TRAINING METHODS FOR LIBRARIANS IN ICT USE IN THREE FEDERAL UNIVERSITIES IN SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA

TRAINING METHODS FOR LIBRARIANS IN ICT USE IN THREE FEDERAL UNIVERSITIES IN SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

The main purpose of this study is to determine the training methods of librarians in ICT use in federal universities in the south-east zone of Nigeria namely: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and Michael Opara University of Agriculture, Umudike. The study was conceived against the background of the importance of ICT in library services and how librarians as information practitioners are being trained to effectively apply it in their services. Five research objectives were drawn which include; identifying the ICT skills required for training librarians in federal universities in south-east; identifying the methods librarians employ to acquire ICT skills; determining the extent to which the training methods are effective in library service delivery; identifying the deficiencies in ICT training methods employed by the university librarians; proffer strategies towards effective training methods in ICT by librarians in the federal universities. The study used the survey research method. The entire population of 92 librarians was sampled for the study. The questionnaire made up of 66 items was the instrument used to collect data which were presented in tables and analyzed using frequency, percentage and the mean. Findings revealed that reading books and manuals, training in university computer centre, seminars/workshops, teaching by friends, in-house training, training in commercial cafes and self-teaching are methods employed by librarians to acquire ICT training as these have scores of between 64.5-75 percent. However, the method effective in library services are training in university computer centre, training in commercial cafes, self-teaching, teaching by friends and in-house training with means score of 3.00, 2.70, 2.78, 2.61 and 2.58 respectively. The study recommended among other things that all university librarians must obtain ICT skills using suitable training methods, internet service providers should increase the speed of server/modem, qualified system engineers should be engaged to ensure regular maintenance of ICT facilities.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

The role of the library in the information age and the place of ICT in an effective information provision and its wide acceptance in most university libraries underscore the urgent need for training of librarians in ICT use. This is particularly true when viewed from the background that no matter how important a technology is, it is worthless or inactive without the human agent to apply and manipulate it. Librarians therefore, as managers of library resources stand conspicuously at the center of ICT application in libraries.  The emergence of powerful technologies, vast amounts of information in multimedia and other digital formats and more technologically talented users means that librarians, particularly those in the universities in the South-east of Nigeria are faced with the great challenge of dealing with information revolution.

Contributing in this direction, Shiloba (2005) argued that “libraries, librarians and information managers have to cope with the demands of an information society. They also need to have knowledge, skills and tools in handling digital information to   be efficient creators, consolidators and communicators of information”. Shiloba added that librarians must become familiar with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and feel comfortable both when using it themselves and when helping others to make effective use of it. Omekwu (2007), agreeing fully with the significant changes in information production, processing and provision drew out a number of management imperatives for librarians some of which are that;

Libraries will emerge as ‘technology experts–ensuring that members of the knowledge communities understand the available technology and use it to its fullest potential. Librarians are increasingly challenged to manage computer and related information technologies that aid their work as catalogers, references managers, acquisition staff or network professional …. As educators, librarians can increase awareness among their clients of information networks, their contents and potential use. They can help clients who have poor network skill to access sources of information on the network. In the highly digitized environment of the information age, librarians will seek new approaches of providing reference services in at least three levels-conventionally, digitally and virtually (p. 102).

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is unarguably man’s foremost scientific invention and will remain so indefinitely. It has revolutionized every human activity with a far reaching impact on knowledge than Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century, a development which liberalized literacy.

            UNESCO defined Information Technology (IT) as “the scientific, technological and engineering disciplines and the management technique used in information handling and processing; their applications; computers and their interactions with man and machines; and associated social economic and cultural matters”. As a complementing resource perhaps, Omekwu (2007) views Communication Technology (CT) as “essentially encompassing all other technologies that enable humans to communicate and transmit information”. Such will be the radio, television and telephone. He added that the integration of IT systems and CT systems develop into ICT system with enhanced capacities and capabilities for the transmission of information in multimedia formats.

            Like all other professions, the influence of ICT pervades the library and information profession. Quite a lot of texts have been written on the impact, need for and the application of ICT in libraries, yet for the purpose of this study the role of ICT in effective library service delivery particularly university libraries shall be re-emphasized.

            Henderson cited in Anunobi, (2005) recorded the benefits of ICT to library users. These include provision of speedy and easy access to information, provision of remote access to users, provision of round – the – clock access to users, access to unlimited information from different sources and providing more current information. Indeed, ICT hold the key to effective and more appropriate library operations in this information age.

