User education in Federal University Libraries: a study of trends and developments in Nigeria.

Author:Okoye, Michael Onuchukwu


Library instruction can be traced back to the 1800s in American academic institutions and back to the 1600s in Germany. (Salony,1995). This was corroborated by Tiefel (1995), when he stated that the earliest evidence of library instruction was found at Harvard College in the 1820s and that most early academic librarians were professors with part-time library appointments. These professors taught the use of libraries for academic purposes in institutions such as "Harvard, Indiana University, and Columbia." (Tiefel, 1995:318). The expressed enthusiasm gave vent to the establishment of an ad hoc Committee on Bibliographic Instruction by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in 1971. The Committee published the first bibliographic instruction guidelines (Donnelly,2003) ACRL also established instruction standards which required college libraries to provide information and instruction such as reference and bibliographic services, course-related and course-integrated instruction and hands-on active learning orientation to users, (Donnelly, 2003).

User education has been variously defined. Fleming, (1990), described it as various programmes of instruction, education and exploration provided by libraries to users to enable them make more effective, efficient and independent use of information sources and services to which these libraries provide access. Tiefel (1995), broadly defined library user education as library instruction which teaches users how to make the most effective use of the library system. Wisconsin Library Association (2010) states that "user education is also known as library orientation, bibliographic instruction, training library instruction and information literacy" The author defines user education as various programmes applied by librarians to make users become effectively knowledgeable in the use of library resources so as to inculcate lifelong learning. Robertson (1992) says that since the 1970s library user education has been increasingly recognized as an integral part of a student's academic career.. Importance of user education cannot be over-emphasized as it is believed that improving users' knowledge of their libraries' collection and services could be a motivating factor for more usage and more demands on the library. The statement is corroborated by Nithyanandam et al (2006). They stress that it improves the image of the library and if combined with training, could be the best way to implement Ranganathan's five laws of library science.

Need for User Education.

With the rapid development of ICTs, accessing and retrieval of information from libraries are becoming complex. Inability to find necessary information delays research or decisions. Lack of awareness of information leads to duplication of effort. It therefore behooves on librarians to educate library users (students) on how to locate needed resources bearing in mind that they come from different cultural backgrounds and they have varying levels of library skills. Information generation is growing exponentially and information is packaged in various formats. (Edem, Ani, and. Ocheibi, 2009: The Free Library, 2010 and Nithyanandam et al: 2006) It therefore becomes imperative that users should be taught how to evaluate information. Referencing, citation and compilation of bibliographies are competencies which must also be imparted to students by librarians, if the students are expected to produce quality research materials and continue with life-long learning/education. User education improves visibility and status of academic librarians and libraries.

Objectives of Library User Education

Every university library prides itself of the usability of its resources and to ensure that these resources are effectively utilized calls for library user education. To remain focused, there is the need to state objectives of the instruction. In this connection, Tiefel (1995) stated that objectives of library instruction were established as early as 1881 when they were used for clarification of instructional goals at the American Library Association Conference. Tucker, (1979) as cited in Tiefel (1995, 2-3) listed three important objectives. They were:

1 To enable students to develop the art of discrimination so as to be able to judge the value of books and develop critical judgment;

  1. To enable students to become independent learners--to teach themselves

  2. To enable students to continue to read and study--to become lifelong learners

    Components of Library User Education

    Specific components of user education have been variously described by authors such as, Donnelly (2003), Sheridan Libraries, (2011), and Ogunmodede and Emeahara (2010) as:

  3. General orientation, library talk and library tour given to new students

  4. Introduction of new students, some of whom have never made use of well established libraries, to the complexities of university library facilities.

  5. Librarians familiarizing users, who have little or no information seeking skills at all with a broad range of library resources in order to develop library skills,.

  6. Librarians educating users on how to access resources manually through a card catalogue or electronically using on-line public access catalogues

  7. Librarians educating students through credit -earning course work.

    The first and the fifth components are the concerns of this paper and they fall in line with Bhatti's (2007) thinking when he posits that for students to become truly information literate, the best way is to integrate user education programmes into the university's core curriculum. This aspect of user education has gained prominence. In Nigeria, University of Nigeria Nsukka Libraries were the first university libraries to extend the concept of user education to a regular credit carrying course of lectures. (Obi and Okoye, 2011) In 1972, a course of lectures in "Use of the Library" was started as a part of the General Studies course in Use of English Unit.. Lectures in "Use of Library" were developed and delivered by university library staff on both Nsukka and Enugu campuses. They formed an integral part of General. Studies "Use of English". In 2007, "Use of Library" metamorphosed into "Use of Library and Study Skills" in compliance with the revised "Minimum Academic Standards for Undergraduate Programmes in Nigerian Universities" (Okojie, 2007) It was coded General Studies Programme 111 (GSP111) and it was a two-unit credit course taught by librarians. The course is examinable and compulsory for all first year students. It is a requirement for graduation. Later, other universities in the country started own programmes which codes were not very different from that of University of Nigeria Libraries. For instance at Babcock University in Nigeria, the library's approach to providing user education to first year students, "included a two-unit course for the teaching of "Use of library", orientation for freshmen and one on one guidance at the library. The course is taken during the students' first year and it is also a requirement for undergraduate students' graduation" (The Free Library, 2010: 5). The University of Ibadan implements a one-unit credit Use of Library course for all students (The Free Library,2010). At Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Library (LAUTECH) Ogbomosho, "Use of library" course, code-named Library 101, started as a unit credit course which was later changed to zero unit course in 2001. Although it is a zero unit course, it is compulsory and a requirement for graduation from the institution" (Ogunmodede and Emeahara, 2010: 4). In Ghana, at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Library, library user education programme is "centrally coordinated at the main library by the lending librarian. Until 2005/2006, it had two parts: a lecture followed by orientation/guided tours. The lecture is given by the University Librarian" (Agyen-Gyasi, 2008:4) The method of delivering these lectures, such as classroom lectures, individual instruction and orientation are still very prominent. However, in the developed countries like America and Canada, due to increased technological sophistication, the mode of delivering of these lectures is changing from the traditional lecture method towards the teaching of critical evaluation of sources/information, research strategies, individual instruction and course integrated lectures. (Julien, Leckie and Harris, 1996) Rowe's survey (1994) of Florida academic libraries identified strong focus on electronic searching, and a renewed interest in offering credit courses and research skills during library instruction. It was also noted that emphasis was being placed on subject specific library instruction. Appreciating course-integration in library user education, Nithyanandam et al, (2006) posit that user education ought to be course-integrated as much as possible into the different parts of each study programme. Moreover, librarians and lecturers in cooperation with each other should teach the courses. Library instructions could be course-related, course-integrated or by individual instructions.

    In their survey of Canadian Academic Libraries, Julien, Leckie and Harris (1996) indicated that while the lecture method was moving towards individualized, hands-on training,,none of the libraries had written objectives of their user education programmes. While less than half of these libraries evaluated their programmes, library user education was not always obligatory and not offered in all courses. Library user education (Use of library instruction) has been accepted as librarians' professional responsibility, but has it kept pace with the rapidity of change occurring globally in academic libraries? This is the thrust of this investigation. Henceforth, user education, library user education, library user instruction, library instruction, use of library instruction or use of library and study skills instruction are...

To continue reading