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TRAINING NEEDS OF LIBRARIANS FOR DIGITAL LIBRARY PROJECTS IN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Background to the Study
University libraries are part of university system. These libraries support the objectives of the university which include teaching, learning and research at high levels. They are the heart of the intellectual life of academic communities basically established to provide information materials of all sorts to back up the academic programs of the university. Agboola (2005) declared that University libraries are very important components of university institutions. This is because no academic excellence will be achieved without a good library to back up its teaching, research and other community service mandates. Today, in this information age, university libraries are no longer confined to buildings on campuses but they are a new hybrid learning space, serving a far broader purpose. They contain documents in organized electronic forms, available on the internet or CD-ROM (Compact-disk read-only-memory) disks etc. (Digital Dictionary, 2008). Lombardi (2000:1) noted the following dialogue: I don’t need the library, it’s too big, too complicated, and anyway, everything worth having is on the internet”, the bright eager undergraduate answered the ancient faculty librarian who recommended using the library. “Anyway, the library’s catalog is on-line, and I can look at it if I need stuff”. She concluded. “But maybe, you’ll need one of the real books that they have in the library”. She concluded, “but probably not, and anyway, if there is a source online, I’ll always use it before anything in the library.
Conversations like this appear with increasing frequency among students, university dons and researchers. Students of the 21st century see the traditional library as mostly irrelevant, housing old and obsolete materials and they have little patience with the formal organizational structure of the library and the authority of librarians. Covi and Cragin (2004), in agreement with the above dialogue, discovered that students and faculty increasingly demand and prefer access to electronic sources delivery system as well as 24 hours a day 7 days a week networked information. This underscores the urgent need for modernization by digitization of University libraries.
The history of any university library is associated with the history of its parent institution. Federal university libraries in South-South zone of Nigeria share similar historical antecedents with their parent institution. According to the university of Port-Harcourt website http://www.uniport.edu.ng university of Port-Harcourt library (Donald Ekong Library) was established in 1976 when the university itself was born. The library has five major units with several divisions. Though they took off humbly with few collections and members of staff, at present there is a tremendous improvement in these areas as well as introduction of electronic services to their clientele. The university of Benin website http://www.uniben.edu.ng revealed that University of Benin library (John Harris Library) came into existence in the year 1970 and it is the oldest academic library in Edo & Delta State. They provide e-learning centers as well as e-Granary database on many subject areas to their library users. Furthermore, University of Calabar website http://www.unical.edu.ng disclosed that their library was established in 1975 as Calabar campus of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and became autonomous in October 1976. The library among other services rendered to their customers, offer some electronic services to their library clientele/users. Finally, University of Uyo website http://www.uniuyo.edu.ngshowed that their library (Nyong Essien Library) is a multi-library system with a centralized administrative structure, started operation in October 1 1991. There are three major divisions and five service locations in this library. They offer many other services including global information access through the Internet connectivity. The strides in digital technology and its applications have fundamentally changed the way information is generated, processed, stored and accessed especially in libraries. This has moved our civilization from the industrial to the information age, that is, an epoch of increased information made possible by computers. The information age is dominated by computer network, both local and global (Internet) Mbajiorgu, (2006). The networks were first made possible by the development of information and communication technologies (ICT), which have transformed libraries from their old conception as storehouses of books and other hard-copy materials within a physical building to online, electronic, virtual and digital libraries that can be accessed anywhere, anytime and with a great speed, giving the user the opportunity of accessing as much materials as needed in their studies and creating awareness on current trends in their research areas. Prior to the introduction of ICT, information/library materials in academic libraries were collected, processed, stored, accessed and disseminated using the traditional manual method which is very tasking. Users of academic libraries must go to the library before information of any kind will be accessible. The user is limited to the stock of information housed and owned by a library which in most cases is not enough. Today, digitization and digital technology are applicable to even household items. We talk of digital clock/wristwatch, digital television, digital radio, digital fuel pumps, etc. Digitization has created a medium for print, photographic, sound, audio and graphic information transmission, processing, storage and accessibility using computer networks, local and international. Kumar and Kaur (2005) noted that the Internet has emerged as the most powerful tool for and instant access to information. With the Internet, information is just a finger touch away from the user. It is the world’s most efficient means of communication, very cheap, available, and with vast amounts of information materials accessible anytime of the day.
