International Journal of
Library and Information Science

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Lib. Inf. Sci.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2537
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJLIS
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 240

Full Length Research Paper

Involvement of library users in collection development of hybrid academic libraries in Tanzania

Kardo Joseph Mwilongo
  • Kardo Joseph Mwilongo
  • Mzumbe University, Dar es Salaam Campus College, P.O. Box 20266, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 30 March 2018
  •  Accepted: 27 April 2018
  •  Published: 31 July 2018

 ABSTRACT

Collection development in any academic library is an on-going process. It is undertaken by librarians and library services staff with inputs from different stakeholders, including the academic and non-academic staff, administrators, and students. The main objective of this paper is to assess the involvement of library users in collection development of hybrid academic libraries in Tanzania. A triangulation approach for data gathering was adopted. Structured and standardized self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data from 82 respondents who were randomly selected from a population of 301 library professionals and academic staff. Key informant interviews were conducted with four library directors and four ministers of education for students’ organisations to complement the data obtained through the questionnaires. The findings of this study indicate that library users lack information literacy skills and they are rarely involved in selection, evaluation and weeding of library information resources. Based on this ground, it is recommended that academic libraries should establish an academia forum within a library website for sharing information with the academic departments and information users in general in respect to library collection development. Additionally, users should be provided with annual evaluation and weeding forms to comment on quality and usefulness of the resources and data sources available in their respective areas of study and suggest for amendments where necessary.

Key words: Hybrid academic library, collection development, library users, Information literacy skills, library professionals.


 INTRODUCTION

Collection development in any academic library is an on-going process undertaken by librarians and library services staff. It takes some of its inputs from different stakeholders including the academic and non-academic staff, administrators, and students. However, the question of inclusion of library stakeholders in collection development to some other academic libraries is not adequately realised because of the traditional principles applied in collection development (Elder et al., 1990; Sasikala et al., 2014). The information personnel of the academic libraries are also urged to equip themselves with the best collection development techniques, tools, procedures and practices (Ifidon, 1990). Hybrid academic libraries reflects the higher learning institution from which the information resources for supporting teaching, learning, consultations and research works are provided in a mixed format of traditional print and modern electronic-based materials (Rushbridge, 1998).
 
Background to library users’ involvement in collection development
 
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the advanced technological development in information over the world was invented in academic institutions, the academic community were basically recognised in terms of the kind of information they wanted. It is through this development that the trend and principles of library collection development processes and services were influenced (Jalal and Mohan, 2011).
 
The academic community and library users in particular are usually unfamiliar with the collection development policy, selection policy and criteria for selection of library resources. However, they can be very familiar with the collection and thus the involvement in selection process is of paramount imperative. Library users are needed in order to develop a balanced hybrid collection that meet and satisfy their needs. It is difficult to have a strong and balanced collection without users’ involvement. Librarians must encourage library users to participate in developing a hybrid library collection (Olaojo and Akewukereke, 2006).
 
Hybrid collection development practices in academic libraries are guided by policy. The latter incorporates all guidelines for the development and management of library information resources of both paper and electronic-based format; it provides a set of procedures for revising the content of the collection (Kovac and Elkorby, 2000). The policy organises and monitors the process of acquiring and providing access to resources and information sources; integrates them into comprehensive collections, managing their development and conservation, and making decisions about ownership, subscription from the global databases, preservation, withdrawal and cancellation; cooperative acquisitions through library consortium and resource sharing.
 
Collection development policy rationalises collection development and administration practices, aid financial planning and facilitate responsibility and professional development trainings. It also provides the foundation for integrating other policies, such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy, employees’ development policies, promotion strategies and consortium agreements (Singh, 2004).  Moreover, the policy comprehends the obligation and involvement of all potential library users to the extent possible; to ensure their recommendation on collection development and information literacy programmes are enhanced towards development of a dynamic collection, meeting their desire and quality services.
 
