EVALUATION OF THE RESOURCES AND SERVICES AVAILABLE AT THE MTN FOUNDATION DIGITAL LIBRARIES IN NIGERIA UNIVERSITIES

EVALUATION OF THE RESOURCES AND SERVICES AVAILABLE AT THE MTN FOUNDATION DIGITAL LIBRARIES IN NIGERIA UNIVERSITIES

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Abstract

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  This study was conducted to evaluate the resources and services of the MTN Foundation Digital Libraries in Nigerian universities. This is with the aim of finding out their problems and strategies for enhancing their effectiveness and relevance to education and research for staff and students of the universities. Six objectives and six research questions guided the study. A descriptive survey design was adopted in carrying out the work. Convenient sampling technique was used. A total number of four hundred and fifty (450) respondents were used for the study. The instruments for data collection were questionnaire, interview and observation checklist. Four hundred and fifty (450) copies of the questionnaire were distributed to the staff and students in the two universities in Nigeria and three hundred and ninety-five were returned representing 87 % return rate. The following statistical measures were employed for the data analysis: frequency table, simple percentage and mean (×). The findings revealed that the relevant means of awareness of the MTNFDLs in the universities were infrequent and that the resources/databases available at universities are useful and current.  However, the researcher observed that only free databases were current at one of the universities. The findings also revealed that insufficient power supply, poor performance of the generator, low bandwidth, system breakdown and limited time allowed using the libraries are some of the challenges facing MTNFDLs. Based on the findings, it was recommended that awareness workshop for staff and students should be constantly organised by the NetLibrary in conjunction with MTN Foundation; MTN Foundations should constantly require feedback from the NetLibrary and the universities to ensure sustainability of the project; the parties should persevere on one another to ensure compliance to the contract agreement and the issue of power supply should be taken seriously as the effectiveness and relevance of the resources and services of digital libraries primarily depend on constant electricity supply. Students should also lodge their complaints about inefficiency of the resources and services of the digital libraries to the university authorities. Finally, there should be constant evaluation of the digital libraries to show the true state of the libraries at any point in time.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

            The main purpose of a university library is to support the institution’s objectives, which are teaching, learning and research. The library is regarded as the heart of the intellectual system of the institution. To a large extent, the quality of the institution is measured by the services provided by the library because of its unique position in the over-all system. The history of university library in Nigeria started in 1948 with the establishment of the University College, Ibadan. Subsequently, the University College Library (now Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan) was established as the intellectual heart of the College. Other Higher university libraries established in Nigeria after 1948 also ensured that this precedence is maintained in their respective institutions.

            However, the situation changed for the worse in the 1980s when the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the World Bank inspired Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which affected university funding adversely. University libraries were the first casualties. This is because a lot of the materials purchased by libraries have a substantial foreign exchange component while the SAP adopted by the government resulted in the massive devaluation of the national currency. Thus, funds allocated to universities could no longer meet the requirements of the libraries. The situation deteriorated to such a level that the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to make some interventions, such as, The World Bank Federal Universities Development Sector Adjustment Credit, The Petroleum Special Trust Fund, National Education Materials Procurement Programme and the Education Tax Fund.

            Today, there are over two hundred universities in Nigeria. Given the limited funding available to academic libraries in Nigeria, it is obvious that scholars and students can only access a small portion of the information available in their disciplines. Thus, with the escalating costs of information materials and dwindling allocation of funds to academic institutions a judicious balance must be made to ensure that users of academic libraries in Nigeria have access to relevant, appropriate information in their fields of interest. This can only be possible if libraries lay more emphasis on access rather than ownership.

            The need to emphasis access against the traditional method of ownership became necessary as a lot of information is being churned out every second. Issa, Daura & Blessing (2009) termed it a ‘daily explosion of information resources’. This was occasioned by the development in ICTs. The symptom of information over load is such that the available information is so enormous that no one library can afford to purchase to satisfy the needs of its clientele. Furthermore, information needs of the library users have dramatically changed; users are asking for all kinds of information, CD-ROM, multimedia, print, and others. Dalgeish & Hall in Ozoemelem (2009) noted that the rate of production of electronic materials has exceeded that of print-based publications. Radar (2008) also commented on the increase in the demand for a variety of information resources by library users, students, professors, and researchers. They also want information electronically anytime, anywhere, for multipurpose uses, quickly, conveniently, and in a portable and easy-to-use form.

