1.1 Background to the Study
Information is an important organizational resource, which needs to be controlled and managed like other important business assets. Every organization and individual need information to make decisions that would improve them. Ifidon (2005) stressing the importance of information confirmed that underlying every field of human endeavor is the need for information. Libraries have been established to acquire and organize knowledge and make such available to users to satisfy their information needs. Corrall (2008) buttressed this view by asserting that ‘the ability to find, access and use information effectively is now widely recognized as an essential competence for effective participation in contemporary society’. Ikhizama (2004) reported that the provision of information has been considered a major factor in the development of a society and the information rich countries have through the use of ICT advanced technologically, while the information – poor ones are lagging behind.
ICT has been applied to operations in library and information centers with the sole aim of improving access to information, ensuring easy method of updating, as well as eliminating strenuous tasks performed by library staff. These have greatly enhanced accuracy and efficiency in information handling and delivery. ICT has brought rapid growth in the way information is being managed in libraries. The basic functions of libraries in an electronic age have been influenced by new development brought into the field of information.
Omogor (2006) noted that for libraries to provide services that will satisfy the increasing number of users in our universities, computerization of library processes and operations is necessary. Zaid (2004) asserted that library automation no doubt will offer many opportunities to improve library services to library patrons as users will be able to locate materials easier and staff will serve them better. In this information explosion era, there is the need for university libraries and other libraries to create a form of control to be able to make information readily available and accessible to the users. Chukwu (2005) however observed that the rate at which the world population is growing has a direct bearing on information generation and utilization, and there is the need for information managers to ensure proper handling and management. Abioye (2004) posited that the industrial revolution which brought about unprecedented growth in science and technology created the need for more organized method of knowledge management.
Management of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in library has become an integral part of Information and knowledge management process of the library. To this end most libraries now has Systems Unit which are headed by senior management staff of the library. We are in the era of standardized information management, therefore strategic thinking in university libraries in Nigeria should be to develop systems that will help them link On-line to other institutions of interest with a view to sourcing information On-line or creating real time access to information that will enable the faculty and student have access to current and up-todate information.
Calhoun (2006) referred to this as the “switching layer” phenomenon. This he argued will help libraries leverage their information delivery services. He pointed out that libraries of the future may be evaluated based on their ability to provide their users with technologies that allow applications to communicate across platforms and programming languages using standard protocols based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) – to connect catalogues and other library resources to search engines, e-learning systems, portals, Amazon, etc. This is however hinged on libraries running operating systems that will leverage their automation projects on the “switching layer” platform. These “switching layer” platforms run on software.
Computer software packages are programmes designed to perform specific functions for computer or ICT operations. Many automation efforts in Nigerian University libraries have been fraught with lack of feasibility study for the adequacy of the software for the proposed task of library automation (Omoniwa, 2001). Evidence for this can be seen in the history of automation efforts of these libraries. This history dates back to the second half of the 1970’s. The Nnamdi
Azikiwe Library, University of Nigeria, Nsukka set up its library automation committee in October 1975 (Imo: 1995). Ikem and Ajula (2013) reported that full scale planning on automation started fully at the Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan in 1978.
Serious automation efforts in Nigerian university libraries started in mid 1990’s, Bozimo (2006) noted that university libraries in Nigeria cashed in on the opportunity presented by the World Bank project organized and executed by National Universities commission (NUC) in the 1994/95 session to kick start seriously their automation projects. NUC donated computers to university libraries in Nigeria and encouraged them to acquire the TINLIB software for their automation project. This software did not carry the universities far as most of them abandoned it early in their project for other software. The reason for this was lack of adequate maintenance support and technical guide. These libraries have toyed with other software like GLAS, X-LIB, VATUA, ALICE for Windows etc.
Pressman (2001) pointed out that computer software may be applied in any situation for which a pre-specified set of procedural steps (i.e. an algorithm) has been defined and that they deliver the most important product of our time-information. The overriding need and importance of software in the ICT era is stressed by Saxby (1990) and Pressman (2001). Saxby argued that
“It is now clear that the lack of good software is a bottleneck to the full exploitation of the performance capabilities of modern hardware. Execution rates of instructions have demonstrably improved to such an extent that software is now the key concern” (p 226).
In a related argument Pressman noted that,
“when computer software succeeds – when it meets the needs of the people who use it, when it performs flawlessly over a long period of time, when it is easy to modify and even easier to use – it can and does change things for the better. But when software fails when it is difficult to change and even harder to use bad things can and do happen” (xxv).
