ASSESSMENT OF REFERENCE AND INFORMATION SERVICES TO UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS IN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN ENUGU AND ANAMBRA STATES

ASSESSMENT OF REFERENCE AND INFORMATION SERVICES TO UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS IN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN ENUGU AND ANAMBRA STATES

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ABSTRACT

This study was conducted to assess reference and information services rendered to the undergraduate students in federal university libraries in Enugu and Anambra stateS of Nigeria. This is with aim of ascertaining the reference and information services offered to undergraduate students in these university libraries, to identify the available resources in the reference sections in these libraries, to find out the extent to which the undergraduate students make use of  reference and information sources in these libraries, to find out the extent to which the undergraduate students are satisfied with services offered in these libraries, to determine the problem encountered by using the reference collections in these libraries and to suggest possible ways of solving the identified problems. Based on the objective, six research questions guided the study. A descriptive survey design was adopted in carrying out the work. Sampling technique was used. A total number of one thousand, four hundred and sixty one (1461) respondents were used for the study. The instrument for data collection was questionnaire and oral interview. One thousand four hundred and sixty one (1461) copies of the questionnaire were distributed to the undergraduate students of the two university libraries with 95% return rate. Frequency table and mean were used for the data analysis. The results obtained from the findings revealed that reference services are rendered to undergraduate students in the two university libraries, that reference resources are available in the reference sections of the university libraries, that the undergraduate students make use of the reference services offered to them in the libraries under study. The finding also revealed that greater number of the undergraduate students are satisfied with the reference services offered in these libraries. However, the findings revealed that erratic power supply and lack of money constitute major problems to reference services in these libraries. Based on the findings, it was recommended that the administration of the libraries under study should make available stand-by generator to avoid disruption of power supply and that management should release more funds to enable libraries acquire more materials. 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

          The library is regarded as the nucleus of any academic institution including universities. University libraries are established as a knowledge/information nerve centre otherwise called the “heart” of the university. The university is a service organization with the primary objective of providing the bibliographic resources required in fulfillment of the university’s mission. The university’s mission according to the National Policy on Education (2004) is to make optimum contributions to national development of high level manpower within the context of the needs of the nation. For any university to cope with the task of teaching, learning and research effectively, the university requires the total support of functional libraries.

          University libraries also referred to as academic libraries help their parent institutions achieve their aim by performing the following functions:

1.     Provision of materials for undergraduate instruction, term papers, projects as well as supplementary reading;

2.     provision of materials in support of faculties, external and collaborative researches;

3.     provision of information resources for postgraduate research;

4.     provision of expensive standard works especially in the professional disciplines;

5.     Provision of materials for personal development (Igwebuike, 2003).

The university reference and information services department according to Sturges (2002) is agency or department responsible for providing processed or published information on specific topics to an organization’s internal users, its customers or the public. However, Matthew (2001) asserts that to be successful in today’s fast changing and highly competitive world, it is vital to use information technology effectively, having understood the role it plays, tremendous benefits it offers and how to make the best use of its system.

The entire human and material resources in a library are put in place at considerable expense for the overall purpose of providing effective services to the library users. On its part the library has a responsibility to ensure that its resources and services are used. This matter is so fundamental that one can define a library in terms of use. Indeed the modern library anticipates the expectation of its users and positively provides resources and services to fulfill them (Edoka 2000). According to Boulanger (1990) the traditional user groups of the academic library are the faculty, staff and students of the college or university.

The undergraduate or the university students pursuing their first degree have diverse needs such as information for writing their term papers, doing their assignments and even how to use the catalogue to get what they need from the libraries. Some of these are reference service needs which could best be provided by the reference librarian using reference sources. The undergraduate students gain entrance to the university without the skills for making effective use of the library and its resources. Aguolu and Aguolu (2002) posit that although in the university setting development of library literacy applies to both undergraduates and the postgraduates, it is primarily directed at the former. The library contains a vast array of information and often times the resources is not accessible to the undergraduate, students, especially the new intakes due to their lack of information skills. Hence Popoola (2001) posits that information availability does not mean accessibility and utilization. For the undergraduate students to undergo meaningful university education, they need to learn how to exploit the resources of the library especially reference sources.

Reference and information services are among the most important of these services, as they bring together the user and the resources in the library. Reference service is the personal assistance given by the librarian to individuals in search of information. In effect, reference service involves providing answers to questions asked by the library users. A reader has an information need. He comes to the library and poses the question. The librarian strives to provide an answer to the question from the information resources in his library and sometimes in another library. The essence of library service is the maximization of information resources in the library.

