Background to the Study
The importance of information for the development of any nation can never be over emphasized. This is because the amount of information possessed by any society or nation determines the level of development in that nation and libraries are social institutions that ensures that the members of a society are well informed. According to Afolabi and Abidoye (2012) libraries are institutions that propagates the culture, objectives and intellectual leanings of their parent institutions. Libraries generally are non-profit organization that serves the interest of the community that owns it, as a result libraries are of different types depending on the kind of group it serves. However, libraries such as public and national libraries serve the interest of the general public and other libraries respectively. A Public library is a library that is accessible by the general public and is generally funded from public sources such as taxes. Also, according to Encyclopedia Britannica (2010) public libraries are now acknowledged to be an indispensable part of community life as promoters of literacy, providers of all ranges of reading for all ages, and center for community information services.
There are five fundamental characteristics shared by public libraries, the first is that they are generally supported by taxes; they are governed by a board to serve the public interest; they are open to all, and every community member can access the collection; they are entirely voluntary in that no one is ever forced to use the services provided; and they provide basic services without charge. It is also an institution that exists to serve the interest of all members of the public and receive its financial support in whole or part from public fund. As stated by Ozuluonye in Nwabueze and Ibeh (2013) It is a state, local or town affair, authorized by the state law, supported from public fund, and operated for the benefit of general public.
Historically, according to Glenn (2012) an early library that allowed access to the public was that of the Kalendars or Kalendaries, a brotherhood of clergy and laity who were attached to the church of All-Hallowen or All Saints in Bristol, England. Public libraries exist in many countries across the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries, and other special libraries in that their mandate is to serve the general public’s information needs rather than the needs of a particular school, institution, or research population. And ICT affords them the opportunity to reach their users at their comfort zone.
According to Afolabi and Abidoye (2012) library users now prefer services which they can access remotely or online and in order to satisfy their users many libraries have started embracing the recent developments in information technology to help them for effective library services. Also, with the advent of ICT there is now a proliferation of information, such that information is scattered in many areas and libraries are no longer seen as the primary source of information. Public libraries and other libraries generally have evolved since the advent of information and communication technology (ICT), which made information available and accessible from several sources and from any location. Because of ICTs, public libraries in the developed world now offer remote services, where members of the community can access the library resources from the comfort of their homes or offices. This was noted by Tiwari (2006) who stressed that rapid advances in information processing, storage and communications technologies have revolutionized the role of worldwide libraries in disseminating information services to users.
According to Zuppo and Colrain (2016), Information and communication technology ICT can be seen as the convergence of audio-visual and telephone networks with computer networks through single cabling or link system. Typically, ICT is the technology that allows data and information to be transmitted over long distance through telephone wires or radio waves. In modern society, ICT is ever present, with over three billion people having access to the internet. With approximately 8 out of 10 internet users owning a smart phone, information and data are increasing by leaps and bounds. This rapid growth especially in developing countries has led ICT to become a keystone of everyday life, in which life without some facet of technology renders most of clerical, work and routine tasks dysfunctional. According to UNESCO (2016) Information and communication technology ICT has contributed to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teacher’s professional development and more efficient education management, governance and administration. As Rashimi (2015) noted one defining feature of ICT is its ability to transcend time and space. ICTs make possible asynchronous learning, or learning characterized by time lag between the delivery of instruction and its reception by learners. So, it is imperative to state at this point that public libraries more than ever now need the overwhelming services that information and communication technology brings. Libraries wherever they are found give a lot of answers for individuals who are looking for academic answers, and by integrating the use of use of ICT into these libraries, people would now in lesser time, get answers to their questions and also have access to a wide range of library services that would widen their mental horizon. Furthermore, teachers and learners no longer have to rely solely on printed books and other materials in physical media housed in libraries (and available in limited quantities) for their educational needs. With the internet and the world wide web, a wealth of learning materials in almost every subject and in a variety of media can now be accessed from anywhere at any time of the day and by an unlimited number of persons.
Furthermore, Integrating ICT in public libraries is imperative because through ICTs, public libraries will be providing more sophisticated and user friendly services to their patrons. ICTs can afford public library users the opportunity for cultural expression and personal fulfillment through lifelong learning. In the words of Omolola and Sunday (2012), the benefits of ICTs in public libraries are also evident in programmes in computer literacy and information technology, reader development, resource management, information literacy, access to wider social infrastructure and job opportunities that are available through the Internet. Other benefits of utilizing ICTs in public libraries include: enabling users self-education through Internet and its multimedia resources, provision of speedy and easy access to information, provision of access to unlimited and up-to-date information from different sources, increases efficiency in library operations and services, facilitate cooperation and formation of library networks, provision of round the clock and remote access of information to users, and facilitation of reformation and combination of data from different sources.
