World Libraries, Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2007

The Training, Development and Education of Library Manpower in Information Technology in University Libraries in Nigeria

floral device Abstract

This paper takes a critical look at library education and training of human resources in information and computer technologies in Nigerian university libraries. It discusses the training needs of staff, highlights the benefits of training, the training techniques, the training programmes and the staff development processes. Twenty–one university libraries in Nigeria participated in the study. Result shows that many academic librarians and other categories of library staff are not computer–literate. The study further reveals that the training programmes for staff development in information technology in Nigerian university libraries are grossly inadequate. This paper offers suggestions which might help enhance staff development in Nigerian university libraries.

floral device Introduction

Most of the world is gradually being saturated with information technology. The wonders of computers and the Internet facilities and their bizarre and astounding functions in the information systems are being propagated in educational, social, political and economic circles. Obviously, advances in information technology are reshaping the socio–economic, political and technological landscape of human endeavour. The inevitability of the application of information technologies to libraries and information systems has therefore remained incontestable and incontrovertible. That is why university libraries in Nigeria are making frantic efforts to automate their operations. The challenges that this automation poses for human resource development in the information industry will engage one’s attention in this paper.

One of these challenges, according to Nzotta (1984), is the need to provide education and training in new skills to accommodate modern and latest developments in librarianship. These developments include areas such as library automation and computer applications in libraries and in other information systems in order to facilitate effective services. Advances in information technology have thus made it a necessity for libraries to be actively involved in staff training. This view is well amplified by Moyo (1996) when he observed that with the proliferation of computer software in the market, consumers continue to rely on the software vendors for knowledge of not only how to operate the new software, but how to profitably optimize its use. If software consumers, the majority of whom are in information systems, are not properly trained, one then wonders how they will be able to cope with the innovations that information technology has introduced to information systems. That is why Ogunseye (1984) asserted that developing countries such as Nigeria “cannot afford the luxury of training passive librarians only. We need librarians who are also information specialists and information brokers ... who can restructure and package information for action.” This training, according to Metzger (1992), must not be limited to librarians in academic and private or special libraries. It must be extended to school libraries whose outlook has changed from an extra rather than an essential element in the serious business of teaching and learning to “instructional materials centres,” “media centres,” or “resource centres” whose functions in the educational and intellectual development of the students are indispensable. In order, therefore, to provide the enabling environment for information technologies to thrive in the information systems, it becomes a necessity for libraries to train and educate their human resources in line with the latest technological advances in the information field. Courses that are run in these library schools both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels have no biases towards information technology. Hence, graduates of librarianship are produced with a lot of deficiencies in the areas of computer manipulation, software management, and information technology. One then wonders how efficient these librarians would be. That is why many librarians in Nigeria today are not computer–literate. Wilson (1989) lamented the sorry state of library schools in Africa when he remarked that library school courses in automation have a limited chance of making adequate contributions towards the development of functional skills and abilities in their graduates. The computers and telecommunication facilities needed for teaching and learning are either not there or inadequate. Similarly, Oketunji (2001) observed that the library schools are inadequate in meeting the challenges of modern information technologies owing to lack of financial resources to procure the necessary equipment needed for the training of students. Hence, emphasis remains on printed materials rather than on information sources in electronic form which is the new trend in information technology. Both Ita (1991) and Adedigba (1995) are therefore of the view that the library profession and the library schools must move with the times and embrace the modern information technologies. Only then will the library schools be able to provide the necessary professional training skills and competence that librarians need to be able to function in a technologically advanced environment.

Moreover, there are professional librarians in the university libraries in Nigeria whose knowledge of library automation has been rendered obsolete owing to lack of training and retraining in modern library practices. This unpleasant development is inimical to the development of library automation in Nigerian university libraries. Perrucci and Tothman (1969) defined obsolescence as “loss of once held knowledge and failure to become familiar and knowledgeable about new knowledge in one’s field.” Ojiambo (1992) classified obsolescence into three areas, namely: professional obsolescence, real obsolescence and ex officio obsolescence. All three refer to the professional’s or individual’s incompetence or inadequacy to perform certain required professional tasks. Training or human resource development is very important in order to overcome the problem of obsolescence, which Silver (1981) categorized into technical and executive obsolescence.

Librarianship is replete with literature on users’ education. Less attention is being paid to the training and education of librarians and information brokers. Consequently, scholarly articles in this area are rarely published. It is against this background that this research has become necessary. It will sensitize library managers and information specialists to pay attention to staff development in their respective institutions. The research will also contribute to the literature on human resource development in librarianship.

floral device Literature review

The benefits of training

Some relevant literature was reviewed for this research. This review covers the benefits of training for librarians, types of training, nature of training and the training process. First, however, we will begin with a review of the significance of the education of library manpower. According to Chandan (2000), training is “a short term process utilizing a systematic and organized procedure by which non–managerial personnel learn technical knowledge and skills for a definite process.” The weakness of this definition is that training is limited to the non–managerial personnel, whereas human resource development embraces both the managerial and non–managerial staff. All of them in librarianship and information systems need some kind of training and education in the new areas of their profession.

