Assessment of Utilisation of Electronic Library in Makere University

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ASSESSMENT OF THE UTILIZATION OF MAKERERE UNIVERSITY
ELECTRONIC INFORMATION RESOURCES BY ACADEMIC STAFF:
CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS.
Didace Mulamira Agaba
Veterinary Medicine Library, Makerere University, P.O.Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
E-mail : [email protected]
ABSTRACT: The study investigated the utilization of electronic information resources by the academic staff of Makerere
University in Uganda. It examined academic staff awareness of the resources??™ availability, the types of resources provided
by the University Library , factors affecting their utilization, problems faced, and it offers recommendations for the way
forward. The study was both qualitative and quantitative in nature, employing questionnaire, interview and content analysis
methods. Findings reveal that the University provides most of the electronic information resources and most academic staff
were aware of their availability. Findings revealed a number of factors affecting electronic information resources??™ utilization
and the problems academic staff face. Major conclusions are that despite a number of problems inhibiting use of these
resources, a number of academic staff are aware of the availability of these resources and some use them. Major
recommendations include among others: enhancing of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) network or
bandwidth, increasing the number of Information and Communication Technologies, decentralizing of service provision, and
increasing marketing strategies.
Introduction
Makerere University Library introduced a dial-up based
Internet service through a commercial Internet service
provider in 1997. The aim was to facilitate information
delivery by providing direct access to electronic
information resources via the Internet. The first Internet
access centre of the University was based in the Main
Library. As a result of this, Internet sites, World Wide
Web products, online search services, Compact-Disc
search services, etc., are being provided. Some of
these resources have been made available through
PERI (Programme for Enhancement of Research
Information) with funding from SIDA/SAREC.
Makerere University has started programmes of
integrating Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) in all its functions to improve its service delivery.
The utilization of the electronic information resources in
the University Library showed that the search process
was slow, resulting in dissatisfaction and consequently
frustration of users (Main Library Registers, observation
and personal communication, 2004).
The shift from printed forms of information resources to
electronic information materials should lead to better
quality and efficient and effective research if used by
academic staff and students. Although the University
Library management has conducted workshops (some
with donor support, – Carnegie) and several times
communicated to academic staff, they have not
effectively utilized electronic information resources. Few
document request forms are submitted in a month for
articles through electronic journals, and it is the same
scenario with the Document Delivery Services and other
scholarly databases.
This study examined why the academic staff of
Makerere University had not effectively utilized
electronic information resources. The major objectives
of the study were to establish the type of electronic
information resources available, establish the factors
affecting their use, identify problems associated with
their utilization and make recommendations on how best
such resources can be utilized. The study would provide
vital information to University and library management to
identify both administrative and technical bottlenecks
and measures of dealing with them.
Review of literature
The introduction of ICT and its continued growth and
utilization in information centers and libraries has
resulted in a number of studies. Mutshewa (2000)
asserts that traditional libraries stored different types of
information resources in different formats in their
buildings. Various tools and guides to locate these
resources were available only when a patron physically
visited the library. The situation has now changed. With
the advent of computers and telecommunications
technologies, libraries and information services can now
provide access to these resources through workstations
such as personal computers (PCs) and terminals that
are in patrons offices, as well as in the library building
(Mutshewa, 2000).
According to Nwalo (2000) information technologies
found in libraries at present can be divided into three
categories: computers, storage media and
telecommunications. These three aspects, working
together, have brought about great improvement in the
quantity and quality of library services to users and an
amazing reduction in the delivery time. The fusion
between computers and telecommunications has
enhanced the development of information networks
around the world, the high point of which is the Internet.
Cochrane and Henderson (1992), assert that libraries
are computerizing their services all over the world and,
to take advantage of the immense benefits in
information management offered by Information
Technology (IT), a library must first computerize its
services. But despite this reality, the pace of library
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automation in Africa is still very slow, and this should be
a cause for serious concern.
Various studies have examined the use of CD-ROMs in
Africa, especially in libraries (Nwalo, 2000). Apart from
storage space economy, the CD-ROM provides access
to information held by important databases without
laying cables. This is very significant considering that
lack of good telephone services is one of the major
obstacles to computerization and networking by libraries
in Africa.
At present libraries are providing electronic access to a
wide variety of resources, including indexes, full-text
articles and complete journals. Electronic journals offer
a solution to some of the problems facing the
management of the academic journals because they are
space saving, enhance speed of communication,
provide powerful searching tools, provide immediate
access to one??™s desk and provide facilities such as
integrated text, hypertext links and multi-media that the
printed journals cannot offer (Sweeney, 1997).
