1.1 Background of the Study
The advances in science and technology has made tremendous improvements and changed all activities of the present society even as rapid advances in Information Technology (IT) in the past two decades have brought revolutionary changes in the concept, organization, functioning and management of library and information systems throughout the world. Modern technology has greatly improved the capabilities of managing this explosive growth of information effectively and information technologies today are characterized by their very dynamic development and increasing complexity. Also, information technology application in the library and information field has made remarkable progress in the world. At present, information technology not only affects the technical services of libraries but also shapes the library services that are being offered to the public. Worldwide, libraries have been exploring new technologies for providing better and faster access to vast information resources and efficient information services to their users and information technology has offered better solutions to achieve greater level of efficiency, productivity and excellent services in libraries (Aliu and Emese, 2011).
According to Okewale and Adetimirin (2011), the library is an institution that has the responsibility to collect information-bearing materials, process and organize them in such a way as to grant fast and easy access, store the processed materials for dissemination and reference purposes. As Singh (2013) states, libraries are the lighthouses for information and the thirst of knowledge is increasing every day at various levels and on various subjects. Suffice it to state therefore, that the academic library is the back-bone of any university system in particular and tertiary institutions in general, as it aids in the core areas of teaching and research, as well as in curriculum development. So, there is a great demand to provide such information quickly on-demand for which efficient and accurate devices or tools are introduced, which is based on mechanized process. Today, library automation is the need-of-the-hour as the use of information technology in libraries has become inevitable in an era of information explosion and the emergence of a wide range of new technologies in order to satisfy changing, complex information needs of users and solving the challenges posed by the traditional manual processes.
In the library, automation refers to the process of automating in-house functions such as acquisition, cataloguing, circulation, serial controls, etc. It means the application of machines to perform the different routine, repetitive and clerical jobs involved in functions and services of the libraries. Library automation is the general term for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that are used to replace manual systems in the library. The International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (1997) defines automation as “. . . the technology concerned with the design and development of the process and systems that minimize the necessity of human intervention in carrying out library functions”. Library automation is the technique of making an apparatus, a process or a system to operate automatically to control library functions. Library automation implies a high degree of mechanization of various routine and repetitive tasks to be performed by human beings.
The history of library automation can be traced as far back as 1880, when punched cards were invented and used in tabulating the US census data. The library at the University of Texas was perhaps the first to use punched cards in 1936 for circulation control while the Library of Congress used the unit record machines for the production of catalogues in 1950. Many libraries in the US followed the system for automating their activities. Library automation entered into its second era in the 1960s with the advent of computers. The notable ventures were MEDLARS, MARC, etc. Since then, libraries have used technology in general, and computers in particular, to automate a wide range of administrative, public, and technical services tasks. In Nigeria, the first attempt to automate library services was made in 1970s, when the Ahmadu Bello University recorded success, first in the automation of serials in 1972 and secondly, circulation services in 1976 (Abbas, 2014). Until the early 1990s, “automating the library” involved generally the same features as those in place since the advent of machine readable cataloguing record in the late 1960s. Libraries created integrated text based systems using micro/mini computers in which traditional library housekeeping operations were computerized using the library’s database as the foundation.
Modern society is characterized by an increasing need for specialized institutions in various fields of activity for the performance of their day-to-day functions as well as research and consultancy work. These institutions require speedy access to qualitative published information. Within an information system such as the library and especially in the present age, automation is important and necessary to handle the vast amount of information and for providing faster, accurate, precise, efficient, and effective information and services as well. Automation reduces the work stress of library staff, improves library services, makes library administration and management efficient, helps avoid duplication of the work, facilitate resource sharing and increase technical processing efficiency over a manual system.
The methods of storage and dissemination of information are changing fast, so no library can store all published information and can provide efficient services with its old manual operations. Prior to the adoption of machines for carrying out library functions, libraries used card catalogs, typewriters, and manually assigned due dates. This was very labor-intensive and time-consuming. Recordkeeping work and other routines were bedeviled by inaccuracy and low personnel turnover. There was a serious inability to generate statistics about circulation activity, and the lack of an interface between circulation files and other library files which contain much the same bibliographic data. But today, library automation presents an up-to-date method to help libraries and library patrons to effectively use library resources, is now streamlined because of computers and software.
Automation technologies used in the libraries are computers such as desktop computers, laptop computers, personal digital assistant (PDA), workstations, servers, mainframe computers, etc. Peripherals which include fax machine, photocopier, LCD, keyboards, cameras, bar code readers. Others include radio, telephone, satellite dish (V-Sat), radio mast and towers. In a nutshell these technologies can be used in library functions such as acquisition, cataloguing and classification, serial control, bibliographic search, circulation and so much more towards satisfying the user’s information needs. Furthermore, there are emerging technologies that are used in the automation of libraries and its acquisition process. These technologies are emerging because, the roles of libraries within and the services it offers to the community is changing rapidly with the rise of online services. Libraries who want to enhance user services and provide unmediated and independent access to library and its collections have began to work the ways of creating online communities.
