A comparative study of use of the library and the Internet as sources of information by graduate students in the University of Ghana.

Author:Kumah, Cynthia H.


Information is a vital and an indispensable component of any academic environment. It makes for effectiveness in any academic system. Both faculty and students need to use information daily in their various academic endeavors. For decades, faculty and students have actively used the library and its resources as their main information source. Alemna, (2000) states that for centuries libraries have served as repositories of information and knowledge that have provided the vital underpinnings for socio- economic, political and cultural development in any civilization. Their relationship with cultural progress has been so interdependent that it is needless to argue whether man's cultural advancement merely produces libraries as by product.

According to Robinson (2006) simplistically, libraries and archives came into being to provide a central location for hard-to-find, scarce, expensive or unique material. Scarcity of information is the basis for the modern library. In countries where information continues to be scarce, a library's role is still unambiguous. In some countries where access to information is now akin to access to electricity or water, the reason to have freestanding storehouses of a subset of all information is harder to articulate. Libraries in such countries can provide access to more information than any user could want or need. Rangathan's rule "for every reader, his or her book," might be now redefined as "for every reader, huge amounts of free-floating content, anywhere, anytime.

We now live in the information age where access to many Internet resources is just a few clicks away. The Internet is a technology, which has gained more popularity in many countries across the world and Ghana, is no exception. The Internet as a medium of communication and source of information has enabled students, researchers, business information seekers and information professionals to access information to enhance their work and communicate effectively.

Robinson (2006) states that in 2004, seventy million American adults logged onto the Internet in a typical day. Over 95 percent of U.S. public libraries provided Internet access. Students, many faculty, and laypeople turn to online information sources before print or the library. As a result, library use, especially for walk-in reference questions and preparation for school and college reports has declined.

1.1 Statement of the Problem

The University of Ghana has a number of libraries on its campus. The Balme library is the biggest and the central library of the University. In addition to the Balme library there are various departmental, school, institution and hall libraries on campus. The collections of these libraries are subject specific. Almost all the departments under the faculties and schools of the university have their own libraries.

The University gained full Internet connectivity in the early part of 1998 to enhance the opportunities available to the academic community Alemna and Adanu, (2005). The Internet was not meant to do away with research in the library. Although the Internet has a lot of advantages, it cannot be compared with that of the traditional sources.

Graduate students have adopted and continue to use the online information retrieval for their academic and research work at the expense of or without considering the importance and the quality of the traditional information centers as observed by the researcher. However, merely using the Internet was not guarantee quality and good information. Even though the Internet has large amount of information, the relevance, quality, and authenticity should not be neglected. The question to ask then is why do the graduate students continue or preferred using the Internet to the library as sources of information? Should the importance, quality, and authentic information derived from the library be relegated in place of the Internet?

The researcher had observed that graduate students spent a lot of time at the Graduate Center searching the Internet than in libraries. The Graduate School computer laboratory looked like it was taking over from the libraries on campus. It was observed that graduate students attributed research for a paper to searching for information online. The main purpose of the study was to compare graduate students use of the library and the Internet as sources of information. This paper is an extraction from Kumah (2007).

1.3 Objectives

The study seeks to accomplish the following objectives:

  1. To determine the factors that encourage or discourage the students from using libraries.

  2. To investigate the frequency and purpose of Internet use.

  3. To find out the extent to which the Internet helps graduate students in their academic work.

  4. To determine the extent to which graduate student use the Internet more than the library.

  5. To find out what type of need influence the selection of one information source over the other.

  6. To determine problems students face when using the Internet and the library.

  7. To make recommendations for effective use of these sources.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study brought to bear the services found in the library and the services available on the Internet. It is hoped that results of the study will help to improve service delivery to graduate students in the University of Ghana. In addition, the study adds to existing literature on students' information behavior patterns and information needs.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows; related literature, methodology, results, discussions and conclusions.

2.0 Related literature

2.1 Framework

This study is based in the broader field of information behavior. More specifically in the context of information seeking behavior as defined by Willson (2000) as " the purposive seeking for information as a consequence of a need to satisfy some goal. In the course of seeking, the individual may interact with manual information systems (such as a newspaper or a library), or with computer-based systems (such as the World Wide Web)". The study therefore focuses on how students interact with both manual and computer based systems. It also investigated which system they prefer using and the motivation to select one system to the other.

2.2 The library and library use

Reding (2005) indicates that from a social, cultural and economic point of view libraries play a fundamental role in our society. They are the collectors and stewards of our heritage; they are organizers of the knowledge in the books they collect - adding value by cataloguing, classifying and describing them; and, as public institutions, they assure equality of access for all citizens. They take the knowledge of the past and present, and lay it down for the future.

Adele and Milheim (1995), argue that "Libraries are not simply storehouses of books but provide proactive services to their users both from within the library's stock and from a wide range of external sources." Some of the services according to them are enquiry services, bibliographic assistance, library instruction, interlibrary loans, photocopying, and computer facilities.

According to Boakye (1998), university libraries like those of the University of Ghana library system, play very important roles in supporting the university's academic work. Without a library the university's academic work will not be successful, because the libraries provide services that help in teaching, research and learning.

2.3 Use of libraries and Internet among students

A research conducted by Niels (2006) found that students do not bypass the physical libraries and it is also evident that the use of physical libraries and digital resources complement each other. The place of google in the students' information is prominent and positively correlated to use of traditional library resources.

In a multi-disciplinary study conducted by (George et al, 2006) which explored the information seeking behavior of graduate students found that students rely heavily on the Internet as well as the university libraries' online resources for information, though still using the physical library for hard copy materials such as books, journals and papers. Few graduate students in the study mentioned influences such as difficulty in locating information or the need for convenience and speed when using the Internet.

Friedlander (2002) indicated that library directors, college and university administrators face an increasingly complex institutional and informational environment. Faculty and graduate students, in particular, seem to be omnivorous in their appetite for information, creative in their strategies for seeking and acquiring information in all forms, and very independent. Most faculty, graduate and undergraduate students seem to prefer a hybrid information environment in which information in electronic form does not supplant information in print but adds to the range of equipment, resources, and services available to teachers and students.

Liew et al. (2000) study of graduate student end-users' current use and perception of e-journals compared with their print counterparts indicated a growing interest in ejournals. There was a strong acceptance of and high expectation and enthusiasm for future e-journals, although with some reservations

Bao (2002) surveyed 1998 and 2001 findings showing that the Internet continues...

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