Background to the Study
Information literacy is increasingly becoming important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferated information resources. Because of the increasing complexity of the information environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in personal lives. Information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media and the Internet – and increasingly, information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability. In addition, information is available through multiple media, including graphical, aural, and textual, and these pose new challenges for individuals in evaluation and understanding (Madu, 2005). The uncertain quality and expanding quantity of information pose large challenges for society (Kiven and Shafack, 2002). The mere abundance of information will not in itself create a more informed citizenry without a complementary cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively.
According to the American Library Association (ALA) (2008), Information Literacy is a set of abilities that enable individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. Information literacy according to Armstrong (2005), is defined as the acquired skills to know when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. This concept by CILIP will form the benchmark for information literacy in this study. The concept affords the researcher the ability to search appropriate resources effectively and identify relevant information. These competencies above have been further explained in detail by CILIP (2005) who outlined eight constructs of information literacy. According to them understanding a need for information involves recognizing that information is needed, understanding why it is needed, what kind of and how much information is required as well as any associated constraints.
The second competency, which is an understanding of the available resources, requires the individual to be able to identify what resources (paper, electronic/digital, human) are available for exploitation, where they are available, how to access them, the merit of individual resource type and when it is appropriate to use them.
Closely following the above competence is an understanding of how to find information. This competence involves an ability to search appropriate resources (paper, electronic/digital, human etc) effectively and identify relevant information. Strategies need to be tailored to the resource being used, so as to get the best results from that resource, users need to respond to search results – possibly because there are too few or too many – and know when to stop searching. An information-literate person would also understand that, in addition to purposive search, information can be acquired by browsing, scanning and monitoring information sources.
The fourth competence is an understanding of the need to evaluate results. It requires the ability to evaluate information for its authenticity, accuracy, currency, value and bias. Also the skill involves the ability to evaluate the means by which the results were obtained in order to ensure that individual approach does not produce misleading and incomplete results. This is not just whether the resource appears to answer the question, but whether it is intrinsically trustworthy.
Another literacy competence is an understanding of how to work with and exploit results. The competence requires the individual to be able to analyze the information to provide accurate, presentable research result or to develop new knowledge and understand. This involves the ability to understanding, compare and apply the information found.
The sixth competence involves an understanding of the ethical and responsibility of use of information. Here the individual is expected to know why information should by used in a responsible, culturally sensitive and ethical manner; respecting confidentiality and also giving credit to other people’s work; understanding the nature and use of bias in order to produce appropriate and unbiased report. This could include issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, unfair practice, fair use etc.
Another competence is an understanding of how to communicate or share your finding. This competence requires the ability to communicate/share information in a manner or format that is appropriate to the information, the intended audience and situation.
Finally, is the understanding of how to manage findings. This competence involves the knowledge of how to store and manage the information one has acquired using the most effective method available. Reflecting critically on the process and achievements as well as the source found in order to learn from the experience of finding and using information.
The globalization process in the world today is a function of the exponential growth of information and the convergence of information and communication technologies, particularly in the last decade of the 20th century. With the availability of abundant information, it is necessary for a researcher to be able to understand the information environment. In this way, he/she will be able to identify what resources are available for exploitation, where they are available, how to access them, and appreciate the merits of individual resource types, and when it is appropriate to use them. To achieve the above, therefore the individual researcher requires an understanding of types of resources (paper-based, electronic, digital, human etc) and when to use them. This is particularly very important in a university environment especially among the academic staff.
Information Literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning, (Etim and Nsslen, 2007). It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual according to the American Library Association (2008, 41) is able to:
– Determine the extent of information needed
– Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
– Evaluate information and its sources critically
– Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
– Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
– Understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and access and use information ethically and legally.
The need for information literacy has increased tremendously. According to Wilson (2001) this is not unconnected with the exponential growth in information resulting from digital information and the new focus of learning in a life-long context. According to him, the need to find, evaluate and make effective use of information has always been with us, however, with increased understanding of the learning process and internet access to unedited works, the academics in Nigerian universities are faced with diverse, and abundant information choices in their academic work.
Information literacy is a new concept in the information profession. Once called user education or library skills, now the terms information literacy (IL) or information skills are more usual, according to Debbi and Holloway (2005). Information Literacy as we know it today has its origin. First use of the term “Information Literacy” is credited to Paul Zurkowski in 1974 who as president of the Information Industry Association (IIA) suggested that people trained in the application of information resources to the work can be called information Literates. This meants according to him is that they have learned techniques and skills for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary sources in moulding information solutions to their problems.