Training is an integral part of vocational or career development and it is fast becoming a global and pervasive phenomenon in any establishment, the absence of which spells doom for such an institution and the presence of which determines the success of any enterprise. Fielden (1987) noted this pervasiveness when he said that training is among the series of variables that serves as a checklist for buying software. Also, training has also been identified as one of the characteristics that make a software package worthy of purchase; others are cost, responsiveness of dealers, and support.

Obviously, the role that training can play in human resource development especially in libraries and information systems is inestimable and unquantifiable. It is a truism, of course, that training of staff enhances productivity. The library system in Nigeria cannot afford to allow its staff to degenerate in the acquisition of knowledge and the knowledge already acquired cannot be allowed to diminish because society cannot afford to jettison the roles of libraries and librarians in the socio–cultural and educational development of a nation. That is why Billings (1995) remarked that the library, librarians, and library education will all be needed tomorrow. He therefore called for the production of quality graduates and relevant and adequate programme services. Also, Ojiambo (1992) has attributed the lack of training in human resources to the low or non–existence of industrial and information technology development in the developing countries like Nigeria. Yesufu (2000) also agrees that training of personnel enhances productivity. According to him, “education and training are generally indicated as the most important direct means of upgrading the human intellect and skills for productive employment.” Productivity, which is enhanced by training, is not only limited to the establishment; the librarians and other staff of the library can also become more productive.

Another advantage of staff training is that it improves job performance and therefore promotes management efficiency. Writing from a vendor’s perspective, Hyman (1991) opines that without training, consumers may not be efficient in the use of computers. They may not therefore derive maximum benefits from their systems. Both Ojiambo (1992) and Stoner (2002) agree that training programmes should be directed towards improving efficiency and job performance. There is no doubt that staff trained in information technologies will be more efficient in the use of information and computer facilities than those who never had such training experience.

Other advantages of training include reduction in cost, reduced turnover, human resources reserve, faster decision, continuity of effort, improvement in employee morale, availability for future personnel needs of the organization, improvement in health and safety, reduced supervision, personal growth and organizational stability (Silver, 1981; Chandan, 2000). The benefits of personnel development cannot therefore be easily over–emphasized.

Training techniques

There are various training techniques that university library personnel can be exposed to on short– and long–term bases. Silver (1981) has identified ten training techniques which are listed below:

  1. On–the–job training (OJT)
  2. Vestibule training
  3. Classroom/lecture method
  4. Case study, in–basket, case history methods
  5. Self–study
  6. Electronic teaching media
  7. Simulations, games and role playing
  8. T groups, encounter groups, and sensitivity training
  9. Schools and outside seminars
  10. Consultants and special training

In fact, Burton (1997) had earlier listed the following five long–term training techniques: (1) on–the–job training, (2) job rotation, (3) coaching, (4) apprenticeship, and (5) modeling. According to Burton, these management–development programmes are efforts to train and develop the manager to his or her fullest potential, and the development should be seen as a lifetime process provided for maximum managerial performance and efficiency throughout the manager’s career. Also, the three common training techniques about which researchers on management, personnel development and career development often talk and which are also considered very relevant for the development of library personnel are discussed below:

  1. Study visits: Library personnel with theoretical knowledge of library and information science may broaden and update their knowledge by understudying computer operations in other information and automated library systems.

  2. In–service training: Staff can be introduced to an automated library system and to the varieties of software that can be used for the development and management of an automated library. The training will help staff to update their knowledge for professional competence.

  3. Industrial attachments: Students of librarianship can spend between six weeks and three months on industrial attachments in automated libraries and information systems. The exposure will further prepare librarians to face challenges in the automated systems on which they may find themselves working.

Similarly, Akhigbe (1997) and Ugbokwe (1998) are of the view that training should take the form of continuing education, industrial attachment, formal education programmes leading to certificates, diploma and degrees, on–the–job learning from experienced colleagues, coaching and special project and off–the–job lectures, seminars, discussions and instructions of various types. At these fora, the relationship between the computer vendors and consumers, whose majority are in the information industry, will become strengthened. If consumers are properly trained, the successful implementation of library automation and the maximum use of their systems will be guaranteed (Litchfield, 1990). Writing on the nature and the quality of formal education that should be provided in the library schools, Harvard–Williams (1981) is of the view that professional library education should not be mere training. The education imparted should be capable and adequate for effective professional performance on job postings after certification. Such effective performance on the part of the professionals must be sustained for a period of two decades before a need for retraining can arise.

