STATE OF ELECTRONIC ACCESS TO THESES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
DAR ES SALAAM (UDSM)
A paper to be presented at the Database for African Thesis and Dissertation
(DATAD) Workshop 11th- 12th July 2007, Nairobi, Kenya.
By Collin Kimaryo
DATAD Coordinator-UDSM Library
In recent years, technological advances have created information packages in a
variety of formats. Traditional formats, such as books and microfilm, have
increasingly been supplemented by information that is accessible electronically
through the use of computer technology. Salinas (2003) notes that libraries now have
to select among products such as online databases, CD ROMs, multimedia kits,
DVDs, etc. and the issue of access has become more significant. Having information
in electronic format has little meaning if users can’t access it.
The UDSM Library provides access to a wide range of information sources in
different formats to support the core functions of the University. That includes access
to a number of online databases, electronic books (E-books) and other Internet
resources. Database of African Theses and Dissertation (DATAD) is among the
online database that is available and accessible to users at the University. This paper
presents the current situation of electronic access of theses at the UDSM.
The UDSM library clientele is as diverse as its programmes, centers, departments,
institutes, faculties, and colleges. The UDSM library serves a user community of
17,485 students, out of which 15,263 are undergraduates and 2,222 are postgraduate
students (UDSM Facts and Figures, 2005/2006). Also, the user community includes a
total of 697 academic staff (UDSM Academic Staff Recruitment Section, 2006) and
1,087 administrative staff (UDSM Registry, 2006). That makes a grand total of
19,269 users. To date, the number is expected to have been slightly increased to
reflect increase in the student intake and new staff members hired during the
academic year 2006/2007.
UDSM library users have different information needs and interests when it comes to
accessing electronic theses and dissertations. That diverse user categories with
research interest such as academic staff, researchers, postgraduate students and
undergraduates in their third and final year of study, are potential users of DATA.
Theses and dissertations are useful sources of research information for students and
staff. They can be used for literature review, to sharpen understanding of ones’ topic,
to provide key findings, methodology, and helps to avoid duplication of efforts etc.
When theses are made available in electronic format they overcome the barriers of
time and distance. Users can access theses online wherever they are, and at any time
provided they are connected to the Internet.
The University has a computer network in all its 26 academic buildings (including the
library). Each building has at least one point connected to the backbone. Eight
kilometers of high-speed fibre-optic cable were laid to make this possible. Its
transmission speed is currently 10 Mbps, and is expected to increase to 100 Mbps
when upgrading activities are completed. All faculties and institutes have Local Area
Network in place. The University has Internet connectivity with the speed of 512
Kbps with a direct link to the United States. The speed is expected to be upgraded to
more than one Mbps in the near future (Mutagahywa and Bakari, 2000).
In relation to the above mentioned ICT facilities, the UDSM library has a total of 69
computers that have been designated and provided to access electronic resources. Of
these 17 computers are for accessing the OPAC, 3 for accessing e-books and 49 for
accessing other online resources and Internet (UDSM Library Statistics 2006). On top
of that there are about 250 computers facilities that are connected to the Internet for
use by academic staff. For most units the ratio of computer (PC) to academic staff
ranges from 1:1 to 1:2.8 (UDSM Facts and Figures 2005/2006). Most of the UDSM
faculties and institutes also have computer labs for general students use. This means a
user can access library electronic resources from their faculties/ institutes. However,
currently, there is no reliable data of computer (PC) to student ratio for the whole
A steady increase in the number of UDSM library users has been noted in recent
years in terms of students, researchers and staff. The increase is noted in areas such as
general library use and use of ICT facilities. For instance, there were notable changes
in library users from 16,000 visits in 1993/94 to 296,000 in 1997/98, and up to almost
400,000 visits in 2001/2002 (UDSM Library Strategic Plan 2003/04 -2007/08). Data
shows that during the 2005/2006 academic year, the number of visits rose to 871,667
(UDSM Library Statistics, 2006). Nevertheless, this is a narrow interpretation of
access to library e-resources, because users can access e-resources at any place with
Internet facilities and at times users come to the library to read their notes or access
information in other formats. Therefore these figures do not reflect the actual access
There are two main ways through which users can access electronic theses at the
UDSM, namely through online and On-CD databases. Users can access DATAD
online using a URL address directly via Internet or via UDSM library website. Online
access is most effective when users are accessing DATAD via the campus wide
network, because the IP address range can be easily recognized by the host server and
users are allowed full access to the database. Moreover, the DATAD resources are
open to users and access does not require user ID or password within the campus.
