UTILIZATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICTs) IN PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES IN NIGERIA
This study investigated the utilization of Information and communication Technologies (ICTs) in public library services in Nigeria. Twelve public libraries from the six geopolitical zones of the country comprised the sample of the study. These include Abia State Public Library, Adamawa State Public Library, Akwa Ibom State Public Library, Benue State Public Library, Ekiti State Public Library, Imo State Public Library, Jigawa State Public Library, Oyo State Public Library, Plateau State Public Library, Rivers State Public Library, Yobe State Public Library and Zamfara State Public Library. The aim of the study was to inquire into the utilization of information and communication technologies in public library services in Nigeria. The specific purposes were to (i) identify the ICT facilities that are available in public libraries in Nigeria, (ii) determine the perception of librarians on the benefits of utilizing ICTs in public libraries in Nigeria, (iii) determine the extent to which ICTs are utilized for various public library operations, (iv) ascertain the extent to which users utilize ICT facilities in public libraries, (v) identify barriers to effective use of ICTs in public libraries, and (vi) proffer strategies for enhancing ICT utilization in public libraries in Nigeria. The questionnaires were validated by the expert opinions of three professionals in library and information science from the universities of Uyo, Maiduguri and Abuja, respectively. Reliability test of the instrument (questionnaire) was done using 120 users and 30 staff (librarians and library officers) from Bauchi, Kano and Nassarawa states public libraries.
The study employed descriptive survey research design. Stratified sampling technique was used in choosing the sample. The population of the study consisted of four thousand two hundred and forty five (4,245) respondents which comprised librarians (74), library officers (164), and registered users (4,007). Three researcher designed instruments were used and these were questionnaire, interview schedule and observation checklist. The mean was used in answering the research questions and bar charts were used to show-case the analysis of the study. Data collected from the questionnaires, interview schedules and observation checklist were analyzed using descriptive statistical method. Based on the data collected and analyzed, findings revealed that: the commonly available ICT facilities in public libraries were computers, UPS, video tapes, television sets, photocopiers and printers; users were not satisfied with the ICT facilities available in public libraries; some of the barriers to effective utilization of ICTs in public libraries were inadequate funding, staff low level of computer literacy, inadequate ICT infrastructure and low level of ICT awareness among users; users of public libraries in Nigeria use ICTs mainly for accessing educational information, keeping abreast with current news, events, Internet browsing, down loading and storing information for personal use and for word processing. Based on these findings the researcher recommended that State governments should adequately fund public libraries, public libraries should partner with other agencies in ensuring the provision of ICT facilities, public library authorities should sponsor their staff to ICT- related workshops and training, and public libraries should organize workshops and seminars on ICT literacy for library users. The study concluded that, public libraries in Nigeria need to employ the use of ICT facilities and resources if their services are to improve.
Background of the Study
Recent developments globally show that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have permeated all fields of human endeavour, including library and information services. It is perhaps for this reason that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as cited by Minishi-Majanja (2007) refers to ICT as a “powerful enabler of development” because of its significant impact on the economic, scientific, academic, social, political, cultural and other aspects of life. ICTs have therefore become synonymous with “development” in modern day society. According to Agaji as cited in Gujbawu (2004), the potential of Information and Communication Technology to transform development in both the underdeveloped and developed world is increasingly recognised by governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), corporations and global agencies such as the United Nations (UN).
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are tools that facilitate the production, transmission and processing of information (Grace, Kemy and King, cited by Eyo, Nkanu and Nkebem, 2011).
This researcher categorizes these tools to include computer facilities (computers, scanners, printers, UPS and power point projectors); computer software resources (online databases, CD-ROMs, library application software, Internet and storage media); audio-visual media/equipment (satellite connection, digital cameras, video compact disk (VCD), digital video disk (DVD) radio, television, audio tapes, video tapes and photocopiers; and communication media (telephone-intercom and global system of mobile communication (GSM). Generally speaking, ICTs consists of hardware, software, networks and media for processing, transmission and presentation of information (Eyo, Nkanu and Nkebem, 2011). Qiang as cited by Onwubiko (2011) perceives ICT as the application of communication technologies consisting of ‘’hardware, software, networks and media for the collection, storage, processing, transmission and presentation of information, via voice, data, text or images’’. A more lucid definition is that given by Onwubiko (2011) thus ‘’any technology that is used in producing, organizing and for distributing information. It is a broad-based concept that encompasses the gathering (acquisition), organization (packaging), storage and retrieval for disseminating information that can be in textual or numeric (books and documents), pictorial and vocal forms (audio-visual) using the combination of all the above (multimedia) including computers and telecommunication facilities’’ (p.62).