According to Osawele and Uzairue (2013) in Nigeria today, some libraries have now been found to be either automating some of their activities beginning with the purchase and installation of computer systems to be used for the purpose of performing library functions and providing library services to users With the current trend in the application of technology to various other day-to-day activities in the world, the question arises if our own libraries should not share in development with the hope of revolutionizing services and redefining their roles and functions, which may be in the form of improved services to users. The benefits for the libraries that have successfully implemented automation programmes are enormous, including speedy processing of information and its retrieval, flexibility in information search, standardization of library procedures, participation in network programming and resource sharing, as well as provide better bibliographic control and while library automation activities have greatly enhanced and assisted libraries in the developed countries in the performance of their mandate, as custodians of information, the impact of such activities as well as the challenges need to be studied for the sake of replication in the local scene.
The rapid growth and use of emerging technologies has changed the traditional library into automated, electronic, virtual and digital library. This revolution has completely changed the library scenario, especially in an academic setup. This revolution is the need of the hour to make research more productive, to disseminate information and to establish a strong network system among all academic libraries to quench the information thirst of their clientele. Developments in emerging technologies have had a tremendous impact on all kinds of libraries and information resource centers and the need for academic libraries whose responsibility it is to ensure that information resources required for teaching, learning and carrying out research, in line with the mission and vision of their parent institutions to become automated and as such ensure efficiency in their overall service delivery, cannot be overemphasized. The question then is, in spite of the benefits that come with automation, how many academic libraries can be said to be automated and to what extent has this automation effort brought about effectiveness in terms of service delivery?
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Although, currently, automation is viewed and appreciated as a means to an end in information handling, it is observed that traditional manual working system exists in libraries especially in developing countries like Nigeria. In the series of development of library, the world has acclimatized to computer environment in daily routine as well as information storage and retrieval. Automation to a greater extent can reduce pressure of library workload. It also shelters from work stress and fatigue, while ensuring effectiveness and efficiency in rendering library functions and services. It not only offers efficient services and opens a new era in bibliographical control but provides access to required database in the country and abroad as well, for the benefit of the library patron.
Automation is the reality of the day in the present age of information technology. It is therefore important that libraries need to be automated to effectively and efficiently carry out the mandate of information provision for all categories of users to satisfy their various information needs. Studies have shown that not much is known about the present situation of automation in academic libraries in Nigeria generally and in Edo State specifically. It is this gap in knowledge that informed the decision to embark on this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
- To find out which library services have been automated in academic libraries in Edo State.
- To determine the extent to which automation of library services has impacted on the use of academic libraries in Edo State.
- To find out the extent to which services in academic libraries in Edo State have improved as a result of automation.
- To determine whether or not automation of library services in academic libraries in Edo State has brought about effective service delivery to library users.
- To identify the barriers facing the automation efforts by academic libraries in Edo State.
1.4 Research Questions
- Which library services have been automated in academic libraries in Edo State?
- To what extent has automation of library service impacted use of academic libraries in Edo State?
- To what extent has services in academic libraries in Edo State improved as a result of automation?
- Has automation of library services in academic libraries in Edo State brought about effective service delivery to library users?
- What are the barriers facing and automation efforts by academic libraries in Edo State?
1.5 Scope of the Study
This research work is restricted to studying the impacts of automation of library services and its use in academic libraries in Edo State. The professional and para-professional staff of John Harris Library, University of Benin, Benin City, Ambrose Alli University Library, Ekpoma and Benson Idahosa University Library, Benin City will be used for this study.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study will be of utmost significance to policy makers as far as the academic library is concerned, parent institutions of different types of libraries, researchers carrying out similar or related studies as well as students and library users.
For policy makers, it is hoped that the recommendations from this study will serve as a guide for a robust policy development framework as regards ICT application in the library towards achieving library automation. This will go a long way in ensuring that the
policy development process as regards library automation does not become a trial and error affair, rather one that is based on practical findings about what works and what does not. For parent institutions like universities, corporations and even the government, findings from this study will serve as justification for increased financial and technical support for a library’s automation efforts.
It is expected that this study as a whole will serve as a reference point for researchers and students carrying out similar or related studies. This study will serve as available literature for review and the recommendations will form a basis for other research as well as open up other areas for further investigations. For library users, this study will serve as an explanation for the reason behind a library’s automation efforts, while highlighting the benefits to be enjoyed by taking advantage of the available ICTs as against relying solely on traditional methods of searching for information materials which satisfy their information needs.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
In undertaking this research, the researcher encountered the problem of time constraints as the time used to undertake the study was limited. This study was conducted using John Harris Library, University of Benin, Benin City, Ambrose Alli University Library, Ekpoma and Benson Idahosa University Library, Benin City. Therefore, it might not reflect the exact situation of automation academic libraries in Nigeria. Another limitation can be found in the fact that conclusions were derived from feedback given by respondents based on the questionnaires and as such the study was limited by the interpretation made by the individuals towards the items in the questionnaire. The findings were also limited by the validity and reliability of the questionnaire.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Some terms used in the course of the research need clarification through definition for the purpose of good understanding of this work. These definitions are only limited to the context of this study.
Automation: The process of adequately utilizing computer hardware and software and its varying facilities such as networking cables, software packages, etc, in accomplishing library functions and routines which were originally performed manually by the librarians.
Impact: Measure of the tangible and intangible effects or consequences of one thing’s or entity’s action or influence upon another.
Information and Communications Technology: An umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them in the collection, processing and dissemination of information.
Library Automation: The technique by which processes in a library are operated automatically using machines.
Library Operations: Functions carried out in and for the proper organization and smooth running of the library, like accessioning, cataloguing, classification, indexing, etc.
Library Services: Services rendered by libraries to library users such as charging and discharging of library books.
Use: To deploy or employ something as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result.