Evaluating the Use of University Libraries in Nigeria: A Case Study of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike

Article excerpt

Introduction

Evaluating the use of library and information system is one of the major concerns and an integral part of library and information science practitioners. It is easily recognized as an important issue, although it has been looked at or defined variously. Scrivener (1967) sees evaluation as, "an attempt to answer certain types of questions about certain entities," while Fjallbrant (1977) defines evaluation as "the collection of information about the effect of an educational course or programme, often involving the comparison of observed effects with expectations or intentions." These definitions may be outdated, and not helpful in the current environment. Rowantee (1982) sees evaluation as "the means whereby we systematically collect and analyze information about students' encounter with learning experience. This is done after setting aims and objectives, selecting and organizing the content, methods and media." Obioma (1986) defines evaluation as "the quantitative judgment resulting from assessment; that is, a value judgment on quantitative data arising from testing and measurement." In a library, evaluation is the process whereby we systematically collect and analyze information about students' encounter with the library system, by using evidence (testing), assigning numerical values to the evidence (measurement), and using the results to make decisions (assessment). The purpose of evaluation, according to Knightly (1979), is to gather information on how the library is accomplishing its objectives, with a view to improving the delivery of library services. One of the ways of testing, measuring and assessing (evaluation) the effectiveness of a library system is through research.

The five laws of library science formulated by Ranganathan (1931) are designed to provide the right materials to meet the information needs of the library users. That can only happen when the library system is regularly evaluated. One logical means of evaluation is seeking the opinions of users (Altman and Hernon, 1998). The era when university libraries assumed that they were providing excellent service is over. Dwindling resources and increased enrolment demand that periodic evaluation be done.

Literature Review

Iruoje (1995) discusses the difficulties underlying efforts to measure and evaluate library services based on use. Iruoje discusses library services that can be evaluated: catalogue use, reference service, journal use, and retrieval systems. She argues that evaluating services based on use is difficult, that the varied services provided by libraries must be evaluated independently, and that evaluation must be tailored to library type, collections, and users.

Kebede (1999) outlines the nature and purpose of library evaluation, and further delineates the situation of developing countries, pinpointing specific issues that can be addressed. The article identifies the following stumbling blocks: lack of awareness, cost of conducting the evaluation, shortage of staff, and lack of methods and tools to employ for the purpose.

Osinulu (1998) examines patterns of use in a university library in Nigeria by analyzing user records and data, which show low use of library services because of lack of awareness. The author recommends library reference and instruction, publication of users' guides, and teaching library use in the general studies programme. Adelani (1998) investigates how the effective use of the library by education students. He was able to determine the impact of library orientation on their use of library, frequency of visits, purpose and problems in the use of library. Findings showed that a majority of the students lacked appreciation of the importance of the library.

Ampka's (2000) study of the use of University of Maiduguri Library found that a majority of students did not use the library effectively because they sis not use the library catalogues. Okiy (2000) assesses student and faculty use of academic libraries in Nigeria with particular reference to Delta State University , Abraka. …