Training programmes

A good and adequate training programme should identify the specific skills that are lacking in the personnel and the resources that are available to provide the skills. According to Dyer (1990), not all professional problems can be resolved by training. Training should therefore not be used when:

  1. the potential benefits of the training are questionable in view of the necessary expenditure of resources;
  2. the time required for the training is not justifiable in terms of the potential benefits;
  3. the resulting changes in behaviour are not functional or useful given the goals of the organization;
  4. more effective results may be achieved by methods that cost less and/or require less time;
  5. when the causes of inadequate performance are due to such factors as work location, organizational constraints, and low motivation.

The following information skills which are lacking among library and information personnel should form the core of the training programmes:

  1. Computer training, CD–ROM use, and networking and information technology skills (systems analysts, systems designers, software engineers and telecom specialists);
  2. Management of information technology skills in libraries, documentation centres, archives and records management centres;
  3. Electronic publishing skills;
  4. Lack of human resources in education, training, research and development in information management;
  5. Personnel management skills;
  6. Programmes that lead to furthering the role of the librarian in the educational process (Huttermann, 1990; Oketunji, 2001).

Staff development process

The major processes involved in the staff development programmes are presented graphically in the following chart prepared by Silver (1981):

 

staff development process

 

The goals and objectives of the training programme must first of all be defined. This will give focus and guidance to the entire programme. Then, the strengths and weaknesses of staff must be identified. This will be useful in developing long–term plans and specific training programmes which will involve specific outlines of major annual training goals, the number of individuals who will benefit from such training and the cost implication of the plan. The next stage involves detailed training programmes which will be undertaken. The acquisition of text and training materials, the preparation of teaching or instructional aids, the selection and appointment of instructors and their remunerations are determined. This stage is followed by the implementation of the programme which will involve the use of consultants and resource persons. Meeting places are provided. The trainees are released from their regular duties for the training programmes. The last stage is the evaluation of the efforts and performance of the training programmes with a view to detecting the need for improvement in certain areas of the programme.

floral device Methods

The research method was a descriptive survey designed to find out the computer literacy level of library staff in the Nigerian university libraries. The survey was also designed to find out the staffing positions in the university libraries and the mode of sponsorship for computer training programmes. Twenty–one Nigerian university libraries were involved in the study, out of which 14 were federal–owned universities while the remaining seven were state–owned universities. The research instruments used were observations of some of the university libraries and a directory on the state of information and communication technology (ICT) in university libraries in the West African sub–region prepared by the Standing Conference of African University Libraries, Western Area (SCAULWA).

floral device Results and discussion

The results of the research are presented and analyzed in Tables 1 to 3:

 

Table 1: Library manpower and levels of computer literacy.
Note: N=20; N=20 because Kenneth Dike University Library, University of Ibadan, did not provide any information on its staffing situation.
Category of staff Number of staffNumber of computer–literate staffPercentage
Professionals2768932.24
Para–professionals3063411
Others (clerks and administrative staff)1,163958.16

 

Table 1 above shows clearly that out of 276 professional librarians working in 20 university libraries in Nigeria, only 89 (32.24 percent) of them are computer–literate. The table also shows that out of 306 paraprofessional staff members in 20 of the Nigerian University libraries, only 34 (11 percent) of them are computer–literate. In addition, the table reveals that there are 1,163 staff in other categories in the 20 Nigerian university libraries surveyed, out of which only 95 (8.16 percent) are computer–literate. Obviously, the result shows that most of the staff of Nigerian university libraries are not computer–literate. This is rather shocking. The effect of this on the automation efforts currently being canvassed for may suffer some setbacks when most of the personnel who will be involved in the implementation of library automation projects in Nigerian University libraries are not computer–literate. About 68 percent of the professional librarians with postgraduate Master’s degree of M.L.S. are not computer–literate. This further underscores the point that the curricula of library schools in Nigeria are deficient. In this age of computer and information technology, library schools cannot afford to produce professional librarians who will not be relevant in the information systems.

