Challenges to Library and Information Services (LIS) Delivery in the 21st Century: the Situation in three Academic Libraries in Imo State, Nigeria.

Author:Amaechi, Nkechi M.


The library and information service arena no doubt has been undergoing series of transformational process as a result of the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to library service. The conservative approaches to librarianship have been demystified. A more proactive and pragmatic approach to librarianship has taken the centre stage of information services. Libraries of all types are on the move to catch up with the trends of producing ICT related information services. In an effort to move along this trend, libraries are faced with different challenges and these challenges must be addressed accordingly if librarians want to remain relevant in the delivery of library and information service in the 21st century. Rapid advances in information technologies as pointed out by Ukpanah (2012) have revolutionized the role of libraries. In line with this, libraries are faced with new challenges computers demand and expect. Omekwu and Echezona (2008) argued that librarians and information professionals of the future must be equipped with a wide range of personal and transferable skills in order to manage the changing environment in which he or she works. The contention is that information professionals need to be ready to move with the challenge of digital technology, globalised information access, networked resources, a changing economy, new learning and research system and the demands of user communities for information that adds values to their works.

Libraries are not immune to the societal forces re-shaping other institutions brought about by technology and economics. Social institutions today look vastly different than they did twenty years ago (Fagbola, Uzoigwe and Ajegbomogun, 2011). Today, the contemporary practices in academic library services in the 21st century is being propelled with an information explosion, and the inclusion of ICT in all aspects of library services (Abubakar, 2011). As the traditional custodian of information, librarians in the 21st century need to be aware of these significant changes and as such employ their technological knowhow and intellectual prowess in order to retain the leading role of the academic libraries in supporting teaching, learning and research. This means that the 21st century librarian will have to be armed with competent skills that will enhance the provision of effective library services to meet client's changing information needs (Emezie and Nwaohiri, 2013).

There is a clear dimensional shift from traditional ways of providing library and information services to a digital dimension that is being engineered by information and communication technologies. The emergence of new demands surrounding information and its delivery and deliberation naturally dictates the need for libraries to meet these emerging user interests and desires, and to create a newer, more participatory type of user interaction (Kowalsky, 2013). The scope of library and information services is changing significantly and is moving parallel with technological developments and substantial changes are taking place in library and information centres as well as products and services offered therein. These changes however are being engineered by the waves of ICT with the potential of placing higher demands on library and information science professionals (Anyanwu, Uche and Ossai-Onah, 2014). To them there is need for re-designing and transforming library and information centres and its services to meet the demands of contemporary societies. As it is now, we cannot afford to use the same old methods and strategies of offering services to library clientele and expect them to be effective. Transforming library and information centres is a necessity if library and information professionals must remain relevant and retain their place as information providers in the information conscious society.

Fagbola, Uzoigwe and Ajegbomogun (2011) citing Salami (2007) buttressed that:

"the 21st century has witnessed a great increase in information management and transmission. The new information age has brought about improved knowledge delivery, processing of information, precision, good time management and improved network system. Furthermore, information is also called data and databases are created and made accessible online via the Internet and other machine readable formats. Search engines are made accessible to the public. In view of this, conventional libraries seem to be giving way to hybrid and virtual libraries. (otherwise called libraries without walls or paperless libraries) accessing or developing digital collections alongside print-based collections". p.5

Onuoha, Anyanwu, Ossai-Onah, & Amaechi (2015) argued that if we must innovate and create avenues for successful change that will culminate in efficient library service delivery, we must embrace information and communications technology. The era of confining ourselves to ancient forms of librarianship are gone, if there must be a shift in services offered, there must first be a shift in our professional mind-set. Library and information professionals must be ready for change. Demands for change are both external and internal and as we have seen, outside factors include legislation...

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