Encyclopedia Britanica (2003) states that the origin of formalized reference services can be found in American academic and public libraries and dated from the last quarter of the 19th century. It further noted that organized reference services appear to have been a uniquely American contribution to world librarianship. Reference services are aimed at teaching users the use of the standard reference sources and providing general answers to users’ queries. In the words of Osinulu and Balogun (2003) reference services are established primarily to facilitate the use of the library and its resources. Supporting this view Kumar (1998) highlights that in order to convert potential users into habitual users it is essential to establish a desired kind of contact between the user and the document. According to Kumar this (establishment of right contact between a user and document) assumes the existence of documents as well as users. In the same vein Ranganathan (1961) argues that the right contact between the right reader and the right book at the right time in the right personal way. Ranganathan further states that reference service is the establishment of contact between reader and book by personal services. Here personal service to each user to help him to find his requirement is emphasized. Galvin (1987) and Ugwuanyi (1997) in their different studies succinctly defined reference services as the personal assistance given to the users finding special information whether direct or indirect. Ifidon (1997) gave a broader definition of reference service as the springboard to the library and librarianship, wherein one is involved with all aspects of information, both theoretical and practical.

Reference and information services extend beyond the provision of answers to questions. The users are to develop skills which will enable them get all types of reference and information services –on – site, mail, telephone, email and virtual. 

The undergraduate students need user education to be independent library users. Aguolu and Aguolu (2002) assert that independent library use is the epitome of library use dependent upon the lecturer’s teaching methods and his attitude towards the use of the university library, and upon his perception of his role as a teacher and his conception of the objectives of undergraduate. Lyle (1961) noted that in user education, the student is lured into becoming an active participant in his own education with the teacher serving as a guide and counsellor. Lyle further states that in this type of teaching, the student comes to the library to select, sift, organize and evaluate such information as he needs.

There are levels of reference services offered to students. According to Katz (1982) the three distinct levels of reference services are as follows:

1.     Conservative or minimum: This type of service consists of a little more than pointing out where reference tools may be found. The goal appears ultimately self-sufficient;

2.     Moderate or middling service: Here the librarian may make an active effort to instruct certain selected patrons in the use of the library while answering their question;

3.     Liberal or Maximum service: Here the librarian consistently comes up with the answer. He or she is willing and anxious to help the patron personally but only when such help is requested.

In reference service, the reference staff uses available resources in the reference section to supply answers to queries, thus meeting the information need of the patrons. These resources are in both print and non-print format. Nworgu (1991) defined reference sources as books not meant to be read from cover to cover but only to be consulted for certain information or factors. Nworgu further states that these books are expected to be in the library at all times. Kumar (1998) gave a list of reference books to include the following: encyclopedia, dictionaries, formularies etc. Print sources have been the standard format for most reference librarians. Their advantage according to Murray (1999) is that no additional equipment is needed to use them. In recent times libraries have emphasized computer-based reference sources. According to Sloan (2000) they include the following: Electronic journals, Internet resources, digitized materials, and World Wide Web. These electronic formats are ideal for reference materials in which people are reading shorter amount of information or just looking up a fact or statistics. Murry (1999) observed that the use of CD-ROM is advantageous because they can store a large amount of information in a small amount of space. Murray further states that they also offer Boalean searching thus assisting the user in finding additional materials that might not be so easily located in a print format.

          The use of computers in libraries has improved reference service. Horvat (1999) is of the view that the strongest impact on services provided by libraries has probably been made by the use of computer to do sometimes complex and time-consuming tasks. Horvat further maintained that computers are especially useful in storing and retrieving specialized information. Katz (1981) asserts that the computer has revolutionized the very philosophy of reference service as well as actual search process. Sloan (2000) defined digital reference service as the provision of reference involving collaboration between library and user and librarian in a computer-based medium.

          The reference section needs to be managed by competent reference staff. The interaction between the librarians and user is the key to the entire service. The unique role of the reference librarian requires his use of skills, experience and the ability to deal with people in carrying out his work effectively. Galvin (1981) recommends that a good reference librarian should be tactful, intelligent, energetic, sensitive, polite and assured. Similarly Kumar (1998) noted that the competencies to be developed by reference librarians include wide ranging intellectual interest; adequate knowledge of library resources; desire to assist user, ability for search literature etc. According to Oketunji (2008) reference staff require a first degree in humanities or arts or social science or sciences plus a postgraduate qualification in librarianship. Such training is necessary to equip him with sound background knowledge of the subject and the requisite skills required to render satisfactory service to users. Ifidon (1997) highlights that if the equipment is functional and furniture are available but there are no competent and user-friendly staff to operate the service, either the library will earn poor name or patrons will be reluctant to use the services.

          The use of digital resources in reference service has changed even the work of reference staff. In addition to skills he already has, he needs in-service training to enable him/her use newly evolved resources effectively. Chigbu (2003) asserts that the traditional role of libraries and librarians is changing with the introduction of new technologies in library and information service worldwide. Again Oketunji (2008) observed that digital reference service will no longer be place-bound. The place at which it is based will not be a reference desk staffed by reference librarian. Oketunji further noted that instead, it will be an information consultation room in which a librarian can work face – to – face with a user or from which a librarian can work screen – to – screen with a remote user. The University of Nigeria Website and other University Websites are a development that transcends a building’s fixity and aims at saving the time of the researcher and assuring that every bit of information has its user and every user finds his/her needed information.

