The Challenges of Computerizing a University Library in Nigeria: The Case of Kashim Ibrahim Library, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

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Introduction

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is one of Nigeria's first generation universities, opening its doors in 1962. Like other universities, its functions include teaching, research, and community service. Ifidon and Okoli (2002) note that universities now have additional functions:

* pursuit, promotion, and dissemination of knowledge;

* provision of intellectual leadership;

* manpower development;

* promotion of social and economic modernisation;

* promotion of intra- and inter-continental and international understanding.

From these functions, university libraries have derived their objectives to include:

* provision of materials for undergraduate instruction, term papers, and projects, as well as for supplementary reading;

* provision of materials in support of faculty, external and collaborative research;

* provision of expensive standard works, especially in the professional disciplines;

* provision of materials for personal development;

* provision of specialised information on the region within which the university is situated;

* cooperation with other academic libraries with a view to developing a network of academic library resources that are at the disposal of all scholars.

With these as the propelling force, the Kashim Ibrahim Library (KIL) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was built to be the epitome of excellence in university education in Nigeria. It is reputed to be the "biggest and the best university in all of Nigeria, if not Africa." Situated in the Northern part of Nigeria, it is indeed Nigeria 's largest and the North's most prestigious university with a student population of approximately 35,000. The library is located in the main campus and there are satellite libraries on other campuses. Agboola (1996) describes the Ahmadu Bello University Library as the largest completed university library building in Sub-Saharan Africa, with anl area of 1,582m and the capacity for 500,000 volumes and study space for 2,000. He states that, "its grandeur and size are not likely to be replicated in the Nigerian university library building scene for some to time to come."

Kashim Ibrahim Library has a collection of about 1,200,000 volumes, comprising books, non-book materials, journals, etc. Under the headship of Professor Doris Bozimo, the University Librarian, the library has acquired a substantial quantity of electronic resources on CD-ROM. The library has made significant efforts to secure online access to journals and other electronic resources. Through the sponsorship of an international organisation, the library has provided access to EBSCO Databases, AGORA, AJOL, etc. However, in these days of information and communication technology and virtual libraries, library operations in Ahmadu Bello University are still largely manual. The basic library routines of acquisitions, information processing, storage and retrieval of information, and circulation are still manually performed. This is likely to remain so for a long time come.

University library computerization in Nigeria has been in the pipeline since the 1970s, although concerted efforts began in the late 1990s. In 1970, Iya Abubakar delivered a lecture in a meeting of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA), the national association that is equivalent to the American Library Association (ALA). The theme of the lecture was the library and the computer. Abolaji (2000) states that significant and widespread efforts at computerizing library services started in the 1990s. Major efforts at computerization were stalled by the supposed lack of funds and expertise.

The picture is different for research libraries. Ekpenyong (1997) notes that most notable research libraries in Nigeria are advanced in computerization. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Library, Ibadan, an agricultural research library, migrated to a fully computerized integrated library system in the 80s. …