is unclear which prisons the research assistants were located at or how many interviews were conducted. Survey respondents were selected using purposive sampling, which according to Babbie (2016), is when those selected are anticipated to “be the most useful or representative” of the research goal (p. 187). Data collected from the 306 completed surveys were analyzed using inferential statistics, which suggests the findings derived from the sample are representative of the general population of incarcerated women in Nigeria. The researchers were successful in attaining a high response rate of 86%, determined using percentages, which reduced non-response bias.

Findings and conclusions:

The questionnaires and interviews Sambo and Ojei (2018) conducted indicate the top information needs of women incarcerated in the prisons were medical, education, and security information, with nearly all respondents (98%, 97%, and 97%, respectively) selecting these topics as information needs (p. 8-9). Other information that was prioritized by respondents related to life after prison, spiritual and moral information, and financial information. Respondents indicated they most frequently accessed information through counselling (73%), family and friends (67%), church or mosque (67%), and physicians or nurses (58%). Prison libraries were counted as one of the least used ways of meeting information needs with only 14% of respondents claiming to use the library as an information resource (p. 9-10). This finding is unsurprising considering that 70% of respondents indicated their prison library was “inadequate” for meeting their needs (p. 9). Respondents reported several problems facing them in prison. The most frequently reported problems were congestion and lack of hygiene, poor funding, and lack of medication and healthcare (p. 10).

Sambo and Ojei (2018) drew several conclusions based on the comprehensive data from their study. They concluded that there was a need to improve information access in these prisons, including a need for improved prison policies and programs by federal, state, and local governments, particularly those that are “specifically tailored to the needs of women” (p. 11). They recommended equitable access to health care and resources, confidentiality, preventative medicine, and vocational training. They acknowledged that if prison libraries could meet more of these needs, women would be more prepared to integrate into society upon release.

What American libraries can learn from global practice about designing services for diverse populations:

American libraries can obtain a greater understanding of the issues other libraries face and learn about global practices by reading about research conducted in other countries. By learning about issues with prison libraries and prisoners’ needs in Nigeria, American libraries can expand their research to determine whether their prison populations have the same information needs and library resource deficits. Sambo and Ojei found that incarcerated women in Nigeria had many unmet information needs and the prison library resources were inadequate, which may overlap with prisoners’ experiences worldwide. By working collaboratively, librarians worldwide can identify universal issues, share creative solutions, expand their professional network, and work to improve services for incarcerated women desperately in need of high-quality, accurate, and timely information resources.


Babbie, E. (2016). The practice of social research (14th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Investopedia. (2019, August 2). Top 25 developed and developing countries. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/updates/top-developing-countries/.
Sambo, A. S. & Ojei, N. L. (2018). Women in prison and their information needs: South-South prison libraries perspective. Library Philosophy and Practice, 1640, 1-14. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1640/

Decolonizing Our Library System: The Living Librarians (Baansi) of Dagbon, Northern Ghana

Reviewed By: Estefani Bowline, Diego Coaguila, Solia Martinez-Jacobs, Angelina Moiso, Yesenia Navarrete, Nicole Norman

Link to article: digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3754&context=libphilprac

Synopsis and article representation of international perspective
Decolonizing Our Library System: The Living Librarians (Baansi) of Dagbon, Northern Ghana explores the knowledge production and transmission of the baansi, who are “termed living librarians”, while drawing a contrast to Western systems and ideas. Plockey and Ahamed (2016) introduce the concept of “library” in indigenous cultures as one not established through books or computers, but instead through music and performance as information. This article introduces us to the baansi of Dagbon, who are indigenous court musicians in northern Ghana. As such, they have historically sang praises to royals in this region Through their songs and instruments, they carry on important cultural knowledge, history, and traditions, which is thus passed down to generations. This study uses interviews, group discussion and other qualitative techniques to gather information from baansi on aspects such as the role and categories of baansi. The study concludes by asserting that the baansi, as living librarians, hold the history of Dagbon in their memory. This study offers an international perspective by focusing their exploration on indigenous musicians of Ghana. At the same time, the researchers, who are Ghanaian themselves, draw a contrast with traditional Western views of libraries and knowledge production, asserting oral traditions and indigenous people as living libraries.

