School libraries in Nigeria are meant to provide user-centered services to meet students' needs. This function is performed through library user education which is expected to connect students to the vast array of information resources necessary for their problem-solving, academic pursuit and life-long learning. User education is therefore central to the whole purpose of library utilization of information resources. The quality of secondary school education is a mirage without a quality school library. The objective of the school library is to provide the best services for its users/patrons by making available to them resource materials and services. It is in realization of this fact that Agaja (2005) describes school library as one of the most valuable infrastructure in the academic system. According to Nwalo (2003), a library is one of the most important educational establishments in improving the quality of teaching and learning and must be properly stocked to complement other educational activities in the schools. Bundy (2008) pointed out that the core services of the school library include: the provision of a learning environment, reference and access to information resources. He went further to state that each library must tailor its services to the needs of its users
For Edoka (2003), the objective of user education is to develop in readers awareness of the overall information resources available to them; information literacy skills necessary for retrieving materials and to put in place strategies for enhancing information search in order to stimulate the user to make adequate use of resources available in the library not minding the challenges that may be encountered. The whole essence of library user education therefore is to connect students to the vast array of information resources and programmes using the school library as a gateway (Zaki, 2011). This will enable students to acquire library skills necessary for academic pursuit, other life-long opportunities and problem-solving.
Library user education is a holistic interactive learning process that presupposes that a student recognizes the need for information and knows how to find, evaluate, use and subsequently communicate information effectively to solve problems or to make decisions. The underlying message here is the ability to understand and critically evaluate the information before using it. Information can be gotten through different resources. These resources include electronic, print and non-print materials like books, periodicals, catalogue, on-line data bases; computer hardware, computer software, computer networks, electronic files and data, people, library building, audio-visuals pictures, images, CD-Rom, etc (Teifel, 2005). It is the responsibility of the school to provide information resources and plan programmes that will assist the students in the acquisition of information skills to ensure effective utilization of these resources.
Possession of library skills is the outcome of library user education programmes (Dara, 2005). These skills have to do with having abilities/skills or competencies to effectively make use of library materials with minimal assistance. Some of these competencies include ability to: identify facts, critically assess & use the library, understand what is read, access information, identify audio-visual materials, identify printed resources, get information from the web, use appropriate resources, make informed decision, and so on. These skills are not inherent but are acquired through a process of teaching and learning. In the opinion of Doyle (1992), possession of library user skills helps one to locate information or the instrumental aspect of retrieval, know the materials and services available in order to take advantage of available resources and develop these skills to a reasonable level.
Students in the secondary school are expected to benefit maximally when they possess library user skills through resource based learning programmes. They will take more control in their learning and the teacher will be freed from the role of an omniscient expert. Students that acquire library skills are more effective consumers of information resources. They learn to recognize that information is packaged in a variety of ways using a variety of techniques, that it serves a variety of interests and contains a variety of valued messages. They are more critical when they make decisions about the resources they use. Possession of the requisite library use skills makes students to respond effectively to an ever changing environment. It makes them have techniques for exploring, making connections and making practical use of information so as to make a truly informed decision. These students believe in the need for information to address problems and questions in their lives and in their academics in order to be life-long learners.
It is a well known fact that library user education is necessary before embarking on effective search and usage of information. However, from literature reviewed, there are a number of constraints that may impede the acquisition of library user skills in schools. These include: lack of well equipped school libraries, lack of confidence in the use of school libraries, dependence of students on class notes and textbooks for everything, lack of information resources for learning, teachers mode of instruction not adequate, lack of funds for library user programmes implementation, library staff not properly equipped to attend to students, constant power outage, no period in the time table for the teaching of use of library, poor learning environments, lack of administrative support, poor educational foundation which does not sufficiently expose primary school pupils to library use. For (Pinto and Sales 2008), lack of skills regarding search, retrieval, utilization of information; lack of training of teachers in the use of library recourses; insufficient systems and skills to manipulate technological resources in the library by students seriously impede the acquisition of library user skills by student. Nna-Etuk (2003) further traced the problem of user education in Nigeria to the unavailability of real library services at all levels of education especially in the earlier stages. Thus, the need to assess the problems and find strategies for the enhancement of library user education in Unity schools in Nigeria.
Statement of Problem
Acquisition of library user education skills is particularly indispensible for secondary school students in view of its special importance. Unfortunately many secondary school students including those of Unity schools in Nigeria are generally believed to exhibit poor proficiency in the search, retrieval and usage of these skills not withstanding the user education programmes in these schools. The situation is worrisome in view of the fact that library user education has grown to be an emphasized area of teaching and learning in these schools. It then leaves one to wonder about the effectiveness and competence of these programmes in Unity schools. This study is therefore aimed at finding out the problems militating against user education in Nigerian Unity Schools with a view to critically examining the situation and to proffer credible solution to the problems.
The study therefore intends to assess the constraints undermining user education and to suggest strategies to be adopted for the enhancement of library skills acquisition. The statement of the problem therefore put in question form is, what are the constraints militating against the acquisition of library user skills and what strategies could be adopted for the acquisition of these skills by Unity school students in South East Nigeria?
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to find out the problems militating against library user education in Unity schools in Nigeria for students' acquisition of library skills in South-East Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought to find out the following:
i) The factors militating against library user education for the acquisition of use skills.
ii) The appropriate strategies to be adopted for the enhancement of library user education.
Two research questions guided the study. They are:
i) What are the factors militating against library user education in Unity schools?
ii) What strategies could be adopted to enhance library user education for Unity School Students' acquisition of library user skills?
Constraints of library user education
Library user education is subject to a number of factors which militate against it. In the opinion of Dike and Amucheazi (2003) learning environment, lack of resources, language barrier, illiteracy, teaching orientation and practice are part of the factors. For Ani and Bassey (2008), lack of appreciation and ignorance shown by...