MEETING THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF ADULT USERS OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN SOUTH-EAST, NIGERIA

MEETING THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF ADULT USERS OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN SOUTH-EAST, NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

Public Libraries are organizations established by governments to acquire, organize, store and disseminate information and knowledge to all people in the areas they are located. They are provided with book and non-book materials to meet information needs of the people. The purpose of the study was to determine the information needs of adult users of the public libraries located in Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States: South-East, Nigeria. The study was also aimed at finding out the extent to which the information needs were met, problems and to provide strategies for enhanced information delivery to the adults. Five research questions and two hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The descriptive survey design was used in carrying out the study. The population of the adult users was 8347, while that of the professional/para professional librarians was 76. Random sampling procedure was used to sample 835 adult users, while 76 professional/ para-profressional librarians were used because the figure was not enough to require sampling. A questionnaire was used in collecting the data. Frequencies, percentages, means scores, and standard deviations were used to analyze responses   based on the research questions. Interview method was also used in collecting more relevant data for the thesis. Thus, fifteen randomly selected adult users of the public libraries in each of the States were interviewed.  T-test method was used in testing the two hypotheses. Major findings of the study in relation to the characteristics of adult users showed that most of them were students, who were followed by civil servants and teachers. Areas of information needs of adult users of the public libraries were the following: current affairs, social activities, economic/business activities, subjects registered for ordinary level of education, creative works, health, computer skills,    teaching/research data, political and administrative matters, cultural issues and subjects registered for higher education. Areas of information needs of the adult users not met were the following: computer skills, cultural issues, legal issues, religious activities, and subjects registered for higher education. All factors considered as problems to the public libraries, and the strategies for enhancing information delivery to meet adult needs were accepted as valid responses. It was recommended that the public libraries should be adequately provided with information communication technologies for them to be able to offer computer skills.  They should also be provided with constant electricity, new books and journals on different subjects. The State and Local governments, including non-governmental organizations in the area should participate in funding the public libraries. Information needs of the people should be studied and the available services advertised in the media. While the accommodation should be expanded, staff should be motivated and retrained to acquire knowledge of computer operations and Internet services.

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study 

            Information may be defined as fact or data given out or received for use in solving a problem. Afolabi (2003) has defined information as an external response which conditions or modifies a person’s knowledge state. The knowledge state of a man which requires modification for him to feel satisfied is an information need. Provision of the appropriate information helps in meeting this need and thereby increasing the individual’s level of knowledge on the given subject. The provision may be orally done as in a traditional society or through the use of information and communication technologies of the modern society.

To Olajide (2008), information simply means facts and opinion provided and received in the course of daily human interactions. It is news or facts required for settlement of a state of uncertainty (Aina, 2004). It is that meaningful data within a particular context, which describes a given event (Nwana, 2008). According to Agboola (2010), information is nothing but a class of events which occurs to meet a particular purpose. Information is usually provided to achieve a given objective. It is knowledge communicated or received in relation to a particular subject (Olowonefa and Musa, 2011). The particular subject on which an information is given or received is an information need.

            A public library is an organization established by the government to satisfy information needs of members of the public. Public libraries acquire, organize, store and disseminate information and knowledge to all classes of people. They are provided with book and non-book materials to meet education, information, culture and leisure needs of the people. Achebe (2005) refers to public libraries as centres for acquisition of knowledge and information. They are provided to meet people’s quest for knowledge. This is why Gambari (1986), regarded a public library as the people’s university.

            One of the public library’s primary functions is to provide for the educational needs of the adult users. To Ogunsheye (1981), education involves the total apparatus for the development of the individual to fit him into a society. This was why Fafunwa (1993) pointed out that African education emphasized social responsibility, job orientation and preparation of the learners for participation in social politics, appreciation of spiritual and moral values. He pointed out that modern education (which public library services support) has the ingredients required to push Nigeria forward politically, socially, morally and technologically.          

