Author:Mole, Austin Jude Chikodi
Position:Library and information professionals - Report

    Agriculture is a very important sector of the economies of the developing countries. It is the backbone of the economy of Africa with about 90% of her people depending on it for a living. It is also the main foreign exchange earner of the various countries that make up the continent (Mbwana, 2013). Ezeani (2005) has observed that very few countries have experienced rapid economic growth without a corresponding growth in agriculture. However, in Nigeria, the oil boom of the 1970s resulted in the neglect of agriculture as government shifted its attention and support from the agricultural to the oil sector. This had adverse effects on the development of agriculture in Nigeria. This neglect caused Fadiji to prophesy in 1996 that the much publicized aspiration of food for all by the year 2000 would be an unrealizable dream. Today, his prophesy has come to reality. Today, the current food supply is inadequate to meet the needs of the over 140 million people resulting in the continuous dependence on importation of even staple food products like rice and beans. Nigerian agriculture has been stagnant, or at best, in recession. There has been perennial low agricultural production (Aina, in Mabawonku, 2001), continuing poor food supply and food security, continuing poor agricultural development and poor economic and consequently, poor national development in Nigeria and other ever-present problems of the agricultural process. In view of this and considering the apparent volatility of the oil sector, there is urgent need to reexamine the strategies for solving agricultural problems and enhancing agricultural development in Nigeria.

    One way of achieving this is through sound agricultural research. Agricultural research, according to Besemer and Veerman (2005) is simply a systematic inquiry into the application of scientific procedures to the study of agricultural problems. These problems require solutions based on convincing evidence. Such evidence is captured through well-planned and thoroughly executed agricultural research (FAO, 1993). The ultimate aim of agricultural research is to bring greater productivity and economic efficiency to the agricultural industry. However, agricultural research in Nigeria has been marred by lack of up-to-date information support to all the stakeholders in the sector. Researchers require adequate access to a wide array of information resources available in various formats and media in order to produce timely and appropriate research result that can be productively applied to emancipate Nigeria from her perennial low agricultural production, enhance food security, restore agriculture as the main foreign exchange earner, support the federal government's poverty alleviation programme, promote rapid economic growth, and enhance the overall national development of the nation.

    Agricultural research is carried out and promoted in various specialized institutions. However, universities are prominent in agricultural research because of the preponderance of high level manpower engaged in the production and utilization of agricultural research results, the existence of a large population of student participants and users, and the existence of competitive research resulting in the need for both intensive and extensive research.

    The university is the apex of the system of higher education. (Nigeria, 2014). The universities are mandated to promote manpower development, research and national development. This, as noted by Mezieobi (2007), was stipulated in the National Policy on Education. The universities promote research not only by providing relevant and needed information resources and services for researchers, but also by disseminating their research findings to both the government, industries and other researchers.

    Central to this objective of promoting research and scholarship in the university is the university library. The main purpose of the university library is to support the objectives of the university which are to promote teaching, learning and research. No university can exist without a library since the university is meant to teach and carry out research (Ekere, 2006). Thus, university libraries, according to Hardesty (1996), are always struggling to acquire and organize printed and non- printed forms of recorded materials in order to maintain a research collection for the community they serve. Ekere (2006) asserted that the university library is supposed to provide information resources and services of sufficient quality and diversity. University libraries therefore, need to ensure that agricultural information resources generated locally and overseas are made available and accessible for research as adequately and currently as possible. For a university library to achieve this, it must acquire and organize a vast array of information resources in many diverse forms and media, including those brought about by the electronic age.

    Information resources, according to. Satter and Lancaster (2004), are worthless if they are not adequately and currently accessed at the right time and properly utilized for research, scholarship and general development of the individual and society. Updating information services in this context involves the provision of up-to-date information from diverse formats and media to the patrons. But it goes beyond this. According to Shibanda (2000), it involves the provision of adequate and current information resources to satisfy researchers' information needs. Information services are packaged to meet particular information needs, at the right time, in the right quantity and quality and for the right patron. Aina in Mabawonku (2001) had observed that one of the reasons adduced for the perennial low agricultural production in Africa is the lack of up to date information support such as timely and appropriate research results, to all the stakeholders in the sector. To address this problem, Igbeka and Atinmo (2012) recommended among others that current information sources should be provided for agricultural research. This can be attained through the application and utilization of information and communication technology in addition to other conventional methods of providing current information to library users.

    In Nigeria, the National Universities Commission (NUC) recently commended the Benson Idahosa University Library as the only university based library in Nigeria that provides up-to-date information services to patrons (Idiegbayan, Okosun, Eruanya and Ojo-Igbinoba, 2015). University libraries in Nigeria may be lagging behind in the provision of adequate and up-to-date information services for agricultural research.

    Considering the critical role played by universities in organizing the national agricultural research system (FAO,1993) and in overall national development (World Bank,1997), university libraries are expected to ensure the availability of and access to adequate and up-to-date relevant information resources for researchers. In realization of this role and in support of agricultural production in Nigeria, the federal government allocates not less than three (3) percent of her annual budget for agricultural research (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990). In addition, it has established nineteen (19) agricultural and agro-allied national research institutes. There are over ninety-one federal, state and private universities with faculties of agriculture including three agricultural universities in Nigeria (NUC, 2008). Specifically, there are twenty five (25) federal universities (including universities of technology and agriculture) with faculties of agriculture (JAMB, 2014).

    Much of Nigeria's scientific and technical manpower is actively engaged in agricultural research and by implication generates a great number of local agricultural literature. Moreover, the occasional meetings, seminars, conferences and workshop which serve as fora for the exchange of current agricultural knowledge also result in the generation of numerous scientific papers (Omeje, 2008). It is apparently difficult for the Nigerian university libraries to track down the output of recorded knowledge (generated locally and and outside Nigeria) in a science oriented discipline like agriculture (Popoola, 2012). The large volume of published items of information and data collected that required processing, storing and wide distribution to researchers constitute an enormous challenge that call for required competencies associated with utilization of ICTs for updating information services for researchers in agricultural science. The thrust of this study, therefore, is to determine competency requirements and levels of Library and Information Professionals (LIPs) for updating information services for agricultural research in Nigerian university libraries.

  2. Statement of the Problem

    Agriculture is a discipline whose research and development depends to a very large extent on timely and up - to - date information resources and services. Thus, French (1990) noted that agricultural researchers are dependent on tremendous amounts of information of very timely nature and need to track down the output of recorded knowledge (generated locally and outside Nigeria) in agriculture and related areas.

    While university libraries in Europe and American have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by information and communication technology in the provision of information services to their patrons, their counterparts in the developing countries, of which Nigeria is one, are yet to take full advantage of this opportunity (Ikpaahindi,2005). It is of great concern, therefore, that agricultural researchers in developing countries such as Nigeria lack access to current literature in university libraries. Consequently, information services...

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