A public library is one which is generally funded from public sources (such as tax payers’ money). Harrod (1990) defines a public library as a library established by local, state or central government for the use of the general public. In Nigeria, public libraries function under state governments and have branches in the local government areas. A public library therefore is a library that offers services to the public, free of charge. Such services cover education, social, cultural and political information to its community, reference and information services, and selective dissemination of information (SDI). Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are important national resource with a vital role to play in establishing, nurturing and nourishing people’s love of reading.
They also play an important part in life – long and informal learning, providing access to books as well as other reading materials, whether on paper or in digital form via the People’s Network (Bertot et al, 2008). According to UNESCO public library manifesto cited by Edoka, (2000):
The public library is the local centre of information, making all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users. The services of the public library are provided on the basis of equality of access for all, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, nationality, language or social status, specific services and materials must be provided for those users who cannot, for whatever reasons use the regular services and materials, for example, linguistic minorities, people with disabilities or people in hospital or prison (p.12).
Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries or other special libraries in that their mandate is to serve the public’s information needs generally (rather than serve a particular school, institution or research population) and offer materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes. Public libraries typically are lending libraries, allowing users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily; they also have non-circulatory reference collections. They typically focus on popular materials such as popular fiction and movies as well as educational materials of interest to the general public (Bertot et al, 2008). The use of ICTs will further boost these services and ensure users’ satisfaction with the library service.
Public library users cut across a wide spectrum of the society. They include artisans of various types, market women, children, secondary school students, university undergraduates and students of other tertiary institutions, professionals- such as doctors, engineers, lawyers etc. It is the varied nature of public library clientele that makes it distinct from other types of libraries. For instance, the academic library caters for the students, researchers and academic staff of the institution, while the special library is concerned with the information needs of the parent organisation, particularly the researchers. Public libraries cater for all classes of citizens. They are social institutions which contain diverse sources of information on a variety of subjects to serve the information and educational needs of the public. As Onadiran (1989) notes, “the usefulness of any public library depends on its ability to serve the community and the encouragement it provides for people of all ages to educate themselves continually”. As the only libraries that have their doors wide open for all members of the community regardless of their sex, ethnicity, creed, social or class status, age, academic qualifications, or political leanings, ICTs are tremendously impacting on public library services in developed countries.
This is made possible through training courses in ICT, Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLAIT), the European Computer Driving Licenses (ECDL) etc. (Bird and Tedd, 2000). ICTs are also employed for reader development, resource management, information literacy etc. in public libraries. This is done through training programmes developed for both staff and users. Books are selected to meet the specified criteria and links are made from the website to catalogues in certain libraries to ascertain the local availability of titles (Bird and Tedd, 2000). Job advertisements on the Internet provide job opportunities for users and there have been reported cases of users that have found jobs through the provision of Internet services in public libraries (Blake, 2003). The social impact of ICTs in public libraries is in connecting people to ICT, which in turn connects them with their communities and wider social infrastructures (Milner, 2007). ICTs have shaped identities for library staff, who are now more of information providers and facilitators than mere custodians of information/knowledge (D-Lib Magazine, 2005).
According to Eve and Brophy (2000), the provision of ICT is generally perceived as a crucial development that will place library service at the heart of the UK’s emerging “information society”. Services provided by public libraries such as reference services, lending service, current awareness service, reprographic service etc. could be enhanced with the use of ICT facilities such as Internet, CD-ROMs, digitized materials, library catalogues, printers, scanners etc. The quality of library services in Nigerian public libraries will equally be enhanced when ICT usage is intensified in library operations and services. Ghosh (2005) also shows how ICTs are affecting the services of public libraries in India. He emphasizes the need for ICT- driven public libraries in India thus: ICT-driven public libraries act as intermediary centre for improving literacy, awareness, welfare and cultural re-awakening, it is the intention to put public libraries in the right perspective, to arrive at a single window interacted environment for information concerned with all aspects of human life (p.5).