            According to Conchrac cited in Nwachukwu, (2005) some of the benefits of introduction of ICT in libraries are as follows:

i.                    Allow easy integration of various library activities.

ii.                  Facilitates cooperation of networks of libraries

iii.                Avoid duplication of efforts within a library and between libraries in a network.

iv.                Increase the range of services offered.

v.                  Provide marketing opportunity of its services

vi.                Ultimately may save and, or generate money.

vii.              Increased efficiency

Given the tremendous potentials of ICT applications in libraries, it will amount to a disaster both for librarians and library users if the former do not obtain the ICT skills relevant to the work.

The most notable impact of the ICT in universities is the internet. The internet is the new technological avenue to disseminate information to a larger and widely dispersed audience in a more speedy and accurate way. Internet helps to satisfy people’s quest for knowledge and facilitates learning, teaching, research and publication, the objectives for which universities are known. University libraries are established to enhance the achievement of these objectives, through provision of bibliographic services to the academic community. No university library worth its salt, therefore, can ignore the internet and remain relevant. This means that digital or virtual library resources must be organized for maximum exploitation by users.

            Bello (2007) noted that the introduction of internet is one of the greatest wizardry of the current ages. He defines it simply as “a global network of numerous computers and computer networks all over the world”. It allows users to access information over the network. Information can also be exchanged, stored and retrieved. Bello listed the tools of the internet to include; electronic-mail (E-mail). File transfer protocol; telnet, use net news; and World Wide Web (www). Daniels and Matthew (2000) describe the new development as tools for information delivery in the new millennium. They enumerated the tools as follows: internet; www, e-mail, bibliographic control tools; online searching; creativity and innovations and the new information professionals. In the views of Oketunji as cited in Anunobi, (2005), ICT resources available for library include: personal computer; Compact Disk-Read-only-memory (CD-ROM); telefascimile (fax); network; electro copying (scanning); and internet. Other ICT resources applicable in university libraries could include; storage devices like optical and magnetic disks, printers, television, video recorder, taper recorder etc.

            University libraries could apply varieties of telecommunication networks for different purposes; like the Local Area Network (LAN) to link the terminals within a library house keeping system, Wide Area Network (WAN) to connect databases in remote systems, National data and voice networks to access videotext and telephone calls, and broadcast services to receive teletext. These entire networks enhance interconnection and easy access to information.

            The main purpose of networking of university library are to facilitate the exchange of bibliographic records, publication and distribution of electronic journals and other documents; making resources available in the databases to individual libraries and users; revealing the contents of a large number of libraries or a large number of publications using on-line public Access Catalogue (OPAC) interfaces.

            ICT resources can also be applied for house keeping operation to enhance effective service delivery. House keeping operations here involves activities such as acquisition, cataloguing, circulation and charging functions, serials control, digitization of collections, security of collections, etc. This application generally results in, improved operations; control of volume of activities efficiently and effectively, provision for new services and prevention of replications.

            The task of ensuring a high degree of accessibility to library resources is that of the librarian. Librarians can be seen as a corps of professionals responsible for the collection of relevant materials and their organization, storage, retrieval, evaluation as well as dissemination of such materials to users. Librarians in universities provide academic support to members of the university community, including students, researchers, lecturing staff, administrative members as well as others. This is by carrying out the aforementioned roles. These functions help the university to achieve its primary objectives of teaching, learning, research and consultancy services.

The challenge of accessing and utilization of the enormous information emerging from all sphere of life and all fields of study gave rise to the introduction of various information technologies to enhance quicker accessibility and maximum utilization by different users.

Idowu and Mabawonka, cited in Okore (2005) listed benefits derivable from application of ICT in libraries to include; enhanced productivity, increased output, more productive tasks in document and information processing, network enhancement and control of record management and retrieval.

Okore further opined that libraries can also use ICT to carry out the following activities for better service delivery:

i.                    Location of information: information can be located through the use of computers with new services such as CD-ROM, online searching or the internet. Internet access could be used to provide libraries with powerful search utilities to locate information stored on millions of computers around the world. In this way research, educational or recreational information can be generated for use.

ii.                  Storage and retrieval of information: information can be stored at different workstations in different location of the library. The cataloging section, serials or special collections can store their information at the central unit and retrieve such information using the on-line search facilities.

iii.                Dissemination of information: information can be disseminated through the web pages or e-mail or facsimile.

According to Ozioko (2005), information technologies are seen as enabling tools with a multiplier effect that can cut costs and improve the quality of delivery of basic infrastructure and services. Accordingly, ICTs includes the human resources that are needed to develop, install and operate the equipments and software as well as to set and enforce policy around their use. This is because with information communication technology things are made newer and easier for human beings and events can be coordinated without much stress and effect.

The basic building block of Information Technologies industries is the skilled and semi-skilled manpower with basic skills for operating computers, using elementary functions of standard software. It includes the ability to make use of computer networks, in particular the internet; and to access the resources available through them. This underscores the need for ICT training among librarians. In addition, Ozioko added that electronic literacy is attractive to corporations (including libraries) because it promises better use of time, accelerated teaming, global reach, just pace and accountability.

