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MEETING THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF ADULT USERS OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN SOUTH-EAST ZONE OF NIGERIA

Ph.D Thesis Title: Meeting the Information Needs of Adult Users of Public Libraries in South-East Zone of Nigeria


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

         Traditionally, public libraries are established by the government to acquire, organize, store and disseminate information and knowledge to all classes of people. They are provided with books and non-book materials to meet the education, information, culture and leisure needs of the people.

Public libraries are used by different categories of human beings such as students, teachers, lecturers, lawyers, civil servants, architects, businessmen, engineers, etc. According to IFLA/UNESCO (2001), users of public libraries include children, young adults, adults, people with special needs such as those who are blind and those who have hearing problems. Others are people in prisons, the aged, nursing mothers, organizations, businessmen and people in government. It is as the adult users are varied that their information needs are also varied. In this study, young adults and adults who make use of public libraries are those who are sixteen years and above and who can make use of the libraries independently. Emphasis is however, placed on meeting the needs of the less privileged members of the society.  In fact, a public library is regarded as the people’s university (Gambari, 1986).

While some of the users of public libraries are interested in getting information to meet their educational needs, others are interested in obtaining information for meeting their cultural, recreational or leisure needs. Public libraries are also referred to as centres for acquisition of knowledge and information (Achebe, 2005). They satisfy people’s quest for education, and specific information as a solution to a problem. In public libraries, there are resources designed to meet information needs of different classes of people. Services are provided in such a way that information needs of people, who visit the libraries and those who stay in their homes can be met through materials consulted or borrowed from the libraries or their mobile arms. Thus, there are referral and lending services. There are also information services through the use of computers and the Internet. The major problem associated with information services of public libraries is the difficulty in meeting the needs of different categories of people with diverse objectives.

One of the public library’s primary functions is to provide for the educational needs of users. To Ogunsheye (1981: 243), education “involves the total apparatus for the development of the individual to fit him into a society”. This was why Fafunwa (1993) pointed out that African education emphasized social responsibility, job orientation and preparation of the learners for participation in social politics, appreciation of spiritual and moral values. He pointed out that modern education (which public library services support) has the ingredients required to push Nigeria forward politically, socially, morally and technologically.

According to Poggeler (1989), the right to education means the right of the individual to self-realization in the broadest sense of the word. The existing gifts or capacities of users of public libraries should be unfolded and developed. Marinho (1991) is of the view that education should be able to make the learner a more productive and responsible citizen. Public libraries offer democratic opportunities for self-education. Dittmankohli (1981) is of the view that learners, especially the adults attach great importance to education which would help them know how to locate solutions to their material, social, emotional and intellectual needs. Public libraries support this type of education by providing a variety of resources. Sufficiently equipped public libraries provide relevant resources to support education in schools, colleges and universities. They provide basic materials necessary for self-improvement through reading, writing and hearing.

IFLA/UNESCO (2001:29) has pointed out that “public libraries support life-long learning by working with schools and other educational institutions to help students of all ages with their formal education”. School libraries in Nigeria are not adequate in terms of staff and resources to support information assignments given to the growing population of students. Consequently, a substantial part of the burden must be upheld by the resources and services of the public libraries. IFLA/UNESCO (2001) also points out that public libraries support literacy programmes involving reading, writing and use of numbers. This is done by providing basic learning materials in the language and formats suitable to the educational level of the adult learner. Public libraries are important in the efforts to drastically reduce the level of illiteracy in the society. If education should not be the preserve of the elite in Nigeria, public libraries should be established in large numbers and adequately equipped with relevant materials for broad-based enlightenment.

Information provision is another essential role of public libraries. Information can be defined as organized facts or data capable of being understood, interpreted and applied in solving a problem. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2005) defines information as facts or details about somebody or something. Agboola (2010:177) is of the view that from the perspective of social concepts, information is nothing but a class of events. It occurs to meet a particular purpose. In other words, information is available for use as a solution to a problem. Aina (2004:2) is of the view that “Information is used interchangeably with news, facts, data and knowledge”. Thus, he sees “information” as news or facts required for settling a state of uncertainty or helping in serious decision-making situations. Olajide (2008) has defined information as facts and opinion provided and received during the course of daily life. He cited Oyegade (2000) who referred to information as knowledge communicated or received in relation to a particular subject. The word information as Ugah (2010) cited Akambi (1998) is used to describe mankind’s accumulated knowledge derived from all subjects in all forms and from all sources that is designed to meet the needs of the users. This type of information is needed by policy makers and the people at large (September, 1993), Ochai, (1993), Dybkjaer (1997) and Eyitayo (1998). Information plays important roles in every level of development. All people whether they are in the urban or rural areas require some level of information to make proper decisions about their daily lives.

