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The aim of this study was to investigate the development and validation of circulation software package for university libraries in Federal Universities of North Central Zone, Nigeria.. Specifically, five purposes and three research questions guided the study. Related literature was reviewed under conceptual framework, theoretical framework and related empirical studies. The study adopted descriptive survey at first after which it will adopt Research and Development (R&D). The study was carried out in North Central Zone, it has population of 155 comprising librarians and other library personnel who have worked  in circulation department from seven federal university libraries in the zone. The study used purposive sampling technique to sample 108 librarians and other library personnel. From the above population one hundred and eight (108) questionnaires were distributed filled and returned; representing a return rate of 70%. The data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics of frequency tables and mean scores. And the decision rule for research questions one through three was based on whether the mean score value was lower than or equal to and above the criterion mean value of 2.50 for either rejection or acceptance. The findings of the study shows: that federal university libraries under study to high extent employ manual procedures in carrying out basic circulation functions such as registering users at the circulation Desk, charging out items to users at circulation Desk, Discharging and renewing items to users at the circulation desk. The study revealed that majority of the respondents strongly agreed and agreed that Fast report generation is not possible, Tracing a book on the library shelf  is difficult, Information about issue/return of the books are not properly maintained,  No central database can be created as information is not available in database, Difficulty in determining if a patron has overdue, the manual charging was characterized by long queues and unnecessary delays, manual card systems basically provide  just one access point, the due date is on a card  that has been lost, It is possible to have two (or more!) cards for each item, Waste the users time, The process is cumbersome and Inefficiency in service delivery. Finally, the finding also shows that majority of the respondents have little or no skill in Software design, Software installation/operations, Web design, Digitization and imaging technology, Online cataloguing(MARC) and OCR Devices classification (NLM). It also revealed that respondents have low skill in automated circulation system and System analysis and design. However, the table indicated that most of the respondents have a very high skill in MSOffice, Database searching technique and Transformation of data. Recommendations were made as follows; Libraries should encourage the production of local library application software by patronizing them and even be part of the software development, there is need for constant training and re-training of staff in the proper handling of Information and Communication Technology equipment and process so as not to run in to trouble, staff such as programmers, analysts, and operators should be employed to handle the computer system and train the librarians on basic trouble shooting, ICT facilities and other equipment should be made available for staff at the circulation desk, white the outdated ones should be replaced and each university library should have a stand-by generator and UPS to guard against  power failure and its damage of the automation equipment. The project development of  library circulation Software package that was developed based on the findings of initial descriptive survey carried out to manage the daily book transaction and manage the member, books record more efficiently to improve management of the book property in the library. This library circulation Software package is mainly use by librarian, library admin and users. Besides that, library circulation Software package also allows user to search for availability of books by Title, Author and ISBN via World Wide Web. The methodology adopted to develop this system is waterfall model. Thus, the work chapters included system planning, requirement analysis, system design, programming, system and testing,   of the project. The software is available on-line via http//



Background of the study

University libraries are essential contributors to knowledge generation and serve a wide spectrum of knowledge seekers. In fact, university libraries have been described as the "heart" of the university, because they provide a place for students and faculty to do their research and advance their knowledge. The fundamental role of any university library is to collect, process, store, disseminate and utilize information to provide services to the academic and research community. Librarians and library staff provide numerous services, ranging from acquisition, cataloguing, circulation serial and reference services to their users in order to address their diverse needs and interests. Both the faculty and students depend heavily on the library for information that is necessary in pursuing their individual and collective goals (, 2010).

University libraries have different categories of users’ namely the academic staff (i.e. lecturers), undergraduate students, post graduate students, research fellows, administrative staff, alumni among others. Ifidon and Okoli (2002) note that universities have five (5) functions: Pursuit, promotion, and dissemination of knowledge; Provision of intellectual leadership; Manpower development; Promotion of social and economic modernization; Promotion of intra- and inter-continental and international understanding. From these functions, university libraries have derived their objectives to include, Provision of materials for undergraduate instruction, term papers, and Projects, as well as for supplementary reading through Circulation Department, provision of materials in support of faculty, external and collaborative research; provision of expensive standard works, especially in the professional disciplines, provision of materials for personal  development, provision of specialized information on the region within which the University is situated and Cooperation with other university libraries with a view to developing a network of University library resources that is at the disposal of all scholars.