Perspectives of library users on hybrid collection development
 
Since the 19th century, selection of information resources in any academic library was on the hands of library information professionals. Prior to the processes, a close consultation with the academic teaching staff was essential. However, in todays’ practices, members of academic staff, other library users and students are crucial in making recommendation for the kind of information resources required to be included in the list. Selection is not always a purely academic practice; it also needs the insight of the information professionals. For example, in the study of collection management in Australian University Libraries by Leonard (1994), it was found that the involvement of academic librarians in the selection of monographic information resources was limited. He observed that the selection process was left with teaching staff because they were considered to have enough knowledge and experience on their specific areas of specialisations. On the other hand, students’ demands were being disregarded, given that there were various information resources based on new technologies. The study concluded that library information professionals should have the fundamental function in selection within an environment of cooperation between the library and the academic community at large.
 
Flatley and Prock (2009) conducted a study on eighteen hybrid academic libraries which are members of Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. (PALCI) in Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. The findings showed that librarians used inputs from diverse groups of people within the community. The groups included academics, librarians, library users, reviews from academic advisors, and past experience with a company or product, which other hybrid libraries had or subscribed to that particular resource to appraise library collection. Agyei (2012) in his study found that librarians at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, used the same strategy to withdraw replicates, damaged and outdated information resources from the collection.
 
Similarly, Ogbonna et al. (2014) conducted a study in Nigerian hybrid academic libraries and revealed that librarians closely consulted the academic library staff, computer analysts, academics and educational development staff in selection of library resources. In addition, Msonge (2013) advocates that, the role of selection of library resources should be on the hand of librarians and  should  usually  incorporate  library  users because their inputs are counted in enriching the collection. Moreover, Benny (2015) in his study on selection and acquisition of e-resources at Mumbai University revealed that the selection of e-resources mainly depended on the recommendations made by academician specialised on the subject.
 
Hybrid academic libraries require a combination of skills ranging from subject specialist or librarian to information technology (IT) experts. Part of the responsibilities of subject specialist is to select library information resources in both print and electronic formats. Subject librarians need to have a broader knowledge on current publications, data source and library information dealers and be able to approve the plans for collection development. The plan should balance the needs with the library budget and it should be communicable to academic staff and other library stakeholders. There are various advantages to subject librarians being fundamentally accountable for the collection development. Although, academic staff members have a long experience in their subject areas, a total reliance on them for collection development can ultimately narrow attention in collection development leading to gaps in the library collection.
 
Dependence on library staff or subject specialists and collaboration with potential stakeholders in selection of library information resources ensure a balanced range of information resources. Optimal selection is obvious when professional skills are merged with subject librarians (Munro and Philps, 2008). Consultation with institution academic staff is regarded as crucial component of collection development because it provides a room for the exchange of thoughts between the academic community and the library. Good relationships between library information professionals and the academic community add value to the collection development.
 
Relationship of academic libraries and its users in collection development
 
The relationship between academic libraries and its users can be determined based on the services offered, including current awareness services, selective dissemination of information, marketing, referencing services and information literacy programmes. The concept of information literacy primary was first seen in the literature during the 1970s. Its background emanates from the introduction of the information society that is branded by rapid expansion in the prevailing information resources and related disparities in technology used to generate, publicise, access and manage that information (Lwoga et al., 2016). These expansions have thus resulted in challenges on difficulties of searching, selection, evaluation and using information resources. The American Library Association (ALA) (2000), defines information  literacy   as  ‘an   understanding   and  set  of abilities enabling individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, select, evaluate, discard and use effectively the needed information.’ Library users meet different and plentiful information choices in their various disciplines and at different levels of skills that would help them to appraise, understand and use information resources from any academic library collection reasonably and correctly (Baro and Keboh, 2012). Information literacy is therefore regarded as a transformational course of action in which the information user searches, assesses uses, develops and generates information resources in many forms for private, local or universal purposes. The generated materials can be shared among the academic libraries and thus establishing an academic relationship between library professionals and clients.
 