A survey of the situation among university libraries in
Africa, undertaken by the London-based International
African Institute (IAI), encapsulates a number of
problems such as gross under-funding, inadequate IT
infrastructure, donor-dependency, poor collections and
high postage/delivery charges as some of the
constraints that have militated against Document
Delivery as an alternative to large core collections in
sub-Saharan African university libraries (Kisiedu, 1999).
Merrill (1996) argued that online database searching
skills would help lecturers to compile bibliographies on
particular subjects and direct students in their course
works. Scholars and researchers would be using the
electronic medium for information acquisition, usage,
and sharing (Buckle, 1994).
According to Wood (2000) our societys digital revolution
has transformed the traditional quiet world of libraries.
Open to debate is the exact form and role we can
expect for academic libraries in the beginning of the new
millennium. Dramatic changes are in the offing for
academic libraries as a result of the digital revolution,
such as: changes in the form of the library, changes in
the relationship between an institutions library and its
Information Technology Division, changes in the way
collections are acquired, organized, stored, and
delivered, changes in the design of library buildings and
facilities, and participation by libraries in consortia
(Marcum, 2002). Al-Baridi (2000) says that an
increasingly important function of academic libraries
today is the provision of information in electronic
formats. In fact, libraries have been moving towards an
electronic environment, in which sufficient computers
are necessary for patrons to access information.
Electronic information resources greatly increase access
to information and its implementation must be carefully
planned to ensure optimal use of space, money and
time (Dickinson, 1994).
Despite developments in the use of information
technology in university environments in the region, the
countries of Eastern and Southern Africa and the whole
sub-Saharan region still lags behind compared to their
Western counterparts (Mutuwa, 2001). In the 1996
status report on 19 university libraries in the region, the
adoption and use of IT was found to be quite low
(Rosenberg, 1998). Mutuwa (2001) concludes that in
general most university libraries within the region have
limited access to modern computing and
communications technology, so it is difficult for teachers
and students to keep abreast of current developments in
their academic areas.
Many of the libraries have progressed in their
implementation of ICTs, but they have relied heavily on
donor funding (Nwalo, 2000). Rosenberg (1997)
wonders what will happen when donor aid ceases.
Since the time of the survey, no library had made any
practical proposals for financial sustainability.
Methodology
Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were
used to get respondents experiences, views and
suggestions on the utilization of electronic information
resources by academic staff at Makerere University.
Quantitative research design was used to determine
frequencies and percentages. Qualitative research was
applied because it delves into where and how policy and
local knowledge and practice are at odds and it
addresses real as opposed to stated organizational
goals (Marshall, 1999). The population consisted of
1024 academic staff of Makerere University drawn from
the 17 faculties, institutes and schools. Stratified random
sampling strategy was used to select the 300
respondents. Questionnaires, interview schedules and
document analysis were used to collect data. The data
analysis was done using SPSS to run frequencies and
percentages, and the data presented in form of
explanatory notes and tables.
Discussion of findings
Of the 300 questionnaires administered, 157 (52%) duly
filled questionnaires were returned. This low rate was a
result of academic staff??™s lack of time. However, this did
not affect the reliability and validity of the study since
methodological triangulation was used.
Respondents were selected from the 17 faculties,
institutes and schools of Makerere University. Of the
157 respondents, 122 (77.7%) respondents were male
while 35 (22.3%) were female as indicated in the table
below.
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Table 1 Respondents in faculties
Faculty Male Female Frequency Percentage
Law 3 2 5 3.1
Science 13 4 17 10.8
Arts 18 9 27 17.2
Medicine 16 5 21 13.4
Veterinary
Medicine 13 2 15 9.6
Education 3 2 5 3.2
Institute of
Psychology 5 2 7 4.5
Forestry 5 2 7 4.5
Institute of
Environment 3 – 3 1.9
ISAE 5 – 5 3.2
IACE 3 2 5 3.2
Agriculture 8 – 8 5.1
EASLIS 1 1 2 1.3
Social Sciences 8 – 8 5.1
Fine Art 3 3 6 3.8
Institute of
Economics 2 – 2 1.3
Library 1 1 2 1.3
Technology 12 – 12 7.6
Total 122 35 157 100.0
Table 2 Respondents according to their Designations
Title Male Female Frequency Percent
Professor 6 1 7 4.5
Associate
Professor 5 – 5 3.2
Senior Lecturer 22 5 27 17.2
Lecturer 53 14 67 42.7
Asst Lecturer 18 6 24 15.3
Teaching Assistant 15 6 21 13.4
Librarian 2 3 5 3.2
Researcher 1 – 1 0.6
Total 122 35 157 100.0
Availability, access and general use of computers
Respondents were asked about the availability of
computers in their faculties, schools, institutes or
departments. 153 (97.5 %) indicated they had
computers in their faculties or departments while 4
(2.5%) respondents did not. Among those that had
computers in their faculties, schools, institutes or
departments, only 95 (60.5%) had them in their offices
while 62 (39.5%) respondents had none. Findings
indicated that 66 respondents (42%) were connected to
the Internet, while 77(58%) were not connected.