Furthermore, Omekwu (2007) noted that modern day librarians require specialized skills to navigate the ocean of information in order to address the specified information needs of their often sophisticated clientele system. He added further that the information resources in the cyberspace will continue to be more than those situated in any single library. Much of what is available in cyberspace is not relevant, reliable, and retainable for a long period. Here lies the relevance of librarians in the information age. According to Omekwu, they would continue to explore, exploit and extend information available in all formats for the common good. Without adequate ICT skills it will be impossible to fulfill these roles.

Anunobi (2005) infer the ICT competencies of librarians in Nigerian universities, including those in the south-east zone, by the application of ICT facilities in libraries’ administrative purposes. Other areas of application according to her are cataloguing and classification as well as in acquisition. In a latter study however, Edom (2010) pointed out the ICT use by academic librarians in Owerri and other states in the south-east zone. Their  areas of competencies therefore include; browsing/surfing of internet, downloading files from internet, use of e-mail, accessing databases on CDs and DVDs, inputting data into computer, retrieving  information from storage devices, printing data/information, visiting websites. This does not imply however that each of the librarians possesses all the skills nor does so equally.

            The Harrod’s Librarian’s Glossary presented training as:

the process of developing the skill, awareness or expertise of staff, both professional and non-professional. Training may consist of induction into a system or routine, organization of new skill towards greater efficiency, job satisfaction, commitment, interchangeability, co-operation, or promotion. It is important that training should be carefully prepared in response to needs and its effectiveness monitored (p. 790).

The Wikipedia free dictionary defines training as “the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies”. Training has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of technology. In addition to the basic training required for a trade, occupation or profession, observers of the labour market recognize the need to continue training beyond initial qualifications; to maintain, upgrade and update skills throughout working life. People within many professions and occupations may refer to this sort of training as professional development. Wikipedia identified different types of training but Job Training and Development is more relevant to this discussion. Some commentators use a similar term for workplace learning to improve performance. Training and Development examples of services beyond those offered by employers are; career counseling, skill assessment, and supportive services. One can generally categorize such training as on-the-job or off-the-job.

            On-the-job training takes place in a normal working situation, using the actual tools, equipments, documents or materials that trainees will use when fully trained. On-the-job training has a general reputation as most effective for vocational work.

            Off-the-job training takes place away from normal work situations, implying that the employee does not count as a directly productive worker while such training lasts. Off-the-job training has the advantage that it allows people to get away from work and concentrate more thoroughly on the training itself.

            For the purpose of this study, training shall be seen as the processes engaged in to acquire ICT competencies by librarians in federal universities in the South-Eastern Nigeria.

            Varieties of methods could be employed in ICT training. Audu (2006) listed 5 methods of acquiring ICT skills to include teaching through friends, self-teaching; reading books/manuals; training in cyber cafes, and lectures in faculties. Other training methods could include: training on-the-job; training in the university’s ICT centre; in-house training and through seminars and workshops. Some training methods are more effective than others. Effectiveness of training is the ultimate objective for any method. The methods employed, therefore, by librarians in the federal universities in the south-east zone to obtain ICT skills is the preoccupation of this study as it appears that most of them are left on their own to pursue these skills. Records shows that a good number of workers, including librarians are not eager to expend personal resources for self development except when it has direct bearing on promotion. The result at best is half-baked, incompetent and betwixt personnel.

            The south-east zone of Nigeria play host to several universities; private, State and Federal. This study is concerned with three federal universities. The University of Nigeria Nsukka was named after Nigerian foremost nationalist and first indigenous president, who is also the founding father of the University, the late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The university commenced operation in October 1960 with  the library which has progressed from housing few volumes of reading materials in restricted accommodation to an ultra-modern library complex with hundreds of thousands of collection and over one thousand computers systems. The University has a campus at Enugu and a College of Medicine located at Etuku-ozala, each of which it has its library. Other departmental libraries include that of Faculties of Education, Agriculture, Law, and the Institute of African Studies.

            The Federal University of Technology, Owerri is located at Ihiagwa, Imo State. It was one of the universities set up by the Federal government in June 1980 for each geo-political zone, in order to increase skills, innovations and technologically oriented manpower for the technology base of Nigeria national economy. The University is the only Federal University of Technology in the south- east zone of Nigeria and one of the oldest in West Africa.

            The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, originally the University of Agriculture was founded in May, 1993. Its main objective is to provide high quality practical training to students to become professionally competent and confident persons capable of self employment, to develop environment in friendly and people-sensitive technologies and to enhance the well-being of the people through extension and other interventions. By so doing, the Nigerian people and the entire world are being served.