Owusu-Ansah (2004) indicates that the academic relationship between library professionals and customers regarding information literacy, receives a great attention as a result of its implication in the teaching and learning processes, consultations and research aspirations. In addition, this relationship improves the academic library collection development because library users’ participation in selection, evaluation and deselection enables the librarians to acquire the resources based on user demand. It also, challenges academic libraries in withdrawing information resources which are absolutely out-of-date and of less need. The academic community is the best evaluator of the library collection. It has an opportunity to visualise of what is available in the library collection and what is missing. The academic community can be in a position to decide whether the library collection is absolutely satisfying its information demands or not. Similarly, the academic community of an institution can prominently recommend on the quality of the library collection, as they are well informed of the whole range of literature, stack, services and database in a given subject area. They may therefore, usefully recommend on what could be acquired in order to strengthen the stack, database and also fill in the gaps in the present collection (Patel, 2016).
 
In regard to this endeavour, this study aimed at assessing the level of involvement of library users in collection development in selected academic libraries in Tanzania. Studies by Dulle (2010) and Msonge (2013) observed that, library users in academic libraries in Tanzania complained of poor access to current library resources and difficulties for subscription to online scholarly content. This affected negatively teaching and learning process, research and consultation services. On the other hand, poor selection and acquisition policies and procedures, low level of library stakeholders’ participation in collection development, lack of comprehensive and written collection development policy in academic libraries have also affected the collection development to most of the developing countries’ academic libraries.
 
Furthermore, this study specifically intends to determine the level of library users’ information literacy on hybrid collection, and examine the views of library staff and users in respect to users’ involvement in collection development processes.


 METHODOLOGY

The study was conducted in Tanzania academic libraries. It involved four selected institutions which are the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), University of Iringa (UoI), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT). Open and closed ended questionnaires were the main method used for data collection and they were administered to 82 respondents who were selected through simple random sampling. This sampling procedure ensured that both library professionals and academic staff were included in the sample. Of this sample, 44 were library professionals and 38 were Heads of academic departments. All distributed questionnaires were returned; hence, a response rate of 100%. The questionnaires were supplemented by interviews conducted to four Academic Library Directors and four Ministers of Education from the Students’ Organisations. Another method used was the observation, which was conducted in academic libraries and computer laboratory. Statistical Package and Service Solution (SPSS) Version 23 software was used to analyse quantitative data whereas qualitative data were subjected to content analysis. 


 RESULTS

Level of library users’ information literacy on hybrid collection
 
Library users in developing countries’ academic libraries lack sufficient information literacy proficiency to contribute, evaluate, search, and access the available collection on its physical and/or online state. Through interview with the Ministers of Education for the Students’ Organisations of the surveyed institutions it was revealed that, students were not competent enough in using the online and print catalogue to retrieve the library information resources. This suggests that, library users lack information literacy skills to interact with the library collection and share their views with the library professionals on the resources. The orientation programme provided for one week by the parent institution of which a day and/or hours are set aside for library services is not enough for the programme. However, resources and facilities allocated for orientation programme is not enough to make users competent with literacy skills.
 
Programmes on information literacy are not adequately covered in the institutional curriculums, and librarians are not seriously involved at ensuring the programme is sufficiently comprehended by library users. Induction programmes to newly recruited staff and enrolled students are not sufficient to accommodate the information literacy content given a short period of time scheduled. Some of the universities in developing countries have been struggling to incorporate this programme into the institution curriculum but efforts of making it sustainable are challenged by the institutional main academic time table and rapid development in technology. For instance, Dulle and Lwehabura (2004) reported that between 2000 and 2001, the Sokoine National Agriculture Library (SNAL) at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, used to teach information literacy as a sub-topic in communication skills course to undergraduate students.
 
