SN 2 EP 7: A Visionary’s View: Professor Gatiti on Librarianship’s Evolution

14 April 2024 Categories: latest news, Mazungumzo Podcasts, News


librarians, university, information, library association, institutions, libraries, research, , resources, data management information systems, electronic, students, management

Join Professor Peter Gatiti on a captivating journey through the world of librarianship. In this episode, Professor Gatiti shares profound insights into the essential role of librarians, showcasing their transformative power in managing and organizing data effectively. As we gear up for the 26th SCESCAL 2024 Conference, hosted by the Kenya Library Association, Professor Gatiti’s perspective couldn’t be more timely. He advocates for the enhancement of information resources and services in Africa, promising an enlightening exploration of librarianship through his unique lens and expertise.

Here are key things to look out for:

The evolution of Librarianship: Professor Gatiti’s insights into the role of librarians in data management and the shifted from printed resources to online resources.

Upcoming SCESCAL 2024: significance of the 26th SCESCAL 2024 Conference hosted by the Kenya Library Association.













Welcome to Mazungumzo, African scholarly conversations, a podcast that highlights the perspectives of various stakeholders in academia, or research fields across Africa through open dialogue or Muslims on scholarly communication in Africa.

Joy Owango

Welcome to Mazungumzo – African Scholarly Conversations, where we are joined by an expansive list of African policymakers, science communication specialists, innovators, and tertiary institution leads who contribute to this realm of science communication.


I’m your host Joy Owango, the Executive Director of Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa), a capacity-building trust based at the University of Nairobi, Faculty of  Science  and  Technology  in Nairobi, Kenya.


Today we have the pleasure of having as our guest, Professor Peter Gatiti. Professor Gatiti is the current chairperson of the Kenya Library Association (KLA), a position he’s held since 2022. He is also the Associate Vice Provost and University Librarian at the Aga Khan University (AKU). He oversees Aga Khan University’s global network of 12 libraries dispersed in 6 countries on 3 continents, situated on their diverse campuses in Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the UK. Professor Peter Gatiti`s research interests focus on library and​​​ information science, systematic reviews, evidence-based practice, bibliometric analysis, and knowledge management.


A warm welcome to the programme Professor Gatiti!



Professor Peter Gatiti

Thank you, Joy. I’m pleased to join this conversation.

Joy Owango
Oh, all right. So, to begin with, could you share a bit more about yourself and your career journey to where you are now? Was there a switch from what you wanted to be when you grew up before you ended up, getting involved in knowledge management and now more in-depth bibliometric analysis and systematic reviews.


Professor Peter Gatiti

Thank you joy. So, for me, it has really been a journey. When I was in high school, I served as a school librarian, usually the student helping the teachers and probably that is what triggered my interest in the work of a librarian. So, after high school I joined the then Kenya Polytechnic, which is currently Technical University of Kenya for a three year qualification in library science and I got awarded with a diploma, after which then after working for a couple of years, actually, as a school librarian, now a proper trained school librarian, then in two or three, I moved to the United Kingdom to advance my

academic qualifications. And I moved to a university known as Loughborough University in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. After qualifying as a librarian, I moved on because I also had some interest in ICT. So, for Masters, instead of doing a typical Information Studies Master’s, I did a master’s in information systems in a university known as Leeds Metropolitan University in West Yorkshire in the UK. So that has been my career. Of course, after that, I went ahead and worked for the University of Leeds, basically as a database designer, but then afterwards, I moved to where my heart is, and has always been as a librarian in the Mid Yorkshire teaching hospitals, it is a big NHS Trust.


So I worked as a librarian, and after one year, I was promoted to a specialist librarian rank of a senior librarian. And after working there for a couple of years, then I moved back to Kenya in 2010 as the regional librarian for the Aga Khan University, overseeing libraries in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and it is during that time that I embarked on a PhD program at the University of Bolton in the UK, where I examined the relative effectiveness of ICTs in the extracting, sharing and disseminating knowledge in the development sector. So that has been my journey, not very smooth. Not very easy, but I know that it has enabled me to reach where I am currently Thank you.


