Background to the study
In Nigeria, the need for agricultural information provision cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria is predominantly an agricultural country. In spite of the pre-eminent position of the petroleum sub-sector, the agricultural sector still plays major and significant role in the overall economic growth and development of the country. The positive contributions of agriculture to the economy were instrumental to sustaining economic growths and stability since independence in 1960. The bulk of food demand was satisfied from domestic output, thereby obviating the need to utilize foreign exchange on food importation. Eighty – one government and higher education agencies engaged in agricultural research in Nigeria in 2000, together they employed over 1,352 full time equivalent researchers and spend 3.6 billion naira in 1999 on agricultural research and development equivalent to $106 million in 1993 international prices (Nienke and Ayola 2004).
However, the rate of growth and development of agricultural sector has in the recent past not been encouraging. A more important factor responsible for low agricultural production is related to the fact that researchers/lecturers, students, extension workers are not adequately provided with information services that would improve agricultural production. The published literature on agriculture and allied sciences is scattered over a variety of documents namely, books, journals, newsletters, internet, conference papers etc. Thus packaging the widely dispersed agricultural information is a challenge to library users. The necessity to sustaining agricultural production rest squarely on quality and effective information service provision. Agriculture research library remains a societal mechanism designed essentially for the provision of needed information to users for high quality productivity.
Nigeria has elaborate agricultural research library systems, prominent among them are the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Library, the International Crop Research Institute for Semi – Arid Tropics Library, the International Livestock Research Institute Library, as well as 18 National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) libraries. There are also three specialized universities of agriculture libraries which have been established against the background of the existing faculties of agricultural libraries in both the federal and state owned universities. These libraries are mandated to provide library and information services for study and research activities that will enhance the provision of prompt solution to farmer’s practical problem and raise farmers output and income and accelerate the drive towards national food self sufficiency (Ozowa, 1999).
Faris (1991) defines agricultural research libraries as organizational mechanisms, designed to link groups of students, lecturers and scientists that are committed to sharing information or working together to solve agricultural problems and to use existing resources more effectively. Halis (1995) refers agricultural research libraries to all library/information centres-established under the auspices of Agricultural Research Institutes, including Universities of Agriculture set aside for the use of students, lecturers, researchers and practitioners in agriculture and related areas. The emphasis for the agricultural research libraries is the dissemination of specialized information primarily devoted to a special discipline, offering specialized services to specialized clientele. Thus agricultural research libraries are expected to acquire, organize, preserve and disseminate information and as well as to improve, stimulate and guide research in agriculture by co-ordinating the efforts of research findings in agriculture and also setting in motion interaction and better working relation between producers and consumers of agriculture research.
Essentially, library services are library processes and activities with the aim of disseminating desirable information to library users. Services to users in the broadest sense include all library functions since the ultimate aim of any library activity is the satisfaction of user’s information needs (Griffith, 2006). Library and information community has provided a range of services which facilitate the inter-change of library data, promote the inter-operability of library system, and support the operation of national and international networking of libraries. Australian Library Association (2006) notes that these services include, reference services, circulation service, current awareness service, selective dissemination of information, Internet service, inter-library loan service, etc. Udekwe (2007) maintained that agricultural libraries in Nigeria provide reference, selective dissemination of information, current awareness services, referral services whereby enquiries are directed to other channels of information especially expert on the subject matter of investigation, interlibrary loan whereby recourse is made to external sources for specific information which the institute cannot provide and execution of literature search for users’ etc. These services play important roles in improving users’ access to the information resources which are held in the library collection, in collections of other libraries or which are accessible in the World Wide Web.
Reference service provides the user of library and information service an interface with the larger body of knowledge to satisfy his information needs. Depending on the type of library or information centre, reference service may range from the provision of the desired information to the training and educating the user to identify and locate what he needs (Fisher and Kirnch, 1990). Reiz (1990) reports that reference service satisfies the information needs of patrons (in person, by telephone, or electronic means) by answering substantive questions, instructing users’ in the selection and use of appropriate tools and techniques and directing users’ to the location of the library resources. He adds that reference service assists in the evaluation of information and referring patrons to resources outside the library when necessary, in order to satisfy their information needs.
The term circulation service applies to the process of lending books and other library information resources to users’ and then accurately reshelving them after they have been returned to the library so that they could be retrieved by the next users. Bataile (1996) maintains that this process involves a cycle where an item moves from shelf to user and back to shelf, in addition to the adjunct record keeping system. The entire process is based on the policies that the libraries have adopted concerning who may borrow what, for how long and what happens if the item is not returned.