Core research question(s)
Plockey and Ahamed (2016) point to previous research regarding information existing in other forms besides our modern understanding of libraries. Indigenous cultures, in particular, are exemplary of these models of information sharing, due to long-standing structured oral tradition, where individuals themselves stand in for documentation and repositories. The term “living librarian” is explored to a degree in this paper, with examples outlined through the explicit exploration of the categorization of the baansi. Other research questions explored through the article include, “the categories of the baansi ; the role of the baansi and Knowledge acquisition process of the baansi” (p. 3). The article also examines the way in which the baansi produce knowledge and disseminate it amongst others within the community. Plockey and Ahamed further elaborate on the baansi by seeking out their origins, the relationships between these information keepers and the ways in which their specified tools – the instruments – organize and categorize the information being shared. The article also challenges preconceived notions of information literacy and organization, ultimately considering whether or not the baansi should be considered librarians.
Methods used to answer the research question(s).
The researchers used a mixed-methods approach, including ethnography, historical analysis, and community focus groups, to their study of the baansi of Dagbon. Their results are discussed thematically around the three “most recognized and important” categories of baansi (p. 4). This limited the study population to the Lunsi, the Akarima and the Goonje in the Yensi Municipal District in Ghana.
Each category of baansi is studied in-depth using “focus group discussions, observations, storytelling, phased assertion, documents’ analysis, field notes, historical profiling, and acoustic appreciation” (Plockey & Ahamed, 2016). Information was collected over a one-year period to build an understanding of the baansi’s role in the community, their historical origins, how their knowledge was acquired, and how they provide access to the information to their community through music. The study also noted the differences in types of musical instruments used by each category of the baansi, and how some instruments are gendered as male or female by their pitch. It is important to note that this portion of the study only encompasses the categories of the baansi and their classifications, and does not analyze the information retained by the baansi, however
Findings and conclusions.
Plockey and Ahamed (2016) sought to disprove the Western idea that African tribal communities do not create and store information by highlighting the rich oral traditions of these communities. The authors found that the drumming class they examined, the baansi, actually held all of the tribe’s historical information and traditions, and disseminated that information through particular drumming patterns. As individuals who have and share knowledge, the baansi are unquestionably the “living librarians” of their communities. The authors also found that the baansi comprise several different subgroups of drummers, and that all of those subgroups perform a slightly different function. They discussed their finding that the lunsi, one of the baansi subgroups, communicate the most detailed history of the Dagbon people, and as such, are regarded as the most knowledgeable drumming group. This study supports the idea that information professionals need not be trained at a university or work in a library or office. Knowledge passed down through the ancestors and stored in the memories of those who share the past with present community members is just as important as any information stored in a book or database. Oral historians and disseminators of knowledge fill the role of librarian in Dagbon tribal communities.
What American libraries can learn from global practice about designing services for diverse populations?
Libraries have the power to allow access of information to patrons that can allow them to not only better educate themselves, but to also create a better community for themselves. This power can be increased by providing library workers with support in implementing programs and resources that can then be offered to the community. The concept of “living librarians” and understanding orally-based cultures and societies are elements that American libraries could benefit from incorporating into their services. As cities continue to become more multicultural, libraries should make concerted efforts to meet patrons from diverse backgrounds in a way that shows care for the variety of modes in which information is shared around the world. American libraries could hold programming within the community utilizing the living library model. Organizations such as The Human Library utilize an oral history approach, by allowing people to ‘check-out’ individuals by having a conversation with them and listening to their stories. This valuable approach allows people to experience different viewpoints on issues, and could easily be adapted for libraries in American communities.

Plockey, F., & Ahamed, B. (2016). Decolonizing Our Library System: The Living Librarians (Baansi) of Dagbon, Northern Ghana. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3754&context=libphilprac

Unjudge someone. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://humanlibrary.org/

Students’ Perceived Challenges in an Online Collaborative Learning Environment: A Case of Higher Learning Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya

Reviewed By: Loren Reese, Kara Trella, Maryanne Doran, Melissa Horton, and Brittany Ely

Link to article: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1768/3124

Article synopsis and core research questions

Muuro, Wagacha, Kihoro, & Oboko (2014) examined student perceived challenges of using online collaborative tools, such as Moodle and Blackboard, on Web 2.0 (and social media) while pursuing higher education in Nairobi, Kenya. The article states that online learning has risen in popularity in Kenya as a result of the increased demand of higher education. It goes on to address issues of faculty and infrastructure support for e-learning.