            The University of Louisville Libraries for instance are beginning to allocate significant resources for, and to rethink services related to electronic information. In 2002-2003 access to library users to 270 electronic databases has been made available, as compared to forty-two databases in 1996-97, an increase of over 600 percent. Among these new resources are large databases and services with access to abstracts and full-text articles, such as ABI/Inform, First Search, EBSCO, Biological Abstracts, Beilstein, INSPEC, Medline, Science Direct, Lexis-Nexis, and Web of Science. Similarly, other academic and research libraries have been forming partnerships and cooperative agreements with one another to ensure preservation and cost containment for electronic and scholarly publications (Radar, 2008).

            Omekwu (2006) rightly observed that in the current dispensation, web access will become increasingly an imperative for all libraries. Without it, library users will be denied a round -the- clock access to global information. The whole essence of the emphasis on ICTs infrastructural facilities development is to build the platform for real time, non-stop easy access to information that transcends national boundaries and barriers. Virtual, electronic or Internet librarianship will increasingly become the dominant features of the Information Society. Skills in managing online library resources will become a compelling imperative in that society. And the digitization of library, archival and cultural repositories will become inevitable. Library services must be patron-centred and increasingly use ICT to meet patron needs. The use of appropriate databases for research and learning must be explored, starting with free and open databases. To accomplish this, a paradigm shift is required where the keyword is “access”. Computers and network points will have to be provided and increased for library patrons to access library off-line and on-line resources (Akintunde, 2006). Magara (2000) observed that digital libraries have become a feature on the landscape in developed countries and have lately become a feature in advancing communication, information, and knowledge in the developing world.

            The advent of the Internet, World Wide Web, and other online infrastructures provided means of disseminating all kinds of information to people who have access. It was sooner realised that the Internet is an ‘uncharted zone’ without control. The best that has happened to academic communities is the advent of digital libraries. A digital library is an information system that collects organised information and which is accessible electronically to a large group of people.

            Cleveland (1998) commented on this new development that “the idea of easy, finger-tip access to information- what we conceptualize as digital libraries today- began with Vannenar Bush’s Memex machine and has continued to evolve with each advance in information technology. With the arrival of computers, the concept centered on large bibliographic databases, the now familiar online retrieval and public access systems that are part of any contemporary library. When computers were connected into large networks forming the Internet, the concept evolved again, and research turned to creating libraries of digital information that could be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world. Phrases like "virtual library," "electronic library," "library without walls" and, most recently, "digital library," all have been used interchangeably to describe this broad concept.

             Research and development in digital libraries have grown rapidly in the 1990s (Saracevic & Covi, 2000). The passion was jointly triggered by the multimillion dollar initiatives launched in 1993 by the U.S. government on digital library projects and the exploding growth in accessibility and utilization of the Internet worldwide. Special journal issues on digital libraries began to appear digital library conferences and workshops were held (ACM Conference on Digital Libraries, Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries: European Conferences, IEEE ADL), and new print and online journals on digital libraries were started. In the United States, the six major digital libraries research projects are: Project Alexandria (University of California, Santa Barbara), Infomedia (Carnegie Mellon University), Stanford Digital Library (Stanford), Digital Library Initiative (University of Illinois), Digital Library Project (University of California, Berkeley), and Digital Library Project (University of Michigan) (Hong, Thong, Wong & Tam, 2002). Rosenberg (2005) noted that over the last five years, enormous progress has been made in ensuring that staff and students in universities in Africa can access the growing quantities of information resources now produced in electronic format. Support has been provided in setting up the necessary networked infrastructure and providing the requisite hardware and software.

            Okiy (2008) reported the challenges facing digitization projects in Nigeria. She particularly cited the Digitization of Theses and Dissertations in Nigerian Universities that was initiated by the Association of African Universities at the University of Jos and at OAU in Ile-Ife.  The University of Nigeria, Nsukka also has embarked on digitization of Theses and Dissertations. Electronic Databases offer thousands of digitized journals and e-books and libraries need to offer pathways to guide users to the best ones. African Journals Online (AJOL) is an important effort at freely offering digital copies of African journal articles. This online resource along with JSTOR offers a wealth of digitized peer-reviewed journal articles for researchers in Africa.

