Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Information Needs and Computer Self Efficacy as Factors Influencing Use of Electronic Reference Services by Undergraduates in a Nigerian University

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Information Needs and Computer Self Efficacy as Factors Influencing Use of Electronic Reference Services by Undergraduates in a Nigerian University

Article excerpt


Universities are the birth place of life changing ideas and philosophies that drive development in societies (Apotiade, Oyewole and Beleu 2015). Undergraduate students constitute a significant percentage within the university environment. These individuals acquire knowledge through the process of learning and research within the university environment. Before degrees can be conferred on the undergraduates, they must have engaged in quite a number of academic activities and excelled in them. In order to assist the undergraduate students and indeed other categories of individuals make success of their academic endeavors, university libraries are established. The university library provides access to myriads of information resources in print, audio-visual, electronic and other formats in support of the teaching, learning and research that go on in the university. In order to effectively carry out this function, library services are carried out.

One of the services that are offered in the university library is the reference service. Reference service is of one of the strongholds of library services. This is because it links information users with the required information that they desire. Kumar (2009) quoted Ranganathan who described reference service as the process of establishing the right contact. This right contact means contact between the right reader and the right book at the right time and in the right personal way. Utor (2008) also defined reference services as a direct personal assistance to readers seeking information. Some of the activities that make up reference service include answering of users' queries, user education, compilation of reading lists, indexing and abstracting, referral service, compilation of bibliographies, current awareness services and selective dissemination of information. Libraries before now have been rendering reference service traditionally in which the reference librarian and the information seeker have to meet personally and engage in the reference process.

However, due to the influence of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), electronic reference services (also called digital reference services) are gradually replacing the traditional reference services in some libraries, including university libraries. Digital reference service may be defined as "the provision of reference services involving collaboration between library user and librarian, in a computer based medium. Geronimo (2009) stated that digital reference service refers to a library service that uses a librarian's knowledge to provide onsite and or remote clients with relevant information based on a request that was initiated electronically. A more formal definition refers to of electronic reference as "a network of expertise, intermediation and resources placed at the disposal of someone seeking answers in an online environment (Singh, 2004).

A digital reference service generally comprises of the following elements: the user of the service, the interface (e-mail, web form, chat, videoconference, etc.), the information professional, and electronic resources (including electronic or CD-based resources, web resources, local digitized material etc.), as well as print resources (Berube, 2003). Digital reference services can take many forms, but they can be divided into two broad categories. These are asynchronous digital reference and synchronous digital reference. Asynchronous digital reference is such that there is a time delay between the question being posed and the answer being given. This implies that it allows a user to submit a question and the reference librarian provides response which may not be immediate. Examples of asynchronous digital reference include the use of email, web forms and ask-a-services.

On the other hand, synchronous digital reference creates an opportunity whereby the user and the librarian communicate in real time. This implies that this form of reference service is with an almost immediate response to a query or a request. …

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