Similarly, the Circulation Department in a library is the department assigned the responsibility for keeping that "orderly movement through a circuit" orderly, flowing, and complete. The Department's basic function is to, Facilitate and monitor the circulation of books from the regular collection; the department is usually responsible for circulating some books from other collections and for circulating non-book materials, the reserve book operation, in which books are circulated from a closed collection for limited time periods, is also often assigned to the circulation department in some university libraries and the circulation department is frequently given other duties because it is the main public contact point in the library and because it is usually staffed during the hours that the library is open, many "housekeeping" chores are assigned to it. These vary from library to library,  in addition to providing general library information to patrons, may include opening and closing the library, serving as the central library telephone switchboard, supervising photocopy services, providing room and carrel reservations, and general responsibility for emergency responses (Battaile,1992).

 Thus, Circulation is defined by Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as “orderly movement through a circuit.”  Circulation In a library is the orderly movement through a circuit, as it applies to the process of lending books to borrowers and then accurately reshelving them after they have been returned so that they will be retrievable by the next user.  This basic cycle has attached to it many elaborations such as the record-keeping process and sub cycles such as those for overdue and holds. These sub cycles vary from library to library, but the basic cycle remains the same in every library that allows patrons to remove books”.

In the quest to keep accurate records of library materials various types of circulation systems have been developed. Many of these systems have focused on four objectives: to be easy for patrons to use and library personnel to operate, to save borrower time, to speed up the routine of checking in and out; to reduce costs and to relieve librarians for more professional work. There are numerous types of circulation control in use in different types of Library depending largely on size and convenience. Prominent among these are the following: the Browne system, the Newark system, the Ledger system, automated systems,   online processing and the book Card system.  The  Libraries  under  study  uses  the  Newark  system  which provides  that  the  borrower  tenders  his/her  registration  card,  collects  and  completes  the  borrowers’  cards and slips at the circulation desk by lending .

The application of computer technology into the library system has revolutionized the operations and use of libraries. With this technology, material resources needed for teaching and research become easy to access, More than ever before, Nigerian university libraries have developed interest in the use of modern technology to enhance their productivity and improve their services. Faisal and surendan (2008). Itemized the Advantages of Library software as follow: It provides users with timely access to library materials; it eliminates routine tasks or performs them more efficiently; it reduces the amount of time spent on material acquisition, serials management, budget administration and record keeping; it supports new means of information retrieval by introducing patrons to global information; it allows patrons to use search strategies that exceed those that can be used With card catalogue; it allows patrons to search library’s collection from locations outside the Library’s walls;  It motivates users, equips them with problem solving and information retrieval skills, and provides them with lifelong learning experiences.           

Automation of the processes of accessing information and technical services is the cherished goal of the university libraries, especially in the circulation and cataloguing subsystems. Circulation system, according to Olufeagba (1977) in Babafemi et,al (2007). Involves the mechanization of activities such as "charging of books to users, renewing of books, processing, reservation, monitoring of utilization of books, operating short term loans of document processing, overdue notices and calculating fines, answering library queries, discharging returned materials and checking for possible hold request. It has been observed, however, that a lot of time is wasted in carrying out these functions manually. To solve these problems more hands are employed, but this does not help the situation as it only leads to increased budget for salaries and allowances of staff. With library automation these problem will not arise as it helps to save both library staff and users' time.  Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences define “Library  Automation  is  the  use  of  automatic  and  semiautomatic  data  processing  machines  to  perform  such  traditional  library  activities  as  acquisitions,  cataloguing,  and  circulation.  These  activities  are  not  necessarily  performed  in  traditional  ways,  the  activities  themselves  are  those  traditionally  associated  with  libraries; library automation may thus be distinguished from related fields such as  information  retrieval,  automatic  indexing  and  abstracting and automatic textual analysis” (Kent, 1997). Furthermore, Ossai. (2010). Automated library denote a library in which the collections of library materials are primarily on paper but in which the library procedures have been computerized. The author also noted that the records needed for library operations must necessarily be concerned with individual copies of each title. A circulation system must know precisely which copy of which volume of which edition of which title was borrowed by precisely which borrower and when it is due back. Again Library automation refers to mechanization of library housekeeping operations predominantly by computerization. The most commonly known housekeeping operations are acquisition control, serials control, cataloguing, and classification and circulation control. Library automation or Integrated Library System (ILS) is an enterprise resource planning systems for a library, used to tracks items owned; borrow out item, returned items etc. therefore, the need of library software or automation has several reasons. Need of computers is present in all areas depending upon its usage,  ranging from acquisition control, serial control, and cataloguing and circulation control, used for library manager’s evaluation of reports, statistics.   For administration of the library computers are used in all levels of work.  Computers help in the following areas: Capacity to handle any amount of data and information; Participating in network programmers and resource sharing;   Flexibility in information search; Standardization of library procedures and Speedy processing of information and its retrieval. 