            The National Universities Commission (NUC) developed a Virtual Library in 2001 but many of the links to digital resources are invalid and it needs better maintenance in order to be an effective research tool. The Virtual Library is to have full text databases in all fields of study and indigenous content. With the Virtual Library, Nigerian users may soon have access to the same materials, at the same moment that staff and students of Harvard University have access to (UNESCO, 2003). The electronic content to include institutional databases like the Federal Office of Statistics, National Human Resource Database, BPE, CBN, INEC, NNPC, National Population Commission, Department of National Civic Registration and various government departments and Higher Education institutions. Other relevant public domain and commercial foreign data-bases including the EBSCO data-base, Medline, Agricola, Social science citation index, arts and humanities index, Chemical abstracts, OCLC, EIFL, World Bank, UNESCO data-base and other United Nation data-bases. Also, eIFL provides an invaluable service by allowing open access to electronic databases such as Bio-One, Agora and Hinari to libraries in low GDP countries like Nigeria. All of these resources are freely available with registration by any educational institution in Nigeria so there is no excuse for any university not to offer these resources for their clientele (NUC, 2010). Other notable databases in Africa are: the South African Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD), the Association of African Universities (AAU) African Thesis and Dissertations (DATAD), African Digital Library (ADL), African Online Digital Library (AODL), African Journal Online (AJOL), etc.

            Funding for digital libraries projects became available in the early 1990s. The first U.S. Federal Government funding began in 1994 with the Federated Digital Library Initiative (DLI-1). Since 1994, additional funding has become available from numerous sources, including the National Science Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (Mischo in Weech, 2007). In the U.K, the “eLib” program was started in 1994 with funding for 70 digital library projects. Most of the eLib and U.S. Digital Libraries Initiative were focused on academic libraries and in the case of eLib, funds were allocated in smaller amounts to many library projects, while the U.S. Digital Library Initiative focused on a few large projects (Pinfield in Weech, 2007).

            These developments go to show that digital library project is an expensive one and as such is normally undertaken by national governments or international organizations. The idea of donations as alternative to government support to the development of libraries has always been acknowledged. Library acquisitions have been through either purchase or donations. Examples of donations to libraries abound in Africa and Nigeria in particular (Gueye and Carnoy in Tabi, 2007). Edoka (1992) and Aguolu & Aguolu (1997) gave details of some donor agencies to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Library (NAL), University of Nigeria Nsukka from its inception in 1960. The first notable donation came from the first Vice Chancellor, the Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe after whom the library is named. His donations totalled over 12,000 books, 1000 journals and pamphlets on many subjects. Other remarkable donors are: the British Council, the World Bank, the Netherlands Economic Mission to Nigeria, the South West Legal Foundation of Dallas, Texas. The West Publishing Company of Minnesota, the United States Agency for International Development, Macmillan Publishers, the Theological Education Fund of World Council of Churches, the Bollengen Foundation, Book Aid International, Education Trust Fund, the Journal Development Programme (JDP) of University of New York.

            The importance of donations in this light cannot be over flogged. But for the numerous supports from the donor agencies, the NAL would not have started on a sound footing. Tabi (2007) and Shafack & Kiven (2003) attested that donor support has opened existing possibilities and opportunities for libraries to acquire the much needed information resources. However, donations in the library must be based on written collection development policy. This ensures that the library accept only donations that are relevant to the needs of the users. The idea is to avoid the library being a dumping ground for donors who give because of some ulterior motives. The motives range from political, social, economical and religious motives. However, donations can be either a curse or a blessing. It becomes a blessing when the donations meet the information needs of the library users but becomes a curse if the donated materials are irrelevant to the needs of the users. In situation where no user uses the donated materials, the materials become a burden or ‘shelf seaters’ (Boman, 2007). It is the idea of relevance to the needs of the library users, in this case, the staff and students of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Nigeria, Nsukka that has prompted this study, to measure the relevance and effectiveness of the donation, MTNF Digital Libraries, to Kashim Ibrahim Library (KIL) and Nnamdi Azikiwe Library (NAL).