Interactions with colleagues on their experiences with their automation projects reveal the dept of the frustrations they have with their chosen software. If it is not that the software is not adequate enough to carry the large amount of data the library has to deal with, it will be that the technical and maintenance support is not adequate or that the software does not have enough features that will allow the library operate on the “switching layer” platform. . This study therefore is aimed at examining the challenges Nigerian University libraries have had to encounter in their automation projects as a result of software selection, acquisition and maintenance.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigerian university libraries have had a long history of trying to automate/computerize their operations. Most of the librarians have not made appreciable efforts in achieving these goals. The major problem is hinged on problems of software selection, acquisition and maintenance to drive their automation projects.
This is exacerbated by the need for libraries to function under a standardized platform for information access and storage protocols and policy. Ogunrombi and Oladokun (2012) noted that the task of choosing a software package for a library is often difficult, because the package must be sufficiently powerful and versatile to cope with all library processes and at the same time be user friendly.
Inclining to this argument Okentunji (2006) pointed out that for libraries to make optimal use of automation a number of requirements must be fulfilled. One of the requirements he noted, is software selection. He concluded by saying that software selection is not an easy task. Apparently most university libraries do not pay heed to these advices. This has given rise to high software turnover in Nigerian university library automation projects.
Evidence from these libraries indicates that they have had to encounter a lot of problems in their automation projects. Some of these include inadequate technical support from the software vendors or their technical representatives in the country. Also included in this list is lack of proper feasibility studies because most time these software are donated or comes as part of aid packages to these libraries. Most importantly the absence of proper consultations amongst stake holders within the library management committee has led to decisions to adopt ineffective software.
All these have led to frequent failure of automation projects in these libraries. These failures culminate in project abandonment or fresh start when new software is chosen. Nwagwu (2007) summarized this when he noted that, the failure rate of ICT projects in the least industrialized countries is 75% higher than in developed countries. He blamed this on lack of appropriate skills and knowledge to identify and deal with the risks associated with ICT on a long term basis.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad aim of this study is to assess the application of database management software packages to library routines and services.
The specific objectives are to:
- Determine if the libraries have deployed library software in the library.
- Ascertain the factors that influence the choice of library application software packages in the chosen libraries.
- Determine the frequency of using library application software packages and their modules in these libraries.
- Determine the effectiveness of library application soft ware in information resources management.
- Find out the challenges associated with the use of the library software packages.
1.4 Research Questions
The study sought to provide answers to the following research questions:
- What are the library have deployed application software available in the selected libraries?
- What factors influenced the choice of library software in academic libraries under study?
- What is the frequency of using library application software package and their modules in these libraries?
- How effective are the modules of these software packages in information handling and delivery?
- What challenges are associated with the use of the selected library application software packages?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study are expected to go a long way in helping librarians to make decisions and also help them to discover the best ways to integrate choices with their library operations. It will educate librarians on the necessity of computer application to library operations. The traditional way of doing things in the library is still the order of the day in some academic and special libraries. But with this study, a number of people will begin to appreciate library software applications, especially when they see how computers can be applied to boost the traditional functions of the library.
Secondly, software designers will gain from the findings of this study, as this study will reveal how academic and special libraries rate the software employed in their libraries. This will enable the designers learn from their mistakes and improve on the development of the library software.
Researchers in Library and Information Studies will gain from this study in that it will widen their horizon of knowledge in the area of library automation. It will give them insight xxiv on the available software used in libraries and how they are utilized. Moreover, this study will fill the gap in knowledge created by previous researchers in this area.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study is on Assessment of Library Application Software Packages. It covers academic libraries in public universities in Edo State using Ambrose Alli University and University of Benin. The libraries which have not started automation are excluded.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
Certain factors constitute limitations to this study, paramount among them are time and finical constraints. Due to the short academic session the researcher didn’t have enough time to cover all possible and existing literatures pertaining to the research. And the economy of the nation did not help matter, since the researcher didn’t’ have enough money to cover the research.
Another limitation to the study was the reluctance of the Organization to give certain information because they believe it will expose them to their competitors. In addition some of the respondents were uncooperative and unwilling to take the questionnaire or accept interview appointments from the researcher. There was also the problem of some respondents not returning their questionnaires, having lost them or misplaced them.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
The following terms are defined operationally;
Application Software Packages: The sequence of instructions that tell the computer what to do, how to manipulate data and how to relate to users. It normally addresses one aspect of computing need or the other. Most of the “off-the-shelf-software” (i.e. the readily available software) for micro computers is referred to as “application software”.
Information Services: Activities concerned with ensuring the availability, accessibility and use if information by users.
Information Services Delivery: The act of providing various information products and services to the right customer in the right place at the right time and in the appropriate channel and format that will satisfy the customers’ need.
Library Application Services/Operations: One where a computer system is used to manage one or several of the libraries key functions such as acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, serial control and the online public access catalogue.