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The Status of Fourah Bay College Library Since Its Inception


Fourah Bay College library came into existence in 1827 and it was affiliated with Durham in 1876. This affiliation scheme enlarged the college regulations, and as a result of this, new phases of development were introduced and included in the improvement in the condition of the library. Its first Board of Curators was appointed and a regular supply of standard newspapers and other publications were provided. Professor Richards was appointed Librarian-In-Charge with Mr. T. Taylor as Library Assistant.


Fourah bay College Library management was virtually established, and attracted valuable donations such as a special collection donated in 1881 by Rev. H. Wright who served as Honorary Secretary to the Church Missionary Society. Later in 1917 Bishop James Johnson bequeathed his set of 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica to the College Library.

During the World War II period, that is 1939-1945, little was done about the development of the College Library. By then the library was located at Mabang, and continued to maintain a library which was originally intended to be an Agricultural College. The College had few teachers and a small student population of about twenty students. The conditions of the war in the 1940’s caused the library to be managed by student librarians. The library was generally faced with lack of resources in the war years. In those years the library minimal collections consisted mainly of theological and literary works which was transferred to Mount Aureol. The materials was housed in several buildings such as the student dining hall, the college Chapel, the College Bookshop, stores and Games and Sports Office.

The library facilities of the college at this stage formed part of the higher education development programme. The most area of priority at Fourah Bay college was the development of Library. With the establishment of a stable information Centre, Fourah Bay College became an attractive venue for foreign funds. In 1954, following a visit to the Fulton Commission which improved the status of the college, the library was awarded a grant of $8,000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to be used for the purchase of essential reference and bibliographic materials. The British complemented this donation in 1955 with a grant of £15,000 from the Colonial Development Welfare Funds. Two-thirds of those donations (£10,000) were spent on books and periodicals and the rest on equipment. These grants and other donations led to an accelerated growth of the library and formed the foundation of a steady development during the 60s. It was at this critecal period that the library was assigned its rightful position as a priority affiliated college of the University of Durham.

In 1961, the second expatriate Mr. R.S. Burkett, relinquished his appointment as College Librarian after a period of four and the half years. The third expatriate librarian, the late Mr. Michael Jollife (after whom the library has been named), was appointed in 1961. He was initially concerned with the improvement of the physical facilities of the library. In 1968, the college received full university status and with this elevation, the library also played leadership role in the development of other librarians in Sierra Leone. Within the library itself, Mr. Jollife established the Reprographic and Micrographic sections. In his 1961/1962 annual report, Mr. Jollife decided to the provide funds under the British Technical Assistance Programme for the purchase of bindery equipment and Mr. W.J Askew, a British Book Binder was assigned this responsibility. He arrived in Sierra Leone in August 15, 1964. By then, there were ten thousand (10,000) books and periodicals for binding and rebinding. Mr. S.T Browne, a Sierra Leonean craftsman succeeded Mr. Askew after his three years tenure in April 1966 as Head Book Binder. Currently, the Bindery is headed by Mr. Patrick James. At the end of March, 1970, Mr. Michael Jollife resigned his post to become Librarian at Royal Halloway College, London and was succeeded by A.C. Butler who arrived in 1971. Thus, Mrs. Gladys Jusu-Sheriff was the first Sierra Leonean Aegean College Librarian after Mr. Butler left in 1972.

Fourah Bay College administration reacted to an acute shortage of library personnel in that period, and instituted a course for the City and Guilds of London Assistant Certificate jointly organised by the college library and the Extra-Mural Department. Deficiencies in the library certificate provided an apparent long-term need for a library course in Sierra Leone. This programme was a junior assistant’s qualification which was purely western system of library management and there was an evident gap between the City of Guilds and the ALA. There was a need to institute a programme locally to provide an intermediate qualification to bridge the gap between the junior clerical level staff and full professionals. This brought about the response for the formation of the Institute of Library, Archive and Information Studies in 1986 through the dynamic leadership of Mrs. Gladys Jusu-Sheriff who eventually became the first director. In November 1999 the Institute was merged with the Mass Communication unit within the Faculty of Arts to form the Institute of Library, Information and Communication Studies (INSLICS) offering certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate qualifications.

The late Mrs. Deanna Thomas succeeded Mrs. Gladys Jusu-Sheriff as librarian of Fourah Bay College library in 1990 but traveled out of the country in June 1997 during the interregnum of Freetown. Mr. Oliver Harding acted as librarian in her absence until June 1998 when a more senior officer in the University of Sierra Leone, the late Prof. L.N. M’Jamtu-Sie the then librarian of College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was appointed to supervise activities in the library. She resigned in January 2005 and returned to COMAHS. Mr. Donald Davies acted until August 2005 and was succeeded in an acting capacity by Rev. Oliver Harding who returned to Sierra Leone from Nigeria after he obtained a second master degree in Biblical Studies from West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos (an affiliate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka). He is still the current Acting Librarian at Fourah Bay College Library with only twenty-nine(29) staff. Of the twenty-nine staff, only eight(8) are professionals. This indeed is a big setback to Fourah Bay College Library which needs to be rectified.

Currently the library consists of a four-storey building composed of the following sections: The lower ground floor consists of the Bindery and the Sierra Leone Collection. The Ground Floor consists of the Reception Desk, Librarian’s Office, Issue Desk, Cataloguing Department and General Reference collection, photocopying room, the American Shelves and the United Nations Collection. The first floor is the Periodicals/Serials Collection, while the second floor represent the lending collection or the textbook collection and the third floor which originally housed lending library matarials is currently not functioning due to licking roof of the building.

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