However, according to Mamman (2015) the benefits of computer technology are evident, but successful patron use, requires a comfort level with computers, a familiarity with basic search methods, and an ability to adapt to constantly changing technologies. These requirements may be of particular concern for both the older and young users of public libraries. As a result, libraries are facing new challenges, new competition, new demands, new expectations and variety of information services from users tailored to their wants and needs.
In essence, according to Nwabueze and Ibeh (2011) the mission of all libraries, including the public library is to provide a link between the past and the present and shape the future of society by preserving the records of human culture, as well as enhancing access to global transformation by integrating the emerging information technologies. The public library is a potent democratic institution that brings people from all walks of life together in their bid for information, education and continuous self-development. Every effort, therefore, must be made to enhance the quality of its services and make them more effective and efficient. Therefore, every public library must endeavor to integrate ICT in their services if they must meet with the demands of the current day users. There is no doubt from observation, that in the developed countries public libraries have fully embraced ICT and integrated it into their services, but same cannot be said for public libraries in developing countries in Africa especially in Nigeria. It is on this note that the researcher wishes to explore the level of availability and integration of ICT facilities in Anambra state public library and its branches.
Statement of the Problem
Public libraries, generally, function to support individual self-education as well as formal education at all levels by providing fiction and non-fiction materials. However, the advent of ICT has brought several benefits and challenges to how public libraries provide their services; and based on the current trend of digital and remote information usage, lack of ICT facilities will limit the ability of the libraries to provide efficient and effective services to their diverse users. For instance, Public libraries in Nigeria are a good case in point of libraries that appears to have a lot of challenges when it comes to using ICTs in their services. Public libraries in Nigeria do not seem to use ICT in providing services to their users as effectively as their counterparts in academic and special libraries. The consequences of not utilizing ICTs in public libraries are that they will deny users access to the full range of resources available through newer technologies and their services will not meet the needs of users. And if libraries must remain relevant in this era they must of necessity make use of ICT to improve their services. This is because provision of services in a manner most useful to the library’s clients is the ultimate target of all efforts towards effective and efficient services. It is on this premise that the researcher intends to determine the extent of integration of ICT facilities in public libraries in Anambra State.
Purpose of the Study
The general aim of the study is to determine the extent of information and communication technologies (ICT) integration in the public library in Anambra State.
The specific purposes of this research are to:
- Determine the extent to which ICTs are integrated into various public library operations.
- Examine the hindrances to ICT integration in libraries in Anambra State public library.
- Proffer strategies that will help to boost the effective integration of ICT in public library services in Anambra State.
Significance of the Study
The findings of the study will be significant to the following: librarians in public libraries, public library managers (Directors of State Library Services), state governments, researchers and the general public (Library users).
In specific terms the findings will be useful to librarians in public libraries in the sense that they can apply the recommendations in improving the performance of their operations and services to library users. It will also enable them be up-to-date with current practices in public librarianship, thus, fully equipping them to render efficient services to library patrons.
To Public library managers, who are often addressed as Directors of Library services in their state are the link between library services and state government. Finding of this study would serve as a reference document or tools for library managers in educating state governments on the need to adequately fund public libraries in respect of providing ICT services and facilities. It will also enable public library managers to be equipped with the knowledge of state-of the-art technology in library management, thus enhancing their managerial ability in managing information and human resources.
Also, to the State governments who are usually responsible for providing public library services to the public in their domain. The findings of the study will therefore assist state governments in formulating policies on ICT utilization and services in public libraries. The findings will also enable them appreciate the role of ICTs in enhancing public library operations and services, and consequently enable them be more responsive to their grievances.
The findings of the study will also be useful to researchers in the field of librarianship and information science by allowing them identify the gap (s) that need filling. It will also afford researchers the opportunity to see the link or relationship of this study with other studies that have been conducted in the area and enable them identify the areas that need further investigation. This work is the researcher’s contribution to existing knowledge in ICT services in libraries and will serve as a useful resource material for researchers.
Finally, the study will help the masses to know the reason why they should make use of ICT facilities in public libraries. This is because they are the main reason public libraries are instituted in the first place.
Scope of the study
This research work covered Onitsha, Nnewi and Abagana divisional public libraries that are under Anambra State Library Board. The content scope of the study covers the extent of integration of ICT into public library services in Anambra State.
Three research questions were formulated to guide this study. They are:
- What are the extents to which ICTs are integrated into various public library operations?
- What are the hindrances to ICT integration in public library services in Anambra State?
- What are the strategies needed to boost effective integration of ICT in Anambra State public library services?
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