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This study investigated the utilization of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria. It examined the availability, extent, users’ perception, problems and strategies of addressing the challenges of ICT utilization. Five purposes of the study and five research questions were raised to guide the study. A descriptive survey was used for the study, with population of 64 library staff and 12,405 users. All 64 library staff and 400 users constitute the sample, however, 447 (96.3%) constitutes the final sample used for the study. The instrument for data collection was observation checklist and questionnaire. In analysing the data, descriptive statistic such as mean scores and tables was used. The findings revealed that a number of ICT facilities are at different levels of availability in the federal university libraries under study. It also shows that ICT tools such as e-mails, subject gateways, e-journals, e-books are extensively used to provide reference services, in terms of bibliographic tools; the CD-ROMs and online databases are widely used. It further shows that users’ perception is that ICT utilization is beneficial, as it aids in enhancing research. Various problems ranging from inadequate budget for ICT facilities, inadequate infrastructure, lack of up-graded ICT skill level of users, inadequate qualified staff in libraries, software and hardware problems are shown to hinder ICT utilization. The study made the following recommendations: adequate infrastructure, funding, training of library staff on ICT use for research, provision of adequate electricity with back-up power plant, institutional subscription, as solutions in addressing the problems of ICT utilization in federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.



Background to the study

The university plays a central role in the development of a nation; it provides the intellectual force and manpower needed to sustain the socio-economic and political aspiration of the nation. According to Wikipedia, the free online  encyclopaedia (2011), the word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning "community of teachers and scholars." it is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. It is also regarded as a corporation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education. Similarly, the Chambers Dictionary(1999), defined the university as an institution of higher learning, with the power to grant degrees, its body of teachers, students, graduates etc, its colleges or its building; a corporate body.  Aguolu cited in Madu (2004), in highlighting the importance of the university in Nigeria  identified  six main functions it performs: conservation of knowledge; pursuit, promotion, and dissemination of knowledge through teaching; advancement of knowledge through research-pure, applied and development oriented; provision of intellectual leadership; development of human resources for meeting manpower needs; promotion of social and economic modernization. Ifidon and Okoli (2002) added other additional functions of the university such as:  Promotion of intra-and inter -continental and international understanding. However, these functions cannot be adequately carried out without the contribution of the university library.

The university library is that kind of library situated in higher institution of learning, more specifically a university institution.  Madu (2004) defined the university library as “one attached to an institution of higher learning of the status of a university and that it serves primarily students, staff and others who need its services.” From the functions of the university stated earlier, university libraries have derived their objectives to include:

-                      Provision of materials for undergraduate instruction, term papers, and projects, as well as for supplementary reading;

-                      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;

-                      Cooperation with other academic libraries with a view to developing a network of academic library resources that is at the disposal of all scholars.

The university library is positioned at the intersection of university instruction, services and resources. It is an academic department, which provides instruction on information literacy. But is not part of students support services, yet provides students services such as research helps and study spaces. The university library is not also the book store, or facilities management, yet it provides similar resources (e.g. Computers, books, journals and a comfortable place for reflection).

The university library by its characteristic feature is noted to provide a wide range of services in all the areas of knowledge as taught in the parent university. In view of these features, the university library is decentralized with a main library coordinating departmental and faculty libraries (Ekere, 2010).

Because the university library is established to support the objectives of the university which is to promote teaching, learning and research, it is imperative that it serves the undergraduate, postgraduate, lecturers and other members of the university community. For undergraduate students, the library is expected to provide information materials and services specially structured for their academic pursuit. For postgraduate students, teaching staff and research fellows, the university library is strategic in providing information resources and services of depth quality. That is why Agboola (2005) posit that university libraries are very important components of university institutions. He further argued that no university can lay claim to academic excellence without a good library to back up its teaching, research and public service mandates. Similarly, the quality of a university is measured largely by the quality of its library. Thus, because of the strategic place the library occupies in the university system, no university can function effectively without it.