System development life cycle is an organizational process of developing and maintaining systems. It helps in establishing a system project plan, because it gives overall list of processes and sub-processes required for developing a system. System development life cycle means combination of various activities. In other words we can say that various activities put together are referred as system development life cycle. In the System Analysis and Design terminology, the system development life cycle also means software development life cycle. Following are the different phases of system development life cycle: Preliminary study, Feasibility study, detailed system study, System analysis, System design, Coding, Testing, Implementation and Maintenance. It is pertinent to note here that there are different programming languages in use namely: java, php, Netbean, mysql, apache, visual basic 6.0 and visual basic .net languages. However, this application will be developed using visual basic .net language and Microsoft access will be used as the demo.

University library computerization in Nigeria has been in the pipeline. According to Abolaji (2000) states that significant and widespread efforts at computerizing library services started in the 1990s. Major efforts at computerization were stalled by the supposed lack of funds and expertise. Ekpenyong (1997) notes that most notable research libraries in Nigeria are advanced in computerization. Unfortunately, no significant efforts were recorded in this regard. University libraries in Nigeria are now moving from their isolated past into automated systems and networked operations. As Khalid (2000) observes, "that networked and automated functions bring the experiences of the evolution of libraries in developed countries. University libraries in Nigeria are trying to catch up with their counterparts in the developed world. University library automation in Nigeria started automation process in the late 1980s, with various stages of automation of library services. The Federal Government of Nigeria through the National Universities Commission (NUC), which oversees and disburses funds to all the federal universities in Nigeria, introduced projects aimed at computerizing university services across the country.

The NUC initiated Management Information Systems (MIS) which gave birth to all Nigerian Universities Network (NUNET) project. With the aim of developing a viable local and wide area network in each institution and more recently followed by the National Virtual (Digital) Library Project. The mission was "to provide, in an equitable and cost effective manner, enhanced access to national and international library and information resources and for sharing locally available resources with libraries all over the world using digital technology." (UNESCO) in Nok. (2006). The objectives of the Virtual Library Project are as follows: to improve the quality of teaching and research in institutions of higher; Learning in Nigeria through the provision of current books, journals and other Library resources; to enhance access to academic libraries serving the education community in Nigeria to global library and information resources; to enhance scholarship, research, and lifelong learning through the establishment of permanent access to shared digital archival collections; to provide guidance for academic libraries on applying appropriate Technologies used in the production of digital library resources; and to advance the use and usability of a globally-distributed network of Library resources.

The study is conducted in federal university libraries of North-Central Zone of Nigeria. These are composed of Kogi, Benue, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. The federal university libraries of the zone and their year of establishment includes University of Jos library Plateau State (1975); University of Ilorin library, Kwara state (1975); Federal University of Technology, Minna library, Niger state (1982); University of Agriculture Makurdi library, Benue state (1988); University of Abuja library, Abuja (1988); Federal University of Lokoja library, Kogi state (2011) and Federal University of Lafia library, Nasarawa state (2011) (National Universities Commission (NUC) News Bulletins, 2012).

Subsequently, some of this Federal University libraries at one time or the other have implement software package in their house- keeping operations especial On-line Public Access Catalog  (OPAC) using Technology Information Navigator  for Libraries (TINLIB), Integrated Technical Services  (ITS) and Koha.   Despite the foregoing factor the fact remain that none of the libraries have activated their circulation module and above all, know studies has been carried out on the development and validation of  circulation package in the zone. Hence, the need to “develop and validate a circulation software package for libraries in Federal University of North Central Nigeria

