Patterns of use of web-based library e-resources among students on the Howard College Campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Finlayson, Avenal Jane.
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This study explores the use of electronic information services (EIS) by students at the Howard College (HC) campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in the faculties of Engineering and the Humanities, Development and Social Sciences (HDSS). The objectives were to establish usage among students; identify determinants of usage and to make recommendations. To achieve these objectives, the study concentrated on answering these research questions: • Do UKZN students use library e-resources? • Which e-resources are UKZN students using? • Where do UKZN students access library e-resources? • Why do UKZN students use library e-resources? • What characterises non-users of library e-resources? • What barriers exist to the use of electronic information services (EIS)? A review of the literature identified a mix of quantitative, qualitative and combined methods used to investigate EIS usage. In various research studies, the variables considered to be determinants of use included age, status, discipline of study, subject content, computer proficiency, ease of use, availability and print formats in academic environments. The barriers experienced when using EIS formats, the adoption of technology and the usability characteristics of EIS were also important aspects evident in the literature. The methodology adopted was based on a pragmatic philosophical approach and sought to establish baseline data. A quantitative research design was used which set out to achieve the research objectives through data collection on two fronts. Firstly, the overall usage environment at UKZN was established by reviewing vendor usage statistics. The COUNTER compliant statistics for selected databases and e-journals were collected and analysed. As COUNTER statistics were not available for e-books, the statistics available from the vendors were used. Secondly, a stratified, random sample of students on the HC campus was surveyed by means of an online questionnaire. A response rate of 22.5% was achieved. Data collected established the characteristics of users; whether they made use of e-books, e-journals and databases; where they used them and how often; why they made use of them; and what barriers and problems they experienced when using them. Data from non-users was also solicited. Data is presented in graphs and frequency tables. The Chi-square test was applied to establish significant associations between variables and these results are produced in contingency tables. The findings established that EIS are used by students and usage fluctuates during the course of the academic year with peaks occurring in each semester and low points during the vacation periods. e-Journals and databases are used more than ebooks, while postgraduate students use EIS most. Non-users made up almost a third iv of the sample; while habitual, frequent and infrequent users were reflected in almost equal numbers among those who use EIS. Age, gender or discipline of study were not in evidence as determinants of use. Students undertake searches mainly from computers in the LANs but off-campus computers are also used, which highlights the importance of remote access. The library website is most often the starting point for navigation, although search engines are also popular as a virtual starting point. Locating information was the prime motivation to use EIS, and students largely rated the EIS they used as good or excellent. Barriers were experienced by as many as 37% of users who reported that the non-availability of EIS was the main problem, although they experienced other difficulties. In concluding, issues of library service delivery and recommendations regarding usage are made.