A Survey of Information Literacy (IL) Programmes in Technical University (Tu) Libraries in Ghana.

Author:Agyekum, Baffour Ohene
 
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Introduction

The government of Ghana in 2016, converted 8 Polytechnics in Ghana to TUs with a redefined mandate to provide higher education in engineering, science and technological based disciplines, technical and vocational education and training, applied arts and related disciplines with little concentration on Business and Humanities. This is clearly stated in the Technical Universities Act, 2016 (Act 992) passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana and assented to by the President of Ghana on 31st August, 2016. Thus, TUs are technological universities with focus on the application of technology to the various fields of learning rather than the search for new knowledge. They are mandated to offer a minimum of four (4) year Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree programmes in science and technology based disciplines. The new converted TUs are Kumasi Technical University, Accra Technical University, Sunyani Technical, Koforidua Technical University, Ho Technical University, Tamale Technical University, Takoradi Technical University and Cape Coast Technical University.

The relevance of (IL) in such academic institutions cannot be overemphasized as IL is a critical skill all students must possess in tertiary institutions to successfully achieve most academic outcomes (Okoye, 2013). He further states that "skills acquired thro IL, especially during the tertiary education training, are very useful for knowledge-based development and lifelong learning, even long after they would have left school". Without it, a significant number of students will struggle to put together competent research papers, compose meaningful articles and provide effective referencing for academic papers (Lwoga 2013). The ability to successfully search for and find literature and other resources to aid academic is work significantly hampered if IL is low or lacking in students (Lloyd, 2012). Some tertiary institutions, especially in developed countries, recognize the need for some form of education in this area and duly deploy competent library staff in the execution of this task (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011). Martin (2013) in his treatise on the British information literacy model opines that the teaching of information literacy in schools augments the academic performance of students and aids in perfecting their literary ability

Problem Statement

The absence of IL policy in schools in Africa, coupled with insufficient attention paid to IL in the school curricula in most African countries are identified as some of the factors militating against IL programmes in universities in Africa (Baro & Zuokemefa, 2011; Okoye, 2013)

In Ghana, however, while some schools purport to offer some forms of information literacy training, many more schools do not see a need for information literacy in their course content (Dadzie, 2009). For both types of schools, studying information literacy is important in order to establish its benefits and to suggest methods for its delivery. The challenge however, has revolved around the lack of attention and focus on information literacy training in academic institutions, and lack of skills in terms of concept identification among others things in Ghanaian academic institutions (Anafo & Filson, 2014). There is also scant local literature on the topic, a situation which needs to be rectified if the nation is going to improve academic performance in general and literary ability in particular. Accordingly, this study has the following objectives,

  1. To identify IL programmes provided in the libraries of TUs in Ghana

  2. To identify the methods used in the delivery of IL training programmes

  3. To establish the extent to which IL is integrated into the curriculum of the TUs in Ghana

  4. To ascertain barriers to IL programmes in the libraries of TUs in Ghana

Literature Review

Evolution of Information Literacy

The term "information literacy" (IL) was coined outside of academia in 1974 by a lawyer named Zurkowski, who was interested in intellectual property and industries (Badke, 2010; Wen & Shih, 2008). The term was first used in a proposal submitted to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS): in which Zurkowski stated: "People trained in the application of information resources to their work can be called information literates. They have learned techniques and skills for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary resources in molding information-solutions to their problems," (Zurkowski, 1974). Zurkowski's emphasis was on the private sector (Bowden, 2001), and his concern was using information skills as a problem-solving approach for workplace contexts (Pinto et al., 2010). The evolution of IL, however, has occurred mostly within the public sector, mainly in the field of library sciences. Librarians and academics have set IL as one of their major goals (Pinto, Cordon & Diaz, 2010). Accordingly, this phase of the evolution of IL is associated and mixed with library user education and bibliographic instruction programmes in the form of short orientations on how to use library and information resources (Pinto et al., 2010).

IL gradually began to evolve from the user-education concept of the library environment. Spiranec & Zorica, (2010) inform us that, theoretically, the concept began to shift from teaching tools to teaching competencies that were not limited to particular tools or contexts. In practice, however, the view is that the transformation was very gradual because the users were still viewed as passive information consumers.

With the advent of digital technology in the 1980s, IL expanded to include more than library resources, and it started to be associated with technological literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, digital literacy, and computer literacy (Pinto et al., 2010). IL at this stage was viewed as tool based, but with a focus on technology.

Constant advancement in information technology led to an increase in information resources and complexity in the digital information environment. It has become obvious that knowing how to use computers and access information is not sufficient for locating and extracting relevant information in such a complex environment. Therefore, the need for underlying competencies such as critical thinking and evaluation skills (Spiranec & Zorica, 2010), as well as socio-cultural support (Pinto et al., 2010), have become more prominent.

The emotional or affective nature of IL has also been taken into consideration as an essential requirement (Nahl, 2001). Studies on emotional, or affective, aspects of information began with Kuhlthau (1991) and continued with several others, including Julien and Mckechie (2005), Bilal and Bachir (2007), and Lopatovska and Mokros (2008).

In recent years, Web 2.0 technology has begun to play an important role in IL, leading to a drastic change in the way we collaborate, communicate, and share information. Mokhtar et al. (2009) interpret this change as advancement in the social dimension of IL. Spiranec and Zorica (2010), furthermore, think Web 2.0 is significant enough to provide us with a new definition of IL.

Another important influence on the evolution of IL is educational practice. Spiranec and Zorica (2010) note the presence of a strong tie between education and IL. They refer to the impact of constructivism on providing new arguments for IL, which led to the promotion creative and reflective users of information, particularly now that users have access to Web 2.0 tools that can allow them to be both reflective and creative. Similarly, Farkas (2012) notes how social constructivism and connectivism can facilitate a teaching approach in accordance with current participatory technology, or Web 2.0. In a broader perspective, Bruce (2008) views IL as an extension of the notion of literacy that directs us towards a future "learning society" and away from the current information society. Whilst there is a strong relation between IL and educational practice, IL is not limited to academic contexts. It goes far beyond these contexts to lifelong learning and our identities. Bruce (2004) views IL as critical for lifelong learning, which...

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