Joy Owango

But it made it is quite interesting to note that it’s something that you have been passionate about since High school, it’s not every day that you get people who end up doing what they’ve always wanted to do, since I took because we tend to change quite a bit. And what has been the lessons learned in your experience? Especially when you’re going through your journey in the UK when you left Kenya, and then you went to study and then you ended up working there, What are the noted success stories that you went through, or you experienced.

Professor Peter Gatiti

There is a term you’ve used, ‘passion’. And when you’re passionate about something, with dedication, you end up getting to achieve what you want.  so ,I had this passion for advancing my academics. By then in Kenya, the academics space was not so open, such that someone with a diploma in library science did not have much options. So that passion, is the single thing that enhanced my success in terms of pursuing my academics. And the perseverance is also very important. Because, of course, when you move to a country, which is new, there is culture shock because things are different. As a mature adult learner, it also comes with added responsibility, because at  time, I was already a family man. So you will have the role of a father and also, the role of a student and their societal expectations back home. Having come from a relatively normal family, there will be expectations now that you’re in the UK, the expectations that when there are financial needs you also assist them. So, for me is passion and perseverance. And also try to emulate role models in the industry in the profession, so that you can look upon them to be the guiding factor for the journey you’re undertaking.


Joy Owango

Okay. It seems there is unexplored curiosity surrounding the field of librarianship that encompasses a wide array of disciplines, including Information Sciences and knowledge management. So in today’s era of Data Science and Information Systems, how do you see this evolving landscape shaping the education and preparation of graduates for success in research and academia? And when you’re answering this question, I need you to take us through how the librarian has evolved. Because before the librarian was just seen as somebody who would index books within the library, but now it has evolved into data management, data science, bibliometrics. So, take us through that.


Professor Peter Gatiti

So perhaps, of importance to note is, in that field, we usually talk of data. And of course, when you process data, it becomes information. When you process that information, further, it becomes knowledge. And upon gaining the knowledge, it increases your wisdom. So, if you look at the trend of data information and knowledge, then it shows very much the arena under which this is eminating from and where the libraries play a role. Now, there has been some changing trends in the curriculum, to embrace data science, even if it’s at the basic level data visualization, even if it’s basic level. And of course 15 years ago or so, let me be specific maybe 20 years ago is when there was a lot of excitement regarding knowledge management. But by then it was something very new and intersect between library science, communication Science and Management theories and the interest in there of knowledge management. But what has come forward as a Big Bang is data science and because they claim the next gold in the room is actually data science. It is now data science, which is trending. And if you happen to visit America or Europe, there are so many opportunities of data scientists, because people are using data to make what we call data driven decisions, big data analytics and all that. So, coming back to your question, what do I perceive to be the role of librarians in this? And to be honest, librarians from the onset are good in managing data because of the skills they are trained in schools, which impacts them to organize data and organizing it meaningfully what we call a meta data.

You have mentioned something very significant regarding bibliometrics, which is more or less how we analyze the usage and pattern of usage of publications, to enable us to know how to position our institutions or how to position our scholars, again, I will give credit to Librarians because the field of bibliometrics, the first scholar in the world to come up with one of the most highly used biometric databases called as ISI Thompson database. That is, Eugene Garfield  who is a librarian. So, it’s very much a field driven by librarians and for librarians’,


Joy Owango

That is good to know. And it did really revolutionize psychometrics and bibliometrics as we know it today, yeah, that is very true. And in this whole sphere, what is your observation in the evolution of the librarian to the digital librarian that we have today, because initially, as I said earlier, it was it was relegated to was the public libraries. Now, the institutional libraries and it was always relegated from with a physical presence. But right now, the librarian has evolved from the physical pattern to now the online persona. So, what are your views about the evolution of the librarian and what impact has it made in not only knowledge management but also in, in academia as we know it?


