This chapter is organized under the following sub headings, background to the study, statement of the problem, scope of the study, purpose of the study, significance of the study, research questions and hypothesis.
1.1 Background to the Study
University libraries are libraries established in universities to promote scholarship and research in various fields of learning. University library as Yusuf and Iwu (2010) put it are the nerve centres or the hubs around which scholarship revolves in the university environment. They are established with the obligation of providing bibliographic or information services that are essential for the fulfillment of the mission of the universities.
For university libraries to remain relevant and central to the mission of the universities, provision of quality services is critical. This is because quality services in the university library demonstrate ‘fitness for purpose’ of the library. Winkworth (2001) in support of this, highlights that fitness for purpose entails effectiveness of the university libraries in achieving institution goals and objectives by ensuring high level of quality in their services.
Quality as defined by 1S0 11620 (1994) is the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on the ability to satisfy stated or implied needs. It is a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects and deficiencies. The quest for quality in the university libraries which evolves into quality assurance provides the opportunity to examine all elements of the library:- its structures, systems, services, processes and people to identify defects and ascertain conformity to acceptable standards.
Unfortunately, from face value, personal experience and observation of the Nigerian university libraries, one could see that quality has eluded the Nigerian university libraries as they are not measuring up to the expectations for which they are established. This can be seen in the manner at which books are heaped at some corners of the libraries, abandoned or unattended to; inadequate library personnel comprising professional, para-professional and non- professional; lack of balanced collection; not meeting users’ service demand; non or partial application of Information Communication and Technology to service; inadequate space; inefficient reference services; lack of user education/orientation and poor relationship between staff and users. With this state of the Nigerian university libraries, one begins to wonder if these libraries can assure quality. This phenomenon is observed by Aina (2013) that “out of over 120 university libraries in Nigeria only five (5) can meet the scholarly standard of a university community”. It is at this premise that this research is set to examine the quality of the Nigerian university libraries and evaluate the quality assurance and practices of these libraries.
Taking a clue from Osinulu and Amusa (2010), it is given that in assuring quality in the libraries, the libraries need to adhere to the standards prescribed; formulate and inaugurate Quality Assurance Policy (QAP) and institute the Procedure of Working Quality Assurance (PWQA). Quality assurance according to Adebayo (2006) is a way of measuring, improving and maintaining the quality of any human activity that has value. Applying this definition of quality assurance in the operations of the libraries, Agunbiade (2006) sees quality assurance in university libraries as all plans and procedures geared towards ensuring that the right types of library resources, equipment, furniture and services that are relevant to the types of programmes being run in the institution are available in the libraries. From the foregoing, it can be asserted that quality assurance in university libraries is a means of ensuring that best practices are encouraged in the libraries giving credence to fitness for purpose, conforming to required standards and pursuit of excellence.
For university libraries to assure quality, they need to first and foremost, adhere to prescribed standards. Different bodies such as National University Commission (NUC), American Library Association (ALA), Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Librarians’ Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN) etc, have variously prescribed minimum standards to be met by university libraries. All the standards given by these bodies boarder on accommodation, furniture and equipment, services, staffing, library resources, and funding. These are indicators of quality in the libraries so they form the quality assurance variables in this study. In determining the roles each of this quality indicators play, their concepts have to be considered.
Library staff is the most important resource of the university library. Nnadozie (2007), opined that “the planning of library services, organization of resources and co-ordination of routine activities rest on the shoulders of staff. The library staff set the ball rolling in the university libraries. Therefore to achieve the stated goals of the libraries, the right cadre of staff has to be employed to man the libraries. The categories of staff needed in university libraries are: professional staff, para-professional staff and non professional staff. Availability of the right mix of these categories of staff as stipulated by the regulatory bodies would significantly influence the quality of the university libraries.
Library building or accommodation as the name implies, is the building set aside in the university to house the library staff, information resources, equipment and readers. Library building constructed in a standard manner is amenable to internal or external readjustment and expansion. A purposeful and durable library building shows forth a qualitative library building. This understanding finds support in (Ifidon and Ifidon, 2007) that the library building is expected to have a useful life span or about one hundred years or more.
Information resources, according to Akanwa (2016) are those materials that are acquired, processed, and kept for use by library clients. They are all the information containing materials in the libraries and are presented in print and non-print formats. Summarily, they are categorized into books, audiovisuals and electronic information resources. Their presence both in quantity and quality determines the quality of the libraries.
Furniture and equipment are the resources of the library that are not categorized into information resources but are relevant and purposeful without which the library cannot function efficiently. They are the office chairs, desks, tables, shelves, card cabinet study carrels, air conditioners trolleys, photocopying machines etc.
