LIBRARY RESOURCES UTILIZATION AND PUBLICATION OUTPUT OF ACADEMIC STAFF OF POLYTECHNICS IN SOUTH- EAST AND SOUTH-SOUTH NIGERIA
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Background to the Study
The main function of academic institutions in Nigeria is the development of human resources through teaching, learning and research. This function is carried out at the different levels of academic institutions in Nigeria which include universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. To ensure specialization and efficiency in human resources development, the National Policy on Education (2004) assigned specific functions to each level of higher education. For the polytechnics, it provided the followings specific functions in addition to the general goals of education:
Provide full-time or part-time course of instruction and training in engineering, other technologies, applied science, business, and management leading to the production of trained manpower;
Provide the technical knowledge and skills necessary for agriculture, industries, commercial and economic development of Nigeria;
Give training and impart the necessary skills for the production of technicians, technologists and other skilled personnel who shall be enterprising and self-reliant;
Train people who can apply scientific knowledge to solve environmental problems for the convenience of man; and
Give exposure on professional studies in the technologies (p. 41).
A closer examination of the above functions shows that the main objective of academic institutions in Nigeria is the provision of theoretical and practical training that will lead to intellectual and skills acquisition for the social, economic and political development of the country. In other words, academic institutions are meant to be development-oriented, whether in respect of the society or the individual and whether in physical or psychological dimensions (Ayeni, 2010). The realization of the foregoing functions demands sound academic research for publication output not only for the growth of the individual academic staff but for both academic institutions and the country at large.
The 21st Century Webster’s International Encyclopedia defined research as the “use of appropriate methods to discover new knowledge, or explore relationships between ideas or events”. On the other hand, the Office for Human Research Protections of the Cardinal Stritch University (2008:1) saw it as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge”. These definitions depict research as a planned activity which aims at creating new knowledge or expanding the existing ones. In addition, it should also aim at solving societal problems. However, for the purpose of this study, research is defined as a systematic search or investigation carried on in academic institutions for the purpose of discovering new ideas or elucidating on existing ones and generally contributing to knowledge.
Although research is carried out at different levels in many organizations, the ones conducted in academic institutions and perhaps those by the academic staff are the most important to the society. This is because of the connection between academic research and human resources development. Academic staff therefore, occupy a central position in research activities and publication output in the nation’s academic institutions.
The term academic staff has been variously defined. Egwunyenga (2008) defined academic staff as individuals employed in academic institutions whose responsibilities are to teach and conduct research leading to improvement in the society. In his study, Popoola (2008) referred to them as lecturers and defined them as staff in academic institutions whose duties pertain to teaching, learning, research and community services. Irrespective of the fact that these authors have different terms for academic staff, they agreed on their functions.
In the present study and with particular reference to the polytechnic system, academic staff is defined as staff in academic institutions whose primary duties concern teaching, research, acquisition, processing and dissemination of information and are required to show evidence of publication output for their career development. A major distinguishing characteristic of academic staff from technologists, instructors and other staff of the polytechnics is that whereas they are required to show evidence of publication output for their career advancement, those other staff are not required to do so. In other words, although technologists and instructors also teach in the polytechnics,
their appointments, promotion and general career development is not determined by their ability to provide the required number of publication output. Publication output is a necessary requirement for the appointments, promotion and career advancement of all academic staff of polytechnics in Nigeria (Scheme of Services for Federal Colleges of Education and Federal Polytechnic, 1989). The term publication output has been variously defined. Zainab (2001) defined publication output as an outcome of research which appears in print and are usually embodied in research communications in the formal sense. He provided a long list of publication output to include reports, books, journal articles, sections of books, technical reports, transactions, edited works, patents, standards and preprints. Similarly, Edem (2004) defined publication output as the number of books, chapters in books, journal articles and other related research output such as bibliographies, abstracts and indexes that are published. In another development, the Department of Education of South African University as cited by Madye (2007) defined publication output as any research publication accepted by any evaluation body for promotion and other evaluation exercises.