In India as well, the emergence of rural digital libraries and application of ICTs is helping solve the problems of developing public libraries (Ghosh, 2005). Effective utilization of ICTs in Nigerian rural libraries will yield similar results.
In the same vein, Garrod (2002) examines the relevance of ICTs in the activities of agencies in the United Kingdom, such as Regional Development Agencies (RDA), Peoples Network Programme (PNP) etc. The author highlights the relevance of these agencies in skills development and the labour market and suggests that public libraries can relate with these agencies in providing ICT services and support to the general public. He concludes that libraries offer both physical access to ICT facilities and tangible media (books, radio, virtual materials etc.), and virtual access to library catalogues, community library catalogues, community information, digital or digitized materials and a host of portals and gateways aimed at making the process of locating and retrieving quality information sources as easy as possible for the public. The intensification of usage of ICTs in Nigerian public libraries will improve their services in like manner.
Emphasizing the crucial role ICTs can play in public libraries worldwide; IFLA/UNESCO guideline for development (2001) stipulates that:
Public libraries have an exciting opportunity to help everyone into this global conversation and to bridge what is often called the ‘digital divide’. They can achieve this by providing information technology for public access, by teaching basic computer skills and by participating in programmes to combat illiteracy. While becoming the gateway to the electronic information world should be a key objective for the public library, every effort must be made not to close other doors through which knowledge and information can be provided (p.9).
It is therefore apparent that the utilization of ICTs in public libraries ensures quality service to users. It can also extend library services beyond the walls of the library.
IFLA Guidelines for Public Libraries (2000) emphasizes that “planning library development from a service, rather than building perspective is important in all public library policy development. The provision of services using information and communication technology also presents exciting opportunities to take library and information services direct to the home and work place”. Public libraries in developed countries have embraced this challenge and have taken the lead in utilizing ICTs in processing and managing information resources and providing services to users efficiently. If the IFLA mandate on libraries without walls can be implemented in developed countries, then developing countries (including Nigeria) can equally achieve same with adequate financial and moral support from the relevant authorities.
The ICT facilities that are expected in a public library include computer facilities (computers, scanners, printers, UPS, and power point projectors), computer software resources (online databases, CD-ROMs, library application software, Internet connectivity and storage media), audio-visual media/equipment (satellite connection, radio, television, audio tapes, video tapes, DVD/VCD, digital cameras and photocopiers) and communication media (telephone-intercom and GSM). Gama (2007) also categorized these facilities by medium into five groups as follows: computing facilities and services; film/tape-based facilities – microfiche reader, micro card reader, microprint reader, slide projector, reel to reel recorder, tape recorder, video machine etc; reproduction facilities – photocopying machine, duplicating machine etc; telecommunication facilities – telephone, GSM, telex, telegram, fax machine, satellite etc; broadcasting facilities – radio, television, cable transmission (e.g. CNN, BBC, Al-jazeera). Hamelink as cited by Anansi (2003) categorized ICTs by usage into four viz: capturing technologies, communication technologies, storage technologies, and display technologies; while Islam and Islam (2007) gave another concise classification of ICTs by usage as follows: ICT-based resources, including computers connected to Internet, CD-ROM,audio cassettes, video-cassettes, photocopiers, printers, software used by libraries etc; ICT-based activities, including data processing, circulation, cataloguing, bibliography, serial control, in-house database; and ICT-based library service including CD-ROM searching, online information service, news clipping, scanning service, online reservation services etc.
Having gotten an insight into the ICT facilities and services that are available in public libraries, the purposes for which users utilize ICTs in public libraries include the following: accessing educational information for self development; keeping abreast with current news, events etc; Internet browsing; downloading and storing information for personal use; word processing; sending and receiving e-mail; knowledge of other peoples’ culture; and social networking.
The public library is a potent democratic institution that brings people from all walks of life together in their bid for information, education and continuous self-development. Every effort, therefore, must be made to enhance the quality of its services and make them more effective and efficient. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a crucial role in all sectors of the society and have radically transformed the role of public libraries in developed countries. Through ICTs public libraries are providing more sophisticated and user friendly services to their patrons. ICTs can afford public library users the opportunity for cultural expression and personal fulfillment through lifelong learning. The benefits of ICTs in public libraries are also evident in programmes in computer literacy and information technology, reader development, resource management, information literacy, access to wider social infrastructure and job opportunities that are available through the Internet.