Statement of the Problem

            Information and Communication Technology has unstoppably revolutionized every sphere of human endeavour including of course the library. Indeed, the library appears to be its primary constituency as the technology is purely information. The global practice in library and information management is fast moving into the electronic platform. Federal university libraries, particularly in the South-East zone of Nigeria increasingly face the danger of becoming obsolete and irrelevant if they remain in the purely conventional terrain, hence the digitization efforts. However this paradigm shift has necessitated that individual librarians adjust accordingly by obtaining relevant ICT competencies. This is the only way they can effect the migration and sustenance of their resources in a networked environment, as well as remain relevant themselves.

            The need for librarians to obtain ICT skills is particularly compelling in view of their role as the interphase between information resources and users. This is moreso that operational activities in computerized libraries are becoming increasingly sophisticated, as new technologies are displayed to offer users the options to search for required information online or through internet access. Most users seeking information are unskilled in the use of ICT facilities and therefore depend on the librarian’s expertise in accessing the information. It will be a disaster therefore, if librarians are incapable of meeting this noble obligation.

            Previous studies particularly Anunobi (2005) and Igun (2006) point to inadequate ICT skill and use among librarians and university libraries. Librarians require skills in areas such as computer use, accessing online databases, downloading files from online databases, creating own databases, communicating using e-mail and voice mail, use of search engines, digitization of documents, etc. These skills can be acquired through varieties of methods such as self-teaching, teaching by friends, in-house training, training in commercial centers etc. ICT skills calls for a well organized and properly articulated as opposed to a haphazard method. This is because the training method employed to obtain ICT skills has direct implications on the output, as learning outcome is greatly influenced by the learning method. It is the ICT training methods employed by librarians in Federal Universities in the South – East Zone of Nigeria and their implications on information services that this study seek to establish.

Purpose of the Study

            The main purpose of the study is to determine the training methods for librarians in ICT use in federal universities in the South-East zone of Nigeria. Specifically, it is aimed at:

1.                  Identifying the ICT skills required for training librarians in federal universities in the South-East.

2.                  Identifying the methods librarians employ to acquire ICT skills.

3.                  Determining the extent to which the training methods are effective in library service delivery

4.                  Identifying the deficiencies in ICT training methods employed by the university librarians.

5.                  Proffer strategies towards effective training methods in ICT by librarians in the federal universities.

Research Questions

            The under listed questions have been drawn to guide the study:

1.                  What are the ICT skills necessary for librarians in the federal universities in South-East zone of Nigeria?

2.                  What training methods do librarians in these universities employ to acquire ICT skills?

3.                  To what extent are the ICT training methods effective in library service delivery?

4.                  What are the deficiencies in ICT training methods adopted by librarians of the universities?

5.                  What strategies can be employed to ensure effective training in ICT by the university librarians?

Significance of the Study

            It is expected that this study would be useful to university librarians, university library management, and library users. Librarians are a vital category of university personnel whose function or services are germane to meeting the objectives of the university. Consequently, any act that enhances their work has direct bearing on the entire system for instance; the study is expected to identify ICT skills necessary for librarians in the universities. This discovery would help librarians to realize where they need to adjust and further improve their-selves in ICT training in order to better situate themselves for optimum library service delivery. In addition the study aims at determining the extent to which the training methods adopted by librarians are effective in library service delivery and to identify deficiencies associated with them. This would put librarians in correct perspective of ICT training methods available to them, carry out objective assessment and adjust accordingly.

          Following the findings and recommendations that shall be made in this study, university library managements would have empirical bases to outline the ICT training needs and methods best suitable to their staff and such that could equip them best to provide needed information to their clientele. They could then draw a policy to expose their staff to such trainings.

            Students (undergraduate and postgraduates) researchers, academic and non-academic staff constitute the major patrons served by the university libraries. Their diverse and sometimes complex information needs can be satisfactorily met by librarians through this study. This is realizable when librarians, motivated by the findings in this work had aligned themselves to acquiring recommended ICT skills that would enhance effective library and information service to their patrons.

            Finally, the study is expected to serve as a reference material to future researchers in the subject of ICT training methods as it would add to existing literature in the field.

Scope of the Study

            Geographically, the study is limited to the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The zone comprises five states: Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi. Each of the state hosts a federal university..

            The study covered three out of the five federal universities in the zone. These are; the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State, Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Imo State, and Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, (MOUA), Umudike, Abia State. The choice of UNN was informed by its being the oldest federal university in the zone with a high propensity for a large number of librarians. FUTO is the only purely technologically-oriented university in the zone hence its choice, while MOUA is the only specialized, more or less mono-disciplinary university in the zone. The study focuses primarily on the training methods of librarians in ICT use in the above mentioned universities.




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