LIBRARY STAFF AS EMERGENCY RESPONDERS, E.G., ORGANIZING AND RUNNING RESIDENT INFORMATION CENTERS DURING STORMS AND EMERGENCIES

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1  BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Nigeria has over the past few decades embarked on various areas of human endeavor that would bring about development educationally, economically, socially, culturally and technologically. The role information plays in the development of individuals, organizations, institutions and the Nation has effectively placed it as a very vital commodity. The benefits are only seen when the right information is provided the user at the right time. Valid information is the key to knowledge which is a pre-requisite for any form of development. That is why the value of any institution whose main duty is to disseminate information is by all reasons immeasurable in any growing nation; this information usually comes in various formats like books and non books depending on the nature of the users. Users normally come into library with varying information needs which ranges from directional guidance to in-depth bibliographic search. Akinade(2000) states that, the expectation of people when they visit the library to source for and retrieve information are always high. Therefore, when the expectations are not met, the disappointment and frustration that follow can be just as high. Hence Libraries are not only willing to give help to individual readers; they consider the assistance as an important aspect of their responsibility to the users and justification for their training. Academic libraries in its generic term refer to all the Libraries that exist in institutions of higher learning. Their major aim is to provide the curricular educational needs of the students as well as to support the teaching staff in their up-to date materials required for their teaching. Edoka(2000) defines academic libraries as “Libraries that exist in institutions of higher education such as universities, colleges of education, colleges of technology and polytechnics”. These are largely tertiary education institutions usually available after secondary education. There are variations in the extent of higher education, some colleges focus almost entirely on curricular needs. Universities in particular usually go beyond this to emphasize research and the interest of the wider population. In general the functions of academic libraries are as follow.

i.                    To provide information materials required for academic programs of the parent institution.

ii.                  To provide research information resources in consonance with the needs of faculty and students.

iii.                To provide information resources for recreation and personal development of users.

iv.                To provide study accommodation in useful variety of locations.

v.                  To provide protection and security for these materials.

vi.                To cooperate with other libraries as appropriate for improved information services.

vii.               To provide specialized information services to appropriate segment of the wider community