            According to Poggeler (1989), the right to education means the right of the individual to self-realization in the broadest sense of the word. The existing gifts and capabilities of adult users of public libraries should be unfolded and developed. Marinho (1991) is of the view that education should be able to make the learner a more productive and responsible citizen. Public libraries offer democratic opportunities for self-education. Learners, especially the adults, attach great importance to education that would help them determine how to locate solutions to their needs be it social, emotional and intellectual (Dittmankohli, 1981). Public libraries support this type of education by providing a variety of resources. IFLA/UNESCO (2001) has pointed out that public libraries support life- long learning by working with schools and other educational institutions to help students of all ages with their formal education .

According to IFLA/UNESCO (2001), another important role of public libraries is centred on cultural development. This would involve provision of space for cultural activities and ensuring that various cultural interests, especially those of the immediate community,   are covered in the resources. Provision of cultural information is geared towards encouraging or supporting cultural development. According to Banjo (1998), this would include oral tradition, local history, folk tales, and songs. He is of the view that conventional African public libraries do not adequately provide this necessary information. This is as a result of the formats of the available resources.

Another important role of public libraries is encouragement of  individuals to enjoy  leisure. Ike (1999) is of the view that many literate Nigerians read newspapers, magazines and books that can help them enjoy leisure. There are different formats of information designed to help illiterates and other users enjoy their leisure. They include the following: pictures, videos and audio materials on the subjects of their interest (Kuny and Cleveland, 1998). Moreover, adult users of public libraries can also expect the services of computers and the Internet for them to meet their various entertainment needs.

To Iwhiwhu (2008), public libraries are provided to preserve and disseminate information to all people and contribute effectively to socio-economic development of the people. Ugah(2010) has cited Akambi(1998) who described information as mankind’s accumulated knowledge derived from all subjects in all forms and from all sources that is designed to meet the needs of the users. This type of information is needed by policy makers and the people at large (September, 1993).Information plays important roles in every level of development. All people whether in the urban or rural areas require some level of information to take proper decisions about their daily activities (Ochai 1995, Dybkjaer 1997). Ochai (1995) whose article is not an empirical study, wrote on the role of information in the development of adults in the rural areas of Nigeria. He is strongly of the view that if appropriate information is provided to the rural dwellers such as bricklayers, carpenters, farmers and fishermen, they would experience improvement in their various undertakings. The fundamental problem of the rural people is the mechanisms for providing them with appropriate information to enable them improve in their various occupations (Ochai, 1995). Information for occupational development or improvement can be delivered in the language spoken by the rural dwellers.

Dybkjaer (1997) whose article was not also an empirical study discussed the role of libraries and information provision in human development generally, and development of democracy in Denmark. Together with an effective educational system, a good, well-run library system is a prerequisite for offering everyone a genuine opportunity to learn about their society and its background, to improve themselves and grow personally and, from there, to take an active part in a democratic society (Dybkjaer, 1997).

 Both Murdock and Golding (1989) are of the view that people need access to information, which can be found in the public libraries. To Kinnell and Sturges  (1996) the public libraries are key providers of useful  information to the people in a given environment. Moreover, both Adimorah (1983)  and Aboyade (1989) have written on the importance of public library services  in meeting the information  needs of people who are either  in the cities  or in the rural areas. Omoloju (1985) agrees that people visit libraries because they cannot buy the resources which contain essential information they need.

 Professional and para-professional staff of public libraries participate actively in ensuring effective public library services. Professional staff of public libraries are those who have at least first degree certificates in library and information science. They are responsible for selection, acquisition, organization and dissemination of information available in the resources of the libraries. They also carry out administrative duties involving proper use of human and material resources to meet the objectives of the libraries.  Thus, they play important roles in effective services of public libraries to meet adult users’ information needs. The para-professional staff are assigned lower professional duties such as preliminary cataloguing and assistance to adult users  in locating library resources.  They also copy and file selected titles for acquisition. They possess at least diploma certificates in library and information science. They are also important in the services of the libraries. 

            Public libraries are used by different categories of adults such as students, teachers, lecturers, lawyers, civil servants, architects, business men, engineers etc. According to IFLA/UNESCO (2001), users of public libraries include children, young adults, people with special needs such as those who are blind and those who have hearing problems. Others are people in prison, the aged, nursing mothers, organizations, business men and people in government. It is as the adult users are varied that their information needs are also varied.

