EVOLVING ROLES OF LIBRARY PERSONNEL IN THE DIGITAL AGE: CASE STUDY OF THE BALME LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF GHANA

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of the study was to find out the evolving roles of library personnel in the digital age with emphasis on the needed skills required fit into the information age. The objectives of the study were to find out the skills needed by personnel to identify and analyze user information needs, skills required for the evaluation of available information resources, to ascertain the level of personnel ICT skills among others. The Balme Library, University of Ghana, Legon was used as the study setting. The case study methodology was adopted. The study used both primary and secondary sources of data. The questionnaire was the main data collection instrument and data collected was analyzed using SPSS. The findings pointed out that, 81.8% of the library personnel had the requisite skills to identify and analyze user information needs. It was also evident that the majority of the library staff had the needed skills in information resource evaluation (92.7%) and also considered information literacy skills (94.5%) as relevant to their work and as such were highly skilled in it. Again, the findings revealed that most (50.9%) of the library personnel were not skilled in the value addition process, but the majority (61.8%) were found to be adequately skilled in ICT. Concerning management skills, it was revealed that quite appreciable number of the personnel (41.8%) were more skilled in planning. The study concluded that even though personnel at the Balme library possessed some of the skills needed to meet the emerging challenges of providing effective and efficient services as a result of digital age, it cannot be conclusive that they possessed all the skills as conceptualised within the framework. Recommendations were also made in the area of training library personnel, collaboration with the Department of Information Studies, University of Ghana, formation of partnership with other institutions, and job rotation of library personnel to increase versatility.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
Background to the Study

Library and information services rendered worldwide has witnessed unprecedented shift to the digital age. Library personnel who are described as traditional gatekeepers of knowledge are in danger of being bypassed, their skills and advice ignored and unsought. The Internet with the help of search engines send users directly to the information they need or so users may think that without any need for library personnel to advice on sources, cross-references, catalogue, or classification. Information is now readily available online through the digital gateway which is constantly furnished by a number of information providers such as libraries, publishers, businesses, organisations, and individuals. Information also comes in a wide variety of formats, many of which are large, complex like video and audio and sometimes integrated namely multimedia (Sharma, 2005).
Information and communications technology (ICT) can be considered as an important weapon in the war against world challenges. When used effectively, it offers huge potential to empower library personnel in the digital age to overcome obstacles, address the most important issues facing service delivery, and above all, facilitate information flow with which the “information society” become reality. But, the digital age separates those who can access and use ICT to gain these benefits, and those who either do not have access to such technology or who are unable to use it for one reason or another (Chandel et al, 2011).
According to Rana (2008), most libraries in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the use of ICT is largely restricted to traditional library automation i.e. replacing manual operations by computerised methods. The use of information and communication technologies in libraries is not widespread and it is made difficult, if not impossible, by several challenges or constraints,

including the lack of funds to sustain the ICT infrastructure, inability by librarians/libraries to keep up with the pace of development in ICT, inadequate ICT facilities in the libraries, lack of staff with appropriate skills to manage ICTs both at the strategic and operational levels and lack of adequate knowledge and skills to manage digital information resources and to deal with issues relating to copyright and intellectual property rights in a digital information environment.
Nowadays, terms such as “knowledge-based society”, “sustainable development”, and so forth are frequently heard. In the world today, information is “a resource for development”, and “the absence of reliable information is an epitome of underdevelopment” (Huang and Russell, 2006). In fact, development on the basis of information and knowledge will be possible provided that ICT is properly and equally used and that also the digital divide thus once named the knowledge gap (Husing and Selhofer, 2002)is bridged or diminished.
According to Needleman (2007), the traditional role of information professionals was to provide access to collection in the libraries. To provide services in emerging environment, libraries adopted Web 2.0 technologies with new nomenclature „Library 2.0‟. Casey (2006) coined the term “Library 2.0”. The concept of Library 2.0 means to take ideas and concepts from Web 2.0 and adopt them in library environment. With the induction of Web portals, wikis, blogs and instant messaging, the methods of information and knowledge sharing have been changed. These emerging tools require new skills to manage information (Philips, 2005). In some libraries, the Web 2.0 environment helps library patrons to access information, develop insight and generate knowledge. To meet the growing needs of the patrons, Heinrichs and Lim (2009) suggested that libraries needed to hire skilled librarians to provide expanded services to create and disseminate knowledge in the digital age.