An investigation of the extent of automation of public libraries in South West Nigeria.
Adeleke, Olateju Abayomi.
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Automation of library services is an alternative to traditional methods of information handling. Library automation in many public libraries in Nigeria has affected both information space and practice. Inspite of the abundant benefits of library automation in libraries, many public libraries in Nigeria are yet to automate their services. For this reason, they are unable to offer excellent information services compared to their counterparts in developed countries. The implementation of library automated systems will significantly improve the services rendered by public libraries to the community, however the extent of automation remains unknown and under-researched. There is a dearth of literature on the automation of public libraries in South West Nigeria as most of the studies undertaken so far about library automation have tended to focus on academic and special libraries. This study sought to investigate the extent of automation in public libraries in South West Nigeria with a view to proffering proposals that would help improve the situation from practical, policy, infrastructural and human resource perspectives. The study addressed two broad research objectives namely: 1) To examine the extent of implementation of Information Communication Technology (ICTs) in public libraries in South West Nigeria and 2) to investigate the factors influencing acceptance and use of ICTs in public libraries in South West Nigeria. Specifically, the following research questions were investigated: 1) What is the level of public library automation in South West Nigeria? 2) What are the factors affecting the adoption and utilization of ICTs in public libraries in South West Nigeria? 3) What are the skills and competencies that library staff and patrons possess in the use of ICTs? and 4) What are the challenges librarians and patrons experience in managing automated systems? The study was guided by the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). The post-positivist paradigm was used as the theoretical lens to underpin the study. The methodological approach adopted was the mixed method with survey research design. The population of study comprised library patrons and professional and paraprofessional staff drawn from three public libraries in South West Nigeria. Survey questionnaires and focus group discussions were triangulated to collect data from library patrons and professional/paraprofessional staff respectively. Quantitative data was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) to generate frequency counts, percentages, bar charts and cross tabulation. Qualitative data from the focus groups was analysed using thematic content analysis. Reliability was ensured by adherence to Dillman’s suggestion which states that questions be reviewed by survey professionals. Validity was ensured in the study by adopting a mixed method approach. Mixed method guaranteed the success of the study as the quantitative method enriched the findings of the qualitative method. The study complied with the ethical protocol of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The findings of the study revealed that automation in public libraries in South West Nigeria was limited and at varying stages of development. The findings further revealed that performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions determined the acceptance and use of ICTs in the public libraries surveyed. Moreover, though the majority of library patrons and librarians were skilful in the use of ICTs, they had varying levels of competencies. The findings showed that there were several challenges hindering the effective use of ICTs in libraries. These challenges included but were not limited to unreliable power supply, inadequate ICT infrastructure absence of technical skills, negative attitude towards automation, absence of senior management support, use of inappropriate library software and technophobia. The study proffers among other recommendations the creating of awareness about the need for the top management of the respective libraries to provide adequate budgets to ensure full automation of the public libraries’ services; adopting best practices in automation from within and outside Nigeria in the implementation of library automation systems; developing and implementing relevant ICT policies to guide the adoption and use of automated systems in public libraries; putting in place capacity building programmes to equip staff and patrons with requisite skills to use library automated software; the recruitment process of library staff should emphasise possession of ICT skills as part of the requirement to be hired; and solar energy, inverters, standby power plants should be implemented as backups to the main electricity supply system.