It is frequently said the we reside in an ‘Information Age’. The leaders of the USA talk of an Information Superhighway; the EU of an Information Society; academics terminology of a network society, and knowledge economy’. Leading business strategists articulate the present Knowledge is replacing financial capital as a key resource for companies. The modern realization is that any society that strives to augment requires increasingly supplementary data and knowledge activities as these facilitate the measurement of change in every fabric of society. What do we know by the terms INFORMATION and KNOWLEDGE?
Information and knowledge
Two schools of thought exist. We are apt to think that Information and Knowledge are synonymous and are hence used inter-changeably. However there is a difference. Information is usually a selection of documents/ideas in a particular subject or time period of questions which may or may not have been digested necessarily. It therefore has the potential of becoming Knowledge. Knowledge, on the larger amount of hand, can be of two kinds: tacit and explicit, the latter in posession of greater similarity with Information but not exclusively so. A collection of books, for example, may be described as a body of knowledge and every document representing abreast tools who are likely to influence others when digested. Such knowledge, when acquired serves, among others, as experiences, ideas and skills in the form of Tacit Knowledge.
Information is one of the principle sources of knowledge. It is shared knowledge, having been communicated and usually obtained by study and investigation. Abate (1988) referred to information as cleverness and knowledge that contributes to the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of society, irrespective of the form it is inscribed (eg text; figures); medium stored (eg paper, magnetic tapes); mode of dissemination (eg oral, written); societal activity that gives rise to it(eg research, census); and the institutions that organize and disseminate it( eg library and data centre).
Knowledge, on the other hand, is what one knows. Davenport and Prusak (1998) defined it as a fluid mix of framed experiences, values, contextual information and proficient insights too supply a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. That is to say Knowledge involves human reaction to information. For instance if one is able to understand simple written description to a particular illness, that is information. However, if we deliberation that someone was suffering from that illness, multiple of us should lead to that the body headed to see a medical doctor. This is because the doctor has a body of knowledge that is a combination of information regarding that illness, information regarding the human body, about other illnesses and experiences of similar cases and training.
Information and Knowledge are amongst the world’s most important equipment needed daily to deal with problems and motivate decisions affecting the future. According to Mchombu (1995),for any community to function efficiently and productively, a simple the very least inventory of usable information is essential. Aboyade (1987) posited that enough information is essential for strengthening the link between the indicators and the beneficiaries of development effort, and for making rural persons can make out and appreciate the benefits of the development programmes to their lives. What shoppers carry out in organizations, he added, depends largely upon the information and knowledge properties possess. Increasingly the degree of success enjoyed by firms and the people who work for them depends on how well properties manage the information and knowledge. These are the strategic assets of the enterprise.
The Civil War
The decade for a while now civil war (1991-2001) that caused untold suffering to the people of Sierra Leone was rooted in a good number of decades of injustice, bad governance, corruption and mis-management. Currently the country is in the throes of post-war reconstruction amongst government’s a multitude of developmental challenges making democracy and superior governance, improved economy, health, education, mining, human rights and food security, rural development, anti-corruption and improved road infrastructure. These challenges require:
• effective public administration and market management
• development of viable manufacturing, service and foreign trade
• harnessing of Science and Technology including Indigenous Knowledge.
These form the basis of the country’s Vision 2025.
To facilitate the afore-mentioned entrance to guidelines and knowledge assumes a significant role. A cursory historical reference is adequate to demonstrate the view. When the civil war broke out in 1991 the official reason shared by Sierra Leoneans was that it was a skirmish between Charles Taylor’s NPFL fighters and Sierra Leone soldiers over a business transaction. Hardly was there any information on the real identity of the RUF, their ideology, ultimate objectives and operational strategy and the foreign dimension of their activities. Consequently the war was not given the attention it deserved. The lack of knowledge or enough information was reflected on some of the terms expended to refer to the RUF even when the war swallowed up the country. In fact, regrettably, continuing to the root causes of the conflict got not properly comprehended or analyzed to circumstances the foundation for peace initiative. Thus the country was demolilshed to reckless abandon.
Access to tips and knowledge is indispensable to exact advancement as well as to national growth. The right data provided when it is needed, where it is needed and the form in which it is needed, improves the ability of an particular and business, a federal agency or a little kind of organization to bring in informed decisions and achieve particular goals. The added value that is derived from entrance to information and knowledge is the current the country will benefit and it will take less while to be reflected in our output as individuals, as specialists in a country, and as a nation as a whole. What we produce, waste and exchange as a nation determines our status in relation to others across the world. It is the extent that we are able to be creative in our respective spheres of activity that determines how well or badly, we perform against others. The UNDP says it all.
The concept of access to information and knowledge in Sierra Leone has restricted application and interpretation. It is uneasy with the machinery of promoting journalists and a larger amount of media agencies with access to those constituent elements in news building and delivery. Hardly any mention is made about entrance to information and knowledge outside these parameters. Sadly the much talked about access is severely constrained by many factors to include weak communication systems, low literacy level, poverty, passive and stereotyped services offered in libraries established on donated book collection, slang barriers and above all the lack of political is planning to to bring certain sorts of information to public knowledge.
The library scene in Sierra Leone
Libraries command respect in society as storehouses of knowledge. Their levels is acknowledged without reservation as monumental sums of money are spent on them outstandingly in advanced countries for the provision of timely and accurate information. Sierra Leone’s library scene is made up of public/national, school, academic, teacher training college, polytechnic and special libraries, documentation, information and resource centres. These institutions vary in size and complexity and collectively they are the foundation on which a nation-wide info network is to be built if properties are to provide effective entrance to guidelines and knowledge in the country’s post-war reconstruction era. It is, however, unfortunate to state right here that such professionals are not developing according to national plan and consequently the raise continues to be uneven and lacks cohesion. Also banking support is not keeping pace with increasing cost; the libraries are under increased pressure to give a tool in more breath and depth to a wide range of clientele the vary in age, education and interests.
ROLE OF LIBRARIANS IN PROMOTING ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE
Not withstanding these problems librarians have a part to play in order to put the country on a sound developmental footing, truly among the provision of access to information and knowledge.