This study investigated the information environment of lecturers in Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria, in relation to their information seeking behavior, extent of use of the polytechnic library, perceptions of the resources and services of the library, level of awareness and extent of use of the open access model of scholarly communications, as well as the challenges of accessing and using information resources. It adopted the survey research method, using a questionnaire for data collection, while the descriptive statistics method was used to analyse the data, using tabular presentation and simple percentages. From a population of 280 lecturers for the study, a purposive sample of 164 was drawn. The findings showed that the lecturers’ information needs are focused on online use; they hardly use the polytechnic library due to their perceptions of the resources and services of the library. They are, to a greater extent, aware of open access initiatives, but do not publish in open access outlets, while various challenges affect their access and use of information resources for teaching and research. A recommendation was made, among others, that the polytechnic management should pay more critical attention to the library especially in the areas of adequate, current and comprehensive collections on all the programmes of the institution, as well as the provision of wireless internet services on the campus through a public-private partnership arrangement.
The concept of information environments has to do with factors associated with, and surrounding access to, as well as use of information resources by different categories of individuals in society. These factors include information needs, information seeking behavior, sources of information and challenges of accessing information and its resources. According to Mooko and Aina (2007), investigation in the context of information environments includes not only the information needs, but also the information seeking behaviors, access to information and sources of information, used for meeting the information needs of users, which could either be heterogeneous, such as with rural inhabitants and artisans, or homogenous, as with students, professionals, policy makers, researchers, and lecturers. Uhegbu (2007) posits that understanding a user’s information environment will help to place the information provider in a better stead to appreciate the psychology of a user in relation to his or her information seeking behavior. Diagrammatically, he represents the information environment of users as follows:
The Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria, is among the federal government-owned polytechnics in Nigeria. Established in 1992, it has five faculties namely: Applied Sciences and Technology, Communication and Information Technology, Business and Management Studies, Engineering Technology, and Environmental Studies, with twenty academic departments offering courses leading to the award of both National Diploma (ND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) certificates. In addition, there is a Faculty of General Studies, which is responsible for teaching students compulsory general studies courses such as citizenship education, communication skills, and use of the English language.
A study on the information environments will investigate issues surrounding the pattern of information seeking behavior, use, and contributions to the growth of knowledge in society. Information environments of lecturers, in this case, are limited to their information seeking behavior, perceptions of the resources and services of their major information sources, and the level of awareness and extent of use of open access (OA) initiatives for scholarly activities. Some investigations have taken place on the information environment of lecturers and users in various tertiary institutions in Nigeria such as universities, polytechnics and colleges of education (Adekunmisi, 2005; Igbeka & Atinmo, 2002; Odusanya & Amusan, 2003; Oyediran - Tidings, 2004; Nnadozie & Nnadozie, 2008), but are yet to be carried out in Federal Polytechnic Offa.
Whereas studies have been conducted on the information environments of professionals in their various fields and disciplines, especially those of lecturers in the universities in Nigeria, the polytechnic system has not been able to attract such research attention; and has thus suffered some form of neglect in this regard. Yet, a developing nation like Nigeria cannot truly develop technologically without a robust polytechnic system, which can only be by having in place a vibrant academic workforce among other vital ingredients. Their awareness and adoption of OAI are also key to sound academic callings. These concerns bring to the fore the issue of the state of the polytechnic library, which should be the predominant source of information for lecturers in such an environment. However, the literature is rather scanty on studies concerning the information seeking behaviors of polytechnic lecturers, the extent of their library use, their perceptions of the library resources and services, as well as their disposition to OA initiatives, a contemporary method of scholarly communication geared towards challenging serials crises. Hence, the justification for this study, which sought to investigate the awareness and use of open access initiative at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria. Specifically, the study sets out to provide answers to the following research questions, namely:
i. What are the information seeking behaviors of lecturers at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa?
ii. How often do they seek information materials and services in the library?
iii. What are their perceptions of the resources and services offered by the library?
iv. What is the level of awareness and extent of use of Open Access Initiatives for scholarly activities among them?
v. What challenges do they face in information seeking and utilization for teaching and research?
