Electronic information resources utilization by students in Mbarara University Library.

Author:Gakibayo, Anna

1.1 Background to the study

By the turn of the 21st century, library automation and the Internet had revolutionized information access and library operations around the world. Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) Library was able to take advantage of these developments to facilitate the process of teaching and learning. New modes of accessing information have emerged as a result of the Internet and World Wide Web. MUST students therefore are able to access up-to-date international literature as soon as it is published on the Internet. This has been profound, especially on academic institutions. Libraries in such institutions can now provide information access to off-campus students wherever they are located even to sites hundreds and thousands of miles away. Services have evolved from the days of closed stacks, through shelf browsing and card catalogues, punched cards and OPACS to the concept of open access and institutional repositories. This historical migration has brought satisfaction on the changing needs of library users, including ease of access to information resources (Cise 2006).

In 2000, MUST library started with a dial-up based Internet service through info.com, a commercial internet service provider. The aim was to improve information delivery electronically. Over the years, the University Library acquired a number of computers that were connected to the Internet. The main objective of IT investment in the Library was to enhance accessibility to information resources so as to achieve optimum usage levels; it would also facilitate access to international information resources on the World Wide Web.

In 2004, Mbarara University Library integrated Information Communication Technology (ICT) in all its functions in order to improve the delivery of its services. The International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publication (INASP) UK enhanced these efforts through the Programme for Enhancement of Research Information (PERI), Uganda. The objective was to support capacity building in the research sectors especially in University Libraries in developing countries by strengthening the production, access and dissemination of information and knowledge (INASP 2003).

The collaboration between Lund University in Sweden and MUST helped the library to strengthen ICT capacity where over 60 computers were connected to the Internet. According to MUST Strategic Plan (2008-2013), the University is planning to invest more in e-resources than in print materials.

Electronic information usage in MUST Library is a shift from print materials to electronic information materials and services in the form of CD-ROMS, e-books, e-databases, electronic journals, electronic current awareness service and information subject gateways, accessed through the internet. This means that students are able to utilize these resources for effective research and of better quality.

1.2 Problem

Whereas accessing electronic information resources offers opportunities to obtain accurate and timely literature, observation shows that there is low usage of e-resources in Mbarara University library. This is evident from library statistics, register records and from information obtained verbally. According to MUST Library Annual Report (2008), low usage of electronic resources was cited as a challenge to the library management.

Although the University Library conducts workshops, seminars and communicates to students regularly about the available e-resources, students are not effectively using electronic information resources. Some of the available electronic information resources have not been utilized at all. The library subscribes to a total of 10 electronic information resource packages which include full text electronic journals, current awareness services and bibliographic databases. There is also a provision of electronic document delivery yet on average less than 8 (eight) documents request forms are submitted in a month for articles in electronic journals, (Library Statistics, January - December 2009). It is not known why there is such low usage of these resources in the university whose student population is almost 3000. This lack of understanding is what is causing concern to both the university and library managers.

1.3 Objectives

The study was guided by the following specific objectives:

i) Identify the available e-resources in MUST library.

ii) Determine the extent of use and the relevance of e-resources, to student needs in MUST library

iii) Propose strategies for promoting the usage of e-resources by students

  1. Literature Survey

    The review is presented basing on the research objectives and these constitute: information resources, electronic information resources in academic libraries, attitudes towards e-resources usage and global strategies adopted for e-resources utilization.

    2.3 Information resources

    According to Ikoja-Odongo (2002), over a long period of time human beings have been able to record their memories, ideas and discoveries into forms that are classifiable such that information organizers have been able to produce certain categories of information resources. He asserts that information can be classified by content matter or by the physical format by which information is kept. The information resources classified by physical format include: written sources, databases, technical reports, grey literature and electronic resources, among others.

    Muteshewa (2004) reveals that traditional libraries stored different types of information resources in different formats in buildings. Various tools and guides to locate these resources were available only when a patron physically visited the library. The situation has now changed and access to these guides has become paramount. He asserted that with the advent of computers and telecommunication technologies, libraries and information services can provide access to these resources through work-stations like PCs and terminals that are in patron's offices, as well as in the Library.

    Hawkins (2000) emphasizes that the library of the future will have the daunting mission of helping scholars discover what relevant information exists anywhere in the world and in a variety of formats and media. Understanding how students navigate this maze of resources is important in helping the librarians to develop and assess pedagogy designed to instruct students in library use. The study intended to assess the usage of e-resources available in MUST library and to determine the extent of use. This would help guide MUST librarians in the transformations required in handling information in the context of the complex challenges posed by the emerging e-learning environment and globalization.

    2.2 Electronic Information Resources

    According to Shuling (2007), electronic information has gradually become a major resource in every university library. The emergence of electronic information resources, simply referred to as electronic resources, has tremendously transformed information handling and management in academic environments and in University libraries in particular. Ellis and Oldman (2005) note that through the use of electronic resources, researchers and students; now have access to global information resources, particularly the Internet for their scholarly intercourse.

    The death of current and up-to-date information for research in University libraries is attributed to poor levels of developing electronic information resources, (Afolabi, 2007; Faborode, 2007; Bozimo, 2007). Libraries need to be vanguards for technology transfer from the developed world to the developing economies of Africa; to meet these expectations African university libraries must provide a link between local researchers, scholars and their counter parts in other parts of the world. Utilization of online information resources is the way of achieving this objective. According to Tsakonas et al. (2006) electronic information resources are information resources provided in electronic form, and these include resources available on the Internet such as e-books e-journals, online database, CD-ROM databases and other computer -based electronic networks, among others.

    2.4.1 The Internet

    According to Jensen's Report (2007), 54 countries in Africa had Internet connectivity. By the year 2009 however, Internet penetration as a percentage of the total population of Africa was still 1.4% compared to the world average penetration of 12.7% (Internet Worldstats.com2009). Gakibayo (2001) carried out a study on Internet usage by students and staff at Mbarara university of Science and Technology and the results of the study indicated low usage. Though the Internet has provided a wider access to global information resources such as online databases, e-journals e-prints and other sources of digital information, these resources are not effectively utilized due to varying factors. According to Missen et al. (2005), the Internet poses African Universities to gain equal footing with their sister institutions in the more developed countries. It is imperative that African Universities be connected if they are not to be rendered irrelevant in the modern academic world. The Internet is very useful as a communications tool in the Universities among librarians and library clientele. It is the most efficient means of electronic document delivery (Al Fadhli and Johnson, 2006).

    2.2.2 Electronic Journals

    With the advent of the Internet, researchers and academics have recognized the capabilities of the information and communication technologies as efficient means to share results and to get around barriers by full transfer of intellectual property rights from the author to the publisher, it is also a means of improving the slow turn-over of traditional publishing (Correia and Neto, 2006).

    Electronic journals relatively provide efficient access to information and, thus they are easy to distribute to library patrons than traditional...

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