Professor Peter Gatiti

Thank you. So, what has been happening globally, the trend globally, has been 75 to 80% collections in favor of electronic resources. So, the printed resources have been relegated to 20% to 30%. But of course, there are some challenges because sometimes as a librarian in an academic institution, you might have come across what we call required readings, books, resources, which the professor’s feel for any students undertaking their course, they must read those resources. And unfortunately, if those resources are not available in electronic format, then you are obligated to go ahead and purchase printed books. Some old professors still prefer if they are reading the BMJ, they want to see the printed version of BMJ or those books to be in print format. But there is the emerging trend of the librarians moving to electronic arena, be it e-journals, e-databases and e-books, as of course more training on their path to that they could be able to emerge successfully and be able to position themselves in the new trends.But the what is happening is after they move from the print to electronic, it’s leaving them with now more time that now they use to develop user focused services for example Libguide, that is a research guides for the courses that we are LibGuides for the subjects that we are training or general research guides and then end up spending more time with our learners in an electronic format in terms of guiding our learners how to interact with the information resources, how reference management tools like headnote, Zotero, reference those electronic resources, and show them how to remain legal through using tools like Turnitin to ensure they are not inadvertently plagiarizing other people’s work. Then after that, train them how to go ahead and publish their scholarly content through showing them sources of where to publish, and even showing them deals that have been negotiated in country or by institutions for where there is no article processing fee. And upon publishing, then we go ahead and train them now that you have published your papers, How do you integrate with the matrix so that we can measure the scholarly output of your work And that how that work is getting an impact. So the field I would say is now very interesting than before. And one that is very promising, to be honest, is great being a librarian. I cannot think of any other better time than today.


Joy Owango

You’re right, because as you’re talking the first thing that is going through my mind is that your work is now heavily integrated within the Directorate of research within the university or the provost Office, which is in charge of research or students performance because all this  bibliometrics and analytics will feed into those offices. So gone are the days when the library was actually just seen as a silo. But most importantly, we’re seeing the role of the librarian been crucial in shaping the performance in monitoring the performance of the university. And those that kind of information is really crucial when it comes to looking at the competitiveness of the university, especially if they want to seek potential collaborations or funding opportunities as well. So it is your right it is a good time to be a librarian right now. Now, as we are just enjoying this conversation on the current state of librarianship. You are the Chairperson of the Kenya Library Association, and congratulations on the Golden Jubilee. So reflecting on its 50 year journey, would you pinpoint a milestone that that captures the essence the association’s growth or significantly defined its legacy over the past five decades?


Professor Peter Gatiti

Great, thank you. So one of the things that I must be proud of, of the Kenya Library Association, which I’m currently the chairperson, is that over the last five decades, I Do remember when were established so many Libraries Association’s in the region were also established, but we are among a few less than 10% over the ones that were established, which are still active, year in year out with programs including our celebrated Maktaba awards, also known in English as Kenyan library of the Year award And the Maktaba Journal. The Of course, every year, having not less than three conferences also to give us opportunities for scholarly contribution and exchange of views. Now, it’s significantly of much importance to note is,since its inception, when we might moved from the East Africa Library Association.Then, at some point, Kenya Library Association was heavily involved when we were forming library schools in then SBSS, University of Nairobi, Technical University of Kenya, MOI University and Kenyatta University. We were  invited as a stakeholder in the curriculum review, to provide them our input, and to monitor, what are the skills that the people on the ground are seeking for the graduates so that we can give our academic partners genuine responses for them to develop curriculums which are reflecting the needs of the industry.


Nevertheless, we have not been without challenges. And the most of those challenges came as a result of course, the devolution that we are currently having. And also the limited finances that have over the years been allocated and the COVID-19 also came as a game changer. We were tested as a profession. But the we have been able to weather the storms allow me to mention in a very positive way that due to our ability to navigate the scenario and be able to work as partners with other institutions. The Commission for university education, also known as CUE, was able to embed the library standards and the guidelines for the universities and the colleges being established in Kenya. And those standards help us in a way to protect the integrity of libraries in academic institutions, especially in the universities, they will even go ahead and give them the guidelines under which they should operate. Propose for them the standards, and then remind them those are the basics, you can even exceed those. And the beauty of that is if you don’t meet those standards, as an institution, you cannot be around be allowed to run university degree programs in Kenya. So that one has given libraries a central place in the academic component in this country.