The study of information environments as it relates to information needs and gathering behavior dates back to 1948, when Bernal and others presented a paper on scientific information at the 1948 Royal Society Conference (Tahir & Mahmood, 2008). Since then, a considerable body of literature has been produced dealing with information needs and information-seeking behavior of both individuals and groups in a variety of contexts (Anwar, Al-Ansari, & Abdullah, 2004). Also, studies have investigated the information-seeking behavior of library users in different information environments, subject interests, occupations, and geographical locations. Information needs and information-seeking behavior of academics have also been a popular area of research for information scientists for decades (Majid & Kassim, 2000). In Pakistan, for example, Tahir and Mahmood (2008) discovered that the purposes of information seeking by lecturers are for teaching and lecture preparation, guidance to students, and in support of research.
The Open Access (OA) model of scholarly communication is still in its infancy in Nigeria, as scholars, researchers, and lecturers are yet to fully adopt it. A study by Christian (2008) shows that over 73% of respondents in academic and research institutions in Nigeria is completely unaware and unfamiliar with the OA initiatives, let alone its adoption, usage and implementation. In their study, Utulu and Bolarinwa (2009) revealed that there was no significant use of OA resources among the academics studied. Similarly, studies by Ivwighreghweta and Onoriode (2012a, b, c) revealed that a good percentage of the lecturers surveyed at the University of Benin and Western Delta University, Oghara, as well as postgraduate students of the University of Ibadan, lack knowledge of OA journals. Identified major constraints to the adoption and use of OA initiatives were, among others, the unavailability of Internet facilities and lack of Internet search skills. Meanwhile, according to Gbaje (2010), efforts have been made via workshops in 2008 and 2009 at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to popularize the OA new model for scholarly communication in Nigeria. This was done in collaboration with Electronic Information for Libraries Network (www.elf.net). However, the impact is yet to be seen on the part of scholars publishing their findings in OA outlets.
In Nigeria, studies have also been carried out on the information environment of lecturers. Such information environments are job-related, specifically to teaching, research, and publications; and they vary according to lecturers’ areas of specializations. Nnadozie and Nnadozie (2008) found out that lecturers’ information needs are mainly in the area of teaching and research materials; and that the challenges encountered in information search include inadequacy of current and relevant information resources in the library, lack of ICT, incompetent staff, and shortage of reading spaces in the library.
The open access initiatives (OAI) have had a history that is linked with the advent of the Internet, owing to its endless possibilities for information handling, including processing and distribution. The Internet has come to liberalize the publishing environment, by providing the tools to free scholars and authors from the unwanted and unwarranted access restrictions to information imposed by publishers, aforetime. The ultimate goal of the OA initiatives is the creation of an open knowledge society, where knowledge is seen as a common human heritage, which should be of benefit to all by being freely accessible and available. There is no doubt that the OA initiatives came at a time when libraries worldwide, especially those in developing countries, are undergoing difficult times occasioned by the increasing library budgetary cuts and soaring costs of subscriptions, thereby incapacitating their performance.
Specifically, the first free scientific online archive for physicists, called arXiv.org, and launched in 1991 by Paul Ginsparg, turned out to be forerunner of OA today. The initial fear that the attempt would affect journal subscriptions in Physics negatively was unfounded, after all, despite the fact that the articles are freely available on arXiv.org, usually before publication. Although the American Scientists Open Access Forum was launched in 1998, it was only in 2001 that the OA movement for the Life Sciences actually accelerated. That year, about 34,000 scholars all around the world, signed “An Open Letter to Scientific Publishers”, which called for “the establishment of an online public library to provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse in medicine and the life sciences in a freely accessible, fully searchable, interlinked form”. The result was the establishment of the Public Library of Science, and its transformation into an open access publisher with a number of OA Journals.