Digitization of university libraries in Nigeria is relatively new. In the past few years, procedures for digitizing books at high speed and at a low cost have been adopted. Now, university libraries can possibly plan the digitization of their collections, thereby creating a digital library. The essence of digitization is to create an electronic database while preserving the original documents, and make the database available to the public on the World Wide Web (www). Digitization has been variously defined by many authorities in the field. Gbaje (2009:1) defined digitization as all the steps involved in the process of making collections of printed information materials available online. Ezeani (2009:14), in her own definition of digitization, says it is the conversion of analog media to digital forms. According to Anyakoha (2004) digitization involves the use of computers to convert information from analog to digital /electronic format. Digitization implies that all the information that is locked up in print or physical paper are transformed electronically and transmitted onto a network, which allows access to anyone connected to the network, however remote. It can be illustrated as taking digital pictures of the pages of a book or any information materials using a digital camera or a scanner, which are stored in a computer, and uploaded to the internet and then looking at (accessing) the pictures using the internet. Digitization has forced us to think somewhat differently about libraries, especially academic libraries.
As library operations change due to technological development and digitization initiatives, librarians as information managers, professionals and gatekeepers are also expected to be champions of this change. Librarians of today are expected to possess additional knowledge and skills to work within the digital information world, thus they are faced with the challenges of acquiring advanced knowledge and skills to augment what they traditionally learnt. Also the challenges of producing quality and efficient services via the internet as against the traditional manual methods of library operation poses a big challenge because digital libraries have unique characteristics that differ from traditional libraries and their approaches to information provision. To overcome these challenges, Edem (2008) opined that librarians are expected to continuously enhance their knowledge, skills and personal characteristics in the use of technologies in order to improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. Since the concept of digital library is an emerging one, most university libraries in Nigeria have rushed into digitizing their library resources but only few of them have taken off fully basically because of unpreparedness and lack of trained digital librarians. Ani, Atseye and Esin (2005) noted that there is a low level of ICT skills among librarians in Nigeria and most of them lack requisite skills to function in the digital environment. Also Rosenberg (2006) noted that skills in e-resources management, e-services development, full text digitization and teaching skills are lacking in African university libraries. Today’s librarians are not just librarians with the sole role of collection development in the conventional way of acquiring and processing paper based materials but they are expected to skillfully build, manage and present information in a digital form. They are supposed to be an interface between digital libraries and the user and because of the large quantity of information provided through the internet (digitization), the 21st century librarian is expected to possess skills that will enable them sift these materials and circulate same to users. To be able to do these, appropriate training and educational program should be put in place emphasizing on skills and competencies for any digital library project. Hence Gill (2001) noted that there must be a planned and continuous program of training for staff at all levels including training for networking and access to other information sources.
Acquiring these skills, does not mean that the traditional manual training received and acquired should be thrown away but rather, it should be improved upon to enable librarians play a vital role in the new information/digital environment, which from a traditional librarian’s point of view, present a transformative model of a large-scale, user-centric organization that is moving towards an integrated form with various components hence, the need for training of librarians for digitization projects. Training has been defined variously and according to Banjoko (2002) training is an organized procedure by which people learn knowledge or skills for a definite purpose, it is a process of equipping the employees particularly the non-managerial employees with specific skills. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (2006) defined training as the process of learning the skills that you need to do a job. Training for this study will be understood to mean, the practical education given to librarians to equip them for the art and skills involved in digitization projects in digital libraries. It also means an organized planning process to staff of the library especially librarians to learn useful skills technically. The importance of training especially librarians in university libraries for digital projects cannot be overemphasized. Training of librarians for digital projects will help them to improve upon their performance thereby achieving set organizational goals. Meggison (2001) in support of this fact stated that manpower training and development of librarians enhance performance. It will help librarians to acquire knowledge and skills that will make them productive and relevant on any digital library thereby transforming them from conventional librarians to state of the art digital librarians. Training also helps to acquaint a worker with the changes as regards a particular profession and exposes them to new ideas that will be of immense benefit to the library. Training librarians for digital projects will help them have a sense of belonging in the digital environment thereby reducing the risk of technophobia among librarians.