The above definitions share the same view on what constitutes publication output. It is also clear that these authors exclude conference papers from what constitutes publication output. This exclusion may not be justified because conference papers are also important outcome of research through which academic staff communicate their research findings as well as increase the information available in a given field or area of knowledge. It is also important to point out that in Nigerian polytechnics, conference papers are recognised alongside other publication output such as journal articles, chapters in books and books for career progression and promotions in line with the 1989 Scheme of Services for Federal Colleges of Education and Federal Polytechnics. In view of this and for the purpose of the present study, publication output is defined as all products of research by academic staff and it is made up of book publications, journal publications, and conference papers presentations.
Publication output is very important not only to the academic staff but to academic institutions in general. Holden, Rosenberg and Blaker (2005) observed that the peer-reviewed publications are the primary unit by which academic faculties and educational programmes are judged while Popoola (2008) claimed that publication output is one of the major determinants of academic staff productivity. It enables academic staff members to share insight, demonstrate academic scholarship, gain recognition for creative thinking and finally to develop a reputation for expertise in a specialty area. Publication output partly determines both local and international recognition and respect for academic staff and academic institutions generally. In any field of specialization, it provides current information for growth, progress and improved society. Similarly, Bassey, Akwegwu, Udida and Udey (2007) observed that publication output is very significant in the lives of academic staff hence their promotions are almost entirely dependent on it.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that publication output does not only influence the career development of academic staff, it also attracts both local and global attentions to academic institutions. Such attentions could be in the form financial grants, partnership and research collaborations. Wise and Fisher (2004) believe that the benefit to institutions could be seen from the influence publication output has on academic programmes accreditation by professional organizations and the level of funding universities and higher other educational institutions enjoy from the government. Accordingly, Adomi and Mordi (2003) stated that: Publishing in foreign journals helps to project the image of not only the author but his or her institution in other parts of the world. It has been noted that faculty publishing productivity is often used as index of departmental and institutional prestige and is associated strongly with an individual faculty member’s reputation, visibility and advancement in academic reward structure (p. 26).
In the same direction, Sabo (2005) claimed that the main criterion for ranking world class universities is not so much the volume of teaching, students’ population or community services but publication output. According to him, knowledge discovery, accumulation and dissemination is what placed the advanced countries at the top, by their control of social and human capital information, economic development and improved conditions of living.
In view of the importance of publication output in the lives of academic staff and institutional development, academic staff have continued to seek for the right quality and quantity of library resources that will enhance their publication output. Apparently, the level of academic activities including research in any tertiary institution is directly a function of the quality and quantity of library resources available in the institution’s library, their accessibility and utilization by both staff and students.
A resource is defined by Collins English Dictionary (2003) as the total means available for economic, political and educational development, such as mineral, labour force and armaments. It is something that is available and can be used for support or help. This includes human and materials items available in an environment or in an organization. Library resources are made up of these two components – human and materials. However, for the purpose of the present study, library resources refer to information materials available for users’ educational and research needs. In line with the above view Popoola and Haliso (2009:65) defined library resources as “those information bearing materials that are both in print and in electronic format.” Similarly, Oyewusi and Oyeboade (2009:46) defined library resources as “collections of texts and bibliographic information sources and information technology such as those that support browsing and authoring and communication like computer and the internet.”
The foregoing definitions share a lot in common and summarize the composites of library resources to be either in print or non-print or both. They identified library resources to include textbooks, journals, abstracts and indexes. Others include newspapers and magazines, reports, CD-ROM, databases, videotapes/cassettes, diskettes magnetic tapes, computers and microforms. In the present study, library resource is defined as a collection of non human educational materials in the library relevant to the information needs of users. These consists of books/monographs, journals collections, newspapers/magazines, conference proceedings, CD-ROM databases, online resources, students’ research projects, abstracts and indexes, bulletins/newsletters and government documents.
These resources are very essential in the attainment of academic institutions’ overall objectives which usually revolve around the development of national human resources. They are the essential commodities needed for improved productivity of all members of academic community especially the academic staff. Meadow and Yuan as cited in Popoola (2008) noted that library resources are the message that changes the recipient’s knowledge base. Through the utilization of these resources, users acquire new knowledge as well as expand the existing ones. The library resources and services available in academic libraries are, therefore, expected to be able to support the publication needs of all the members of the academic community. Through the interplay of library resources and services, academic staff will obtain the necessary information for their publication output. Popoola and Haliso (2009) have noted the need for all academic staff to use the library in order to be efficient in teaching and to improve their publication output.
