The Challenges of Software Use in Nigerian University Libraries: Review of Experiences from 1990-2009

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Introduction

Management of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in library has become an integral part of Information and knowledge management process of the library. To this end most libraries now has Systems Unit which are headed by senior management staff of the library. We are in the era of standardized information management, therefore strategic thinking in university libraries in Nigeria should be to develop systems that will help them link On-line to other institutions of interest with a view to sourcing information On-line or creating real time access to information that will enable the faculty and student have access to current and up-to-date information. Calhoun (2006) referred to this as the "switching layer" phenomenon. This he argued will help libraries leverage their information delivery services. He pointed out that libraries of the future may be evaluated based on their ability to provide their users with technologies that allow applications to communicate across platforms and programming languages using standard protocols based on Extensible Markup Language (XML)--to connect catalogues and other library resources to search engines, e-learning systems, portals, Amazon, etc. This is however hinged on libraries running operating systems that will leverage their automation projects on the "switching layer" platform. These "switching layer" platforms run on software.

Computer software packages are programmes designed to perform specific functions for computer or ICT operations. Many automation efforts in Nigerian University libraries have been fraught with lack of feasibility study for the adequacy of the software for the proposed task of library automation (Omoniwa, 2001). Evidence for this can be seen in the history of automation efforts of these libraries. This history dates back to the second half of the 1970's. The Nnamdi Azikiwe Library, University of Nigeria, Nsukka set up its library automation committee in October 1975 (Imo: 1995). Ikem and Ajula (n.d.) reported that full scale planning on automation started fully at the Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan in 1978. They noted that it was affected by harsh economic situation for sometime until early 1990 when the library encouraged by the automation success of IITA embarked on a new trend of automation of the library. In the Kashim Ibrahin Library (KIL), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the idea started in 1972 with the automation of its serials record by the computer centre of the University. These efforts did not yield much dividend for the libraries because there were no tangible results to show for the energy expended on the projects. This was due to the fact that these attempts at library automation were directed from outside the library.

Serious automation efforts in Nigerian university libraries started in mid 1990's, Bozimo (2006) noted that university libraries in Nigeria cashed in on the opportunity presented by the World Bank project organized and executed by National Universities commission (NUC) in the 1994/95 session to kick start seriously their automation projects. NUC donated computers to university libraries in Nigeria and encouraged them to acquire the TINLIB software for their automation project. This software did not carry the universities far as most of them abandoned it early in their project for other software. The reason for this was lack of adequate maintenance support and technical guide. These libraries have toyed with other software like GLAS, X-LIB, VATUA, ALICE for Windows etc.

Pressman (2001) pointed out that computer software may be applied in any situation for which a pre-specified set of procedural steps (i.e. an algorithm) has been defined and that they deliver the most important product of our time-information. The overriding need and importance of software in the ICT era is stressed by Saxby (1990) and Pressman (2001). Saxby argued that

"It is now clear that the lack of good software is a bottleneck to the full exploitation of the performance capabilities of modern hardware. …