Statement of the Problem
Librarians are faced with the challenges of fast change in the method of library operations and services, from traditional/manual method to digital method and this can be attributed to the introduction of digitization and digital initiatives in libraries. Each and every library is slowly getting digitized and most university libraries in Nigeria like University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Jos, University of Ibadan, University of Port Harcourt, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, University of Uyo, University of Calabar etc, have or are in the process of digitizing their library collections. Studies also, revealed that with about a hundred Universities (federal, state and private) in Nigeria, only a handful is making effort to digitize their operations (Iwhiwhu & Eyekpegha, 2007) and this can be attributed to lack of trained librarians that possess the skills and knowledge needed to manage and operate the digital and electronic library services. The importance of digitizing library resources especially in academic libraries include among others quick access to useful, relevant and up-to-date information materials, integrated resource sharing as well as meeting the needs of users who increasingly demand and prefer access to electronic source delivery system to other categories of libraries. When library collections are digitized, it will help Nigerian librarians to compete favourably with their colleagues in other parts of the world as well as preserving our local contents in digital forms for globalization and localization frame work. The actualization of the above, require skills and competencies which propel the present information society.
Studies by Ojedukun & Okafor (2011) and Ugwu & Ekere (2010) from their findings declared that librarians do not possess the skills required for digitization because they were not adequately trained and recommended that they should be trained and retrained so as to acquire the skills. Most librarians have low web technology, yet they are expected as information managers, professionals and gateways to render library services using these technological tools especially the Internet as well as being champions of this fast change and challenges brought about by digitization which of course, require training, retraining and reequipping of librarians. One may ask will librarians affect these changes with their traditional method of modus operandi. If they do, they will be irrelevant and can easily be displaced. To support the above statement, Omekwu (2009) declared that digitization has made skills to become both generic and multi-disciplinary. In other words, if librarians refuse to upgrade, and improve on their traditional skills, and become responsive to these changes brought about by digital innovations through training, retraining and retooling other professionals from computer science and electronic engineering can step into the librarian’s role and apply their digital expertise and know-how. This shows that there is a gap that needs to be filled in order to improve on the general training of librarians and the methods of training them hence, the need for this study which is to know the training needs of librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South- South zone of Nigeria.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study is to ascertain the training needs of librarians for digital library projects in federal university libraries in South -South zone of Nigeria. However, the specific objectives of the study are:
(1) To ascertain the skills required by librarians for building digital library projects as well as rendering digital library services in the federal university libraries in South-South zone Nigeria.
(2) To ascertain the technological skills possessed by librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South-South zone Nigeria.
(3) To find out the available methods of training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in the South-South zone Nigeria.
(4) To ascertain the benefits of training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South- South Nigeria.
(5) To ascertain challenges faced in training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South-South zone Nigeria.
(6) To proffer strategies for enhancing the training of librarians in the federal university libraries in South- South zone Nigeria.
The following research questions formulated from the purpose of the study guided this study:
(1) What are the skills required by librarians for building digital library projects as well as rendering digital library services in the federal university libraries in South- South zone of Nigeria?
(2) What are the technological skills possessed by librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South- South zone of Nigeria?
(3) What are the available methods of training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South –South zone of Nigeria?
(4) What are the benefits of training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South-South zone of Nigeria?
(5) What are the challenges of training librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South- South zone of Nigeria?
(6) What are the strategies for enhancing the training of librarians for digital library projects in the federal university libraries in South- South zone of Nigeria?
Significance of the Study
It is expected that the result of this study would be of great benefit to the following group of people: the librarians, library schools, library administrators and management, students of LIS, researchers and to the growing body of knowledge in the area of digitization. Librarians will as a result of this findings be motivated and inspired to take training serious thereby, helping them to maximize and make a judicious use of every training opportunity offered to them as an important tool for improving their skills for any digital library project if, they still want to be relevant and recognized in this digital age. On the other hand, the result of this findings will also benefit the library schools as the study will reveal to them the need to integrate digital library courses into the library and information science (LIS) curriculum/programs as, it is only these established programs that can guarantee a sustainable source of a cadre of librarians with strong foundations that will implement and manage digital library projects. It will also hasten the authorities in the traditional library schools to incorporate the latest technological tools for students practical because practice they say makes perfect. Also, the library administrators and managers will find this work useful as it will help them to formulate policies on staff training especially for digitization projects thereby inspiring them to give priority attention to the training of librarians so as to boost their library performance with the state of the art technology expertise, globalizing their local contents and announcing their library to the whole world. The students of LIS and researchers will benefit from the study because of the perceived enhanced skills acquisition by librarians. This will undoubtedly cascade into more professional service delivery to both students and faculty in Nigerian universities.
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