Joy Owango

Yeah, even with COVID-19 I know it affected quite a number of institutions. But I think also the test for the library’s was, at what point are you going to be physical and at what point are you going to be digital? I think the power of the Digital Library came to play during that time period. And what did you do us as a Library Association, in making sure that people still had access to resources beyond tertiary education, but mostly also the primary and secondary schools because we were forced to go digital. So, especially in the rural areas, what is it that the Kenya Library Association was able to do to mitigate some of those challenges?


Professor Peter Gatiti

Thank you, usually some of these things come from the top leadership. So as the leader said, I published a paper, which was the reflection of information professionals in terms of the role of libraries and librarians, in mitigating COVID-19. And am pleased to inform you that paper as of 2021, was voted by Wiley, yes, as top paper of the year globally. And it is currently being used by Indiana University and the Duke University as part of the required reading, in terms of the seed reading lists and indexed it as one of the key references to be used during COVID. So then, aside from that, as an association, because I do remember, I was a keynote speaker for the Korea International Conference, where I was discussing with them about mitigating circumstances that people could operate upon. But what we did very fast was to provide leadership guidance on the issues to do with e-learning. In terms of moving ahead, and coming up with a set of electronic resources, which we work with our partner institution KLISC, the Kenya Library Information Services Consortium ,so that we are able to tap upon the institutions to subscribe to KLISC. And then as a consortium, we purchase predominantly electronic databases and electronic journals that way we were able to assure our institutions as they were migrating from  lab print to electronic to continue now having lessons electronically. Our participation was through providing a range of electronic resources with KLISC as a partner, and for the institutions that could be able to move a step further, we were guiding them how to develop LibGuides, using seminars to do that. So that they could not only come up with the resources, but they could curate them pertinent to the subject matters that universities are teaching, to make it easy for lecturers and students to navigate in that sea of information. That is what we were doing. But the probably we could have done more in terms of media campaign, even television talks in terms of what we were doing as a university. But as I said before, COVID disrupted too many people in the country.

Joy Owango
Yeah, but it I think, despite that challenge, you are able to still engage the community and make sure that the committee had resources to use for either their research or for their studies. And that is the most important thing because as I said, COVID-19 really destabilized quite a number of people. And we everybody had to be ingenious or innovative in coming up with ways to make sure that you are still rolling with the punches for lack of better words. And congratulations.


Professor Peter Gatiti

But I must also mention librarians who played a significant role. The academic community, especially trying to mobilize their institutions to pay for subscription to KLISC to remember, budgets were heavily affected.Yeah, of course, it was an issue of demonstrating to them the value of electronic resources. Because without a good range of electronic resources, there’s no way you can migrate from print or face to face courses, to online courses, or sometimes what we call a blended learning where you meet with students, sometimes online and sometimes physically.


Joy Owango

And once again, congratulations on that published data based on the work you’re doing. That is amazing what you are doing. So as the Standing Conference of Eastern Central Southern African Library and Information Association’s 2024 approaches, so also known as SCECSAL. What is the role as a regional forum for African Library and Information associations and its impact on scholarly communication in the region?


Professor Peter Gatiti

Thank you. So, as you’re aware SCECSAL is a Pan African movement bringing together participants from a majority of countries in Africa. And SCECSAL is coming at a time when this year we don’t have EFFRA for reasons which are too obvious. So, then we use this as a forum to advocate for enhancement of information, resources and services in Africa, or in my region. Now, our role as the host is to make sure we have a vibrant state of the art conference that will be memorable for the years to come. And also, to make sure that theme reasonates to the challenges that we get in the region. And the of course, you must be aware about that we are having a theme that is focused on re-emerging information products and services for the digital era. Why re-emerging? is because we don’t want status quo to remain, we don’t want  the way we’re running our library services 20 years ago especially during the digital era. So how do we re-emerge and ran those services in a different way. So that we may not run behind as the other global part of the world takes or embraces digital transformation. So that’s being our theme. We have got sub-themes, which reasonate  well with us as a librarian, where we are looking at the emerging roles of Library and Information Services scholars. Remember towards the beginning of this talk, we talked about bibliometrics.