The programme was not sustainable due to the challenges related to timetable and student boycotts which interfered the institution academic calendar. Also, the institution shifted from term to semester system which could not integrate the information literacy course into the mainstream curriculum. However, the proposal on incorporating the information literacy programmes into the curriculum was disapproved by the university strategic plan committee. However, the library provides information literacy programmes through its interactive tools over the website where information literacy tutorials are accessible. In addition, other information literacy programmes, including library tours, orientation and seminars to newly enrolled students and recruited staff are usually provided.
 
Views of library professionals on users’ involvement in hybrid collection development
 
Library respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which library users are involved in collection development practices and the results are presented in Table 1. The findings show that 24 (54.5%) and 23(52.3%) library staff respondents indicated that library users were rarely involved in selection of electronic and paper based information resources respectively. Likewise, 26 (59.1%) and 25 (56.8%) respondents asserted that library users were rarely involved in evaluation of electronic and paper based information resources respectively. Furthermore, 24 (54.5%) and 23 (52.3%) respondents indicated that library users were rarely involved in deselection of paper and electronic based information resources respectively.
 
 
The findings revealed further that library users’ involvement in collection development practices varied across the institution.
 
For instance, majority (66.7%) of SAUT and 5 (50%) SUA library staff respondents reported of rarely involvement of library users in selection of print and electronic resources whereas 16 (57.1%) and 15 (53.6%) respondents from UDSM library reported on rarely library users’ involvement in selection of electronic and print resources respectively.
 
 
Similarly, 2 (66.7%) SAUT and UoI, 16 (57.1%) UDSM and 5 (50%) SUA library professionals indicated that library users were rarely involved in evaluation of print resources. Furthermore, 3 (100%) UoI, 2 (66.7%) SAUT and    17 (60.7%)    UDSM    library     staff    respondents showed that library users were rarely involved in evaluation of electronic based information. In addition, majority 2 (66.7%) UoI, 17 (60.7%) UDSM and 5 (50%) SUA library staff disclosed library users were rarely involved in deselection of print resources while 2 (66.7%) SAUT library staff respondents were undecided. Moreover, 2 (66.7%) UoI, 16 (57.1%) UDSM and 5 (50%) SUA library staff disclosed that library users were rarely involved in deselection of electronic resources whereas 2 (66.7%) UoI respondents were neutral.
 
Views of academic staff on the involvement in hybrid collection development
 
In this study, the researcher attempted to collect the academic staffs’ views regarding their involvement in library collection development. Their responses are presented in Table 2. The findings show that 21 (55.3%) and 12 (31.6%) academic staff respondents disagreed on involvement in selection of electronic and print library information resources respectively whereas 11 (29%) and 18 (47.4%) respondents respectively were undecided.
 
 
Similarly, 23 (60.5%) and 21 (55.3%) library users respondents disagreed on involvement in evaluation of print and electronic library resources respectively. The findings indicate that academic staffs’ involvement in evaluating library information resources was statistically significant (p≤0.05). In addition, 21 (55.3%) respondents disagreed on involvement in deselection of both print and electronic based information resources whereas 15(39.4%) respondents were undecided.
 
The study found further that the pattern of involvement of academicians in collection development in academic libraries was the same across the institutions. For instance, 8 (80%) SUA and 2 (66.7%) UoI academic staff respondents disagreed on involvement in selection of both print and electronic based information resources. Likewise, all (100%) and majority (66.7%) of UoI, 9(47.4%) and 8(42.1%) UDSM academic staff respondents disagreed the involvement in evaluation of print and electronic resources  respectively  whereas  9 (90%) SUA respondents disagreed on involvement in evaluation of both print and electronic resources.  Similarly, 3 (100%) UoI and 9 (90%) SUA academic staff respondents disagreed on involvement in evaluation of library print and electronic based resources respectively whereas 11 (57.9%) UDSM and 3 (50%) SAUT user respondents were both undecided. 
 

