Awareness and use of electronic databases by postgraduates in the University of Ibadan.

Author:Akinola, Ayodele O.


Globalisation through modern information and communication technology (ICT) is revolutionising the conduct of teaching and research in universities all over the world, particularly in developing countries such as Nigeria. One significant impact of globalisation, information and communication technology on teaching and research in developing countries is access to global information resources by researchers and postgraduate students of the universities. The university remains a centre of excellence, a citadel of learning, and more importantly the epitome of research.

Electronic databases play significant roles as information sources in today's libraries. Uzuegbu, Chukwu and Ibegwam (2012) defined electronic databases as specialized records of related published information documents which are not available on Google or other common search engines, especially in a full text. Furthermore, Ani and Ahiauzu (2008) stated that "electronic databases are collection of electronic information sources (e-journals or e-books) by publishers from various fields or disciplines and that some of these databases are provided free of charge to libraries in developing countries by their publishers or vendors, while others require some fees for subscription"

Electronic databases are now very popular among librarians and library users because of several factors like; speed, flexibility, wide range and the currency (BIAD, 1998). Online databases or web-based databases are widely available to library patrons in the entire world, and many patrons can tap into these databases from their own computers or electronic devices anywhere in the world. The Internet, through electronic databases or digital libraries, has become an important source of academic information for tertiary students (Hourcade, Bederson, Druin, Rose, Farber, Takayama, 2003).

Akpojotor (2016) averred that awareness and use of electronic information resources are very crucial so as to keep postgraduate students alert of the available media through which they can access needed information. In addition, Prangya and Rabindra (2013) reiterated that awareness is core to the usage of electronic information resources; where materials are in closed access, users' ease of access to such e-resources is by far reduced, but where they are in open access (not subscription-based), postgraduate students find and use them.

Obuh (2009) believed that awareness of electronic information resources has been a major concern for academia, postgraduate students and researchers in recent days. He further concluded that often it was in college that users became aware of libraries' electronic resources, usually while having to write research papers. Ojo and Akande (2005) opined that students' level of access, usage and awareness of electronic information resources at the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Nigeria is not high and that the major problem, however, identified in their study, is lack of information retrieval skills for exploiting electronic resources, thus making the level of usage of resources by medical students very low. Ajuwon's study on ICTs by health science students at the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan (2003), revealed that students could not use computers, and that the use of the database was because of lack of awareness, lack of access to computers, insufficient training and high cost of provision of electronic information resources subscription. Also, Dukic (2013) and Ahmed, 2013b), for example, indicated that use of electronic databases in developed countries is more than in developing countries because of poor ICT infrastructure and the huge cost of such resources. Anaraki and Babalhavaeji (2013) also pointed out that where students are not aware of the existence of electronic databases they tend to use general search engines to meet their information needs.

According to Balogun (2008), it is apparent that the use of these electronic information resources require special skills in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that will help students navigate the maze of resources at their disposal via telecommunications channels. Tella, Ayeni and Omoba, (2007) reiterated that the ability to use e-resources efficiently depends on basic computer skills, knowledge of what is available and how to use it, and ability to define a research problem.

Tella, Ayeni and Omoba (2007) further argued that the students' ability to find and retrieve information effectively is a transferable skill useful for their future life as well as enabling the positive and successful use of the electronic resources whilst at school. They noted that in this digital era any student at the higher level who wants to perform better should have the ability to explore the digital environment.

Students are increasingly expected to use electronic information resources whilst at the university; to make use of the growing range of electronic resources, students must acquire and practice the skills necessary to exploit them (Okello-Obura and Magara 2008). Lawson (2005) posited that skills learning is essential in a technology-driven environment but can be enhanced tremendously through the use of innovative learning strategies.

In spite of the humongous potential in the use of electronic information sources, there are some hindrances and challenges to its effective use. The following are some of the findings identified by Ochs (2005); language barrier, inadequate infrastructure (computers, electricity, paper, toner cartridge etc), the high cost of printing of articles and limited access (Library hours)

Statement of the Problem

Electronic databases in the libraries have made information available to scholars and postgraduate students for study or research purposes. However, the development seems to pose serious challenges to the maximum use of electronic databases in a developing nation like Nigeria. Studies have shown that scholars and postgraduate students have not actually used electronic databases optimally.

The use of electronic databases in Nigeria universities undermines the substantial efforts that have been made over two decades to ensure that electronic resources use penetrate all aspects of higher education in our universities. Electronic databases are used in the library by lecturers and students to provide access to enormous academic information which is very crucial to their overall academic performance and their...

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