Aguolu and Aguolu (2002) state that current awareness service is designed to maximize satisfaction through alerting users’ to current information services that might be of interest to them. They assert further that the services are usually rendered through weekly or bi-weekly bulletins of new publications added to the library stock, usually arranged in broad subject grouping, which are sent to academic departments or individual researchers, distributing photocopies of content pages of current journals among departments or individual likely to be interested in them. Michael (1996) maintains that the purpose of CAS in the agricultural research libraries is to supplement individual faculty member methods and habits of keeping current by providing a systematic and selective review of recently published literature. The service is intended to save time, offer extensive coverage of literature and incorporate the searching enterprise of the professional library staff in order to satisfy user information needs (Luhum, 2000).
In the agriculture research library setting, the need for individualized library service cannot be overemphasized. Selective dissemination of information offers such individualized library service delivery. According to Christianson cited in Ugwona, Dike, and Ugwu (2003) special libraries have developed a wide range of activities to keep the clientele abreast of new and current development. Such services they continued may be directed to the organization as a whole or tailored to individual client and even to the secondary client. This sophisticated service is Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI). Christianson maintains that SDI matches the individual users’ interest against incoming information resulting in a personalized service to each user. He stresses further that the major advantage of SDI is that it can find answers for inquirer more rapidly than he could himself and to this might be added that it could also provide answers which the enquirers need but have not thought to request. Lavandel (2000) states that at its best, SDI brings forward on a regular basis new information item within the patron’s scope of interest. He further identifies at least four ways by which SDI satisfies users’ information needs as follows: update on fields of interest, time saving control of information overload, immediate awareness of new field of interest by profile adjustment and identification and support of information gatekeepers.
Internet – the product of a combination of desktop computing and high speed communications is more than just a different way of delivering library services. It constitutes a new paradigm for delivering library and information services. The excitement surrounding it is fully justified (Rockwell, Hardin and Loots, 1995). Studies on the use of internet in satisfying library user information needs have been stressed. For instance, Henderson (1997) provides numerous benefits and advantages of internet on sports administration which can also be applied to agricultural research libraries. Some of these benefits include: Speedy and easy access to information, remote access to information sources, access to unlimited information from different sources, more up-to-date information, facilitate the reformatting and combining of data from different sources etc. The driving force behind internet services is its convenience, efficiency and cost saving in satisfying users’ information needs.
Inter-Library Loan Services (ILLs) has been designed to enable library users’ have access to information or document that are useful for their study and research, but are not available in their local libraries. Vicha (2007), defines ILL as the process which a library requests from another library, upon request from a library user, materials that are not available in the users’ library. According to Rutledge and Swindler (1987) agricultural research libraries have a duty to provide highly specialized and low – use material for their users. They maintain that ILLs represents one means of achieving the goal. In order to provide resources to satisfy user needs, agricultural research libraries provide access to material that, while essential to research is apt to be infrequently used at any one institution but can be shared by the major research libraries. The importance of the ILL is succinctly captured by Kooganuramath (1994) when he calls ILL a ‘Gift’ to all scholars in the world and not just those resident in our institutions or community.
When these services are adequately provided and all expected conditions are met, users are satisfied with the services. According to Frant (1996) these services address the question of improving the quality of satisfaction of information need of library users. He maintains that they supplement rather than duplicate each other in the sense that they take into account to a certain extent all presently known users’ information needs.
It is useful to identify if there are differences in users’ satisfaction with services provided in the university of agricultural libraries and agricultural research institute libraries in Nigeria. This seems necessary because both of the institutions were established to complement the efforts of each other in our nations drive for self-sufficiency in food agricultural production. Ozowa (1999) is of the opinion that to satisfy users’ information needs in the university of agriculture libraries a combination of specialized and general information services provision are required. Thus CAS, SDI, and inter-library loan may be employed to satisfy lecturers/researchers information need. While general information services such as circulation, photocopying and reference may be provided to satisfy students information need for study and examination purposes. He noted however that users in agricultural research institutes are extremely sensitive to their subject specialization. Issues of climate, soil, economics national policy on agriculture etc. are critical to specific application of information services. Thus, in order to satisfy users’ needs is this information environment, CAS, SDI, interpersonal linkages and reference services are to be provided. It is also useful to identify trends in agricultural research and practice which might affect users’ satisfaction and which have implication for their information needs.