Statement of the Problem

Information resources in the library are meant to satisfy the day to day need of its clients. No matter how rich a university library collection is, the resources therein cannot be properly harnessed if the process of accessing the resources is poorly structured. The circulation department of the university library acts as an interface between the users and the collections in the library.  It is obvious that the manual method of charging and discharging services to users in the Circulation Subsection is poorly structured and characterized by long queues and unnecessary delays, the filling of users' cards and keeping of statistics is not only cumbersome but also getting out of control as filing cards spills over to the next day on several occasions; that maintenance of manual card catalogue proved problematic, limited information access points because creating duplicate records to increase access points is time consuming and costly, Slow and difficult processes for determining the circulation status of a given item,  the potential for misfiled records, no means of easily providing users with a list of all items they have currently charged,  no means by which library users can be informed of pending due dates, Provision of only the most rudimentary statistics because of the time involved in manually compiling detailed information and  difficulty in determining if a user has overdue or other lost items which should prevent them from being able to borrow more material due to poor circulation system. Hence, the need for software package.

It is in view of the foregoing that the researcher intend to develop and validate a user friendly circulation software package for libraries in federal universities in North Central Nigeria so as to fill the gap that exist in this area.

Purpose of the Study                              

The study is aimed at the development and validation of circulation software package for university libraries in federal universities of North Central Nigeria. Based on this, the specific objective are therefore to:

1.      Identify circulation procedures employed in the university libraries.

2.      Identify the problems militating against circulation subsystem in the University Libraries

3.      Ascertain the level of ICT skills of the librarians in the Libraries.

4.      Develop  an automated system for the circulation functions of the libraries

5.      Validate the automated circulation package for the libraries

Research Questions

The following Research Questions were formulated to guide the study:

1.      What is the circulation procedures employed in the university libraries?

2.      What are the problems militating against circulation subsystem in the University Libraries?

3.      What is the level of ICT skills of the librarians in the Libraries?

Note: there are no research questions for objective 4 and 5 because they are R&D in nature.

Significance of the study

The findings of this study and the developed software package are expected to be beneficial to the following:  librarians, users, library policy makers and the field of library and information science. The result of this study will help university librarians to improve greatly on the quality of services rendered to the University Community by enhancing streamlines circulation, Time saving of clerical and repetitive tasks and Ease of maintenances of statistics and overdue. Similarly, the process of keeping borrower information and books inventory will become more sophisticated, each operation for both functions will be handled by the system to define the period of time for borrowing penalty, calculation for late return books and total of books that still remain every week for inventory check, It will also provide a user friendly data entry with drop down button menu, list box, and checkbox in purpose to make the input entry easier to understand and use. The time of loading will be fast. So, the users do not need waiting for a long time to get result from the system. Teachers will become more effective and efficient in discharging their responsibility of teaching, learning, research and development by accessing the titles of books at the instance of their offices. The result of this study will enable students to know the status of a particular title before going to the library by remotely accessing library collections outside the physical library building, the process of searching for books will be much easier, all users need to do is just insert information of book such as book’s id and system will find and views the book item of such author, category and publisher, The system use will be easy. client just need to insert, input and click some button to get output for all functions provided by the proposed automated system. In a library situation, computer can handle, store, process and disseminate information for the benefit of users (students, researchers, lecturers, etc.) Thus, the use of computer technology in our libraries can be emphasis to be of much importance. It will enhance resources sharing through e-mail enquiries at the instance of their university libraries, enhances consistency in the collection, time saving and collaborations with one another. Increase service to the end user while systematically reducing costs.  Results in higher productivity, reliability, availability, and increased performance in the university libraries. The findings will also guide the University management to make policy that will improve service (s) that users have low levels of satisfaction. The field of library and information science: the study will also be useful to Nigeria Library Associations in organizing focused ICT training workshops and conferences to bridge the gap in ICT skills of library personnel to enhance quality service delivery. The study will also be helpful for those that are interested in carrying out library software design, system librarianship and library automation system there by contributing to the body of knowledge.

Scope of the Study

The study will cover libraries in Federal university of North central Nigeria to examine the existing manual circulation functions, identify problems, the level of ICT skills, develop and validate circulation software package.  the study will cover: Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Nassarawa, Benue, Plateau State and FCT Abuja.

Limited to web applications and stored information of all books and records of borrowers or users. Basically, the package will have four major functions; there will be library user account manage system, search record, book borrowing system and report generator. The interface and database will only be design in single language, which is English. Delimited to koha and web 2.0 applications in Federal University libraries in North central state of Nigeria.

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