University libraries all over the world have standardized methods of arrangement of their departments (Ode and Omokaro, 2007). A typical university library therefore is arranged into five departments namely: Technical services department; User services which includes-(Readers services department, Research and Bibliographic services unit) and Administrative department. The administrative department serves mainly to control the overall staff, funds, equipment and activities. The technical services department is subdivided into cataloguing and classification sections; as well as the acquisition section. The technical section is responsible for the cataloguing and classifying of all the books, etc., procured by the library. It also processes these materials for use, while the latter is charged with the responsibilities for the selection, ordering, receiving and accessioning of all library books including non-book materials. Because the services offered by the department are not directly to the library users, they are often referred to as behind the scene services. While the readers’ services and research and bibliographic units are categorized as users’ services. These are services the library offers directly to its patrons, and the focus of this study is based on users’ services in university libraries.

  User services are those services a library provides directly to its patrons. University libraries make use of user services extensively to meet the information need of its patrons. These services are: user education (orientation/instruction services), inter-library loan/connection services, abstracting and indexing services, bibliographical services, reference services, information services and circulation services. Added to the list are photocopying services; online services;; compilation of reading list and bibliographies; e-mail; internet connectivity; CD-ROM searching and publishing (Ifidon, 2006). Anyoagu (2007) also outlined the following as user services university libraries provide to enable users access information from both physical and virtual resources: inter-library loan services; current awareness services; selective dissemination of information services; document delivery services; photocopying services; repackaging services; e-mail; facsimile services; compilation of reading lists and bibliographies; microfilming services; reference services; internet services; indexing and abstracting of journal articles services; binding services; internet services;  content of journals received; on-line bibliographic search and referral services. Some of these services are more feasible in the digital environment than the traditional library. It has been observed that these services are rendered in varying degrees depending on the university libraries.

Information and communication technology (ICT) has radically altered the concept of reality which is embedded in time and space within the physical and social worlds. This is because the time and distance it takes to communicate and transact business around the physical world has been relatively eliminated, thus unifying the world into a globally-knit community. The concept of ICT is made of three important associative terms: information, communication and technology. Information is whatever that is capable of causing a human mind to change its opinion about the current state of the world (de Wattevile and Gilbert, 2000; Womboh and Abba, 2008). It re-enforces people’s opinion of the current state of the world and adds to one’s knowledge. Communication refers to the transfer or exchange of information from person to person or from one place to another (James et al, 2004). Technology refers to the use of scientific knowledge to invent tools that assist human beings in their efforts to overcome challenges posed by the natural environment and improve the quality of life. Collectively, ICT is a general concept used to describe a range of technologies for gathering, storing, retrieving, processing, analyzing and transmitting information. (ESCAP, 2000; Wilson, 2000; Marcelle, 2000; Kiiski and Pohjole, 2000). For Adetimirin (2007), information and communication technology facilitates access to electronic information which has become invaluable in complementing traditional library resources.

The earliest use of information technology in Nigerian university was the introduction of microform technology at the University of Ibadan with the purchase of three microform readers in 1948. The first instance of the usage of computers in Nigeria University was when IBM established the African Education Centre at the University of Ibadan (UI Computing Center) in 1963. By 1977 the total computer installations in Nigeria had grown to 70 and by the late 1970s computer science courses had been established at the Universities of Nigeria, Lagos, Ibadan, Ife and others. Early information technological developments also included the computerization of the serial holdings at IU where they were then printed and used in a book format by 1975. By 1979, a computer generated list of serials held by the ABU Library complex was produced. Libraries at UNN, IU and ABU all produced computerized lists of serials in the 1970s and the Nigeria Library Association initiated a project to coordinate these automated lists, however, this was discontinued in 1984. At ABU a circulation system was initialized in 1976, but constraints from power interruptions and machine breakdown prevented rapid progress. A Plessey microcomputer system was installed in the Lagos University Library in 1982 but because of the lack of replacement parts progress on this project was stalled.

 Meanwhile, the adoption of information and communications technology and its utilization as an enabling tool was more slowly introduced into Nigerian university libraries as they are seen then as primarily storehouses for books, despite the clamour for “virtual libraries”. The development and implementation of information technology in the university libraries of Nigeria is still a work in progress, this is because Nigeria is severely challenged by lack of basic infrastructures which have prevented development in most areas. The national electricity grid is still underdeveloped in 2011 and this basic necessity for technological development has made progress in information technological implementation a difficult programme. The implementation of the tools necessary for information technological development requires stable electrical infrastructure in order to ensure success. IAEA statistics for 2005 show that Nigerians consumed 72 KWh per capita; a clear disparity compared to the per capita use of 13,228KWh that existed in the USA.  Available electric power in the national grid has been decreasing in Nigeria rather than growing as the 6,000 megawatts set as an output goal for 2009 could not be met and the available power in the country has dropped from 3400 megawatts in December of 2009 to 2400 as of June 2011 because of the lack of gas reaching the power plants. For those who are fortunate enough to be located in an area which is provided with at least a minimum of electricity there remains the difficult task of accessing the Internet. Paying for access to an Internet service or setting up a satellite connection is affecting the budget of most university libraries.

