There are persons with physical challenges at all levels in every society. The physically challenged are those who are hindered or prevented from acting or living the way ordinary people do. Lawal-Solarin (2012), defines physical challenge as an inability to perform some or all the task of daily life, or a medically diagnosed condition that makes it difficult to engage in activities of daily life. In the view of Gobalakrishnan (2013) physically challenged could be described as those restricted, hindered or prevented to have equal opportunities with their contemporaries due to physical deformity, he said they include the visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive, language and speech impaired. Physically challenged persons can as well be described as those hindered either by physical or mental defect from receiving a normal education or even from pursuing normal vocation.
- Background of the study
The academic library is established to support academic activities and enhance teaching-learning undertakings consistent with university objectives. Frumkin and Reese (2011) summarized the role of the library in acquiring and disseminating information resources as a vital responsibility. These primary functions of university library include collection, organization, preservation, and delivery of information resources bring to the users (Ramaiah, 1998). The task requires the capacity to discern the diverse needs of library users to give both faculty (teaching and non-teaching) and students the information resources for learning, teaching, research, and career development purposes. Basically, utilization is dependent on available information resources accessible to students. This study approaches the availability, accessibility, and utilization of information resources by students of the Federal University of Technology Owerri. Utilization of information depends on the information resources available in the library and also accessible to the student. The condition implies that availability and accessibility must be satisfied for utilization to be achieved. The mere acquisition of information resources by a library does not translate into accessibility. Granting access to library information resources requires a series of protocols (cataloging, indexing, etc.) to ensure that users can identify and locate the resources (Nwachukwu, Abdulsalami and Salami, 2014). It is also important for libraries to consider user-needs during the acquisition stage of information resources to maintain relevance (Aguolu and Aguolu, 2002). A library has been defined as a repository of knowledge. However, different definitions emerged from the biases people and institutions have on what makes up a library or what a library is. Presently, the emergence of information communication technology (ICT) is transforming the world of information, and adds a new perspective to how a library should be defined. While some agree on the definition of a library as an institution of books collected, processed, stored, retrieved, and used to disseminate knowledge, others prefer the definition that summarizes a library to represent a place (physical) where books and non-book materials are preserved for the purpose of spreading knowledge public (Nwachukwu, Abdulsalami and Salami, 2014). Moreover, most of what constitute components of a library’s definition depends on the type of library in question. We have different types of libraries with different operational definitions based on the categories of users served. Despite different services of public, academic, special or reference libraries, ‘acquisition and dissemination of information’ remains a definitional composition of library. The library is a major component of the university responsible for providing multiple services to support students for the duration of their course of study. Unlike the public library, which functions universally without restriction to any particular users, the academic library is positioned to provide academic support to students. Moreover, most academic libraries maintain public libraries in developed countries. Aina (2004) reports similar situations with National Libraries in Africa operating public libraries. Nonetheless, a library is defined as an institution responsible for the overall management and processing of the public knowledge (the intellectual products of society) for public access and use (Roberson, 2005).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In a typical Nigerian university library, availability and accessibility of information resources influence utilization by students. However, the first call of library functionality demands that the user has access to adequate information resources in order to meet their needs. Before users can utilize information in the library, the functions of making information readily available and accessible must first be activated. The university library serves the diverse academic community and in that respect must live up to the expectations of helping users achieve their respective information needs. As a school library, most of the services tend towards academic performance and success of students, as well as the goal of the university in fulfilling higher education objectives. Unfortunately, libraries in Nigerian universities are poorly funded causing students to experience dearth information resources to supplement classroom instructions. Additionally, when information resources are available they are neither accessible nor utilized due to one problem or another associated with the technical processing of library resources. Moreover, the provision of information resources in sufficient balance and the proper organization encourages students to utilize library information resources. Therefore, the problem of this study investigates the availability, accessibility and utilization of information resources by students of the university studied. The study will reveal what information resources are available and accessible in the library, and the extent the students utilize the information resources.