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INFLUENCE OF ICT LITERACY SKILLS ON ITS APPLICATION FOR LIBRARY USE AMONG ACADEMIC LIBRARIANS IN SOUTH EAST NIGERIA
Background of Study
Information and communication technology (ICT) in libraries is holding a strong position in every ramification of library holdings and services. The introduction of ICT in librarianship necessitated retooling and acquisition of the skills required to operate in the global information society. The capacity of users to exploit the ICT depends on the level of literacy, education and mastery of the technologies convened. Menuo (2002) noted that the situation on ground requires retooling of information professionals as the potentials of the information age cannot be realized without expanding the scope of information and computer literacy. He reiterated that people should be sensitized to be able to use stand alone computers, use computer networks, primarily the internet, use basic applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, and electronic mail and possibly more advanced ones such as presentations, production of web pages, construction of websites, use of digital multimedia equipment and programs. The use of this is for the use of information resources that can be found in the internet.
ICT is the convergence between the computer and communication technologies, ICTs are technologies used to communicate and to create, manage and distribute information. Such technologies includes computers, the internet, telephone, television, radio and audiovisual equipment. However, this definition has been expanded to include any device and application used to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information and knowledge. These devices include but not limited to radio, television, cellular phones, computer hardware and software, network hardware and software, satellite systems, peripherals, connections to the internet, digital technologies and others. Also considered in the ICT are the services and applications used for communication and information processing functions associated with these devices. ICT changes the way we live, learn and work. As a result of these changes, technology tools, and creative application of technology, have the capacity to increase the quality of people’s lives by improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning, the productivity of industry and government and the well-being of nations. ICT was introduced to perform library functions and provide innovative user services.
Considering the meaning of ICT, Oliver and Tower (2000) view ICT literacy as the set of skills and understandings required by people to enable meaningful use of ICT appropriate to their needs. In their settings, the ICT literacy of a student is a relative measure of the student’s capacity to make appropriate use of ICT for educational and learning purposes. Likewise, the ICT literacy for librarians is relative measures of the librarians’ capacity to make appropriate use of ICT for information acquisition, organization, retrieval and dissemination as information professionals. This involves the level of skills needed by librarians to use computer for their work and to independently function in a web-based, on-line learning environment. They also pointed out that skills/competencies still remain the underpinning elements of computer and ICT literacy and measures the extent and scope of ICT applications and uptake among different computer users. Four distinct areas of skills and expertise such as an ability to independently operate personal computer system, an ability to use software for preparing and presenting work, an ability to use the internet and its various features as communication device, and an ability to access and use information from world wide web (www) were seen as attributes of an ICT literate individual. ICT literacy skills generally is the familiarity with mobile phones, computers, the internet and other ICTs; the ability to use ICT features and applications and the ability to use ICTs to work individually or in teams. In fact, it involves the awareness of technologies and application of their relevance, use of technology for information and knowledge encompassing skills or abilities to access, retrieve, store, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information and knowledge and participate in networks via the internet and understanding that ICT acquisition and use impacts on personal and social development. Therefore, ICT literacy has a positive impact on economic life of individuals and nations
The key role of library is to provide structured access to information with the increasing reliance on ICT. Libraries are playing a significant role in implementing and moderating a country’s information society agenda. Library is the focal point of learning and research activities in academic institutions due to its information acquisition, organization, storage, retrieval and dissemination functions to the community. The achievement of the goals of the university is paramount to the establishment of the university library. Librarians are at the threshold of these activities and are now faced with the emergence of information technology in the scene of information exchange. This brought new tools and techniques of acquiring and handling information. To effectively serve the academic community in the ICT environment, the librarians need to move along with the new development. Librarians are those who have the care of library and its content; the work includes selection of stock, its arrangement and exploitation in the widest sense, and the provision of a range of services in the best interest of all groups of users (Prytherch,1995).They are also involved in the coordination of activities, setting of priorities, evaluation and other managerial tasks and their involvement in the community they serve.
In the present age, apart from using the new tool to fulfil the traditional roles of the library, it evolved some new practices in the profession. Some of the new developments include digital environment for information acquisition, processing and dissemination. Information is now mostly in electronic format. Library services are also affected by the new format. Oppenheim and Smithson (1999) described digital library as an information service in which all the information resources are available in computer processable form. This requires new managerial skills for the administration of the new environment (digital library). Therefore, the new era librarians that can operate in the digital or ICT environment are indispensible. Librarians are compelled to be content creators of information, web page planners and designers and internet navigators. As a result of the digital technology inroad into the profession, such nomenclatures as internet librarians, digital librarians, cyberians or weberians were attributed to the emerging librarians. These are librarians that have acquired the new literacy skills in the manipulation of the ICT tools for information service delivery to the clientele.
Technology is changing rapidly and continuously, and learning to deal with it requires not just one-off mastery of processes but also adaptability. There is a developmental shift from analogue to digital librarianship. Fabeyinde (2006) stated that ICT is the fusion of information technology with that of communication while ICT literacy according to an international independent panel of experts convened by Educational Testing Services (ETS) in 2001 is using digital technology, communications tools and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society. ICT literacy evolved as a result of the technological changes brought about by the appearance of the information society and the advances made by the technological world. To be digital is to be acquainted/literate or skilled with the storage, retrieval, manipulation and transmission of information electronically. Analogue is alphabetic representation of graphics or characters. It simply means information in textual forms. An information literate librarian who applies his literacy in the acquisition, organization, retrieval and dissemination of information in textual forms is called an analogue librarian. Digital librarian is one who applies digital literacy skills in his professional roles as a librarian.