 

Table 2: Training techniques.
Note: N=21.
Training methods Number of university librariesPercentage
On–the–job training1466.66
Formal education628.57
Attendance at workshops, seminars, etc.14.76

 

The analysis in Table 2 shows that library staff in fourteen (66.66 percent) of the 21 Nigerian university libraries surveyed are computer–literate through on–the–job training, while six (28.57 percent) of the 21 university libraries surveyed have their staff become computer educated through formal education which could be on part– or full–time basis. The use of workshops and seminars to develop library staff is not very popular and significant as only one (4.76 percent) out of the 21 university libraries surveyed depend on the use of workshops and seminars to train its staff in computer technology. On–the–job training is the most popular training method employed by most of the universities surveyed. This is because university libraries cannot afford to release their staff to go back to school either for part– or full–time studies in order for them to be computer–literate. It has cost implications for the university system. One then wonders how many can be released at a time to go for formal education. An average library manager will be concerned with who will carry out the duties of such staff while they are away. Thus it is far easier to allow library staff to learn the use of the computer through on–the–job training. After all, if the computers are there with all the teaching kits, learning may not be all that difficult. Similarly, attendance at workshops, conferences and seminars that are about information technology and computer focused are very expensive, so an average staff member will need a lot of money to cover conference fees, conference materials such as bags and papers, lunch, accommodation and transportation. In most universities, conference funds are so lean that rarely can a library staff member attend professional conferences once a year. Library staff now attend professional seminars and conferences on a rotational basis. This situation is pathetic.

 

Table 3: Source of sponsorship.
Note: N=21.
Source of sponsorship NumberPercentage
Self–sponsorship16 of 21 libraries76.1
University15 of 21 libraries71.4

 

Table 3 shows that sixteen (76.1 percent) of the university libraries which participated in this research indicated that most of their library staff acquire computer literacy by sponsoring themselves. The table also shows that fifteen (71.4 percent) of the university libraries sponsor their staff in order for them to be computer–literate. Out of the 15 universities that sponsor staff for training in computer technology, eleven of them are federal–owned universities while the remaining four are state–owned universities. This is understandable considering the fact that federal universities are better funded than the state universities because the funding is done by the federal government while state governments finance state universities who in most cases pay workers’ salaries in arrears. Capital projects in most state universities are being stalled owing to lean financial resources of state governments. At the least, the table shows that both the universities and the individual library staff members are involved in providing training in computer and information technology for the development of the university libraries.

floral device Conclusion

The level of professional training in information technology received by the professional and paraprofessional library staff in Nigerian university libraries is generally inadequate as shown by the results of this research. Greater efforts must be made therefore by university libraries in Nigeria to provide adequate training programmes in information technology and other related subjects for library staff, especially professional staff, in order to make them relevant and adequate to face the technological challenges of the twenty–first century. Each university library should therefore begin to initiate its own staff development process which will involve among other things, a definition of goals and objectives, an assessment of staff strengths and weaknesses, a development of long– and short–range training programmes, the implementation and evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme. This is the hallmark of strategic management, which is one of the pillars of success of any enterprise. If the staff development process is well implemented, the issue of lack of resources to sponsor staff to attend professional workshops, conferences and seminars on information technology may no longer arise. This is because priority attention will be put on the development of human resources; consequently, the right funds will be provided.

As well, every department and unit in all the university libraries in Nigeria should be furnished with at least a computer system. With the use of teach–yourself packages, everybody will have access to these systems. This will enhance their knowledge of the computer. The thinking now in the academic and government circles is that all Senior Lecturers in Nigerian universities should have computers in their offices. There is no reason why every Principal Librarian and above in every Nigerian university library should not be accorded the same treatment.

Moreover, the point has already been made that the library schools should overhaul their curricula to accommodate the recent advances in information and computer technologies in order to make their products relevant to society. The African Regional Centre for Information Science, Ibadan should give a good lead to other similar institutions in Nigeria. One wonders if it is not absurd and embarrassing for products of a department of library and information studies in a Nigerian university to be destitute of knowledge in computer and information technology skills. Unless these library schools move with the times, we will continue to produce inadequate, uninformed computer–illiterate graduates and professionally passive librarians.

Lastly, the individual employee has the responsibility to assess his own training needs, and initiate ways by which these needs could be met. The employee must have the right perception and develop positive self–concept of his or her career and show readiness to develop accordingly. This person can begin by acquainting himself or herself with the recent development in information technology by reading current professional and relevant journals. It is also the employee’s duty to identify relevant and appropriate professional workshops, conferences, seminars and formal educational programmes where he can receive such training. He can then apply for sponsorship and his supervisor, the University Librarian, should support the application of such an employee within the available resources for conference and training votes. When such application fails, the applicant should be ready to sponsor himself when necessary; after all, the overall gains of the training are entirely the employee’s. The importance of training and development for library manpower cannot be easily over–emphasized. Government, university libraries, and library staff must perform their roles adequately in order to make the task a fait accompli.

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About the Author

C.O. Ajidahun, Ph.D., is Deputy University Librarian and Head, Readers’ Services, at the Adekunle Ajasin University Library in Akungba–Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.

Citation

Ajidahun, C.O.. “The Training, Development and Education of Library Manpower in Information Technology in University Libraries in Nigeria,” World Libraries, Volume 17, Number 1 (Spring 2007).

© 2007 C.O. Ajidahun.