          With the development of commercial information service and internet connectivity, reference services offered to users need to be assessed to determine level of quality and satisfaction. Devis (2002) observed that academic libraries are facing two major challenges: a global digital environment and increasing competition. Devis further noted that they must improve the quality of their services in order to survive. Similarly Hernon (2002) posits that it is important for libraries to know the quality of their performance by getting feedback from users because user’s assessment indicates the libraries’ success in service performance. Levy (2000) asserts that the assessment of a specific reference service program examines how well a particular reference effort in a known environment is able to achieve its goals.

          Assessments of reference and information services pose problems. Rothstein and Altiman (1998) maintained that a number of studies have attempted to ascertain the opinion held by reference clientele regarding the service received for purposes of future evaluation. Welch (1982) noted that although personal observation by administrators and others has been a means of evaluating the reference process, many problems arise concerning the validity and reliability of this method of appraising reference service. In similar vein Levy (2000) highlights that it is extremely difficult to assess digital library public service, especially online reference service in part because we do not really know yet what types of demanded services will emerge from user of digital libraries as they settle into these online environments. Pomerantz, Mon and McChure (2008) assert that indeed, because of the complexity of planning for and delivering high quality remote reference services, evaluation is perhaps even more critical for this than for other services. Parasuraman Zeithaml and Berry (1988) developed an instrument with which to measure service quality and what customers value as important and it is called SERVQUAL. Nitecki (1996) noted that SERVQUAL is the mechanism that shifts the assessment of quality of library traditions of measuring collection size and counting incidents of its uses to begin investigating how the provision of service related to the library user’s service quality. Assessment according to Ifidon (1997) is the assessment of extent to which a collection is necessary in order to determine the scope, depth and usefulness of the collection. It will also help to convince the library authorities that the allocated resources are being judiciously utilized and identify area where additional weeding is required. Reference collection should be assessed by obtaining opinions from regular users, direct examination of shelves or applying library standards.

          The two federal university libraries under study have ideal reference and information department that can meet information needs of students.

Statement of the Problem

          The purpose of an academic library is the provision of high quality reference and information services that will meet the information needs of the undergraduate students as well as other users. The provision of reference service in the library is aimed at ensuring that the undergraduate students have access to the information they need for academic work.

          Effective reference services are essential if the performance and the general standard of education of the undergraduate students are to be of high quality. However, it appears that the undergraduate students in some university libraries may not be receiving effective services in their reference sections. This may be due to inability of these libraries to procure current resources/thereby affecting the delivery of quality reference services to the undergraduate students. Again some problems encountered while using reference sources may constitute problems to undergraduate students. The inability to receive satisfactory reference services by the undergraduate students may equally be affecting their performance and library use.

          Scholars have carried out studies on different aspects of reference services in different types of libraries but assessment of Federal University libraries reference services to undergraduate students in south eastern Nigeria has not been carried out. It is for this reason that this study is set to assess the reference services offered to undergraduate students to ascertain how well they are doing, the problems they encounter and what could be done to overcome the identified problems in these federal university libraries in south eastern Nigeria.

Purpose of the Study

          The general purpose of this study is to assess the Federal University libraries reference and information services to the undergraduate student in south eastern Nigeria.

          The specific objectives include to:

1.      ascertain the reference service offered to undergraduate students by university libraries;

2.      identify the available resources in the reference sections in these libraries.

3.      find out the extent to which the undergraduate students make use of reference sources in the libraries;

4.      find out the extent to which the undergraduate students are satisfied with the services offered in these libraries.

5.      determine the problems encountered by the undergraduate students while using the reference collections in these libraries.

6.      suggest possible ways of solving the identified problems.

Research Questions

          This study is guided by the following research questions:

1.     What are the reference services rendered to the undergraduate students in the federal university libraries in Enugu and Anambra State, Nigeria?

2.     What are the available resources in the reference sections of the libraries?

3.     To what extent do undergraduate students make use of reference and information services in these libraries?

4.     To what extent are the undergraduate students satisfied with reference and information services offered in these libraries?

5.     What are the problems encountered by the undergraduate students while using reference and information materials?

6.     What are the possible strategies for overcoming the identified problems?

Significance of the Study

The result of this study will hopefully be beneficial to the undergraduate students, other researchers, reference libraries and the university administration.

          The findings of this study will make the undergraduate students and other researchers develop skills that will enable them exploit available resources and technology in their library and thus make them capable of getting their needed information independently.

          The recommendation of this study will sharpen the focus of the reference librarian concerning professional role and responsibilities of a competent reference staff in terms of skills and personal qualities expected of them to carry out their job effectively.

          This study will be of benefit to the University administration by unveiling the extent of finance needed to procure reference and information resources for libraries. The knowledge of this fact will enable University administration make adequate budgetary allocation with which to equip the library with resources and information communication technology (ICT) needed in the library.     

Scope of the Study

          The study will cover the two federal university libraries in south eastern Nigeria. They are the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. It will also cover assessment of reference services such as user education rendered by reference sections of the federal university libraries




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