To IFLA/UNESCO (2001), provision of requisite information has been the key role of the public library. Accordingly, the public library guidelines state that the public library collects information about the local community, trains people in the use of information and acts as a gateway to world information sources. Information available is channeled towards meeting the needs of the people. Both Murdock and Golding (1989) are of the view that people need access to information, which can be found in their public libraries.

Aina (1985), Kaye (1995), Kinnell and Sturges (1996) all agreed that public libraries are key providers of useful information to the people in the environment. Moreover, both Adimorah (1983) and Aboyade (1989) have also written on the importance of public library services in meeting the information needs of people, who are either in the cities or in the rural areas. Omolu (1985) agrees that people visit libraries because they cannot buy the resources which contain essential information they need.

According to IFLA/UNSECO (2001), another important role of public libraries is centred on cultural development. This would involve provision of space for cultural activities and ensuring that various cultural interests, especially those of the immediate community, are covered in the resources. Provision of cultural information is geared towards encouraging or supporting cultural development. According to Banjo (1998), these would include oral tradition, local history, folk tales, and songs. He is of the view that conventional African public libraries do not adequately provide this necessary information. This is as a result of the formats of available resources.

Another important role of public libraries is encouragement of individuals to enjoy their leisure time. Ike (1999) is of the view that many literate Nigerians read newspapers, magazines and books that can help them enjoy leisure. There are different formats of information designed to help illiterates enjoy their leisure. They include the following: pictures, videos and audio materials on the subjects of their interest (Kuny and Cleveland 1998). Moreover, users of public libraries can also expect the services of computers and the Internet, as seen overseas, for them to meet their various entertainment needs.

Nigerian public libraries have not met information needs of many Nigerians because they do not provide relevant materials (Ike, 1999). Audio-visual resources are not available in these libraries and many of the available materials are based on foreign background. Aina (2004) is also of the view that most of the public libraries in Africa have not provided materials that will meet the information needs of the users. To Iwhiwhu (2008), public libraries are provided to preserve culture, disseminate information to all people and contribute effectively to socio-economic development of the people. He believes that satisfaction of users’ information needs should determine the strategy to be employed in public library services.

The use of appropriate strategies is aimed at making information accessible, relevant and satisfying to the users. Rendering satisfactory information services to adult users has become necessary so that they remain relevant in their socio-economic and cultural development. According to Wikipedia, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/strategy) strategy means a long-term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often winning. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (2005:461) defines strategy as a plan that is intended to achieve a particular purpose. Thus, strategy shows appropriate steps chosen to accomplish stated objectives. It shows ways of doing things for success to be achieved. There is need for application of appropriate strategies in the services of public libraries in the South East Nigeria to ensure that adult users are satisfied adequately.

The importance of public library services in meeting the information needs of adult users was recognized by the government of the then Eastern Region. This was after the seminar organized in1953 by UNESCO on the development of public libraries in Africa, the premier of the Eastern Region; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe commissioned a survey on public library development in the region (Odita 1983). The recommendations of Mr. K.C. Okorie’s committee led to the promulgation of the Eastern Nigeria Library Board Law in July 1955, by which the Board was given the responsibility of establishing and equipping public libraries in the entire Eastern Region. The agreement which the Eastern Nigeria government entered into with UNESCO led to the rapid establishment of divisional libraries at Port Harcourt (March 1962), Ikot Ekpene (July 1964), Umuahia (April 1965), and at Onitsha (July 1964). Branches of these libraries were also established at Owerri, Aba and Calabar. Every one of the divisional libraries and the Regional Central Library, Enugu was provided with a mobile library for provision of services.

In May 1967, new states were created in Nigeria and that made the divisional libraries at Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene to be under Rivers and Cross River State, respectively. The divisional libraries at Onitsha and Umuahia came under the control of East Central State government. Moreover, in 1976, Anambra and Imo States were created out of East Central State. This was followed by the creation of Akwa Ibom State on September 23, 1987 out of the former Cross River State (Etim, 2004).  Furthermore, the Federal Government created Enugu State out of the former Anambra State and Abia State out of the then Imo State, in 1991.Lastly, in 1996, Ebonyi State was also created. Each State creation led to the sharing of the public library assets between the new and the old states and the inauguration of the new Library Boards charged with the responsibility of meeting the people’s information needs.