            The importance of public library services in meeting the information needs of adult users was recognized  by the government of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria after the seminar organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the development of public   libraries in Africa. The premier of the Eastern Region, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe commissioned a survey on public library development in the region (Odita, 1983). The committee’s recommendations led to the promulgation of the Eastern Nigeria Library Board Law in July 1955. It was by this law that the Board was given the responsibility of establishing and equipping public libraries in the entire Eastern Region. The agreement which the Eastern Nigerian government entered into with UNESCO led to the rapid establishment of divisional libraries at Port Harcourt   (March, 1962), Ikot Ekpene (July 1964), Umuahia (April 1965), and at Onitsha (July 1964). Branches of these libraries were also established at Owerri, Aba and Calabar. Every one of the divisional libraries and the Regional Central Library, Enugu was provided with a mobile library for effective provision of services. According to Ude (2006), the Eastern Regional Library Board, provided the best public library services in Africa between 1950s and 1970s.This happened with the exception of the period of disruption caused by the Nigerian Civil War.

            Creation of new states in the region led also to the establishment of more public libraries. For instance, Abia State was created in 1991 and the headquarters of its Library Board was located at Umuahia. Branches of the library are found in the following areas: Aba, Abiriba, Arochukwu, Bende, Eziama, Igbere, Isuikwuato, Ohafia, Umuoso and Uzuakoli (11 libraries). Ebonyi State was created in 1996, and the headquarters of the Library Board was located at Abakaliki. The branch library is found at Onueke, (2 libraries). Enugu State was created out of the former Anambra State in 1991. The headquarters of the Library Board is still at Enugu with branches located at the following areas; Amufe, Awgu, Ibagwa-Aka, and Nsukka (5 libraries). Imo State Library Board has its headquarters at Owerri and the branches located at the following areas: Afara, Isu, Mbaise, Mbano, Nkwere, Obowo, Okigwe, Orlu and Orodo (10 libraries).

            Adult users of libraries are people who are sixteen years and above. Some of them are called younger women (Badawi, 2007). In Turkey, they are called young adults (Yilmaz, 1998). Older adults also make use of information available in public libraries (Ikenwe and Adegbilere-Iwari, 2014). Globally and locally, the adults need resources with appropriate information in support of their education, leisure and cultural development. They need information to support their occupational/ professional development.  Use of good strategies is involved in the efforts to meet their information needs. Meeting the needs simply means providing the requirements. According to Emeka (2011), a strategy simply means planned ways of achieving the desired goals. Services of public libraries are rendered with the view to achieve the stated objectives.

            Writing on the common problems of public libraries in Nigeria, Elaturoti (2011) points out that collections and services of these public libraries have to include appropriate media and modern technologies designed to meet local information needs. Information and communication technologies have become parts of public libraries in developed countries. Moreover Ike (1999) and Aina (2004), point out that available resources in African and Nigerian public libraries have to cover known information needs of the people.  Both Eze (2008) and Ogbonna (2008) have pointed out that  these public libraries, would need befitting buildings, facilities and resources designed to help them meet their objectives. Thus, the need for this study to see if solutions can be proffered to address the above stated needs,and these libraries are placed at the positions they can adequately satisfy information needs of the adult users.

Statement of the Problem

It is recognized that the difference between developed and developing nations is the level of availability and utilization of information to meet human needs. Information is required to satisfy human needs in such areas as health, business and legal issues.

            Various governments establish public libraries to provide information needs of members of the public. Such libraries are available at Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States of Nigeria. Members of the public are desirous of having their information needs met through the services of these public libraries to enable them progress in their various occupations/professions. Efforts are also being made by the public libraries to respond to the expanding needs of their adult users. However, the problem is to what extent do the public libraries meet information needs of their adult users?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study is to ascertain information needs of adult users of the public libraries, extent to which these needs are met, problems and to provide appropriate strategies that should be employed   for improved information services to the adults. The specific purposes are to: 

1.         find out the characteristics of adult public library users in Abia, Ebonyi,      Enugu and       Imo States of Nigeria.

2.         determine different information needs of these adult public library users.

3.         examine the extent to which the presented information needs of adults are met.

4.         find out the problems which hinder these public libraries from meeting the information needs of their adult users.

5.         determine the strategies the public libraries should use to meet the information needs of adult users.

Research Questions

            The following research questions are designed to guide the study:




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