Other benefits of utilizing ICTs in public libraries include: enabling users self education through Internet and its multimedia resources, provision of speedy and easy access to information, provision of access to unlimited and up-to-date information from different sources, increases efficiency in library operations and services, facilitate cooperation and formation of library networks, provision of round the clock and remote access of information to users, and facilitation of reformation and combination of data from different sources. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can also improve public library operations and services when utilized. For example, library application software are used in automating routine tasks in acquisition, cataloguing, circulation, serials control and similar functions, thereby reducing manual effort in executing these tasks and increasing productivity. Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) allows users virtual access to huge library collections all over the world. CD-ROMs and DVDs/VCDs are used in providing better reference service and in information management.
Similarly, Internet is a powerful ICT facility that is useful in providing effective reference service, e-mail, web information, and enables social networking through social media such as face book, twitter, YouTube, etc. More important is that the Internet and satellite connection have eliminated geographical barriers and made the world a global village, with the later allowing public libraries to interact and network with other information outfits. Digital cameras are used to capture important events and stored for use in public libraries, while satellite or cable information provides round the clock news and other events around the world. Therefore, utilization of ICTs in public libraries will enhance the quality of their operations and services and lead to users’ satisfaction.
However, a survey in ten countries of Anglo-phone Africa on the use of ICT in African public libraries (Chisenga, 2004) revealed that most public libraries are inadequately funded to procure ICT facilities, lack skilled manpower with ICT knowledge, do not have ICT strategies and policies, and are not committed to implementation of ICT projects. This situation is appalling given the crucial role public libraries play in informing and educating the public.
While the literature to do with ICT use satisfaction in public libraries reveal high satisfaction among public library users in developed countries of United Kingdom (U.K.) and United States (U.S.) (Tedd, 2003; Spacey and Murray, 2003; Bird and Tedd, 2004), inadequate provision of ICT facilities in Nigerian public libraries is resulting in low satisfaction among its users. The current situation, from the researcher’s observation is that the availability of ICT facilities in public libraries in Nigeria is grossly inadequate and its utilization equally poor.
The ICT facilities that are mostly available in Nigerian public libraries are computers, UPS, printers, and scanners, and these are used in library administration and management, and for word processing. Essential ICT facilities such as Internet connectivity, online database, CD-ROMs, DVDs/VCDs, and library application software are rarely available. The researcher has had a long working experience in a public library before moving to an academic library. It is the pathetic situation of ICT facilities and services in Nigerian public libraries that motivated the researcher to conduct this study. The population of the study comprises public libraries (including branch libraries) in the 36 state library boards in the Nigeria, public library users and public library staff, which includes librarians and library officers.
UTILIZATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICTs) IN PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES IN NIGERIA
Statement of the Problem
Public libraries, generally, function to support individual and self-education as well as formal education at all levels by providing non-fiction materials. They also exist to create and encourage reading habits in children and adults alike, through the provision of rich fiction collection that would stimulate reading for recreation and leisure. In Nigeria, public libraries are supposed to be in the forefront of encouraging individual and self-education with robust non-fiction collection, especially given the limited chance that is available for formal education in institutions of higher learning in the country. But this is hardly the case due to the poor state of facilities in public libraries. The use of ICT facilities in public libraries in Nigeria, therefore, has the potential of improving their present situation and making them better positioned to fulfill their role in the society – being to inform, educate and provide for recreational needs of their users by providing the relevant information resources.
The literature concerning ICT utilization in library operations and services show that libraries of all kinds in Nigeria are not utilizing ICTs as effectively as those in developed countries. Public libraries in particular do not seem to use them in providing services to their users as effectively as their counterparts in academic and special libraries. The consequences of not utilizing ICTs in public libraries are that they will deny users access to the full range of resources available through newer technologies and their services will not meet the needs of users. As a result, users may not be satisfied. Similarly, they would not be able to achieve self-actualization or their life goals. Consequently, public libraries in Nigeria may not be able to make their impact on national development. This study therefore examined the use of ICTs in public libraries in Nigeria and its impact on library services and users. The question that needs to be asked then is, to what extent are public libraries in Nigeria using ICTs and how can ICTs be used more effectively to improve their services?