INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY COMPETENCIES OF LIBRARY STAFF AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA, FCT AND UNIVERSITY OF JOS, PLATAEU STATE
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ICT COMPETENCIES OF LIBRARY STAFF AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA, FCT AND UNIVERSITY OF JOS, PLATAEU STATE.
Background of the Study
The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities in performing library functions is becoming very useful in the Universities because it makes service delivery to users faster and more efficient. ICT provides speedy, accurate and precise information; it also has flexibility of usage by different users. With the presence of ICT facilities like the World Wide Web, and Internet connectivity, individuals can access information from unlimited sources. It also gives users opportunity to work at their own pace and according to their own needs. As noted by Adebisi (2009), in Hinderson (1992), ICT in libraries ensures speedy and easy access to information from unlimited sources.
The term Information and Communication Technology (ICT) evolved from Information Technology (IT). Whereas Information Technology is used to refer to the latest trend and devices that enhance information processing and usage, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the other hand is used to represent the process or act of exchanging or sharing information using the existing technological facilities. Nwachukwu (2005) defines ICT as a device or tool that allows for the collection, storage, processing or the communication of information. It is a kit or equipment used for capturing, processing, storing and accessing information. (Ekoja, 2007). ICT devices or equipment which are used to acquire or impart information or knowledge are seemingly endless. They include calculators, photocopiers, computer related devices etc. Although ICT devices are many, for this project work, the emphasis is on computer related ICT devices.
The benefits of ICT in libraries generally and university libraries in particular are innumerable. Chisenga (1995) acknowledges that ICT applications improve service delivery in libraries and allied institutions responsible for information provision. Most library functions such as, Acquisition, Cataloguing and Classification, Reference services, previously handled manually are now performed electronically using ICTs. This has helped to reduce time spent on
doing the jobs and with less mistakes. Nwalo (2000) lists some of the benefits of ICT to libraries as: being able to automate technical services; to provide efficient references and information services; to network operations such as cataloguing, authority control, interlibrary loans and International bibliographic project. These functions become faster and less cumbersome to perform with the help of ICT facilities. Ajayi (2001) describes a library transformed into a new information service unit, providing electronic cataloging, On-line Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), electronic acquisition and serials control, electronic inter-library loan and electronic circulation functions
The University library which has long been recognized as ‘the heart’ of every academic institution is one place where the benefits of ICT are prodigious. As the centre of intellectual activities of the university, it has an important role to play to make sure adequate information materials are provided and that adequate assistance is given by the library staff to ensure that the information needs of the staff, students and researchers of the university are met. Modern ICT facilities such as internet, can enable the university library provide content and information dissemination by means such as electronic thesis and dissertations, which students and researchers can benefit from millions of pages of relevant information on the web.
Edoka (2000) summarized some functions of the university libraries where the application of ICTs is imperative for better accomplishment. They are as follows:
- to provide information materials required for the academic programme of the parent institution
- to provide research information resources in consonance with the needs of faculty and research students
- to provide information resources for recreation and for personal self development of users.
- To cooperate with other libraries at appropriate level for improved information services.
- To provide specialized information services to appropriate segments of the wide community
Following Edoka’s summary, the areas of library functions seem probably the aspects ICT resources can be employed to an advantage to improve the services of university libraries.
In recognition of the importance of ICT in the university library services with regards to the need for effective and efficient service, many universities with the assistance from the federal government have struggled to bring ICT facilities to their libraries. The Federal government of Nigeria through the National Universities Commission (NUC), The Educational Trust Fund (ETF) as well as individual universities’ efforts, has made ICT facilities available in some of the university libraries which Abuja and Jos are beneficiaries. Obviously, the provision of these facilities must have involved the expenditure of a huge amount of money. However, to successfully exploit the ICT facilities for full benefits, the library staff are the indispensable intermediary between the library materials and users. As a result, they must be able to use the facilities effectively. With the ICT facilities, the professional librarians, para-professionals and other staff working in the two university libraries who are the custodian and purveyors of information are challenged with new information to store, process and disseminate. The implication is that the library staff who are at the forefront of information provision in these university libraries must possess adequate ICT competencies to be able to maximize the facilities to full benefits. Abdulganry (2000) points out that the new information technology cannot be fully exploited if there is no adequate level of ICT competencies among the library staff. Given this, staff working in university libraries are now expected to be aware of and capable of using and demonstrating emerging Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). They must be competent in the use of some basic ICT packages like the MS Office, Online databases, internet searches etc. Similarly, Ikpaahindi (1999) advocates skills acquisitions requirement in the areas of knowledge of computer, how it functions; imputing and retrieval of information from it, ability to organize and use ICT based resources. It is therefore pertinent for university library staff to develop the required competencies in the area of ICT to augment the traditional library services. They must develop expertise in and establish programme in knowledge search and management support of clienteles’ needs.
Competence is viewed as demonstrating the knowledge, skills, experience and attributes necessary to carry out a defined function effectively. It is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities at a level of expertise sufficient to be able to perform appropriately a given task in a work place. Wojtezak (2000) defines competence in generic term as possession of satisfactory level of relevant knowledge and acquisition of a range of skills that include interpersonal and technical components at a certain point in the educational process. Such knowledge and skill are necessary to perform the tasks that reflect the scope of professional practices. It is a combination of theoretical and practical experience that makes an individual able and willing to take the right decision in daily working environment.