However, when accessing DATAD outside campus, users are required to submit an
ID and password to get access, otherwise access is denied. Usually a user outside
campus can be given individual user name and password, but this has to be verified
by the host institution.
Users can also access DATAD On-CD at the Reference Section in the UDSM library
where the CD-ROM collection is housed. The section has 18 desk tops equipped with
CD drivers for user to access different electronic resources. Users visit this section
and request a CD-ROM of interest to them. However, there is only a copy of DATAD
On CD of 2005 containing 20,000 abstract records.
The DATAD search facilities are simple. Users can access the information by
conducting a simple search in any field of the database to retrieve information. That
means user can search by using word(s) from the title, author, degree, supervisor,
year of publication, institution/ department, and subject terms. Also it provides search
tips that can be used by novice searchers.
Access to electronic resources at the UDSM is generally easy. This is evidenced by
the availability of computer facilities to access electronic resources as discussed
earlier. Users are by large access more information in print format such as books,
journals and theses compared to the information in electronic format. This may be
attributed to a lack of awareness on the wide range if electronic resources available in
the UDSM library and the fact that print sources are more popular than e-resources
which are still in their infancy. However, there are variations in terms of access to
different types of electronic resources.
At the UDSM there is a high probability for the academic community to access
DATAD. However, users prefer access to full text theses and dissertations in print
format as compared to the digitized because full-text theses provide extensive
information whereas abstracts provide only a summary of the content.
A number of challenges for UDSM Library have been identified. These include a
need for awareness creation, information literacy skills, non-current and limited
access points for DATAD On CD, unavailability of full-text thesis online and
inadequate equipments to access e-resources.
Most users are not aware of DATAD. Therefore there is a need to market this
database to all potential users so that it can be effectively utilized.
Most users fail to use electronic resources because they lack search skills. In response
to this problem the UDSM has launched an Information Literacy Programme and has
conducted a series of IL classes for students, staff and teaching staff. However this
has to be a continuous process because each year new students and staff join the
university, and they need to be trained and retrained in IL skills.
DATAD CD version is very limited and not current, therefore needs to be updated on
Full text theses online are currently not available. This situation limits access of
theses electronically. Users prefer to extensive details provided by full text documents
compared to abstracts. UDSM in collaboration with other partners should look into
whether DATAD can provide full-text theses and dissertations online
Inadequate equipment also limits effective use of DATAD.
5. Possible solutions
Continue with the efforts to market and publicize electronic resources available at the
UDSM Library including DATAD through website, brochures, newsletter, fliers, and
exhibition and during IL classes.
Continue with IL training to enhance user searching skills and awareness of the range
of sources available in electronic format. Look into the possibility of integrating IL
program in University curriculum.
DATAD on CD version should be constantly updated and made available to
Look into the possibility of providing full-text theses online since it has potential to
increase access to electronic theses and dissertations and their effective use.
Solicit more funding to purchase computers and accessories for use at departmental,
faculty and library levels.
Ensure reliable Internet connectivity. Increase the bandwidth to speed access to
Based on the above discussion, it appears that accessing theses in electronic format is
generally good at the UDSM. However, it is not easy for user to access DATAD
outside the campus wide network. Issues of access are very important in
technological environment, therefore there is a need to increase access points.
Mutagahywa, B. and Bakari, K.J. (2000). Status of information and communication
technology at the University of Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam: UCC.
Salinas, Romelia (2003). “Addressing the digital divide through collection
development” in Collection Building Volume 22 Number 3 pp. 131-136
UDSM Academic Staff Recruitment Section, 2006
UDSM Facts and Figures, 2005/2006
UDSM Registry, 2006
UDSM library five year rolling strategic plan 2003/04 -2007/08