As a follow-up, efforts have also been made by the America Library Association to improve on the above concept as provided by Paul Zurkowski. In 1987, American Library Association (ALA) convened a blue ribbon panel of national educators and librarians called, The ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. This committee was charged with the following tasks;
1. To define information literacy within the higher literacy’s and its importance to student performance, lifelong learning, and active citizenship,
2. To design one or more models for information literacy development appropriate to formal and informal learning environments throughout people’s lifetimes; and
3. To determine implications for the continuing education and development to teachers.
In the release of its final Report in 1989, the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy summarized in its opening paragraphs the ultimate mission of the National Forum on Information Literacy;
How our country deals with the realities of the information
age will have enormous impact on our democratic way of
life and on our nation’s ability to compete internationally.
within America’s information society, there also exists the
potential of addressing many long-standing social and
economic inequities”. (ALAPCIL 1989). P. 11
To reap such benefits, people-as individuals and a nation, must be information literate. To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. Producing such a citizenry will require that schools and colleges appreciate and integrate the concept of information literacy into their learning programmes and that they play a leadership role in equipping individuals and institutions to take advantage of the opportunities inherent within the information society. Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learnt how to learned. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in an appropriate manner. (Information literacy guide 2008).
For information literacy to be properly assessed, James Madison University firstname.lastname@example.org has classified the measure in to four levels, very high (VH) high (H) low (L) and very low. This was used successfully to assess ACRL information literacy standards for higher education.
The information gap created by rapid technological change and proliferation of information resources has made it necessary to look for new ways and abilities to use information effectively, especially for research among the academics, hence the need to examine the relationship between information literacy and academic productivity in Nigerian universities.
In practical terms universities are communities of those who teach and those who learn, places where the minds of maturing student are trained and strengthened and where the future leaders in a society are prepared not only for the learned professions and tasks of responsibility in the community, but also for the living of a full life. No less importantly, universities are places where by reappraisal and original investigations new additions are continuously being made to the sum of human knowledge and understanding. The Asquith commission’s report as cited by Oyemakinde (2004), which laid the formation for university education in Nigeria, made it clear that the immediate objective of such an institution was to produce men and women who had the standards of public service and capacity for leadership. In order to achieve the above therefore, research is very necessary, and for research to be carried out, information literacy is very important. According to Ochai and Nwafor (1990) academics the world over place emphasis on research and publication because of their strong belief that research enhances teaching and the learning process as well as contribute to the body of knowledge. This according to them is the essence of university education.
The desire to develop an appropriate workforce for its activities prompted the colonial government in Nigeria to establish the first university college in Nigeria in 1948- the University of Ibadan. Since then, the number of universities has continued to rise such that by 2008 the number of Nigeria universities had increased to more than 100 due to increase in population and desire for university education. In the same vein, students enrollment in Nigerian universities has been growing steadily, (JAMB Brochure 2009).
The above objective of ensuring highly skilled workforce is in line with Mellambi’s position that, “no one would deny that unless it is a substantial centre of research, a university is unworthy of its name (Mellambi cited by Oyemakinde 2004). To ensure quality research therefore, there is the need to asses the influence of information literacy on academic productivity. This is in line with the position of the present research, which assesses the influence of information literacy on academic productivity.
Productivity in whatever form it takes, academic or industrial, would be seen as the rate of output of production of work performed by a worker. It can also be described as a measure of overall production of efficiency, effectiveness and performance of an individual worker to the industry (Isawumi 2003). According to Faboyin (1983) productivity is the relationship of some volume of output to a specific volume of input. According to Ajide (2001) productivity can be defined as the ratio of production to the resources used in providing it. He argued that at the national level, productivity is often referred to as human productivity which can be termed as goods or services produced by an individual in a given time. According to him the need for productivity improvement cannot be over emphasized since it is the only way for an independent nation to improve the standard of living of her population. This is the reason why this present study is looking at the relationship between information literacy and academic productivity. To optimize productivity therefore, believable, simple and accurate measurement as well as qualified standards are needed.
Academic productivity in relation to the objective of university education is therefore seen as the measure or the required output expected of an academic staff. Academic Analytics (2008) which specializes in the creation of the faculty scholarly productivity index has what it called the only objective measure of faculty productivity.
According to Academic Analytics the index or competence for academic productivity includes:
How many books written?
How many journal articles written?
How many grants won?
How many times publications been cited?
How many awards won? (http://www.academicanalytics.com.)