Using a questionnaire, a survey was conducted in two public universities and two private universities to identify perceived challenges by student respondents in their online collaborative learning environment. The authors state that three primary questions guided their research design: To what extent do students collaborate online while doing group work? What are the components of online collaborative learning, which learners perceive as challenging? And, is there any significant relationship between university type (public or private) and the perceived challenges in using an online collaborative learning environment? (Murro et al., 2014).

In their literature review, the authors focused on a philosophy of education termed constructivist theory, in that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. In seeking to define the term collaborative learning, the authors deferred to the 1999 Dillenbourg book Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches, which states that collaborative learning is a, “situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.” Adding that the situation is collaborative if the participant learners are relatively at the same level and, “can perform the same actions, have a common goal and work together” (Dillenbourg, 1999).

Among various issues, five were identified as major challenges, these were: lack of feedback from instructors, lack of feedback from peers, lack of time to participate, slow internet connectivity, and low or no participation of other group members.

The goal of the research was to inform educators in Kenya as to how they can improve collaborative online learning to provide the best possible education success.

Methods used to answer the research question

The researchers relied on a descriptive survey, which allowed for the accurate summation of the varied and complex experiences of the study participants, and created a body of data that was substantial enough to enable meaningful statistical analysis. The questionnaire that they developed was based on conceptual elements that were brought to light in the literature review, and consisted of thirty questions. All but one of these survey items required Likert scale or multiple choice fixed responses, with just one open-ended question in which respondents were asked to describe their worst online group experiences.

The respondents were students at two public and two private Kenyan universities, and with the assistance of instructors, a purposive sample group of 210 students was identified, all of whom were taking at least one online course or module. Assistance from one or more experts was solicited to streamline the wording and content of the questionnaire. After a period of two weeks was allowed for students to complete the online questionnaire, there was an 87% response rate (Muuro et al., 2014). The authors noted that not all of the data analysis that they performed was included in this paper, and may eventually be included as an important component of a larger future study (Murro et al., 2014).

Findings and conclusions

The research found multiple issues the students faced with collaborate work at the Kenyan universities. The largest issues related to the ability to access online work and the lack of participation among group members.

Despite Nairobi, Kenya having one of the best internet infrastructures in the country, 30% of the participants reported unreliable internet service, which made accessing and participating in group work challenging (Murro et al., 2014). Murro et al (2014) report if places like Nairobi do not have adequate infrastructure, then not only does it need to be improved there, but in other areas of Kenya as well, so that more people can have the opportunity to go to a higher education institution.

Other issues that students had were finding time to participate in group work and lack of feedback from their instructors. Over 50% claimed that finding time was an issue and 47% claimed they were not getting enough feedback from their professors (Murro et al., 2014).

Unanswered questions and what future research might address

This study acknowledges that future studies should “adopt large scale empirical approaches” to encompass different universities and regions in Kenya (Muuro et al., 2014). Since the fiber optic network is well established in Nairobi, further studies are necessary to gauge internet connectivity in other regions and countries beyond Nairobi. The ability of users to join/utilize social networking sites to link with other students and faculty would be an interesting area of future research, as these types of sites could be crucial to online support and student success and retention.

Other possible future studies include investigating the effect of collaborative learning and critical thinking skills as well as, “improving the level of knowledge constructed in blended e-learning platforms”(Muuro et al., 2014). Challenges faced in using online collaborative tools, as well as determining the correlation between teaching ideologies and effective instruction, are areas that merit further examination. Ways to increase instructor involvement with collaborative work in order to support online students more effectively would also be interesting questions for subsequent projects.

This study reported a gap between workload distribution between online collaborative groups in public versus private universities. Public university students reported less issues with workload sharing than private universities (Muuro et al., 2014). One theory proposed for this discrepancy, is the ability of public university students to work independently, with less instructor oversight, than private university students. Future research could reveal the root causes of this difference and provide interesting theories in this area.

Although the research for this survey asked for demographic information, it was not used to analyze the results. But for this issue, and perhaps others, it might help to theorize why these are issues for the students. More in depth findings could result in looking at how gender, age, geographical region, education background, and socioeconomic levels affect the responses. There might be patterns among students with similar demographics that could point to areas that need improving in order to help students do collaborative work successfully.


Dillenbourg, P. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Elsevier Science, Inc.

Muuro, M. E., Wagacha, W. P., Kihoro, J., & Oboko, R. (2014). Students’ perceived challenges in an online collaborative learning environment: A case of higher learning institutions in Nairobi, Kenya. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(6).