Tornero (2004) emphasized that the integration of ICT into the society is demanding complex and sophisticated changes in the way people think and act. This shows that the introduction of ICT to the knowledge and information society necessitates ICT literacy. To move along with the current trend in the information world, digital literacy (ICT literacy) is indispensable. The world summit on the information society (WSIS 2003) held in Geneva in 2003 reaffirmed on a global level the need for digital literacy skills in the 21st century. It emphasized that ICT literacy policy will help to ensure that students and employers are ready for the work force of the 21st century where digital literacy will be critical to a nation’s ability to compete successfully in a global information and knowledge economy. Governments are therefore, compelled to make necessary adjustments in their National information communication infrastructure policy to facilitate the provision of ICT facilities and encouragement of ICT literacy.
Gbaje (2007) noted that the deregulation of the telecommunication industry and implementation of the information technology policies by the federal government of Nigeria has resulted in the proliferation of internet cafes, giving birth to a generation of internet-loving library patrons who regard the internet as a primary source of information. He also emphasized that these online patrons are overwhelmed by information overload on the internet and are crying for help to find reliable and accurate information quickly. To achieve this, librarians are expected to be computer literate, information navigators through the superhighways, creators of innovative information systems for the collection, organization, dissemination and preservation of information and new knowledge regardless of format and designing and maintaining a library website as a platform for delivering online services.
However, there is a digital divide between the developed and the developing world of which Nigeria is one. The digitally rich countries have high ICT literacy skills because of the availability of sufficient ICT infrastructure and usage while the digitally poor countries in comparison to the advanced countries, have a yawning gap between them in the digital atmosphere called “digital divide”. There is a need to abridge this gap for efficient and effective globalization. To facilitate this, there is a need for appreciable ICT literacy skills and infrastructure that achieve the traditional goals and new innovations in librarianship.
Statement of Problem
The use of ICT in achievement of desired goals in workplace is proportional to the ICT literacy possessed. Therefore, this affects the proficiency of ICT use and efficiency of job performance. Many studies have been carried out on information literacy among librarians. The most outstanding ones are that of Adeyoyin (2005) on ICT literacy among librarians in Nigerian universities and the one in India by Babu, Vinayagamorthy and Gopalakrishnan (2007) on ICT literacy among Engineering faculty. All these tried to find out the level of ICT literacy without determining the effect of ICT facilities availability and ICT literacy acquisition on its application for utilisation in their professional day-to-day activities.
Currently, it appears that there has not been any frame work put forth to assess if an individual has achieved ICT literacy to function successfully in a knowledge-based society. There is no such studies in South East Geo-political zone of Nigeria that exits in the literature available to the researcher as at present . Therefore, the need to fill this empirical information gap in the area of the influence of ICT literacy skills on its application by academic librarians in South-Eastern Nigeria.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of the study is to ascertain the influence of ICT literacy on its application for library services by academic librarians in South East Geo-political zone of Nigeria.
Specific objectives of the study are to:
- Find out the ICT facilities available to academic librarians in South Eastern
- Find out the extent of ICT literacy skills possessed by academic librarians in South Eastern Nigeria.
- Find out the training methods mostly adopted by academic librarian in South Eastern Nigeria.
- Find out how academic librarians apply ICT literacy to their professional work in the library.
- Find the hindrances to the acquisition of ICT literacy skills by librarians.
- Find out strategies that can be employed to enhance ICT literacy skills acquisition.
The study is guided by the following research questions:
- What are facilities put in place for the acquisition of ICT literacy skills?.
- What are the levels of ICT literacy skills possessed by academic librarians in South Eastern Nigeria?
- What are the training methods used for the acquisition of ICT literacy skills?
- In what ways do academic librarians apply ICT literacy skills to their professional work in the library?
- What are hindrances to the acquisition of ICT literacy skills by librarians in South Eastern Nigeria?
- What are the strategies employed for the enhancement of ICT literacy skills acquisition by the academic librarians in South Eastern Nigeria.
Significance of the Study
As the application of ICT to all walks of life is the prevailing phenomenon in our present information society, the findings of this study will no doubt be useful to practicing librarians in adapting to the new trend. The library educators and students will also benefit from the findings of the study as a roadmap to curriculum review. It will also be of immense importance to National Universities Commission (NUC) and university administrations in planning, budgeting and provision of ICT facilities.
The findings of the study will equally be useful for staff development strategy by the university library administration. The result of the study will contribute a lot to other scholars and researchers in the area of ICT literacy skills and application and related areas by providing necessary background information and insight to further research.
Scope of the Study
The study will be restricted to the influence of ICT literacy on its application for library services by academic librarians in South-Ease Geo-political zone. It will cover the academic librarians in four federal universities in the South-East Geo-political zone of Nigeria. Academic librarians in state and private universities and higher education institutions are not included in the study. This is because the federal universities have some level of computerization.