The effectiveness of the university libraries depends largely on the availability of fund. The success or failure of university libraries lies on the amount of fund made available to the libraries. The libraries depend heavily on fund to recruit and pay staff, procure other library resources, maintain facilities, design and implement services, train staff and repair broken down facilities (Nnadozie, 2007). There are different sources of fund for the libraries in the form of direct grants, gifts or donations, endowment, library fees etc.
Library services are the privileges and benefits that the university libraries can offer to the users of the library (Edom, 2012) .University libraries are supposed to offer numerous services ranging from reference services, lending services, user education, advisory services , interlibrary loan services, reprographic services, referral services, internet services, publishing, document delivery etc.
Secondly, libraries need to formulate and inaugurate Quality Assurance Policy (QAP) with well defined aims, objectives and purpose. This entails identification of crucial elements of quality and conducting a periodic assessment of performance in regards to set standards, inputs and outcomes. Thirdly, the university libraries have to institute the Procedure for Working Quality Assurance (PWQA). This involves setting up a broad committee to develop, manage and maintain quality ssurance in each division, section or unit of the libraries.
From the discourse above, it can be seen that quality assurance in the university libraries is not only about meeting up with prescribed standards but also encompasses other measures taken for continuous improvement as university libraries have to actualize or justify their existence.
It is in the view of the above synopsis that the research seeks to examine the quality of Nigerian university libraries and assess the extent and nature of quality assurance practices implemented in the university libraries.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Within the context of Nigerian university libraries, quality assurance is seen as all plans and procedures geared towards ensuring that the right types of library materials, services, equipment and furniture that are relevant to the types of programmes being run in the institution are available in the right quality and proportion in the university libraries. For university libraries to thrive and serve their users meaningfully, they must apply quality assurance principles to human resources, information resources and services. They must also adhere to prescribed standards set up by their regulatory or professional bodies such as NUC, ACRL, LRCN etc. All the standards given by these bodies border on accommodation, furniture and equipment, services, staffing, library resources and funding. These professional bodies also conduct accreditations on these university libraries to make sure that they follow the standards prescribed. These checks they carry out, are far apart often taking durations of five years intervals and the management of these universities either bribe them or coarse them into giving them full accreditation (Heyneman, 2011). Their evaluations are therefore not credible. So there is need for an independent evaluator to carry out a study in these university libraries to find out if they are actually adhering to quality assurance practices.
Quality assurance in university libraries is not only about meeting up with prescribed standards but also encompasses all other measures taken for continuous improvement of these libraries. These measures may be in the form of evaluation of quality assurance practices from time to time to determine whether these libraries are doing well and if not to give recommendations.
In the view of the above synopsis, the researcher seeks to examine the quality of Nigerian university libraries and to assess the extent and nature of quality assurance implemented in these libraries.
1.3 Scope of the Study
This study will focus on evaluating the quality assurance and practices of Nigerian university libraries. It will study the prescribed standards to be met by the university libraries as indicators of quality and variables of quality assurance- accommodation, furniture and equipment, services, staffing, library resources and funding. These variables are used to evaluate the degree of adherence to quality standards in the libraries using Federal University of Technology Owerri and Imo State University as case study. It will cover the quality assurance mechanism and strategies of the university libraries and study the level of its implementation and improvement.
1.4 Purpose of the Study
This research is generally aimed at evaluating the quality assurance of Nigerian university libraries. Its specific objectives are to:
- ascertain the existence of quality assurance policy;
- ascertain the adequacy of the library building;
- determine the adequacy of library furniture and equipment;
- examine the extent to which library services are provided to users;
- determine the categories of staff employed in the library and
- examine the information resources available in the university libraries
- ascertain the level of funding of the university libraries
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study will be beneficial to university authorities, library administrators, library staff, students and researcher.
This study will identify the remote and near causes of poor quality service in the Nigerian university libraries and also formulate ways to redress the gaps, challenges and shortfalls. It will therefore help the university authorities to realize the dwindling quality of the libraries and as such, re -strategize for effective improvement in terms of funding and staff recruitment.
The findings of this study will help library administrators to develop ways to improve ICT knowledge and skills and to maintain a systematic and continuous programme for evaluating the library’s performance to ensure continuous improvement of library resources and services.
The effective and efficient functioning of the university library resulting from the implementation of the results of this study will improve service delivery to users.
Coherent and coordinated library activities proposed in this study will help efficient and appropriate team work that will eliminate redundancy and foster the development of the innate potentials of library staff.
The statistical approach that is adopted in this study will open a new vista of research methodology that will benefit researchers.
1.6 Research Questions
The following research questions are posed for this study:
- Does the library have quality assurance policy?
- How adequate is the library building?
- Are there adequate library furniture and equipment in the libraries?
- What services are provided in the libraries?
- What categories of staff are employed in the libraries?
- Does the library have balanced and adequate information resources?
- What level of funding is available for the library?
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