In Nigeria, polytechnics like other academic institutions are provided with libraries to ensure regular and adequate supply of information resources and services. The functions of such libraries would be among others to acquire and organize library resources in retrievable formats and create suitable learning environment in which staff and students are provided with varieties of such library resources and services for learning and research. To guarantee efficient performance of these libraries, the following library resources are usually acquired; textbooks, monographs, directories, handbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Other resources that make up their stocks are journals, newspapers and magazines, bulletins, abstracts and indexes, government documents, conference proceeding and students’ research projects.
With the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICT) into library services, electronic resources such as CD ROM databases, computers and other online resources are now found in some polytechnic libraries. All these resources are channeled toward providing information to the library users in line with the courses offered in these institutions which are mainly engineering, sciences, management and for general interest reading and to support academic staff publication output. These resources are very essential in the attainment of academic institution’s overall objectives which usually
revolve around the development of national human resources. Zainab (2000) supported this stressing that libraries’ bibliographic databases and collections are very strategic to an institution’s staff publication output. For academic staff to achieve the desired level of publication output, utilization of their institutional library resources is of utmost necessity.
Uhegbu (2007) defined utilization as the actual putting into appropriate use of acquired information. He was of the view that library resources utilization differs from person to person and from one corporate organization to another in accordance with their information needs and other socio-economic imperatives. Need, therefore, is a critical factor in the utilization of library resources. In another development, Shokeen and Kauslik (2002) defined utilization of library resources as taking advantage of the resources available in the library by a user for learning and research purposes. The above definitions of utilization point to the fact that library resources fulfill their roles and contribute to solving the problem of information needs through utilization. In the present study, utilization is defined as accessing information from library resources and putting it into practical use in order to cause a change in the user or in the society.
Through utilization, library users avail themselves of the information in the library resources and put it into other purposes. Library resources are utilized for different purposes by different people. Some utilize library resources for general information on everyday life, economic, social and political while some others utilize them for educational purposes. For the academic staff, publication output forms one of the major reasons for the utilization of library resources. It stands to reason that for academic staff to attain the desired publication output, effective utilization of library resources is of utmost important. This is because utilization helps to bring out the value of library resources and make them relevant to the information needs of the users including academic staff. Utilization also ensures that the function of the library as the backbone of academic activities in an institution is attained. It enables the academic staff to achieve their desired level of publication output.
Although academic staff in South-East and South-South Nigeria engage in research and publication output like their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, as a requirement for their promotions and career advancement, it is not known whether such publication output is influenced by their utilization of library resources.
LIBRARY RESOURCES UTILIZATION AND PUBLICATION OUTPUT OF ACADEMIC STAFF OF POLYTECHNICS IN SOUTH- EAST AND SOUTH-SOUTH NIGERIA
Statement of the Problem
Publication output is a major indicator of academic staff productivity. Its importance is evident in faculty decisions on academic staff appointments, tenure, career development, promotions, institutional assessment, ranking and recognition both locally and internationally. In view of this, academic staff need to conduct research regularly in order to meet the required publication output hence their career advancement hinges on it. A few studies have linked academic staff publication output in Nigerian universities with utilization of library resources available in the institutional libraries. However, these studies failed to show whether library resources utilization really influence publication output of academic staff. It is pertinent to determine the extent of support the library provides to the academic staff of polytechnics for enhanced publication output. Besides, available literature has also shown that most studies in the developing countries including Nigeria on academic staff publication output only focused on the universities, neglecting entirely the polytechnics and other higher academic institutions.
In other words, not much is known about the influence of library resources utilization on publication output of academic staff of polytechnics in Nigeria. This lack of information creates a gap in our knowledge of the influence library resources utilization has on academic staff publication output. Despite the huge amount of money spent on staff salary and in acquiring resources for polytechnic libraries as well as the amount of time and efforts put into the utilization, it is not certain whether maximum benefit of these resources is derived by the users, especially the academic staff with regards to their publication output.
In the light of the foregoing, it has become imperative to investigate the influence of library resources utilization on publication output of academic staff of polytechnics in South-East and South-South Nigeria with a view to identifying the library resources that are actually influencing the publication output of Nigerian polytechnic academic staff.