The Effect of Library Policies on Overdue Materials in University Libraries in the South-South Zone, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

The library is the symbolic heart or nerve center of academic life in any university. Rubin (1998) observes that colleges are waking up to the fact that the work of every professor and every department depends on the library, because it is the place where students can learn to move beyond lectures and textbooks and investigate for themselves. Changes in teaching methods require the academic library to supplement the single text book and enrichment the curriculum. Fargo (1998) notes that the library has an even more vital relationship to the academic community than before, and that books and other resources do not merely accompany academic activities, but are the fabric of those activities.

Libraries create policies to ensure that library resources are used effectively. Policies are mechanisms for ensuring that individuals are treated fairly and equitably and that individuals' interests are managed for the greater good (Bryson 1999). Policies are guides to decision making. They ensure that organizational decisions are in line organizational philosophy (Clark 1999). Nwalo (2002) observes that policies are common in all industrial and service organizations. For consistency of service, high productivity, and efficiency, organizations provide guidelines to be followed by those involved in the service or production process.

Professional librarians exercise independent judgment in the course of providing library service. This implies that a librarians adhere policies, but may also deviate from policies when professional judgment indicates that they should. Service to library patrons cannot be overemphasized (Akinbode 2002). Readers' services, which includes lending materials, is a major service that attracts many people to the library. Users of academic libraries are free to borrow materials for home use. The level, extent, and number depend on the library's policies. Loan periods are also a matter of policy. Some users do not return materials when they are due. The research reported on here was being carried to determine the extent of overdue material and the policy factors that contribute to it.

Problem Statement

Circulation of materials is one of the most basic library services. Circulation policies stipulate who is eligible to borrow books and how many books may be borrowed at a time and for what duration. Academic libraries usually permit extensive borrowing. Undergraduates may be allowed to borrow up to four books for four weeks, while graduate students and members of the academic staff are usually allowed up to six books for two months (Edoka 2000). The problem of overdue material is common in academic libraries. Available circulation records in the university libraries under study reveal the incidence of overdues. Little is known about the details of this phenomenon or the influence of library policies on material being overdue. Questions that need answers include:

* Do library policies influence the incidence of overdue material in university libraries?

* What policies influence book overdues in Nigerian university libraries?

Literature Review

Montuiloff (1990) observes that libraries should formulate policies to ensure effective and efficient use of their information resources. Hill (1994) states that there is no single, all-encompassing policy; instead, policy tends to address specific issues, including overlapping and contradictory ones. A policy is a statement of the means for realizing the goals of an organization. Library policy statements are the regulations, principles, and strategies that help realize the needs of libraries. Since policies are guides to decision-making, they ensure that decisions of the organization or institution are kept in line with their philosophies (Clarke, 1999).

A library policy is a document that guides the management of the library from the present to the future (NCCE 2000). …