The direction and extent of these functions in any given academic library are largely determined by the nature of academic programs of the parent institution. The prime obligation of an academic library is to provide appropriate information resources for study and research to the members of its own institution. Library operations generally are by nature, service oriented, this is reflected in the referral services rendered by libraries considering the role academic libraries play in provision of information resources that will support the academic objectives of the institution particularly in the areas of learning, teaching and research . In this study the academic library is viewed as libraries attached to universities, colleges, polytechnics serving the teaching, learning and research needs of students and staff. Hence services expected of academic libraries include, user education services, inter-library services, abstracting services, cataloguing service, reprographic services, bibliographic services, circulation services, reference services and information services. Reference service is one of the basic services provided in the library and indeed information center, and here lies the root of librarianship. It is also considered as the most interesting and stimulating of library services, aspects that arouse all sense of professionalism in the practitioner because it involves the interaction between the reference librarian and the library users. Ifidion (1979) defines reference work\services as the personal assistance given by librarians to individual readers who are in pursuit of information. This involves not only locating the materials where the required information can be found but also locating the information and sorting out what information is relevant from the mass of information Aboyade ( 1983) opined that reference services in any library is a sum total of all library activities aimed at facilitating the use of the library and its resources. Reference services are the formalized provision of information in diverse forms by reference librarians, who is an intermediary between the questioner and the available information resource. Hence reference services take place between the questioner, reference librarian and information resources. For the purpose of this study, a reference service is defined as the ability of a reference librarian to strive within and outside available resources to provide answers to reference queries. Hence, reference and information services rendered in academic libraries include: Abstracting services, Indexing services, photocopying services, Information services, Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) and Users Instruction services. The resources for these reference and information services may include Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Directories, Manuals and Handbook, Maps, Bibliographies, Biographies, Yearbooks, Almanacs and online resources. However the methods employed in rendering these services in academic libraries are : Answering of query, Telephone, Fax, E-mail, internet, Readers advisory services, verification, Referral services, Inter-library loans, Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI), Data base searches and Library Instructions programme. The concept of information services according to Kumar (1982) is the provision of information on demand which indicates that a user who makes a specific request will be provided answer to his query on demand. It is also the provision of information in anticipation which hopes to keep the users well informed and up to date in their field of specialization and in related subjects. He further classified that, the information aspects of the library is not that of propaganda, but that of generating, collecting, synthesizing and disseminating up –to- date, accurate, unbiased and relevant information available in a variety of formats, which can be stored and retrieved whenever needed. The role of reference and information librarian is extremely important. A good reference and information librarian is bound to encourage the use of academic libraries by acting as an intermediary between users and information and able to bring efficient flow of resources and the seeker together without waste of time. The academic library is to provide reference and information services to users (lecturers, students, Researchers) who rely solely on the libraries for their desire and needed information in advancing knowledge. Therefore, the reference librarian is expected to possess a wide range of intellectual skills and desire to assist users, flair for organizing document, ability to search literature, to communicate fluently and adequate knowledge of the resources. Grogan (1992) states that “library users, if helped by the reference librarian will be able to get better value from a library collection than they could on their own”. The natures of reference and information services vary from one type of library to another. The nature differs due to the kind of clientele to be served and the objectives of the library to be fulfilled. In academic libraries reference and information services are attached great importance to instruction in the use of the library. A lot of assistance in the provision of information is given to students and researchers who constitute the bulk of academic library users. In spite of these paramount roles of reference and information services academic libraries are battling with hindrances of poor funding, inadequate trained personnel, inadequate and outdated reading materials, poor handling of users instruction services and lack of technology application in reference and information services. These hindrances have no doubt constituted a great challenge to academic libraries in achieving their objectives. However, Olanloku (2003), Utor (2004), Igbo (2006) and Madu (2008) observed the following strategies for enhancing effective service delivery: provision of the state- of –the art library and information services, provision of an improved reference and information services, provision of adequate finance, training and retraining opportunities for reference staff, acquisition of current reference resources and the provision of compulsory users instruction services to all categories of the library among others. These strategies if adopted, the academic library will achieve effective reference and information service delivery. However, observation shows that reference and information services vary in terms of service and practices among academic libraries in Nasarawa State. Nasarawa state universities keffi was established in January 2002 by the then civilian Governor, Abdullahi Adamu. The University started with three faculties, but at present the University has 7 Faculties and 37 programme, namely Faculty of Arts with seven programme, 15 Faculty of Arts 5 programmes, Faculty of Social Science 9 programme, Faculty of Natural Science 9 programme, Faculty of Education 8 programme, Faculty of Law 1 programme, Faculty of Administration 3 programme and Faculty of Agriculture 5 programme. The library provide the following services: Media services, Circulation Services, Serial Services, Reserve and special Loans Services, Reference and Information Services, Binding Services and Internet Services, the library seem to have improved services because it has at least one qualified and other supporting staff, and the presence of ICT Centre also gives a good image for the library. The College of Education Akwanga was established in the year 1977, with the following colleges: College of Arts, College of Science, College of Social Science, College of Education, College of Languages and Vocational Technical Education. The library comprises the following Departments: Administration, Acquisition Department, Cataloguing Departments, Circulation Department, Serial Department, Reserve Department, Reference and Information Services. This Library seems to have the problems of under staffing and coupled with the small size of the section, the reference service seems to suffer neglect. While the Nasarawa State polytechnic Lafia was established on 15th August 2000,the polytechnic started with the following schools, School of Basic and Remedial Studies, School of Business Administration, School of General Studies, School of Science and Technology and presently the Institution added School of Environmental Science. The Library offers services such as indexing services, Abstracting services, Circulation Services, Reserved Services, Computer services Reference services and Binding Services. The Library seems to be better in terms of Stocks, staff, facilities and service delivery. It is in view of the above that the researcher is carrying out a project on reference and information services delivery in academic libraries in Nasarawa State with a view to ascertaining the status of these services visa viz the stipulated standard.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The Reference and information services of an academic library play very crucial and critical roles in presenting a good image of the library, and the provision of equitable, timely and accurate information delivery services. The library provides solutions to both academic and personal problems which are made available by the reference and information services librarian who is ready at all times with answers to queries in almost every field. In spite of the importance attached to reference and information service delivery, it has been observed that academic libraries in Nasarawa State seem not to recognize the vital role of this services, which shows that users of these libraries are not making use of these reference resources for their academic nourishment rather they look out or patronize other information centers and books outside the libraries for their information needs. Furthermore, it appears that, users available in these libraries also find it difficult to locate and make effective use of these information materials, which may be due to lack of knowledge about the reference resources and services. Also these libraries seem to be bedeviled with myriad of problems. These include: poor reference services as a result of unqualified personnel, poor handling of users instruction programme, inadequate funding, Insufficient reading materials, outdated reference tools, Inadequate accommodation and lack of modern technology application in reference and information services, these have exposed the pathetic situation found in academic library services especially reference and information services in Nigeria particularly Nasarawa State academic libraries. Others scholars have researched into the problems of reference services, assessment of reference services in academic libraries, evaluation of reference resources and services of public libraries and appraisal of reference services in public libraries but none has researched into the reference and information service delivery in academic library in Nasarawa State. It is against these backdrops that the researcher has embarked on this study to fill in the gap. Hence the problem of the study.