Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Perceived Influence of Academic Qualifications, Gender, Religious Affiliation and Ethnic Sentiment on Mentoring Practices among Librarians in Selected University Libraries in Nigeria

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Perceived Influence of Academic Qualifications, Gender, Religious Affiliation and Ethnic Sentiment on Mentoring Practices among Librarians in Selected University Libraries in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Mentoring as a concept has been in existence throughout the centuries. For instance, Socrates mentored Plato, Plato mentored Aristotle, and Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great. The Holy Bible is also full of information about mentoring practices. For example, Elijah mentored Elisha; Jesus Christ mentored His disciples and Paul did the same to Timothy. Mentoring is a sustained relationship between a youth (one who is professionally young) and an adult (experienced professional). This is achieved through a sustained involvement. In this case a more advanced and experienced librarian offers support, guidance, and assistance as the younger professional (librarian) goes through a difficult time, faces new challenges or works to correct earlier problems.

Nigeria with an estimated population of over 140 million is a vast country and the giant of Africa. There are three major ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) and over 250 minor ethnic groups. Since independence the country has witnessed a number of inter and intra ethnic and religious crises which continue to be an impediment to its overall development. Major causes of conflict include mistrust, suspicion, and intolerance between the followers of the various religious and ethnic groups. While most Nigerians endeavor to work and earn an honest living, some of these ethnic and religious conflicts at times find a way of creeping into relationships at work. In the area of tertiary education, Nigeria has over one hundred universities under the categories of Federal, Private and State. Problems related to ethnicity and religion sometimes interfere with the smooth running of affairs. Awuzie (2009) noted this problem when he stated that vice-chancellors as heads of universities use their position to favor those from their own clan or ethnic nationality. The Federal Government of Nigeria is not unaware of the seriousness of this problem as Oyekanmi & Njoku (2009) reported that the Federal Government has issued a warning to all federal universities within the country, who adopt ethnic and religious considerations when selecting their vice-chancellors, to desist from such acts or face sanctions. University libraries and library associations in Nigeria are no doubt part of the larger society, and have their fair share of societal problems.

The Nigerian Library Association is a large professional body with a membership of over 5,000 professional librarians (Nigerian Library Association, 2008). In a workshop organized by the Goethe Institute in Lagos, the Nigerian Library Association President, Victoria Okojie, stated that it is time for librarians to come together to help one another and provide quality information services with the most senior librarians helping the younger ones to grow professionally. This is because the university library is a challenging place to work, as librarians are expected to be up-to-date with respect to the provision of current information. Lancaster (1993) points out that the operation of the library can be considered as essentially a marriage between the information resources and the personnel, as the library consists mainly of information resources and personnel who are skilled in the exploitation of information resources on behalf of users. Library duties cannot be adequately performed to provide effective services in situations where less experienced staff members are not coached or advised on how to go about their professional duties. Turner & Raskin, (2004), affirm this, by stating that the best collections and latest technology are useless without outstanding, service-oriented staff.

Okoh (2005), states that the tool which has been adopted by many organisations to improve staff competence and improve organisational productivity, is mentoring. While the concept of mentoring is not new, most university libraries in Nigeria are yet to develop mentoring programmes that will offer less experienced staff members the opportunity of benefiting from the knowledge of their superiors. …

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