This outlined academic productivity base as outlined by Academic Analytic will form the bedrock of this study with respect to productivity level. This is also in line with the roles and functions of university education.
In many universities in Nigeria, promotion guidelines are available to measure the required output. For instance in the University of Ibadan, guideline for promotion (2005), stipulates that to move from Lecturer I to Senior Lecturer, an academic staff is expected to have produced at least six journal articles in addition to other publications. To move from Senior Lecturer to Reader the staff must have ten journal articles plus other publications, while to become a Professor he should have fifteen journal articles in addition to other publications. The recently revised promotion guideline, makes provision for what is popularly referred to as “off shore on shore”. By this provision, a certain percentage of the publications must be published outside the shore of Nigeria. The reason for this is for Nigerian scholars to make greater impact on the international scholarly scene and also have better visibility. This position is central to the objective of this study.
Academic productivity has now assumed international dimension. With information technology, it is possible to use internet to access information internationally. Locally, the Libraries are veritable sources of information for researchers. It is now possible to use internet to gauge the visibility and impact of any country or any academic. In most cases this is measured by the research output of the individual academic.
The National Universities Commission has set standards based on some criteria for works published in Nigeria. In all, visibility and impact on the international scholarly scene are very important (Aina 2005). Bottle and Adesanya cited in Okafor (2007) found out that Nigerian productivity was one-sixth of British sample. This low academic productivity especially in highly rated foreign journals can be due to the fact that only abstract in there journals are selected for Science Citation Index (SCI) or on-line indexing. The reason for this low level of productivity is not far from the position of O’connor and Voos (1981), who argued that the factors that militate against the publication output of Nigerian academics include some variables which affect the information environment.
A major factor which affects academic productivity negatively is the problem of lack of access to resources, (Nzotta, 1997). The books, journals and ICT facilities are often not there for use. Apart from the problem of lack of access to resources, there is also the issue of distractions resulting from extracurricular pressure. There is the need to survive in an environment where water, light, fuel, etc are not readily available.
Another factor is the issue of lack of infrastructure and security. These add to the problems of the academics in Nigerian universities. Another critical factors which affects academic productivity is what Banet-Weiser (2009) called gender inequity in academia. Gender inequity according to her involves what might be termed “extra-curricular pressures: “female faculty are often overloaded with student advising duties, and frequently juggle pressures of family and motherhood in university settings. The pressures of what is called the “second shift,” where the additional labor that women perform in the context of familial and domestic relations is rendered invisible, becomes quite complicated in academia because of the time constraints of typical university practices such as tenure and promotion.
However, some researches have identified some traits in women which pre-dispose them favourably to higher productivity in all human endeavors including academic productivity. According to (Obaje 2008) “mythologies around the world have ascribed to women the supreme literacy achievements of creating alphabets and inverting languages” pg 51. According to Obaje, women were once at the centre of the world of learning. On the cause of disparity in productivity, Ivory ceiling (2008) has argued that child care and lack of research collaboration are the two factors that cause significant gender difference in scientific publishing. Women with young children and women who do not collaborate in research with other scientists are clearly less productive than both their men and female colleagues.
The publishing industry in Nigeria is not well developed, some journals disappear after two or more years of existence. Most reputable journals are foreign based and with the quality of research here it is difficult to get works published. Looking at the issue of low academic productivity from external angle, Alemna (1996) explained that it was not always easy to publish in foreign journals because much of the research in Nigeria addresses local issues which are not likely to interest an overseas audience.
Omolewa (2008) lamented that many of the professors in Africa are only local professors who are hardly known outside their institutions and are not recognized for the quality of their knowledge or scholarship. To be acknowledged as an international scholar, an academic must publish internationally. For this to be possible, the academic must have access to wide range of information resources, must be current and know what is going on in his field. Only an academic who is information literate can do this, hence the relevance of information literacy to academic productivity can not be overemphasized. In view of the above, this research seeks to find out how information literacy correlates with academic productivity in Nigerian universities, in the North Central Geo-political zone.
Statement of the Problem
Most universities the world over are founded on the concept of service to man, primarily to meet the development needs of the society. This is done through a systematic approach to research as knowledge acquired is subjected to constant questioning and evaluation, and used in the acquiring of further knowledge. To achieve the above academics must be information literates. Information literacy competence affords the researcher the opportunity to have a wide range of information resources, ability to find and evaluate resources etc. These are necessary for research however, this cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively is lacking, (Kevin and Shafack, 2002). This study therefore aims at investigating the influence of information literacy on academic productivity among the academic staff in the Universities, in the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria.