Rapid improvements in information and communication technologies (ICT) have fundamentally changed information access, storage and dissemination. Previously, academic libraries were known to provide information mainly from physical library resources such as books and journals for their patrons. However, information provision in university libraries is gradually shifting from the physical resources to the electronic field. The basic fact about ICTs is that, they offer access to information in an electronic form usually called electronic information. Through advancements in ICT, access to information at all levels have been redefined with a corresponding effect on how academics worldwide use information in teaching and research. Researchers and faculty members are now having challenges with a number of information sources in a form of electronic resources on their desktops. Electronic resources have increasingly become readily available and easily accessible (Prabha et al., 2007).
Millar (2009) defined e-resources as information resources that are "created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means". E-resources take a number of forms including electronic journals, electronic databases, electronic books, electronic theses, electronic data archives, electronic manuscripts, electronic maps, electronic magazines, electronic newspaper, electronic research reports, electronic bibliographic database, World Wide Web (www), search engines, and others. Of all these, electronic journals are the most important to students and academics because they contain articles which may not be found in any other publication. An electronic journal (e-journal) is one which is offered electronically and used with the aid of computer and other communication technologies (Kumar & Reddy, 2014). E-journals are publications issued in successive order that are available in digital format.
Currently, academic libraries spend considerable amount of money in providing access to e-journals for patrons especially students and faculty members. Accessibility of e-journals can be in a form of websites which provides only table of contents or websites which grants full-text access of all issues of a particular journal. Presently, we have journals which are purely electronic in format and others have both the electronic and print versions. In terms of subscription, some of the journals are available for free (open access) on the internet (for example, Library Philosophy and Practice). On the other hand, in order to access the full-text of some other journals, one will have to subscribe and pay for the cost (Kumar & Reddy, 2014).
Most of the academic libraries in Ghana are members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) which negotiate on behalf of member institutions and acquires journal databases for members. Apart from this, academic libraries in the country are also privileged to access open access journals while others individually subscribe to some few other journals on their own or through sponsorship from some organizations. Electronic journals are convenient to use, easy to access, user friendly, enhance utilization of the library and encourage frequent access of library resources by patrons (Sunil, 2014). E-journals are easily accessible and always available with no geographical barriers (Zha et al., 2012).
The Kumasi Technical University (KsTU) library provides access to e-journals, some of them for free and others on paid subscription for patrons to utilize in the course of their research, teaching and learning activities. The e-journals also help the patrons to gain quick access to global information and improve resource sharing.
Kumasi Technical University (KsTU)
Kumasi Technical University was established in 1954 as Kumasi Technical Institute (K. T. I.) to offer craft courses. In 1963, the institute was converted to a non-tertiary Polytechnic status under the Ghana Education Service to start offering, in addition, technician diploma and sub-professional courses. The Polytechnic Law, 1992 (PNDC L.321) elevated the Polytechnic to a tertiary institution to provide high calibre skilled manpower with reference to manufacturing, commerce, science and technology to act as a catalyst for technological development. As a Polytechnic it was one of the famous, elegant and vibrant Polytechnics in Ghana. The Technical University Act 2016, (Act 922) converted Kumasi Polytechnic to the present Kumasi Technical University with the aim of providing higher education in engineering, applied arts, science technology based disciplines, technical and vocational training. It is a spectacularly beautiful institution, which is located at the heart of the Garden city of West Africa, the capital city of the Ashanti Region of Ghana (Kumasi). It has within the period of its existence become an important centre for the training not only for Ghana but also for other African countries (KsTU, 2016).
Statement of the problem
According to Hassan (2010), as library budgets are falling, there is the need to make best use of the subscribed electronic resources. This will help to rationalize the monetary investment made in the purchase and preservation of these invaluable resources in academic libraries. Universities invest in electronic resources so that lecturers and students as well as researchers could have access to rich databases from vendors like Emerald, EBSCO, and ProQuest. What should be appreciated is that, academic libraries acquire electronic resources on a large scale but unfortunately, patrons do not use them on the same scale (Weiner, 2003).
An informal investigation conducted by the researchers indicated that the subscribed e-journals available to students of KsTU are not efficiently utilized. Some of the students were not aware of the availability of the e-journals at the KsTU library. Also, some of them were not competent in the use of computers, let alone accessing e-journals. Above all, inadequate infrastructural facilities like computers and bandwidth also hindered accessibility. The end result was, at best, to avoid the use of electronic journals. The effect is that, KsTU was wasting huge scarce financial resources in acquiring these under-used e-journals. This study was therefore aimed at investigating the access and use of e-journals by the students of KsTU. Thus, the underlying factors for the under-utilization and inaccessibility of e-journals constituted the rationale for this study.
This research specifically sought to:
To determine the level of awareness of KsTU students on e-journals.
To determine the level of accessibility of electronic journals by KsTU students.
To determine the extent of utilization of electronic journals by KsTU students.
To establish the problems students of KsTU face in accessing and utilizing electronic journals.
Scholarly publications have changed from print format to electronic format. For this reason, modern-day libraries make available electronic access to many resources including full-text articles, indexes and complete journals. According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2006) a journal is "a periodical publication, especially dealing with matters of current interest". Journals are often published by professional associations, society, foundation, commercial publishers or institute. If the contents of journals are mostly academic in nature, they are known as scholarly journals and the electronic versions are also known as scholarly electronic journals. The first scholarly journal being "Journal des Scavans was pubished" in 1665 with a long history (Kumar & Grover, 2007). E-journal is one which is offered electronically and used with the help of computer and other communication tools (Kumar & Kumar, 2005). The same editorial process is followed for both electronic and print journals.
Electronic Letters Online was the first e-journal to be circulated and it was published and disseminated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1994-1995. It started as emails in a form of plain text which was distributed to users through a mailing list. However, this method was deserted after a more applicable distribution process was presented later (Pettenati, 2001). "In the years 1994-1995 the first electronic journals appeared. Web distribution started in 1995-1996" (Zivkovic, 2008). In view of the likely benefits provided by electronic journals, a lot of university libraries no longer subscribe to print journals because they have fully accepted electronic journals (Thanuskodi, 2011).
In a study conducted by Msagati (2014) on knowledge and usage of e-journals by members the academics of Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE), he noted that a number of studies have revealed that e-journals have become a relevant tool for students and researchers. Gray (2011) found that academics in the UK were using e-journals significantly by downloading articles at a very high average rate.
Lack of finance and key resources like human and material in many academic libraries in Ghana pose critical challenges for academics and researchers in their access to and delivery of relevant information. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) agreed and accepted to support a pilot project on e-resources in Ghana in the 1990s. The project took off with five university libraries namely; University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana, University for Development Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Institute for Technological Information (INSTI). Through Programme for Enhancement of Research Information (PERI), DANIDA funded and provided access to about some online journal database on CD-ROMs for the above mentioned institutions. Support from DANIDA ended in 2004 and that brought...