Application of Interpersonal Communication in Reference and Information Services in University Libraries.

Author:Anyim, Wisdom O.


Establishing a well equipped university library is a prerequisite for operational effectiveness and efficiency of the university. University library is the life wire that sustains and upholds intellectual activities of the university. It is established to support academic programs such as teaching, learning, research and other activities involving human intellect, knowledge, innovation and creativity. University library is an intellectual resource centre of the university, established to play a supportive role of enhancing knowledge frontier of students, teaching and non-teaching staff of the university. University library is established, managed and funded by the academic institution to meet the information, research and curriculum needs of its students, faculty members and other members of the university community. Staff, students, researchers and other members of academic institution depend so much on the university libraries in order to meet their information needs.

According to Onyewusi and Oyeboade (2009), university library is an intellectual centre of the university system that provides the users with material assistance and an enabling environment that facilitates teaching, learning and research. University library maintains its position as intellectual heart of the university. Ugwuanyi (2004) states that the role of academic library is to engage people in academic and research work which is the essence of the academic institution. However, university library plays supportive role to university educational activities. Anyim (2015) posits that academic libraries provide necessary resources and services especially; reference and information services to enable libraries meet the needs of its teeming clientele and also interpret information sources to library users or show them how to access those sources. University library ensures that the information needs of staff are met and also facilitates use of the literature and other information resources through reference and information services.

According to Janes (2002), reference services were adopted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to several forces and trends occasioned by proliferation of information resources within and outside the library; complexities in various information resources; difficulties for users to locate the resources they need within the collection, and an increase in the number and diversity of people using libraries leading to a wider range of information needs, enquiries, and sophistication in the search for information. Retting (1993) states that reference and information services are collection of information services provided to the public by the reference librarian; adequate guides to the library's resources; and a high degree of interaction between the reference librarian and the clientele.

Reference and information services however, involves direct and personal assistance within the library environment to persons in search of specific educational, social, cultural, economical, political and other kinds of information. According to Janes (2002), reference and information services include direct and personal aid that a library gives to library patrons in search of information for whatever purpose, and also various library activities that aimed at making information easily available to patrons. Ademodi (2011) states that reference and information service involves working with individual information users who have difficulty articulating or even understanding their own information needs. University libraries engage in reference and information services for the purpose of providing a wide range of services and facilities, which will enhance exploitative use of the library resources and services through the medium of personal assistance and self-direction, instructional guide; referral; ready reference; directional; interlibrary loan, quick reference guide; literature search; Current Awareness Services; Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI); information brokering and document delivery. To meet the users information needs, today's reference librarians need to not only understand but also embrace current and emerging technologies affecting reference functions and the information needs of library users. In any capacity librarians provide reference services, they should take cognizance of the major changes in libraries--changes that stem from countless cultural, economic, legal and social developments that have impacted, and continue to impact, our work (Mitchell, 2008). Information needs and expectations are continuously changing in the rapidly changing information scenario; therefore, libraries need to re-orient their collections, services, and facilities to keep pace with these advancements.

While reference and information services are largely a reactive service that is assistance or the service provided when asked for by the users, libraries have also played a key role in providing information services in anticipation of user needs. This assistance involves understanding of reference questions which according to Chowdhury (2001) ranges from the simple fact-finding type to complex questions requiring consultation, and often analysis, of one

or more information sources. This involves a personal discussion between a user and the reference librarian. Through the interview the reference librarian not only tries to understand the specific information need(s), but also collects information about the user, such as the user's subject knowledge, the purpose of finding the specific information, and so on. Based on the reference interview, the reference librarian is often able to filter the retrieved information in order to pick up the most appropriate source(s) for the given user at a given point of time.

Akoh and Udensi (2013) posits that reference service is one of the most professional aspects of the librarian's responsibilities in which all librarians must properly understand and be able to offer personal assistance to users in the pursuit of information. However, reference and information services are carried out by the reference librarian who is expected to be a good communicator that links library users to the information resources of their choice or provides appropriate information services to satisfy users' information needs through the medium of interpersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication is an interactive process through which man exchanges information with his fellow man in the society in a manner that engenders mutuality, rapport and understanding. Interpersonal communication in reference services is the process through which information, knowledge, idea, message are interpreted and conveyed from reference librarian to library user or from library user to reference librarian with perfect understanding of each other in a consistent manner. Yildiz (2012) posits that the social function of interpersonal communication is stressed in the human relations perspective of organization by capturing the hearts and minds of organizational members (librarians and users) for effective coordination of organizational action in the pursuit of collective organizational goals. Similarly, Owoeye and Dhunsi (2014) states that interpersonal communication is an indispensable force towards achieving individuals and organizational goal, an objective that facilitates the sharing of information, experience and knowledge, transmission of ideas, decision making, coordination and interpretation of activities.

Interpersonal communication as the exchange of meaning between individuals through a common system of symbols, emotions, thoughts and knowledge is transferred throughout the process of sharing of ideas, feelings, thoughts and messages with others on mutual basis (Yildiz, 2012; Ojomo, 2004; Ifidon and Ugwuanyi, 2013). Interpersonal communication could also be defined as a means by which two or more people interact, send and receive information or a process of using language and non-verbal cues to send and receive messages between individuals that are intended to arouse particular kinds of meaning (DeFleur and Dennis, 2002).

For communication to serve its purpose, it must be effective and interpersonal. The foregoing shows that interpersonal communication is very essential in reference and information services for effective service delivery. It is the life wire of every vibrant organization especially university libraries. It is the highest common factor for all those who congregate in libraries, especially in reference section where teaching, learning, research, querying and answering questions forms the bedrock of their functions. Studies show that interpersonal communication is a pre-requisite for effective reference services in university libraries because it is a process of conveying ideas, opinions, attitudes, feelings, sentiments, beliefs, or impressions on others.

Interpersonal communication makes swapping of information, feelings and impart from one person to another through verbal and non-verbal means easier. This underlines the crucial fact that interpersonal communication is not only apprehensive about 'what' is pronounced, i.e., the language employed, but 'how' it is pronounced, e.g., the nonverbal messages sent, such as tone of voice and facial expressions. Interpersonal communication can be seen as the process of interacting simultaneously with another and mutually influencing each other, usually for the purpose of managing relationships. Application of effective interpersonal communication in reference and information service has the capacity for enhancing exchange of information and giving the users impression that the librarians are concerned about their information needs...

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