In spite of the importance of users, systematic concern with and interest in users’ satisfaction is a comparative recent development in agricultural research libraries. French (1990) asserts that interest in users and their satisfaction seemed to coincide with the advent of online system although description of users’ needs can be found occasionally in earlier reports about agricultural research libraries. A trend appears to have emerged in agricultural librarianship towards a competency performance based library service system. This trend demands that library services should be critically examined and effective library service characteristics carefully identified. Calvert (1994) suggests that the ultimate test of library service effectiveness should be its consequences for users. He asserts further that since generally accepted desirable consequences of library services are increased user satisfaction and improvement in the users’ attitude towards the library system, these outcomes could serve as criteria for successful library and information service provision.
User satisfaction has been defined, by Ives (1983) as the extent to which users believe the library and information services available to them meets their information needs. In the library and information service literature the user satisfaction construct has been referred to a “felt need”; “system acceptance”, “perceived usefulness” and “system appreciation”.
The concept of user satisfaction is based on Cyart and March’s suggestion cited in James, Thong and Yap (1996) that if a library and information service meets the users’ information requirements, the users’ satisfaction with the services will be increased, conversely, if the services do not provide the needed information, the users’ will be dissatisfied. Evans (1976) also is of the view that there is a level of satisfaction below which the users will discontinue use of the library services. Thus, user satisfaction is a perceptual or subjective measure of library and information service effectiveness. It can also be an adequate substitute for objective measure of a library service’s effectiveness.
The needed users’ satisfaction seems to be far from realization in the agricultural research libraries in Nigeria. Ankpa (2000) reports that visits to the library by students and lecturers for study and research have been stagnated and user frustration is progressively increasing due to inadequate and ineffective information service provision by the research libraries. Jegede and Moshoesher – Chadginwa (1997) are of the view that library and information services have the capacity to make positive impact on both the students and lecturers productivity, but in most cases, the needed impact is lacking.
Part of the problem is due to the inadequate and ineffective library and information service provision. This has been corroborated by some authors since the late 1990’s (Phiri 1996 and Ogunleye, 1997). Leonor, Gregorio and Sison (1989) also identified a range of problems facing agricultural library service provision in developing countries among which are: qualified librarians are lacking, the collection in the agricultural libraries are in the main, too limited in scope and volume to provide the users with all the materials that are essential for quality education, research and extension, modern reference and documentation services are rarely encountered and modern equipment and technique are scarce, inter-library loans and co-operation efforts that are considered indispensable to adequate library services in the developing countries are but little developed, the collection of agricultural libraries had grown without planning and without information concerning the library resources of the region or of the nation, librarians are few in number in each library and each library is repeating the same efforts to locate, acquire, classify, and catalogue the same materials. The total amount of effort duplicated in the daily library routines utilized a tremendous amount of time that are taken away from services to users, and the agricultural libraries lack professional tools such as bibliographies, manuals, and union lists among others.
Cassner and Dana (1998) were of the view that relevant and effective library and information service delivery is a prerequisite to user satisfaction in the agricultural research libraries. Available evidence also lends strong support to the close relationship between adequate and effective library and information service provision and user satisfaction and overall users’ productivity.
The need to improve library and information services in the agricultural research libraries in Nigeria is more urgent. It is also more challenging with respect to resource–poor students and lecturers whose resources to satisfy their information needs are weak or limited. Students and lecturers limited resource base, narrows the range of gateways that are feasible for them to satisfy their information needs; it also constrains their ability to access information themselves.
It is observed that resource poor library users are rarely sufficiently powerful or well enough organized to exert pressure on libraries to make their services more responsive to their needs. They also do not have the power to influence the library policies more favourably to their needs. At the same time, libraries often have limited knowledge of the diverse and complex users’ needs. To deliver relevant and effective services, librarians must have adequate knowledge of their users and their respective information needs to be able to ascertain which of the library services is suitable to meet a particular need. It is against this background that this study attempts to examine library and information service provision and users’ satisfaction with library services provided in the agricultural research libraries in Nigeria.
Statement of the problem It is widely believed that a viable agriculture research and development (R&D) effort is a critical factor for socio – economic development of Nigeria. This is because research in agriculture is required to meet food and economic requirements of the nation. Provide employment for the populace as well as preserve the natural resources.