However, the credit for the launching of the first global OA initiative went to the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) where the attendees signed an agreement to preferentially publish their findings in OA journals. This agreement still subsists and can be signed up to online today. There was also the 2003 Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, published after a conference, the ninth of which came up in 2011 in Washington, DC. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to ‘correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system’, also represents the OA movement.
The European counterpart called SPARCEUROPE also exists to promote OA at European universities and institutions, while NEBELAC is the platform used for collaboration between Europe and Latin-American Caribbean countries. The EU Commission for the Digital Agenda has also launched the OPENAire initiative in Europe, whereby scientists receiving European research grants are required to put their results in freely accessible repositories. The green road to OA has now been adopted by universities and institutions worldwide. Many of them have either made commitments to OA, or are in the process of reviewing their policies and procedures. The renowned Harvard and Princeton universities have also joined this group (Olijhoek, 2011).
Open Access journals, known as the “Gold Road” to open access, are peer-reviewed journals that are made available free of charge to the public through the Internet in open access publishing, where the end user is not charged to access journal articles. The initiative operates on such funding strategies as direct author fees, institutional membership to sponsor all or part of author fees, funding agency payments of author fees, grants to open access publishers, and institutional subsidies to offset the costs of publication (Ivwighreghweta & Onoriode, 2012). Studies in this area have highlighted the benefits of OA journals as including free access to information, and increased research impact (measured by citations/downloads) of open access articles versus non-open articles (Antelman, 2004), a possible solution to the socalled “serial crisis” or “journal affordability problem”. Okoye and Ejikeme (2010) also identified the benefits of using open access journals as including the provision of increased citation to published scholarly work; free publishing of articles by authors, increasing the impact of researchers’ work; online free of charge access to articles; provision of free online access to the literature necessary for one’s research; helping in career development; and providing high quality scholarly work.
This study adopted the survey design method with structured questionnaire as the tool for data collection. The population of academic staff in the polytechnic is 280 as of the 2011/2012 academic session (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, 2012). A sample size of 164 was chosen through the application of the formular of Yaro Yamane (1969) as found in Uhegbu (2009), thus:
Where: n=the required sample; N=the total population; 1=constant; e=the level of significance or tolerable error, i.e. (0.05)2
The structured questionnaire has part A, which is on the demographic data of respondents and part B, which deals with the study objectives, with some aspects with a modified four-point Likert scale. Of the 280 academic staff of the polytechnic at the time of the study, 116 belong to the category of the newly recruited, the majority of who are in the lower cadre and so unsuited for the purposes of this study. Thus, the study’s population came down to 164 completed. The justification of the study sample (164) from the population (280) was evidently representative considering the position of Edem (2005), referring to Krejcie and Morgan’s sampling formula, which suggested that “a sample size of 384 will be sufficient for a population of 100,000; 370 for 10,000 and 248 for 700”. Also, Ali and Denga (1989), while accepting that there is no universal rule for determining the appropriateness of sample sizes, stated that a sample should be about 15-30% of the population. Thus, the sample size of 164 or 58.57% of the population is considered adequate for the study.
Out of the 164 copies of the questionnaire administered, 161 copies, representing 98.00% were properly completed, returned and found usable for the data analysis. Table 1 shows the demographic characteristics of respondents.
Table 1 shows that 74% of the respondents are males, as against 26% females; implying that there are more male lecturers in the institution than their female counterparts. The majority of the respondents fall in the age brackets of 41-50 (41.00%); followed by 51-60 (22.4%) and then 30-40 (21.1%). Those below 30 years of age constitute an insignificant 11.80% while those above 60 years had the least response rate of 3.7%. The implications of this finding is that the bulk of the academic staff in this polytechnic is still in their youthful and vibrant stage, which is a positive attribute for good teaching and research, being the hallmark of any higher institution.
Similarly, 27.10% of respondents had between 11-15 years of cognate experience and another 23.0% with experience of between 6-10 years, while those between 16-20 years constitute only 18.00%. Expectedly, those with between 21-25 years of experience had 11.80% while those with over 26 years had only 3.7%. These responses showed that the respondents are largely experienced and therefore likely to be matured on the job. This indicated that there is a very good spread regarding varying years of cognate working experience, which is a fundamental requirement for a vibrant academic institution.
