Assessment of Digital Reference Services Provision to the Users of Academic Libraries in Ebonyi State
This study aimed at assessing digital reference services in academic libraries in Ebonyi State. Four research questions were formulated to guide the study on the digital resources available for reference services in academic libraries in Ebonyi State, the forms of digital reference services provided the level of provision of digital reference services. Data relevant to the study were collected using questionnaire and observation checklist. A total of forty-eight(48) copies were distributed to the librarians as sample and forty-two(42) was returned. Data were analyzed using percentages and frequencies. Major findings revealed that digital resources are not available in the institutions under study, except E-newspapers that was confirmed to be available in FUNAI. Forms of digital reference services were also confirmed not to be provided, apart from telephoning which was confirmed to be available in FUNAI. Major findings also revealed that cost of purchase and maintenance, staff time, low internet bandwidth, lack of qualified personnel, funding and inadequate provision of required infrastructure and poor electric power supply as the challenges affecting effective provision of digital reference services. Research therefore recommended that generating plant, application of computers, provision of qualified personnel among others should be provided.
Keywords: Digital Reference Services, Academic Libraries.
1.0 Background to the Study
Academic libraries are libraries that are attached to higher education institutions which serves two complementary purposes: to support the schools curriculum and to support the research of the university/polytechnic/college of education faculty and students. It acquires information materials that conveys intellectual work5 that will complement the aims and objectives of the institution.
Reference services is one of the library’s primary practices besides acquisitions, classifications, cataloguing and psychical planning. It can also be seen as personal assistance provided by trained personnel a digital reference service can be defined as a mechanism by which people can submit their questions and have them answered by a library staff member through some electronic means (e-mails, chats, web forms etc) not in person or over the phone A digital reference service can only be said to have occurred when a question is received electronically and responded to electronically. The terms digital reference services, web-based reference services and electronic reference services are used interchangeably as terms with similar meaning. In the words of Rosech (2006), he defined digital reference series as “internet based questions and answers services that connect users with individuals who possess specialized subject or skill expertise’. A digital reference service consist of the following components: the users of the service, the interface (e-mails, web form, chats, video conferences etc), the information professionals and electronic resources (including electronic or CD based resources, web resources, local digitalized resources etc).
The digital reference service in academic libraries allows librarians to help patrons access information in a virtual environment using various methods such as emails, chat etc. it also creates personal relations between librarians and patrons. The users of academic libraries are the students and staffs of the institution. The students and staffs makes use of the academic libraries for reference purposes.
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11 Background Information of Institution Under Study
Ebonyi is a state in Nigeria, in the southern eastern region. It is inhabited and populated primarily by Igbo tribe. Its capital and largest city is Abakaliki. It is one of the six states created in 1996 by the Abacha government. Ebonyi was created from parts of Enugu State and Abia State there are five registered tertiary educational institution in Ebonyi State, namely:
- Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana, (AIFPU)
- The Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu, (FCA)
- The Ebonyi State Unviersity Abakaliki, (EBSU)
- The Ebonyi State College of Education, (ECE) Ikwo
- The Federal University, Ndufu, Alike, Ikwo, (FUNAI)
Akanu Ibiam Federal polytechnic, Unwana (formally the Federal Polytechnic Unwana, Afikpo) was established by decree no. 33 of 1979 alongside with the library which provides information materials according to the philosophy of the polytechnic. The philosophy of the polytechnic is embodied in her motto; which is “SKILLS FOR TECHNOLOGICAL FREEDOM”. It was properly founded in the year 1981. The library holds a sizeable volume of information materials including non-prints which aims at satisfying the information needs of its patrons.
The Federal College of Agriculture (FCA) is based in Ishiagu, Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria. The College was established in Umudike in the year 1955 by the government of Eastern Nigeria, alongside with the library. The library provides information materials both prints and non- prints that will promote the advancement for agricultural training, production and research in Nigeria.
The Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki is located at the State capital of Ebonyi State. In 1999, the Fbonyi State University became a full-Eledged multi-disciplinary university with 11 Faculties. Each faculty has its own library and the school maintains a main library which serves as a regulatory body to the sub-libraries in the school. They acquire information resources according to the curriculum of the various faculties.
The Ebonyi State College of education was formally established by Ebonyi State of Nigeria law no. 33 of 6th, March 2001 as an institution for training of teachers as well as for research and study of education. The academic structures are in five (5) schools with 20 departments and over 50 course combinations are been offered and the library which was established alongside, provides information materials to complement the academic activities of the various departments.
The Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State is one of the newly established federal universities in Nigeria. The institution is located about 25km south of Abakaliki (off Abakaliki-Afikpo highway). Its academic and library activities commenced during the 2011/2012 academic year.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The digital age has heralded an era in which library users in academic libraries rely more on the Internet for information and less patrons approach the reference desk for assistance; there is therefore the need for academic libraries to adopt modern technologies to facilitate remote communication between users and librarians many academic libraries especially in the developed world of Europe, North America and parts of Asia have responded to this need by providing reference service via the Internet or digital reference service, to their users. But in most academic lnstitutions in Ebonyi State, it is observed that this services are lacking. Hence, there is the need for this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of the study is to assess digital reference service provision to users of academic libraries in Ebonyi State of Nigeria.
The specific objectives are;
- To find out the type of digital resources available for reference services in academic libraries in Ebonyi State.
- To determine the form of digital reference service provided by academic libraries in Ebonyi State.
- To ascertain the level of provision of digital reference services to the users of academic libraries in Ebonyi State.
- To highlight the challenges affecting provision of digital reference services to users of academic libraries in Ebonyi State.
1.4 Research Questions
The study will answer the following research questions
- What type of digital resources are available for reference services in academic libraries in Ebonyi State?
- What form of digital reference services are provided in academic libraries in Ebonyi State?
- What is the level of provision of digital reference services to the users of academic libraries in Ebonyi State?
- What are the challenges affecting effective provision of digital reference services to users of academic libraries in Ebonyi State?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The research work will contribute to the growth of academic development in Ebonyi State, by raising the necessary awareness to library digital resource use. It will expose the current state of reference services in academic libraries in Ebonyi State. The research work will assist education policy makers institutions to re-strategize in their policy formulations.
16 Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study is limited to the assessment of digital reference services provision to users of academic libraries. The study is restricted to academic libraries in Ebonyi State.
The study assessed the academic libraries digital reference services provision to users, starting from the time this libraries were established till date.
During the study, the researchers were confronted with some problems, among which are:
- Financial constraints: The transportation and typing cost involved in the cost of collecting the data for the study and publishing the works was really difficult for the researchers financial level.
- Time constraints: In carrying out this research work, the researchers were faced with time constraints due to high academic work load like quiz, assignment, examination etc.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms and Concepts
i. Academic libraries: They are libraries that is attached to a higher education institution which serves two complementary purposes to support the schools curriculum, and to support the research of the university/polytechnic/college of education faculty and students.
ii. Reference services: This can be defined as the personal assistance provided by trained personnel to library users seeking information.
iii. Digital reference services: This can be defined as services that is based on internet. It is a mechanism by which people can submit their questions and have them answered by a library staff member through some electronic means like e-mails, chats etc.