Relationship between information literacy and use of electronic information resources by postgraduate students of the University of Ibadan.

Author:Adeleke, Dare Samuel


The emergence of electronic information resources (EIRs) has also greatly transformed information handling and management in Nigerian university communities. Ani and Ahiauzu, (2008) assert that electronic information resources have gradually become a major resource in every university community. Electronic information resources are provided in electronic form, and these include CD-ROM database, online databases, online journals, OPACs, Internet and other computer-based electronic networks (Ehikhamenor, 2003; Jagboro, 2003; Shuling, 2006; Tsakonas and Papatheodorou, 2006). Academics in developing countries are fast embracing the Internet as a source of information for teaching and research. Some studies have revealed the use of the Internet, email and search engines for research purposes (Ojedokun and Owolabi, 2003; Oduwole, 2004; Badu and Markwei, 2005).

The growth of information resources has become a global phenomenon, most especially in developed societies due to technological advancement in information technology (IT). Postgraduate students in developed countries are getting access to digital information and creating their information electronically. Academics now have access to global digital information resources, particularly the Internet for their scholarly communication (Ani and Ahiauzu, 2008). Interestingly, the Internet represents different things to different people depending on what is being sought. In the academia, it facilitates the extension of the frontiers of knowledge and constantly enhances the drive to keep abreast of scholarly publications (Ajegbomogun and Akintola, 2004).

The Internet and the World Wide Web provide scholars with quick and easy access to electronic information resources located around the globe. Academic staff members now exchange preliminary drafts of research findings with colleagues and maintain contacts by monitoring electronic bulletin boards, chat rooms and listserve on subjects of interest. Information users now use the Web to access remote databases and full-text document resources that were previously only available through expensive on-site research visits. Researchers use the Web to watch real-time images from remote research stations and satellites or participate in group discussions and group projects. Mashhadi and Han (1996), note that the information and communication revolution which resulted in the advent of the Internet, has been a formidable tool of information exchange which has obliterated distance and time and accelerated the process of creating a global community of inquiry.

Information in the early 21st Century is characterised by information overload, unequal distribution, a strong tendency to triviality and increasing concerns about credibility (Sayers, 2006). As the volumes of information are constantly increasing, search skills are required in order to gain access to the information that is available. To gain access and use these vast resources effectively, information users must learn to overcome information anxiety and as well explore the available information to enable them interpret and as well utilize information for rational decision-making. The change in formats and organization of information shows that users of information resources need guidance and education in order to achieve realistic expectations.

Roth (1999) aptly describes the current information environment and the pitfalls facing users of information globally thus:

... explosion of information generated and stored, the unregulated sprawl of the Internet, the shift from a print to an image-based culture, the development of sound and video archives, ... of seemingly infinite reproduction of words and pictures through electronic media, the pitfalls ... have multiplied geometrically. In the midst of the information explosion, ability to access, retrieve and evaluate information has constituted a significant part of today's definition of literacy. Based on this assertion, it is obvious that users of information resources must possess information literacy skills in other to harness information resources at their disposal. To respond effectively to an ever changing environment, users of information resources need more than just a knowledge base, they also need techniques for exploring it, which will also connect it to other knowledge bases and thus making practical use of it for rational decision making or problem solving. In other words, the landscape upon which we use to stand has been transformed, and users of information resources are being forced to establish a new foundation called information literacy (Owusu-Ansah, 2004).

However, it is important to understand that availability and access to information is not sufficient to guarantee that a library user will acquire the skills necessary to comfortably survive in an information world. According to the Association of College & Research Libraries (2002), information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information ... Information literacy is focused on content, communication, analysis, information searching, and evaluation. It is a vital ability for the modern information-intensive world, enabling personal, economic, social and cultural development.

Ojedokun and Lumade (2005) describe information literacy as the ability to locate, evaluate, manage and use information from a range of sources not only for problem solving but also for decision making and research. Information literacy is much broader than the acquisition of traditional information skills. This includes how to use a catalogue, how to locate a book on the shelves and how to access an electronic databases. Warschauer (2004) recognises information literacy as part of the electronic literacy spectrum, which includes computer literacy--ability to operate a computer.

Information literacy is becoming increasingly more important in our world that is rapidly evolving through the growth and proliferation of technological and information resources (American Library Association, 2000). As a result, information users are faced with countless information choices and must decide which resource(s) to use in the acquisition of information. They also determine the authenticity, validity and usability of the information they discover (ALA, 2000). The ability to access, evaluate and use information is a prerequisite for lifelong learning and a basic requirement for the information society.

The theory of information literacy presupposes that an individual recognises the need for information and knows how to find, evaluate, use and subsequently communicate information effectively to solve particular problems or to make decisions (Ojedokun, 2007). This author asserts further that whether information comes from the Internet or the World Wide Web, online databases, books, journals, government departments, films, conversations, posters, pictures or other images or any number of other possible sources, the skill to understand and critically evaluate the information is inherent in the notion of information literacy.

Bawden (2001) stresses that information literacy can be conceived as a continuous learning process that encompasses abilities and knowledge, plus the notion of values, with emphasis on several other terms and combination of terms. According to him, these terms have also been used by different authors. The terms include 'info literacy,' 'informacy,' 'information empowerment,' 'information competence,' 'information competency,' 'information competencies,' 'information literacy competence' and 'information literacy competencies.' Others are 'information competence skills,' 'information handling skills,' 'information problem solving,' 'information problem solving skills,' 'information fluency,' 'skills of information literacy,' 'information literacy and skills,' 'information literacy skills.'

Information literacy skills (ILS), according to Parang, Raine and Stevenson (2000), is a fusion of library literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, technological literacy, critical thinking, ethics and communication, which when acquired, would enable users of information to become independent lifelong learners. ILS enables individuals to recognize not only when information is needed, but also when different kinds of information are needed. It provides users of information resources with methods by which they can cope with the huge quantity of information coming from all directions, through all varieties of information resources. It can then be assumed that information literacy skills are needed by Nigerian academics for effective use of information resources for quantity and quality research output.

Julien (2002) believes that an information literate person today should possess specific online searching skills such as the ability to select appropriate search terminology, logical search strategy and appropriate information evaluation. However, one barrier to the efficient utilization of information (re)sources especially digital resources in developing countries is the relatively low level of information literacy skill (Julien, 2002; Tilvawala, Myers and Andrade, 2009). Without the ability to manipulate and use information effectively, investments in both print and electronic based resources may be a waste (Pejova, 2002). In this regard, some scholars have suggested that the digital divide between the developed and developing world has widened due to lack of information literacy skills in developing countries (Dewan, Ganley and Kraemer, 2005).

Menou (2002) suggests that people should be sensitized to be able to use stand-alone computers, computer networks, and primarily, the internet and other basic applications such as word processor, spread sheet, electronic mail, and possibly more advanced ones such as presentations, production of web pages, construction...

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