However, the equation slightly changed when it came down to the ranks of the respondents, which tilted more towards Lecturers II and I with 26.7% followed by Senior Lecturers (22.40%), while Assistant Lecturers and Lecturers III had 21.1%. The top echelon of the institution’s teaching staff, namely: Principal Lecturer (19.2%) and Chief Lecturers (10.6%) turned in the least number of responses; indicating that the institution’s pyramidal structure of academic staffing is top-light and thus bottom- heavy. Though seemingly disadvantageous, this situation has been taken care of adequately by the good spread in the cognate years of experience possessed by the respondents, as revealed earlier on.
As for the distribution of respondents according to the various faculties in the institution, the Faculty of Applied Sciences contributed the highest number (24.5%), followed by the Faculty of Engineering Studies (19.9%) and then the Faculty of Business Studies (17.4%). The Faculties of Environmental Studies (14.9%), Communication and Information Technology (12.6%), and General Studies (10.7%) contributed the least responses in that order. Significantly, 71.4% of the respondents possess a Master’s degree as their highest qualification 24.2% are with HND/BSc. and 4.4% are with Ph.D. These are in addition to a good percentage of them who are already on their PhD and Master’s programmes.
Taking for granted that the respondents’ information needs would naturally revolve around their primary duties and responsibilities of teaching, research, and community service, their information seeking behavior were sought, which led to the responses in the table below.
Given the variety of options to choose from, a majority engages in online information searching in cyber cafes (72.0%) or use their own modem to connect to the Internet (60.2%). However, as opposed to discussing with colleagues or consulting experts (23.6%), or sending people to do the search for them (11.1%), it is interesting to find that a significant 53.4% of others make visitations to the Polytechnic Library when searching for needed information. This indicates that the institution’s library was considered relevant, to some extent, in spite of the attraction, which the Internet has come to represent for information users nowadays.
In contrast with the findings in Table 2, the data presented in Table 3 indicate that a majority claimed that they do not visit the library (38.6%) followed by those who only visit the library “occasionally” (30.5%). Thus, only 26% visit the library “often” while a 4.9% remainder indicated that they visit the library “very often” and “always”.
The library’s accommodations were not spacious enough as 34.2% and 27.3% disagreed and strongly disagreed, respectively. Worse still, was the conducive environment of the library for academic activities on which a majority 36.6% and 32.3% strongly disagreed, respectively. Progression along this line was recorded for the responses against the comfort of the library’s chairs and tables where 37.2% and 33.6% strongly disagreed and agreed respectively. Even more so were their responses on the currency and quality of the library materials, to which 40.4% and 31.7% strongly disagreed and disagreed, respectively.
As for the cordiality of library staff in rendering necessary assistance to the users, a remarkable 52.2% strongly disagreed that the library staff possess this quality. Also, the services provided by the library were considered unsatisfactory as 45.9% and 27.9% strongly disagreed and agreed, respectively. It was therefore not surprising that 44.1% and 32.3% disagreed and strongly disagreed with the statement that the library’s resources and services satisfied their needs.
On the respondents’ level of awareness and extent of the use of OAI for scholarly activities, a majority 35.4% and 26.7% claimed lack of awareness of the initiatives and movements that started in 2002 for the free flow of knowledge and research findings for scholarly communication. However, 36.7% and 28.0%, respectively, claimed awareness of many OA journals. This may be due to the fact that respondents’ familiarity with the Internet, overtime, would have exposed them to the existence of online OA resources, which also explains why 31.6% and 27.4% strongly agreed and agreed, respectively, to having had access to OA resources in their teaching and research works.