 


 DISCUSSION

Level of library users’ information literacy on hybrid collection
 
The implementation of hybrid collection development can be successful when it closely involves and integrates the library stakeholders, such as the academic staff, IT expertise, researchers and students. These stakeholders are crucial in library collection development but they also require sufficient information literacy skills for being able to evaluate the collection and give suggestions on the required resources to fill the collection gaps. The findings of this study indicate that, library stakeholders lack information literacy skills and are rarely involved in selection, evaluation and weeding of library information resources. Similarly, Mutula et al. (2005) in a study carried out at the University of Botswana revealed that most of the students were lacking information literacy skills to effectively contribute in suggesting the titles for selection, evaluation and deselection. The idea of information literacy is extensively used to indicate the capacity to interact with the academic library collection. This is done by tracing or searching, managing, critically evaluating and use information for problem solving, research, consultations, teaching and learning processes, decision making, sustained professional development and enhancing academic library collection development.
 
Views of library staff on library users’ involvement in hybrid collection development
 
Generally, the findings on library users’ involvement in collection development practice indicate that academic libraries are insufficiently used to involve their customers in the process of selection, evaluation and deselection of both print and electronic based information resources. Table 1 shows that majority (54.5 and 52.3%) of library staff indicated that library users were rarely involved in selection of electronic and paper based information resources respectively. The findings on library users’ involvement in collection development corroborate with findings of a study by Filson (2015) who found that majority (68%) of library users in two academic libraries in Ghana were not involved in selection of hybrid library information resources.
Selection of library resources for  acquisition  is  crucial and can be comprehensive provided that the acquired resources quench the thirst of library users. No matter how current the selected and acquired resources are, if they do not meet the demand and satisfy the user needs; it is more or less as good as useless resources and money wasted for the resources. Therefore, it is important that library users are involved in the process for efficient collection development and users’ satisfaction.
 
Contrary to these findings, Ogbonna et al. (2014) and Benny (2015) observed that the Nigerian hybrid academic libraries and Mumbai University library respectively involved library users specialised in various subjects to select library resources for collection development. However, through interview with the UDSM and SUA library Directors it was observed that teaching staff were consulted for selection of library resources. On that regard, lecturers in academic departments provided the list of requirements which were then compiled for acquisition process. In this process, it was observed that students were not involved in suggesting information resources of their demand despite of being potential library users and familiar with information resources beside those provided by instructors in the course outlines.
 
The Ministers of Education for Students’ Organisations of the surveyed institutions pointed out during interview that, students were not consulted and/or given room to suggest for the resources of their interest and they were unaware of the involvement in suggesting on what could be acquired for library collection development. However, in order to meet and satisfy library user needs it is important that, users are involved in the processes of selection of resources; users’ inputs help the academic libraries to acquire a balanced collection. To insist this, Patel (2016) argue that library users are crucial in collection development processes as they may usefully suggest as to what could be acquired in order to strengthen the collection and also fill in the gaps in the existing collection. A good example for involving users in collection development is demonstrated by Mondal and Maity (2016) who inform that, all the library staff (100%) of selected libraries of Research and Development in Kolkata - India confirmed that, they select and acquire library resources subject to the suggestions from the library users and subject specialists.
 
The processes of evaluation of both electronic and print based resources were mentioned as being rarely incorporating library users. Findings disclosed that 59.1 and 56.8% of library staff showed that library users were rarely involved in evaluation of electronic and paper based information resources respectively (Table 1). It was also revealed by the Ministers of Education for Students’ Organisations during interview that students were not involved in any form to evaluate library information resources. Evaluation is a very important process in library collection development and thus involvement of library users  improves  its efficiency.
 
Through corporative evaluation one may be able to make decision on what to weed and purchase. In this regard, Agee (2005) insists on the use of customer-centred approach towards library collection development. This approach requires library users to suggest and recommend on the library information resources for inclusion in the acquisition list. Users can be able to evaluate and criticize the existing collection, identify collection gaps and propose for the resources to discard based on their needs, format, changing technology and curriculum.
 
