Evaluation of Online Reference Services: Reflections from Nigeria Academic Libraries

By Ekwelem, Vincent Onyeacholam; Okpala, Helen N. et al. | Library Philosophy and Practice, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of Online Reference Services: Reflections from Nigeria Academic Libraries


Ekwelem, Vincent Onyeacholam, Okpala, Helen N., Igbokwe, Josephine C., Ekwelem, Chukwunaza N., Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

Recent in-road in technological development in libraries have affected how information resources can be accessed and utilized. Libraries have always tried to find improved method to information access. Rightly the ultimate goal of library services is to make her information resources available to the public in the most efficient way, using standardized library tools and new information technology such as digital reference services (DRS). Malik and Mahmood (2014) also noted that many libraries are offering or advancing towards digital reference service with the main aim meeting users' needs anytime and anywhere. Development in information technology coupled with the advent of internet, are transforming not only the ways in which libraries work, but also those underlining philosophies. It is therefore very important to note that the formation of the internet provided an avenue for the development of digital reference services, because DRS cannot stand on its own without internet connectivity

There are numerous names for DRS, they including online reference ser. vices (ORS), virtual reference service (VRS), electronic reference services (ERS) and so on. In this study, virtual reference services refer to question answering services that libraries provide via email, an asynchronous channel of communication, either through a mail to link on a library website or a web form that users can fill out to ask reference questions online. (Shachaf, Horowitz, Sarah, 2007) As a result of the dynamic changes in library and information services and ICT, DRS has become so well developed that reference is not only a service but a place (Qobose, Mologany (2015) .However, Nicol and Crook (2013) concluded that the successful implementation and sustainability thereof remains a major challenge for librarians and libraries.

DRS no doubt is a very important branch in library provision of information resources and services. Therefore, evaluation of the services rendered by it is an important component of the provision of information resources. Result from evaluation of DRS will enable the library management and other stakeholders to know whether the DRS is meeting its objectives successfully. Another reason for accessing the performance of DRS is to gain a basis for fund sharing among various units in the library. For example if the result of the investigation is positive among others the library management may decide to purchase more equipment for the unit or send the staff in the unit for further training/workshop as the case may be. An evaluation from the broad view of online reference services itself will ask questions concerned with the efficiency of the operation which include the volume of questions handled per unit of time and the speed with which questions were answered (Pomerantz, 2008) . There is increasing pressure to demonstrate their value to their stakeholders, customers, and funders (Lakos and Phipps, 2004.The truth of the matter is that libraries do spend a large amount of its budget on services rendered to its users which at the end of each fiscal year it gives detail account on how the money was used to the funding body, in case of Nigeria Universities, libraries report to the National Universities Commission. For the purpose of this study, evaluation can be defined as:

a. The systematic collecting, analyzing and reporting of information.

b. For the purpose of making inferred decisions about programming(National Marine Sanctuaries, NA) while educational evaluation (2011) defines evaluation as an act or a process that allows one to make a judgment about desirability of value of a measure.

"In a library, evaluation is the process whereby we systematically collect and analyses information about students encounter with the library system, by using evidence (testing), assigning numerical values to the result to make decisions (assessment) (Ugah, 2007). In his discussion of evaluation in libraries. …

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