Harnessing Information Technology for the 21st Century: Library Education in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Library education in Nigeria has come a long way. Since the first library school in 1960 at the University College, Ibadan, several changes have been witnessed in the society at large and in the library profession in particular. The end of the 1980s saw the establishment of several other library schools in Nigeria awarding qualifications up to the Ph.D. level. However, at the dawn of the 1990s, new trends and developments worldwide pose great challenges for library education in Nigeria. Inadequate infrastructure, outdated curricula, poor human and financial resources, lack of access to necessary information and resources for learning, and poor communication among key players in the library schools are some of the major issues library schools in Nigeria are contending with. This is in spite of developments in information and communications technology, which have opened new doors in every profession and segment of the society. This predisposes the library schools to source for alternative ways to look at both access to and quality of library education and learning. One way of transforming the teachinglearning process is to properly harness and integrate the efficacy of information and communications technology into library education and training in Nigeria.

The advent of the electronic mail, PCs on every desk, the Internet and its application to education have produced amazing results. Hawkins (2002) notes that knowledge and information have become the most important currency for productivity, competitiveness, and increased wealth and prosperity. Nations have placed greater emphasis on developing their human capital. Governments around the world are focusing on strategies to increase access to and improve the quality of education. Methods of achieving organisational goals are changing.

Providing opportunities to meet the basic learning needs of information professionals is a first step toward preparing library schools in Nigeria for the emerging global society. The relevance and viability of library education in Nigeria requires looking at both access to and quality in new ways. Harnessing information and communications technology in library education goes a long way to enhance the quality of products turned out. Library schools in Nigeria must be connected to the information highway, to enhance their capacity to respond to new challenges to information access, processing, and dissemination. The survival of library education in Nigeria depends largely on the quality of faculty and students. Alabi (2004) writes that the most important assets in every form of university education are the faculty and students, and notes that if quality people are not put at the centre of the process of giving and receiving knowledge, the process is bound to fail.

Basic Issues

The practice of librarianship is changing. Changes include:

* Moving from the traditional inward-looking orientation towards books to an outwardlooking emphasis on information handling

* The emphasis on collecting, processing, compiling, and disseminating information in support of students and researchers both inside and outside the institution.

* Transformation of the traditional library into a new information services unit * New outlook, structure, skills and attitudes, which some library staff cannot easily adapt to

* Removal of the line between the library and the teaching and learning and research functions

* Integration of technology into every aspect of library functions

Further change is needed in several areas:

* Educational institutions must have access to networked resources such as e-journals and databases.

* New methods of assessment are being introduced. Online tests are gradually becoming widespread and provide more information than traditional multiple choice tests.

* Information literacy is now an indispensable aspect of course programmes in many institutions (Hawkins 1998). …