Fourteen (8.9%) did not respond to this question.
Respondents were asked about their computer skills
and accessibility to electronic information resources.
Findings revealed that 84 (53.5%) of the respondents
had intermediate skills while 52 (33.1%) were
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experienced in computer use. Twenty-one respondents
(13.4%) revealed that they were still beginners.
Accessibility to the electronic information resources was
also considered. 104 (66.2%) respondents indicated
they had access to these resources, 52 (33.1 %) had no
access to them, while 1 (0.6%) respondent ignored the
question.
Awareness about university electronic information
resources
Respondents were asked about their awareness of the
electronic information resources at the University. 140
(89.2%) of the respondents stated that they were aware
of the availability of these resources while 17 (10.8%)
were not. Despite academic staff awareness of these
resources, only 55.7% were aware and had ever used
them, while 44.3% were aware but had never used
them, leading to major issues of utilization and nonutilization
of Electronic information resources.
Non-utilization of electronic information resources
Findings revealed that 79 (50.3%) respondents had ever
used these resources while 78 (49.7%) had never used
them.
Reasons for non-utilization of electronic information
resources
Of the respondents who had not utilized electronic
information resources, 14 (17.9%) respondents
mentioned they had no access to the services. Twelve
(15.4%) indicated that they did not know what electronic
information resources were, and hence could not use
them. The same number of respondents mentioned lack
of facilities to use and lack of time as limitations. In this
category of non-users 10 (12.8%) said they were
completely not aware of these resources and actually
needed more information about them. Some
respondents cited other reasons like overcrowding in the
library computer laboratory, failure to get passwords
from the library staff, lack of information about electronic
information resources, and lack of familiarity with the
same resources.
Despite these reasons, the majority of the non-users, 74
(94.9%), indicated that they were interested in using
these resources. This is an equivalent of 47.1% of the
total number of respondents, while only 3 (3.8%)
respondents did not respond and 1 (1.3%) respondent
was not interested at all in their use.
Non-users views that can enable them to use
electronic information resources
A number of views were provided by non-users as to
how the University Library could enable them to utilize
these resources. The library??™s linkage with faculties was
mentioned by 28 respondents and most of these were of
the view that decentralization of such services would
enhance their use. This therefore means that some did
not even know that with passwords one could easily
access these resources. Nineteen (24.4%) respondents
mentioned the need for increase in publicity or
marketing of the available electronic information
resources by the University Library. Some respondents
expressed views that the library should provide
passwords, relevant databases, reduce congestion in
the computer laboratory, and increase independent
access sites.
Utilization and knowledge about electronic
information resources
Respondents were asked how they learned about the
availability of the electronic information resources
provided by the University Library. 42 (53.2%)
respondents said workshops were the most useful tool
for publicity and staff sensitization. 23 (29.1%) cited
notice boards, while 24 (30.4%) respondents mentioned
use of electronic mail. Others mentioned colleagues,
individual visits to the library, communication from
individual departmental meetings and seminars, and use
of mailing lists as the ways they learnt of those
resources. 25 (31.6%) respondents mentioned that CDROM
databases were some of the resources that they
utilized. 46 (58.2%) used mainly electronic journals, and
10 (12.7%) electronic document delivery, thus
confirming earlier fears of poor publicity.
Use of electronic information resources
Findings revealed that 45 (57%) of those who use
electronic information resources, used University Library
computers, 30 (38%) departmental facilities, and 16
(20.3%) respondents used those in their offices. Other
responses included use of Internet/business cafes
outside the University. Interviews and visits to faculties
confirmed some of these findings.