Table 1 indicates that 54.5% and 52.3% of library staff revealed that, library users were rarely involved in deselection of paper and electronic based information resources respectively. The process of deselection of library information resources takes off less important information and establishes decision for the resources to replace the deselected materials. Library users have to corporate with library staff in making decision for deselection of library resources. Evans and Saponaro (2005) advised that in a particular moment of the information boom, weeding should be done in academic libraries and that in performing this activity, the academic staff and other stakeholders must be actively involved. The role of library users in this process is of two folds.
 
First, library users can judge on the relevance of the context and content of the suggested outdated resource with the teaching curriculum and can therefore consent and/or advice otherwise against the library staff decision of deselecting a particular resource. Second, based on the corporate decision to deselect the resource, a library user can then suggest on the resources to replace the deselected one. However, and as noted through interview with the Ministers of Education for Students’ Organisations of the surveyed institutions, students were never involved in this process. Weeding process has however not been comprehensively conducted with academic libraries as it was noted through interview with the library Directors of the surveyed academic libraries.
 
In this regard, poor involvement of library users in hybrid collection development negatively influences the performance of academic library as its collection is unable to meet the library users’ needs; thus, leading to poor satisfaction of their clients. This situation may result in poor scholarly communication, complaints and poor relationship between library users and librarians.
 
Views of academic staff on their involvement in hybrid collection development
 
The finding as shown in Table 2 denotes that academicians across the institutions were not sufficiently involved in the process of library collection development as a result of weak relationship between library staff and users. However, the involvement of stakeholders outside libraries should be initiated by the library regardless of what users have by themselves. So, this is a flaw in the side of academic libraries.
 
In general, selection and evaluation of library information resources were mentioned by academicians as being done without incorporating their opinions. Table 2 shows that, 60.5% of academicians disagreed of their involvement in evaluation of print resources whereas 55.3% disagreed on their involvement in selection and evaluation of electronic based resources. This situation can be contributed by the fact that these processes are not sufficiently comprehended by the academic libraries. This was confirmed through interview with the academic library Directors of the surveyed libraries. It was also revealed through interview with the Ministers of Education for Students’ Organisations of the surveyed institutions that students were not involved in selection and evaluation of information resources.
 
As shown in Table 2, the findings reveal that 55.3% of academic staff disagreed on involvement in deselection of print and electronic information resources. Availability of Internet and open access based information resources which are presumed to be a solution to the reduced library budget for acquisition and management of hybrid academic library collection have to some extent contributed to inefficient collection development practices. The role and involvement of library users as stakeholders in collection development processes is becoming less important following the in-practical processes for hybrid collection development. It is therefore advised that, for whatever is planned in relation to collection development processes, library users should be involved for effective hybrid library collection development and for meeting user needs, satisfaction and achieve academic library mission and goals.

 


 RECOMMENDATION

Generally, involvement in collection development process in hybrid library by library stakeholders, particularly the teaching staff, IT expertise, researchers and students is significant as they are the main users of information resources, services and systems. Based on the findings of this study it is recommended that there should be a close relationship between library staff and users as it is imperatively a basis for corporative efforts toward building a sound hybrid collection development.
 
Additionally, libraries should establish an academia forum within a library website for sharing information with the academic departments and information users in general regarding library collection development. In this regard, a webmail for library staff and heads of academic departments should be developed for the purpose of sharing various kinds of information related to collection development, such as sharing course outlines, current awareness services, personal academic work and marketing of  library  information resources. However, theclass representatives of the students should be provided with soft and/or hard copy of selection forms from which they can fill in with the potential reading resources for consideration into the acquisition bid.
 
Lastly, the acquired information resources should be communicated and marketed back to users through appropriate, cost effective and massive means of scholarly communication available with the institution. Library users should be provided with annual evaluation and weeding forms to recommend on quality and usefulness of the resources and data sources available in their respective area of specialization and suggest for supplement, update, archive and/or discard.

 


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The author has not declared any conflict of interests.



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