It should be indicated that the public libraries in the then Eastern Nigeria and present South-East Nigeria have had their ups and downs in their efforts to meet the information, education, culture and leisure needs of the people. Their upward movement in the appreciation of their roles continued from early 1960s to the middle of 1980s. According to Ude (2006), the Eastern Regional Library Board, Enugu provided the best public library services in Africa between 1950s and 1970s. This happened with the exception of the period of disruption caused by the Nigerian Civil War. Thereafter, there was a decline and this has continued in both government’s support and services.  Services have declined as shown by Eze (2008) and Ogbonna (2008), who have pointed out that these public libraries need befitting buildings, facilities and resources. Writing on the same problem, Elaturoti (2011) points out that collections and services of these public libraries in Nigeria have to include appropriate media and modern technologies designed to meet local information needs. While there are many out-dated and irrelevant resources, insufficient reading spaces in the libraries, mobile libraries are not seen on the roads to meet information needs of the adults, and new technologies are in short supply, and Internet services are not often seen in these libraries. As pointed out by Ike (1999) and Aina (2004), available resources in the libraries are not based on surveyed and known information needs of the people.

Statement of the Problem

Public libraries are established by government to serve all people in the society. Public library services are important in the overall development of a nation because they provide satisfaction of the education, information, culture and leisure needs of the people. Public libraries in what is now the South East Zone provided a model for the whole country from the 1960s to the 1980s.

However, while the public libraries in the area, covering Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states are still in existence, the problem is the extent to which these public libraries meet the information needs of their adult users?

If users’ information needs are not met adequately, the rate of their individual development will be affected. Development of the society will be slow as socio-economic activities would not move as expected. Information seekers will patronize commercial information agencies where they may pay much money. Moreover, poor library users, who cannot pay for such services become marginalized politically, socio-culturally and economically. The state government will be tempted to invest even less money in the services of the libraries because of their perceived poor contributions to the progress of the society. To avert these negative consequences, it has become necessary to investigate and recommend good strategies which if applied would help in meeting the information, education, culture and recreation needs of the people.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study is to identify information needs of adult users of the public libraries, extent to which these needs are met, problems and to provide appropriate strategies that should be employed for improved information services to the adults.  The specific purposes are the following:

  1. To identify the characteristics of adult public library users.
  2. To identify different information needs of adult public library users in Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States of Nigeria.
  3. To find out the extent to which the presented information needs of adults are met.
  4. To identify problems which hinder these public libraries from meeting the information needs of their adult users.
  5. 5.         To identify strategies the public libraries should use to improve their information services to adult users.

Research Questions

The following research questions are designed for use in the investigation and appropriate answers to them will be found by the use of data collected:

  1. What are the characteristics of adult users of public libraries?
  2. What are the information needs of adult users of public libraries?
  3. To what extent are their information needs met?
  4. What problems hinder the public libraries from meeting the information needs of adult users?
  5. What strategies should be employed for meeting information needs of adult users of public libraries?

Significance of the Study

Public libraries in South Eastern Nigeria have passed through a period of stagnation in terms of both number and ability to provide adequate relevant resources to meet the growing needs of their users. Revival of these public libraries has become necessary for their effective contribution to the development of the area and in defense of democracy. The people of this area of Nigeria should be encouraged to know their civic rights and responsibilities through information dissemination. This project will help education ministries in the states appreciate the role of public libraries in helping them produce productive citizens. Scholars, who conduct research in related fields, will also find the work useful.

It is hoped that the findings of this study will provide useful strategies to the librarians for successful and progressive public library services capable of meeting the educational, informational, cultural and recreational needs of many adults in the states. They will also show information needs of adult users of the public libraries, extent to which these needs are met, and solutions to problems hindering these libraries from meeting adult needs.

The recommendations will show public librarians in the states their new duties and how to carry them out in meeting the information needs of their adult clientele. This knowledge helps them make necessary adjustments for better services. Public librarians in other states in the country, who are desirous of the strategies for improved services, will find the study useful. As they go through and implement the recommendations in their states, they will observe improvement in their efforts to meet the needs of their clientele.

The implementation of the recommendations by both the government and the librarians will attract potential adult users to the library services. When the needs of these readers are adequately met, they join hands in persuading the governments to adequately provide funds for the services of these public libraries. The overall result is manpower development for effective socio-economic growth of the states and the nation. This is in agreement with the government’s idea of State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS) and poverty reduction through information provision and the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT).

Scope of the Study

The study centres on identifying how public libraries in Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States of Nigeria meet education, information, recreation, and leisure needs of adult users. It shows the extent to which these needs are met. Problems hindering the public libraries from meeting the needs of adult users and the strategies for enhanced information services of the public libraries are treated. It covers adolescent and adult users of the main library collections in the states. It however, excludes children users of the public libraries, who have distinctive needs and require special services.

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Project Topic: Meeting the Information Needs of Adult Users of Public Libraries in South-East Zone of Nigeria

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