Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

The Use of Electronic Journal Articles by Academics at Mzuzu University, Malawi

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

The Use of Electronic Journal Articles by Academics at Mzuzu University, Malawi

Article excerpt


The advent of information technology has given rise to the development of Internet and the World Wide Web. This development then drove information centres, libraries and academic institutions to new methods of providing information. The use of information technology for scholarly publication is now commonplace all over the world. Academic communities in Africa are part of this transformation due to information technology and libraries in Africa have witnessed tremendous changes in terms of collection development in the form of electronic journals.

Although printed resources are still very important in the research field, electronic resources have become popular as they bring information directly to the desktop. The majority of the sources of information, especially the journals, are now available in electronic media and available via the Internet. Studies have documented the introduction of electronic journals. Tenopir et. al. (2003) described the trend of electronic journals as "evolutionary process" and there has been a gradual increase in the use of electronic journals. They have therefore become an important information format as they are published, distributed and accessed electronically.

It is evident that electronic journals are used by the scholarly community, and libraries are part of the development of scholarly communication. There is a strong relationship between high levels of electronic journal expenditure by libraries and high levels of use. "High levels of expenditure and use are also associated with success in research outcomes" (RIN, 2011). According to Harle (2010), electronic journals are also underutilised by many academics due to low level of research activities.

Mzuzu University is the second public university in Malawi. It was enacted by the Parliament of Malawi in May 1997 and admitted its first degree students in January 1999 (Mzuzu University, 2013). The mission is to provide high quality education, training, research and complementary services to meet the technological, social and economic needs of individuals and communities in Malawi. As at the time of research, Mzuzu University had about 164 academic staff, 2003 students including both undergraduates and postgraduates. There are five faculties, two centres and twenty-two departments which are under the management of the university. Table 1 below shows the number of staff and students at Mzuzu University.

Electronic Journals in Malawi

Initiatives have been taken in Malawi in order to have access to electronic journals. The main initiative is by the Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO). There are also several partners who assist in the process of accessing to electronic journals and give consortia in low income countries heavily subsidized or donor funded access to a wide range of electronic resources. Such partners are INASP, eIFL, WHO, FAO, UNEP, and UNESCO. At one point, one of the major constraints to accessing electronic journals was slow internet speed. MALICO benefited from eIFL pilot project to upgrade speed through deployment of VSATs at four MALICO sites including Mzuzu University which became later non-viable due to cost. Currently, some institutions in Malawi have migrated from VSAT connections to fibre optic network through the Malawi Telecommunication Limited (MTL) via Mozambique.

This study intended to provide insight into the information behaviour of Mzuzu University academics and the use of electronic resources, scholarly electronic journal articles, in particular, and the factors influencing the academics behaviour and their use of electronic journal articles. The objectives of the study were to;

* Ascertain whether academics information behaviour varied by faculty.

* Identify the common electronic tools used by academics to access electronic journal articles.

* Determine the reason why academics used scholarly electronic journal articles.

* Assess whether the academics have the necessary skills and knowledge to access and use the scholarly electronic journal articles. …

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