The role of academic libraries in supporting distance education in Kenya.
This study aimed to investigate the role of academic libraries in supporting distance education in Kenya. The challenges which Open and Distance Learning (ODL) students face due to lack of access to library and information services in two universities in Kenya were examined. An overview of the two universities which were purposively selected due to their history of offering distance and part-time programmes namely, the University of Nairobi and Technical University of Mombasa was provided. The study also investigated the current library services in relation to the information needs of distance learners and standards and guidelines and other related statutory documents from the government and the higher education regulator; the Commission for University Education. A mixed methods approach which included both quantitative and qualitative approaches was used. Data was collected through document any analysis, interviews and questionnaires. The results showed that library services initially were planned for all students in the university regardless of their status. While distance learning students had unique information needs the services were planned to serve all registered students. It also emerged that library staff members’ work under very difficult circumstances due to staff shortages poorly trained staff, lack of sufficient budgetary allocations and poor ICT infrastructure. The study also revealed that there was little or no co-operation with other academic members of staff, little support from management and that more often than not distance learning programmes were planned with little or no input from librarians. The results also confirmed that there is a high demand for distance and part-time programmes to uplift the social and economic status of workers but while this was a welcome trend universities were not entirely well prepared for this high demand in higher education. The challenges in lack of appropriate educational and research infrastructure were highlighted especially the provision of library and information services and in particular e-resources. The study concluded by offering recommendations that could be accepted as strategies to ensure that open and distance learning students receive the same education in terms of standards and quality of services full-time students receive. The study also proposed a new model that if adopted could go a long way in satisfying the information needs of distance learners. The study also recommended further research in this field given the dearth of literature that assists the topic which was confirmed by some of the literature reviewed.