Despite the constraints that university libraries face, they have moved ahead of all others in the implementation of information and communication technology. Some of the libraries are receiving major funding from organizations such as the World Bank and the MacArthur and Carnegie Foundations and if reliable infrastructure can be set in place and adequate capacity building occurs they will then stand the highest likelihood of succeeding.

In the past, the university library acted as intermediary between the information and seekers of information. Today, these roles are changing. A good number of users currently interface directly with information. The internet which is an aspect of information and communication technology (ICT) have reduced the mediating role played by university library, making it possible for students, faculty members, researchers and the general public to access information without setting a foot at the traditional library structure. Thus, with just a click, either at home or cyber café’ or some remote location information can be downloaded or uploaded. 

However, studies have shown that the plethora of information found on the internet have their peculiar challenges. This is because it is not all information on the World Wide Web (www) that is useful; some are obsolete, subjective, irrelevant, and even when useful, are restricted from access except when a password is provided, which must be paid for by subscription. In view of this observed defect, the onus is still on the university library to provide the platform on which access to objective and useful information can be accessed. The university library is also expected to provided ever-increasing and varied services to patrons that they never see; virtual referencing and support of distance education (open university of Nigeria) which has created a whole new type of library users; the faceless patrons and all of these have made the role of the university library challenging as well as exciting.  

Africa suffers from the most expensive broadband costs in the world, at over $900 a month compared to approximately $100 per month in the Americas and Europe. Mobile phone use has grown; there are currently a total of 70,337,657 telephone subscribers and 11 million Internet users in Nigeria. Nigeria has just emerged as the largest mobile telecom market in Africa with more than 61 million mobile subscribers. If the rapid rise of mobile technology continues, it may provide new access roads onto the information superhighway which could avoid the problems inherent in power generation, but only if competition among telecom companies could help in reducing the cost for accessing the Internet through mobile communications. This method of access to the Internet does not look like an immediate solution for all, although there is a trend towards the use of data-enabled handsets by those who can afford this option.

In 2001, Nigeria developed the National Policy for Information Technology (NPIT) which is a general policy for the development of IT (information and communication technologies) in Nigeria. It represents the policy drive of the Federal Government of Nigeria concerning ICTs, what they do and can do, how they can be developed and applied, and the time frame within which to achieve ICT capability in Nigeria by 2005. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the implementing agency, was established with a major aim of using information technology for education, particularly within and between Nigerian universities. Unfortunately this project failed a few years after it was set up.

The Nigerian University Commission (NUC) had made plans for a network (NuNet) to provide internet connectivity and e-mail to University Libraries. A feasibility study was done in 2000 at great cost, but the project has not proven to be sustainable as “the e-mail system experiences downtimes that stretch into weeks and even the NUC Headquarters has little to show for the years of effort: though the building was built with network wiring in every room and a sophisticated backbone and an emergency power supply, only a handful of computers are attached to the network and the only network service is TELNET email access.” (NLA Newsletter, 2002).  

Federal University libraries in South East Nigeria share similar historical antecedents as well as objectives and functions with university libraries in other parts of Nigeria. Meanwhile, the only distinction is in geographical location, implying that these libraries are mainly found in the five states comprising: Abia State; Anambra State; Enugu State; Ebonyi State; and Imo State. Like other universities in Nigeria, their functions include teaching, research and community service, while their historical antecedent in terms of ICT utilization share similarities with other federal university libraries in Nigeria. However, the focus of this study is on the utilization of ICT in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria, with emphasis on the examination of the availability of ICT facilities; extent of ICT utilization, users perception of benefits derived; problems associated with ICT utilization and strategies in containing the problems associated with ICT utilization in users services.

