1.1 Background of the study
The mission of a library is to acquire information, organize the information in a way that it can be accessed, use with ease and referred to at anytime. Reference services fulfil this last function. Miles (2013), posits that reference services did not become commonplace in libraries until the late 1800s. These services initially began in public libraries. At first, librarians were hesitant to offer reference services because many libraries did not have a large enough staff to provide the services without other duties of the library being neglected.
In 1883 the Boston Public Library began to hire librarians whose primary duty was to provide reference services. One of the earliest proponents of references services was Samuel Swett Green. He wrote an article titled “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers” which had a large impact on the future of reference services (Miles, 2013). Then, it operated to incorporate … making the following variables relevant in offering reference services: the user’s query; the reference librarian; and, the reference sources. Until hitherto the communication between the reference librarian and the user are through direct contact.
Hence, Utor(2008), defined reference services as a direct personal assistance to readers seeking information. That is, during the traditional era. Towards the later decades of 19th century however, reference and information services witnessed paradigm-shift following the incorporation of information communication technology in reference services (and in library operations, by extension). Thus leading to an entirely new era, otherwise known as digital era with different information technologies coming in to aid the work of a reference librarian; changing information sources, reference processes and communication medium (Udor, 2008).
Reference services may vary from library to library, but most libraries have an information or Reference Desk where assistance from a librarian is available (Bolner and Gayle, 2001). Almost all libraries also provide reference services via the telephone and in many libraries students can email their reference question, or Ask a Librarian to a reference librarian who will e-mail them back with the answers (Bolner and Gayle, 2001).
Collins, Diane and Bobbie (1994) identified three main types of reference assistance:
* Assistance or instruction in the use of the library, including location of materials, use of the catalog, use of computers to access information, and the use of basic reference sources.
* Assistance in identifying library materials needed to answer a question.
* Providing brief, factual answers to questions, such as addresses, statistics, phone numbers, etc. that can be quickly located.
Reference sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, handbooks, yearbooks, maps, index and abstracts are research tools that can help an undergraduates with their paper or project. Reference sources provide answers to specific questions, such as brief facts, statistics, and technical instructions; provide background information; or direct you to additional information sources. (Collins et al,1994)
In most libraries, reference sources do not circulate and are located in a separate reference collection. This practice makes reference sources readily available and easily accessible.
According to Collins et al (1994) reference sources are designed to be consulted rather than read through. Their design is generally dependent on the type of information and treatment provided. Reference materials can be arranged alphabetically, topically, or chronologically. Many will contain cross listed information and more than one index. Boner and Gayle (2001) maintained that in order to know how a reference source is organized, one should take a moment to look through the explanatory or how-to-use information, which is usually presented at the beginning of the book, or in HELP screens for online products. These processes have been largely ignored by many students which makes reference information difficult to use.
The goal of this study is to better understand what library users (undergraduates) need by taking a hard look at the Libraries’ reference services and how these services are provided. As technology continues to change the ways in which things are done, it is necessary to examine regularly the tools available to increase users’ awareness of the services offered and to help them obtain the information they need.
Available literature shows that the libraries’ staff members have always taken pride in the quality of reference and information services they provide. Survey responses and comments over the past few years supported the assumption that these services were exemplary. When only librarians staffed the reference desks in the buildings, they could be held accountable for the quality of service provided. They felt better able to provide the extra touches that made library service unique and valued in the university context. When resources were not stretched so thinly, coping with the rate of external change was manageable, and demands on staff time are not as great as they are now. Times have changed, however. Librarians now participate actively in library management, additional emphasis has been given to instruction and outreach, and resources, both print and electronic have multiplied. The observations above point to the need for a thorough review and redesign of reference information sources in Nigerian universities.
1.2 Statement the Problem
In many university libraries (including those of Ambrose Alli University and University of Benin), there are thousands of volumes of reference materials, and reports of student research, including theses and dissertations. The libraries are connected to the internet, and subscribe to hundreds of print journal titles, local and foreign, as well as national newspapers and magazines. But students who are the main users overtime face challenges in accessing the reference information materials. The undergraduates in their majority have not properly channelled the use of reference information for purposeful learning because of poor cataloguing, misshaping amongst other problems; these reference information sources need to be properly utilized as they enable the library play its role as repository of knowledge where wealth of academic resources could be explored to the benefit of the students.
Moreso, reference information sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, etc. are research tools that can help students with their paper or project. Reference sources provide answers to specific questions, such as brief facts, statistics, and technical instructions; provide background information; or direct you to additional information sources. In most libraries, reference sources do not circulate and are located in a separate reference collection. This practice is expected to make reference sources readily available and easily accessible.
The problems that flow from the above assertion is to ascertain whether the available references information sources were put to adequate use by students. This is because merely seeing these reference information source might not actually translate to effective utilisation by students. While use of reference information source means that users can identify and utilise the resources to their own benefits, both variables needs to be critically examined.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the availability and use of reference information sources by undergraduate students. The study also aims at:
- Identifying the available reference information source in the university library
- Investigating the extent of use of reference information source by undergraduate students.
- Examining the level of relationship between the users and reference librarians in the library.
- Examining the benefits of use of reference information sources by undergraduate students
- Identifying the problems associated with the use of use of reference information sources by undergraduate students in the libraries.
- Research Questions
The questions that this study raised therefore are:
- What types of reference information source are available in the university libraries?
- What is the extent of use of the reference information sources by undergraduate students?
- What is the relationship between the users and reference librarians in the library?
- What is the benefit of use of reference information sources by undergraduate students?
- What are the problems associated with the use of use of reference information sources by undergraduate students?
1.5 Scope of the Study
This study on availability and use of reference information source would be carried out in selected universities in Edo State. The universities are: Ambrose Alli University library and John Harris Library in University, Benin. The study focuses on the use of reference information sources by the undergraduate students.
1.6 Significance of the Study
It is hoped that this study will acquaints the librarians and the university authorities with effective ways of providing reference information source that will meet the information needs of users.
The Ministry of Education and other relevant agencies could also benefit in this study in that it could serve them a recipe for designing a framework for adopting and initiating quality referencing services in universities. To develop in this direction, there is a need for library professionals to gain a comprehensive perception of developing quality reference information services with latest technology such as online services.
The study stresses the urgent need for administrators and library educators to evaluate the effectiveness of present day library education in moulding the users to understand benefits of reference information source to their learning.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
This study does not have a wider national coverage, in other words, it is limited by its coverage to undergraduates of Ambrose Alli University and University of Benin. This is because it is virtually impossible to cover all undergraduate students in Nigeria.
Shortage of funds also hampers the quality of this work because the researcher could not afford to exhaust all funds to get materials of relevant literature. Also, enough money is required to conduct interview especially where the researcher need to travel and visit the university libraries under investigation.
1.8 Operational Definition Of Terms
Internet: this refers to a worldwide system of computer networks – a network of networks in which users at any one computer can communicate with another or a group in different locations.
ICT: simply mean information and communication technology. They include facilities that help in the transmission and dissemination of information.
Librarians: are trained employees who work in the library to ensure smooth realization of its objectives.
References: this is the can be defined as the act of designating or connecting to something as a source.
Reference information: are sources from which information are been enquired or sought.
Reference services: is a direct personal assistance to readers seeking information.
Undergraduate: are students in the university who are presently undergoing one course of study at the first tertiary level.
Use: refers to making the best out of a thing or putting something into use thereby serving its utmost importance it was originally designed for.
User: is someone who utilise the services of a library such as students, researcher etc.
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