Academic staff benefits from electronic information
resources
Respondents were requested to give reasons why they
use electronic information resources and related to this
were the benefits accruing from use of these resources.
72 (91.1%) of the respondents stated that they utilized
these resources for research. This involved retrieval of
current literature reviews, personal research, and
accessibility to latest research developments in the
academic world. 43 (54.4%) were using them for
teaching purposes, while 33 (41.8%) used them for the
preparation of presentations and conference papers.
Others mentioned book selection, easy communication
through the Internet, and acquisition of information on
courses and programmes, as some of the benefits they
derive.
Factors affecting the utilization of electronic
information resources
In African universities today electronic information
resources are a new phenomenon, and a number of
factors must therefore be at play in their utilization. The
researcher, therefore, had to include a question as to
what factors affect their utilization in the University
Library. 45 (57%) mentioned inadequacy of the existing
facilities, 20 (25.3%) slow speed or poor bandwidth, 16
(20.3%) poor sensitization or limited publicity, and 14
(17.7%) limited Information and Communication
Technology.
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Other factors included: location of some faculties. For
example, faculties of Veterinary and Human Medicine
and others that are far from the University Library; lack
of fixed schedules for computer laboratories;
centralization of the resources; lack of time; irrelevance
of the databases; limited subscription to databases; poor
packaging of information; library??™s preference for
cheaper electronic information resources; limited
accessibility to databases through use of passwords;
restriction in use of diskettes for information retrieval;
and brevity of information. The least mentioned factors
were laziness, inability to print from the library, and
limited funding by the university to avail every
department the needed facilities. Academic staff and
senior librarians interviewed also listed the above
factors.
Challenges to the utilization of electronic
information resources by academic staff
Inadequacy of facilities for use was mentioned as the
biggest problem users faced, leading to congestion. This
was summed up by one senior lecturer who wondered
???how a research library could stay unconnected to the
Internet in this ICT age.??? This was in reference to the
Veterinary Medicine Library. Poor computer
communication systems were mentioned, with some
respondents taking poor bandwidth as leading to poor
utilization of the resources. This prompted one
Professor to remark that ???constricted access lines were
very frustrating???. Interviews with some staff from the
Department of the Directorate of Information and
Communication Support (DICTS) revealed that the
increased use of ICT for communication purposes and
infrastructural problems were responsible for this.
Findings revealed that most respondents had not heard
about electronic document delivery services. Centralized
utilization of electronic information resources was cited
as one of the issues inhibiting use of those resources.
Those interviewed suggested that the introduction of the
Local Area Network would go a long way to solve this
problem. Unstable Internet facilities, limited access to
some sites, inadequate time schedules for individual
departments that were accessing these resources from
the University Library, were mentioned as some of the
factors. A senior lecturer in the Department of Food
Science for example mentioned that ???biological
abstracts relevant to their field of study??? were not
available, concluding, ???there were no relevant databases
that suit their information needs???.
As mentioned earlier, the study revealed that 13.4% of
the respondents were beginners in computer use. It is
no wonder,therefore, that poor computer skills was one
of the problems cited. Some raised the issues of
location of faculties (Faculties of Veterinary Medicine
and Human Medicine), space limitations, poor publicity
by the University library, printing costs, restrictions on
use of diskettes, unnecessary erasure of mails, and lack
of time.
Conclusions
Findings show that despite poor facilities for use in
communication, sensitization, and other impediments;
?· A limited number of academic staff utilise
electronic information resources. To achieve
this little success the University Library
employed a number of strategies. Most staff
are now aware of the availability of these
facilities though they have not used them.
?· A number of electronic information resources,
which include, CD-ROMs, electronic journals,
electronic document delivery services, Internet
search engines, scholarly databases among
others, are being accessed by academic staff,
indicating a new shift from use of traditional
information sources. The frequency of use of
these resources, however, indicates that a lot
has to be done to attract more users.
?· A number of factors and problems do inhibit
use of electronic information resources. A look
at other studies indicates that such challenges
were bound to exist especially in the
developing countries where most of these
resources solely depend on donor funding.
Recommendations
Despite the prevailing unfavorable circumstances, the
study made the following recommendations for the way
forward. These included among others;
?· Increase of ICT network or bandwidth.
?· Provision of adequate Information and
Communication Technologies(ICT).
?· Decentralization of service provision.
?· Increased marketing strategies.
?· Train staff in Information and Communication
Technologies(ICT).
?· Effective communication of usernames and
passwords.
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