Statement of the Problem

Information and communication technology (ICT) utilization has become an indispensable part of many university libraries around the world. It is being used to search for journal articles, to access reference materials, to conduct research and to send e-mail (Aina et al, 2010). When effectively utilized, it  translate into efficient user service delivery, which in turn lead to improved access to information; enhanced educational development; improvement in the status of Nigerian libraries; digitization of local content and conservation of library space (Akanni, 2008).

However, when ICT is not utilized or inefficiently utilized, it will lead to inefficient and poor user service delivery; it will also affect the role of university libraries as sources of learning, education; innovation and research for social development, as well as vehicle of communication.

Users on the other hand will also suffer continuous frustrations as result of lack of ICT utilization, even when utilized; students who are not familiar with the routine of its utilization will be frustrated and anxious as well as exhibit avoidance behaviour (Okiy, 2010). University library users will further be discouraged from seeking assistance in the library for their academic needs. The implication is that students and other researchers would miss utilizing important information that could have made them better scholars. While others may abandon the library to patronize the cyber café in other to access information on the internet through other available websites for current academic resources.

Despite these benefits and the dangers of poor ICT utilization for user services in university libraries, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, it appear that university libraries in Nigeria, specifically, federal university libraries in South East Nigeria are still at a minimal level of utilizing ICT in providing user services.

Although several scholars have written on the utilization of ICT in university library services, none have specifically directed their study to federal university libraries in South Eastern region of Nigeria. This research therefore is directed at determining the utilization of ICT in users services of federal university libraries in South Eastern Nigeria, with specific focus on the examination of the availability of ICT facilities; extent of ICT utilization, users perception of benefits derived; problems associated with ICT utilization and strategies in containing the problems associated with ICT utilization in users services of university libraries

Purpose of the study

The general purpose of this study is to examine the utilization of ICT in user services of federal university libraries in South Eastern Nigeria.

Specifically, the study sought to:

  1. Examine the ICT facilities available for providing user services in federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.
  2.  Examine the extent of ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.
  3. Determine users’ perception of benefits derived from ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.
  4.  Examine the problems associated with the utilization of ICT in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.
  5.  Suggest strategies for implementing and addressing problems of ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria.

Research Questions

The following research questions will be used to guide the study.

  1. What are the ICT facilities available in providing user services in federal university libraries in South East Nigeria?
  2. To what extent are ICT facilities utilized in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria?
  3. What are users perception of the benefits derived from ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria?
  4. What are the problems associated with ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in South East Nigeria?
  5. What are the strategies for implementing and addressing problems of ICT utilization in user services of federal university libraries in south east Nigeria?

Significance of the study

            It is expected that the result of this study would be useful to the following groups of people: university authorities, university librarians, other library staff, students, faculty members, educational research institutes, information technology researchers etc.

           University librarians will as a result of these findings identify relevant aspects of library services that are defective and which improvement is needed. It will further aid them to cut cost, save time and resources in providing services to clientele using ICT.

Academic librarians will by this study appreciate the usefulness of adopting ICT in providing users services in university libraries. Other library staff (Para-professionals) will have the practical functional knowledge and understanding of the importance of ICT in achieving access to information.

            Students and faculty members will as a result of this finding develop more confidence in the ability of the library to meet their research and academic needs. It will also aid them to access, analyze and present information gained from a variety of sources.

              The findings will indicate those ICT resources educational research institutes and IT researchers will need to meet their specialized information need.

This study will also contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the utilization of ICT for user services in libraries in Nigeria.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this study covers all federal university libraries located in Southeast Nigeria, while, the scope of the subject is limited to the study of ICT utilization in user services, excluding other sections of the university library such as cataloguing and classification sections, acquisition etc. and this is with specific focus on the examination of the availability of ICT facilities; extent of ICT utilization, users perception of benefits derived; problems associated with ICT utilization and strategies in containing the problems associated with ICT utilization in users services of university libraries in South East Nigeria.

The study is also delimited to data collected from library staff and users in these institutions. The use of federal university libraries from the four states in the zone, which has federal universities, is informed by the researcher’s opinion that they have functional libraries thus, making them to be better positioned at utilizing ICT resources in providing user services.

                The universities studied include: University of Nigeria,Nsukka, Enugu State; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State; Federal university of Science and Technology, Owerri, Imo State; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia, Abia State.

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