ICT competencies of library staff could therefore be viewed to be those relevant skills and knowledge to be acquired by those working in the library to be able to fully exploit information search, retrieval, and deliver using electronic format. The library staff working in the University of Abuja and Jos libraries are expected to possess the technique for gathering, processing and disseminating information to users via the electronic format or skills required to effectively source information stored in electronic format, such as basic computer operating skills, internet and electronic document search skills and also storage and information skills. They should also be competent in the use some of library software packages that can enable them handle the professional technical operations in the library like cataloguing, classification and to generate user databases. For this research therefore, competencies and skills will be used interchangeably.
The University of Abuja library was established in 1988, to support teaching, learning and research programmes of the university. In addition to the main library located at the main campus, the university operates three branch libraries, namely: Law library, Agriculture library, Veterinary and the Medical libraries. All the branch libraries are administered from the main campus and their services were performed manually until 2005 when ICT was introduced into the library. This has made it possible to provide some of the services online. Through the Education Trust Fund (ETF) project and effort of the university, the library has acquired seventy (70) computer systems. It has an e-Library with sixty (60) sets of computers fully internet ready; a server where staff, researchers, undergraduate and postgraduate students use the internet facilities for their studies and also printing services are provided for users. The library through the Nigerian Universities’ Commission (NUC) virtual library subscribes to some foreign journal databases like the AGORA, HINARY, DOAJ, AJOL and Bioline International. These e-resources are made available to their users online via the library’s e-library laboratory. It is currently embarking on online cataloguing of its materials using Library of Congress free database; generating user database for circulation using the GLASS software. These ICT resources are essential to services without which library users are not assisted satisfactorily to meet their needs. The e-library laboratory is managed by Higher Library Officer who only has ICT knowledge while the circulation, cataloguing and classification units are headed by professional librarians. The unit heads and some para-professional staff were given On-the-Job training to use LC database and GLASS softwares.
The University of Jos library started in 1975 at the same time with the university with a mission, just like every other academic library, to provide services to support academic activities of the parent institution. It has two libraries, the main campus library and mini campus library all with ICT facilities. Before the introduction of ICT into the library system, all the operations and services in the library were carried out manually. At present, the university library has two ICT laboratories with internet and printing facilities. It provides free internet services to their staff and student users. Also there is a wireless laboratory at the main campus library where users with their personal computers browse. The ICT department of the library is headed by a systems librarian who is a senior staff, a programmer, system technician and other junior staff who are expected to assist the users. Organization of functions in the University of Jos library is subject based and all the functions are provided by the aid of ICT facilities. The manual catalogues are being replaced by online catalogue (OPAC), also the library subscribe to many electronic journals and books. The university library provides word processing services to their users, that is, typing project work for students using the Microsoft Word. The university library also embarks on digitization of their thesis and dissertations, both retrospective and current ones, and it is hosted on the university’s website.
Statement of the Problem.
ICT is an indispensable tool for information service delivery in modern university libraries essentially for its speed, accuracy and high precision. With the aid of ICT, Information is generated quickly with less mistakes and it ensures dissemination of precise and concrete information.
Though the ICT facilities have been provided, it is observed that they are not effectively utilized by staff in some university libraries. Therefore, uncertainty exists about whether library staff possess adequate competencies to operate ICT facilities effectively. The overall ICT objectives in university libraries can only be achieved if the library staff that use these facilities possess the right competencies. Where the needed ICT competencies are lacking in them, then university libraries in Nigeria would probably be cut off from the rest of the world in terms of globalization. This would further cripple the university’s basic objectives of teaching, learning and research.
To remedy this, there is an urgent need to investigate the ICT competencies of staff working in the Nigerian university libraries and how can these be improved, failing which millions of money spent in acquiring the ICT equipment will be a waste. This in fact is what this study is poised to do.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of the study is to examine ICT competencies of library staff in the Universities of Abuja and Jos libraries.
Specifically, the study will seek to:
- Identify the areas in which library staff working in the University of Abuja and University of Jos use ICT.
- Ascertain the levels of ICT competencies of staff in the two university libraries.
- Determine the methods used in acquiring ICT competencies.
- Identify constraints in acquiring ICT competencies by library staff.
- Determine strategies for improving ICT competencies of library staff
The following research questions have been formulated to guide the study:-
- In what areas work do library staff in the University of Abuja and Jos libraries use ICT?
- What is the level of ICT competencies possessed by staff in Universities of Abuja and Jos library staff?
- What are the methods used in acquiring ICT competencies?
- What are the problems hindering the acquisition of ICT competencies by the staff?
- What are the strategies for improving ICT competencies of library staff?
Significance of the Study.
It is expected that the findings of this study when completed will be useful to practicing librarians by exposing them to know the type of ICT competencies they need to possess in order to perform optimally in the profession and develop their competencies in such area of ICT’s. It
will also assist Curriculum Developers in the department of Library and Information Science to provide useful information about the type of professional training required by modern information workers. This will help them to plan a rich academic course content that will incorporate ICT competency training programmes.
The findings may motivate University Authority to provide the required quantity and quality of ICT facilities that will enhance teaching and learning of Library and Information students. This will also give trainers and educators in the library school a re-direction on focused areas of training and also help them to develop their own competencies on such areas. And the library users will benefit from this because if the library staff are well trained, they will render better services to the users.
It will also contribute to existing body of knowledge in the area of library and Information studies that will be beneficial to future workers/researchers in the field of library and information science.
Scope of the Study
This study covers Information and Communication Technology (ICT) competencies of library staff in the Universities of Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory and Jos in Plateau State all in the North Central geo-political location of Nigeria. Although Abuja is treated as stand alone because of its status as the Federal Capital Territory, but in terms of location, it is situated within the North Central zone.