We also have now librarians as scholars whereby they are also publishing papers. And then that calls for Librarians as leaders in systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and the globally another big movement that is yet to be felt in this part of the world. We call it evidence based practice. How do we help stakeholders including parliamentarians to embrace evidence-based decision making so that whatever decisions they make is driven by scientific evidence. Then after that, we are looking at products and innovative information, ethics and practices in the library arena. For me, information ethics is very important because it’s not just an issue of providing information, or passing exams, but being ethical in what we do. For instance, we know challenges associated with generative artificial intelligence. And of course, it also has some positive contribution. It`s a notion that sometimes, especially when you go to the universities, and they are having what we call, academic essays, some would go to artificial intelligence, generative AI and get essays generated by AI. How then do we use anti plagiarism tools such as Turnitin and other tools to detect malpractice and the where there is malpractice? Because we are not sure where AI is heading to how then do we advise our institutions so that they can also make changes to our ways of examining, and engaging our students, for example, if a student submits coursework of 25,000 words, there’s nothing wrong with having sent a time where we call them for five minutes for them to take us through their work. And of course, someone who has authentically researched will be able to take you through the work, but one who has relied on artificial intelligence will struggle. So, there might be alternative ways of examining students and engaging performance. And the that’s how some of these themes will be captured during our conference. Of course, education research training, will be discussed, because we want to examine what are the current curriculums for the library schools? What are the changing needs for those curriculums and what do we need to embrace. So that we may make those changes and the also remembering records and information management or the not forgetting the role of libraries and librarians in SDGs because there is nothing as important as aligning our research to sustainable development goals, It important to have societal contribution or impact of the research emanating from our institutions and then globally recognized measures of measuring such impact is actually SDGs. So, it is an exciting time. And the theme and the sub themes resonate well with the work we are doing as librarians especially in the low, middle-income countries. Thank you.

Joy Owango

Okay. Lastly, as a passionate advocate for libraries and knowledge dissemination, I would love to hear about the most recent book you’ve read, and what you’d recommend to our listeners and what’s on your reading list these days.



Professor Peter Gatiti

So I tend to read widely. But the I am usually at the moment, so much in Management Information Systems. So there is a broad book on management information systems, and I’ll tell you the reason. Okay, it’s written by Ronald Bulunan. It talks of management information systems in the digital era. And that the reason is, well, because as you realize, from my research, I’m more soinclined towards how I can use the power of information technology or ICT to combine it with management of knowledge and traditional libraries. So that then I’m able to get the best out of the developing world. So that’s the book that I’m currently reading management information systems. But I must also confess to you, although it is quite early to let you know, I’m also in the middle of writing a book. And my book is going to combine how we can use the power of information communication technologies, and libraries, okay to play some positive role in alleviating poverty. So I’m yet to come up with a title but it is in early drafts. And the it was driven by my five years or so  PhD in in ICTs, information retrieval, dissemination, capturing and I saw there was a gap in terms of using some of best information products to fight poverty in this part of the world or to enhance development. So, I’m reading management information systems, but myself also I’m in the middle of writing a book.

Joy Owango
Fantastic thank you so much, Professor Peter Gatiti, this has been an amazing interview.  I love your passion about librarianship and knowledge management. And thanks for taking us through, you know, the evolution of the library to where it is right now, actually, the librarian to who they are right now and the impact they’re making in our academic communities. We look forward to seeing to meeting you at SCECSAL, and we are truly excited that Kenya is hosting SCECSAL this year. And thank you so much for joining us in our show.



Professor Peter Gatiti

You’re most welcome. And it’s a pleasure always discussing these kinds of topics with partners, like yourself. Thank you, and have a good day.


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