Regarding the respondents’ possession of excellent knowledge of citations and referencing of OA resources, a majority 32.3% and 29.2%, respectively, claimed the lack of knowledge of these, which is a major setback for its use. It was, therefore, surprising that 43.5% and 26.8%, respectively, claimed to have published their research works, and papers in OA outlets, which seemed contradictory. In the end, a total of 85.6% respondents suggested the encouragement and support of OA initiatives in which researchers were enjoined to publish their works in furtherance of free flows of scholarly communication.
The major challenges affecting information access and utilization by the respondents, as contained in Table 6, and in order of significance are inadequate resources (74.5%), absence of Internet services (65.2%), and high cost of Internet subscription from major telecommunication companies (54.1%). This implies that the respondents’ tendency for AO adoption through awareness and use would be greatly hampered by these factors.
The findings of this study showed that the information seeking behavior of the respondents are centered on the online environment. In other words, the lecturers prefer access to the Internet for online information resources. This is in contrast with the findings of Tahir and Mahmood (2008) where 77% of respondents prefer print-based information resources. However, these findings support those of Obuh (2009), which revealed that the attitudes of information users are focused on online use for desktop access to electronic information resources. That was why Ajala (2007) opined that information users resort, at a much greater cost, to cybercafés to satisfy their information needs, because they are aware of what the Internet provides. Thus, it can be inferred that for any library or information centre today to remain relevant and attractive to its users, it must provide access to, not only print-based collections, but also to online information resources.
The respondents’ lack-luster attitudes towards library visits and use of its materials could be attributable to their negative perception of its resources and services, which they do not consider adequate to meet their needs. Indeed, the findings showed that the lecturers are not comfortable with the general resources and services provided by the library. This is closely related to the challenges affecting their access to information resources such as inadequate resources and absence of Internet access in the library. This supports the earlier findings of Nnadozie and Nnadozie (2008) that inadequacy of current and relevant information resources as well as lack of information and communication technologies hinder access and use of scholarly resources by academic staff of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
The OA initiative for scholarly communication is, to a great extent, known to the lecturers; implying that they are familiar with contemporary trends in scholarly communication, with the claim that they access and use OA resources in their teaching and research works. This runs contrary to the findings of Christian (2008) and Utulu and Bolarinwa, but in line with that of Gbaje (2010). Meanwhile, the study also showed that although the lecturers are in support of OA initiatives support its continuation, they are not publishing their research works in OA journals and other OA outlets, thus contributing to weakening of the status of OA repositories in Africa (Ocholla, 2011). This may be attributed to concerns with copyright and plagiarism as noted by Gbaje (2010), not knowing that it is easy to detect plagiarism with online publications.
From the study’s findings, it is hereby concluded that lecturers at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, have not fully imbibed the culture of adopting, using and publishing in OA platforms, in furtherance of the goal of their making research findings freely available the world over. This implies that this group of academics is yet to fully tap into the benefits of the OA initiatives. The study also revealed that the Polytechnic Library has not been in the fore-front of the OA crusade since it is yet to provide the e-platform for providing resources and services to its users, thereby discouraging, in turn, the use of the library by many of the lecturers. Thus, they hardly patronize the library due to their negative perception of its resources and services. Despite their awareness of the OA initiatives, they do not publish their works in OA outlets. Arising from the conclusions therefore, the study recommends that:
1. The polytechnic management should give adequate attention to the provision of current and adequate numbers of library resources for effective service provision to its users. This is with the view to positioning it as a 21st century learning resource centre for academic activities.
2. Specifically, the polytechnic library should be expanded to accommodate more users, while also providing ICTs and Internet services in the library for users, as well as engaging more active and service-driven librarians to re-engineer information services in the library.
3. Also, the polytechnic management should woo telecommunication service providers for the provision of wireless Internet services on campus. This could be done through public- private partnership between the polytechnic and service providers, whereby the method of operation that will be beneficial to the partners will be stipulated.
4. Seminars and workshops should be organized to sensitize lecturers on the essence of publishing in OA outlets. Information literacy programmes should also be organized at intervals for the lecturers so as to acquaint them with contemporary skills to function actively and optimally in the present knowledge-driven and OA society.
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