            The MTN Nigeria Foundation (MTNF) was launched in May 2005 with the purpose of partnering with public, private and civil society organizations to execute sustainable projects in three areas: education, health and economic empowerment. The intention was to make a significant impact in these areas in as many communities as possible across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. This goal was aligned with the Millennium Development Goals on which the Federal Government of Nigeria had based its own development priorities (Oyegbola, 2007).

            Working with NetLibrary Nigeria, MTNF has linked four top Nigerian universities– University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and University of Benin to the world’s largest collection of digital resources from over 5,500 libraries and 300 publishers. This project was embarked upon to achieve MTN’s laudable objectives of:

·         Bridging the knowledge and digital divide

·         Enhancing educational infrastructure development

·         Providing educational resources for effective learning.

Based on the experience of the local environment and the need for sustainability, detailed written rules are pre-agreed and enforced with the institutions regarding the maintenance of the equipment and upkeep of the library premises.

            MTN Education Portfolio includes:

·         128 networked computers, 3 servers, 2 high capacity printers and a 100KVA generator

            VSAT equipment & Internet connectivity bandwidth with 2 years subscription

·         2 years subscription to electronic resources through the NetLibrary network (Journals, Books, etc)

·         Conducive study environment through space renovation, provision of adequate lighting, furniture, and alternative power supply

·         Technical training for 12 members of existing library staff to work with NetLibrary over 2 years to build capacity

·         One-week awareness workshops to be held annually for approximately 600 students and 120 lecturers

·         Initiate a 5–year maintenance contract with the University to ensure a conducive environment with a clear sustainability strategy

·         Two years comprehensive insurance cover to take care of theft & fire

  • An interactive student’s website

(The list of the online resources and infrastructures are provided in appendix IV).

The University Library System of Ahmadu Bello University comprises the Kashim Ibrahim Library (the main Library) and eleven other satellite libraries located in different campuses of the University. The Library has a total holding of over 1.2 million volumes of books and 66,000 periodical titles. The University library has always been at the center of research and scholarship playing a major role in acquiring, processing and lending library materials and responding to patrons inquires.  Today, online database and Internet searches are a common feature among staff and students of the University.  The library management in the past few years has been striving to upgrade the IT skills of the staff to enable them cope with challenges of the information age. Recently, thanks mostly to donations by the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, rapid progress has been made not only in updating the collection, but also in automating the resources and services of the library system. Today, online and CD-ROM searches are a common feature among staff and students of the university (Kashim Ibrahim Library website, 2010). Some of the specialised databases are:

·         AGORA  

  • HINARI (Biomedical & Medical)
  • BioOne ( biological science and related disciplines)
  • Journal of performance and Art
  • EBSCOHOST (For all Disciplines)
  • JSTOR
  • Journal of Interdisciplinary History
  • Online Database on Health

            In June 2006, the MTN Foundation and Net Library Nigeria Limited in a collaborative initiative selected ABU, Zaria, as the beneficiary of the second phase of the MTN Universities Connect project. The chairman, Ambassador Hamzat Ahmadu at the commissioning of the MTNFDL in ABU, Zaria said the project was designed to provide digital libraries that will give students instant online access to world class research and information. Ahmadu noted that ABU is the second beneficiary of the Universities Connect Digital Library after the University of Lagos with 128 networked computers, three servers, two high capacity printers, one sound proof generator, VSAT equipment and a two year Internet subscription. The MTN foundation, according to him, would provide two years subscription to a database of online academic journals, electronic books and magazines on a wide range of topics to suit the research needs of students and academics. Ahamdu said further that the foundation would provide insurance cover, maintenance and repairs for the digital library for two years (Akowe, 2009).  

            The University of Nigeria, Nsukka Library consists of the Nnamdi Azikiwe library, the Enugu Campus Main Library and the Medical Library located at the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, and Enugu. The Nnamdi Azikiwe Library which is the main University Library houses the Union Catalogue showing a core of all the holdings of the libraries in the system.

            At the University’s inception in 1960, the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe donated 12,000 volumes of books, 1000 journals and monographs. In 1962/63 the University Library holdings had increased to 27,000 volumes with a seating capacity of 220 readers. Presently, the University Library System has about 735,157 volumes of books and about 99,760 bound volumes of journals.

            The Nnamdi Azikiwe Library has a growing collection of publications by international bodies/organization such as:

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