Libraries and information centres play an essential role in meeting society's information needs. Information Technology (IT) in libraries is having a remarkable impact worldwide. It has become a phenomenon that is so pervasive that nearly all academic libraries in Nigeria have begun applying IT. Omekwu (2004) observes that:
Information Technology has brought about varieties of form of libraries and mode of disseminating information. There are now available such libraries as Automated Library, Polymedia Libraries, Electronic Libraries, Virtual Libraries and Digital Libraries. Each of triese forms of IT induced Library System has its own specific features, requirements, service mode, and associated problems. Nwalo (2000) observes the application of IT to library services has brought about tremendous improvement and makes possible more services. Mosuro (2000) reiterates the relevance of IT to library functions and services:
Over the years, advances in the area of IT have offered Library and Information Centres more efficient ways of acquiring, organizing, storing and disseminating information. New Information Technologies are becoming an integral component of and have the potential of changing the status quo of libraries and librarianship. Computers as well as other information technology have come to play prominent roles in information management. It is unthinkable that any academic library can function effectively without the appropriate use IT . Mohammed (2004) comments that,
Electronic and computer technology have come in to remove most of the limitations of access and use of information resources and services. Instead of "written word", we now have "electronic word" existing as bits and bytes of computer memory. Ramesh (2006) observes that new IT is changing the face of libraries because of the advent of the Internet. Virtual libraries can be a threat to the existence of the traditional libraries. He further identified such media as:
* Voice mail
* Discussion group
* Bulletin board
* Chat sessions
* Online reference
* Web pages
Padmini and Kishore (2006), writing on professional challenges in the digital library environment in India, comment that IT is making its way vigorously into libraries and information centres there. More and more libraries are being computerized, and several information networks are developing at national and local levels. Examples of such Omekwu (2004) summarizes the phenomenal developments, saying that, the "hi-tech information system have invaded the traditional domain of the printed media."
The application of IT to libraries in Nigeria is yet to attain acceptable international standards. Ochogwu (2004) observes that many Nigerian libraries still use conventional tools that have become outmoded. Academic libraries have made the most progress. Many have automated their functions and services, while some are in different stages of automation. In these libraries, the pattern of information handling, provision of services, and participation in library cooperation has been transformed. As a result of that effort, this article focuses on IT and quality assurance in Nigerian academic libraries.
Quality Assurance and Academic Libraries
Quality products and services delivery are a essential in the competitive capitalistic economy. Manufacturers and service providers are deeply involved in producing quality products and services in order to control their share of the market. The demand for quality by consumers led to the establishment of standard organizations, locally and internationally. Quality standards have been introduced into manufacturing, healthcare, education, service, and governance in Nigeria. Most products produced locally or imported carry the stamp of certification.
Quality assurance, as defined by Borahan and Ziarat (2002), is:
All planned and systemic actions deemed as necessary to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will fulfill specified requirements for quality. Adebayo (2006) considers quality assurance a way of measuring, improving, and maintaining the quality of any human activity that has value. This activity may be academic, sports performance, business, economy, etc. He defines it as "a means of ensuring that the best practices are encouraged in a social system."
Organizations involved in quality assurance try to take responsible actions in their production processes and professional practices. Quality assurance is concerned with control of quality, the people who control quality, and continuous change and innovation.
Ekhaguere (2006) identified four major reasons for implementing quality assurance:
* Quality assurance is in the long run a cost-cutting mechanism; although good quality is expensive, the cost of poor quality outcome is even higher;
* Human beings generally act rationally; they would normally prefer good quality to poor quality;
* Good quality products show competence on the part of the producer and enhances its prestige, nationally and internationally;
* Poor quality education give rise to poor economic conditions. Moreover, the cost of retraining poor quality graduates is enormous.
Quality assurance process involves setting up standards and ensuring that the standards established are kept to, and reviewed periodically. This process entails identification of crucial elements that require evaluation; establishment of the procedure for assessing quality parameters; quality standards; regular quality assessment and periodic review of set standards.
Agunbiade (2006) views quality assurance in the library as all plans and procedures geared towards, "ensuring that the right types of library materials, books, journals, equipment furniture etc that are relevant to the types of programmes being run in each of the given institutions are procured and are available to the users of the given institution libraries."
Academic libraries provide information sources and services that support the programmes of their institutions. Odusanya and Osinulu (2004) state that, "they are expressly charged with the responsibility of meeting the information needs of scholars and students in the pursuit of their academic endeavours." Implementing quality insurance requires a meeting point between the standards for academic libraries and what is available. There are minimum standards for academic libraries as prescribed by the American Library Association, (ALA), Nigerian Library Association (NLA), National Universities Commission (NUC) Nigeria, Committee of University Librarians of Nigerian Universities (CULNU), and others.
Njoku (2006) asserts that a focused University management will ensure that the Library is:
* A learning centre and the academic hub of the institution;
* Well-stocked with current books and journals for learning and research.
Implementation of quality assurance ensures efficient and effective services. This level of performance can be attained through
Clearly defined aims and objectives, functions, and services to be provided to both the parent organization and the dientele.
* Established functional units with clearly spelt out responsibilities backed with adequate delegated authority.
* Employment and training of personnel charged with the responsibility of running the libraries.
* Established minimum level of performance, and institution to ensure compliance with the agreed minimum standards (standards and control measures)
* Recognition and record of excellent performance
* Continuous appraisal and reappraisal of functions and services.
* Judicious spending of available funds and accountability
* Engendering the confidence of faculty personnel in their collection building and management
* Sustenance of the parent organization and clients' confidence through proactive functions and services.
Quality Assurance Issues In Academic Libraries
A set of acceptable standards serve as guides in evaluating the quality of services. The factors considered in evaluation are: collections, human resources, library buildings, equipment and facilities, funding, and automation. These issues are discussed below:
Collections are the bedrock of library services...