Information is indispensable in all spheres of life that no organizations or individuals can function effectively without it. Library has been recognized as a major and important source of information in any society. It should be emphasized that the quality and quantity of services provided by academic libraries vary greatly from one university to another depending on the financial status, academic programmes, students' population, and the mission of the parent institution. Nevertheless, these services are designed to enhance the teaching, learning, and research activities in the university community. It has been observed that the three major factors that determine the use of library services are need, user, and source of information (Sridhar, 1994). These factors and their interactions may explain why library collections and services are underutilized.
Buckland (1999) stated that library services, as information services, are expected to have various positive effects on the user. Hence, library services are created to inform, influence users' opinions and attitudes about issues and, more importantly, inspire their quest for knowledge which is essential for the advancement of individuals and societies. This is why librarians are seriously concerned about the underutilization of these services especially in the academic environment. It is regrettable that libraries and librarians in many developing countries including Nigeria are yet to take their proper positions in the society; they are still pleading for patronage and recognition. This research was conducted to assess the distribution of librarians by university, gender, years of experience and qualifications, and to determine the influence of user education marketing strategy on students' use of libraries in Federal universities in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Academic libraries engage in activities which revolve around the provision of certain defined services and ensuring that these services are utilized. It is assumed that effective and efficient use of library services guarantees improved academic performance of students and enhances teaching and research outputs. Aguolu and Aguolu (2002) observed that by ensuring availability of learning resources, Nigerian university libraries would be in a position to provide essential services to scholarship and research. Similarly, Obi (2005) opined that basic function of academic library is to service to the fullest the educational objectives of the parent institution with needed resources, facilities and services. As a result, various university libraries struggle to anticipate the information needs of users and provide necessary services and resources to meet these needs.
A study by Lawal and Amusa (2005) revealed that most Nigerians do not see the relevance of library as a means of furthering their education, extending the frontier of knowledge, and as a source of obtaining a quick reference. This obvious lack of patronage and perception of the roles of the library may have been one of the reasons for the low literacy level and poor reading culture in Nigeria. They further observed that most literate Nigerians, especially students, do not patronize libraries for self-education; they rather confine themselves to consulting lecturers' notes, handouts and textbooks, thus reading only to pass examinations. Consequently, librarians are enjoined to create awareness for the relevance of library resources and services by aggressively marketing them.
Several scholars have offered different definitions of marketing. Cornfield (2001) defined marketing as the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchange that satisfies individual and organizational objectives. Similarly, Justin and Parameswari (2002) defined marketing as planning and managing organization's exchange relations with its clientele. It is important to note the emphasis on the concept of "exchange relationships" in most of these definitions. In the business world, this exchange consists of products or services in return for money. However, in non-profit organizations such as libraries and information centers, the exchange has to do with services, programmes, and resources in return for patronage, better funding, and recognition.
Other scholars have advocated the adoption of marketing principles in the management and operations of libraries. Kotler and Levy (1981) concluded that the choice facing those who manage non-business organizations (such as libraries) is not whether or not to market (for no organization can avoid marketing) but rather the choice is whether to do it well or poorly. Thus, there is an increase in the recognition of the importance of marketing library and information services due to low library patronage, insufficient funding, and increased competition in information industry.
User Education and Students' Use of Library Services
Academic libraries are expected to render maximum services in order to meet information needs of their major clienteles as effective and efficient use of library resources and services by students may improve academic performance. Grimes and Charters (2002) corroborated this as they stressed that the ability to use library resources to identify, access, and retrieve information is essential for the successful completion of a university degree. However, scholars such as Ibegwam (1996), Ikegbune (1997) and Arua and Chikezie (2006) observed that students often fail to exploit to the fullest the intellectual content of the library. This necessitated the introduction of user education programmes in most academic libraries to enable users maximally utilize libraries services and resources.
User education is an instruction given to users to enable them make optimum use of the library. It is variously referred to as library use instruction, library orientation, reader education, and information literacy among others. User education is various programmes of instruction, education, and exploration provided by librarians to create the awareness for services and enable users make effective, efficient, and independent use of library services and resources (Fleming, 1990; Mohammadi et al., 2008). Information overload has a dampening effect on the use of the library. Students and researchers face an ever-growing mass of information distributed in a variety of formats - print and online/internet. Users that lack...