An Evaluation of User-Education Programmes in the University Libraries of Pakistan
The changing nature of higher education worldwide, along with ever increasing growth of library collections, technological developments in handling and retrieving techniques, and information and fundamental changes in the nature of reference services, has justified the need of change in user-education services, in order that new models of education can be effective and improve the academic performance of students (Tiefel, 1995; p.319)..
The need of this study into library user education arose within an assumption that the information environment is complex and is changing quickly. Individuals have to learn critical thinking and research skills in the evaluation of information in their fields of interests. University libraries of Pakistan have neither enough nor adequately trained library staff to reach all its users to meet their educational and information needs.
The literature reviews show that the pace of change in the body of literature of each academic discipline is growing increasingly rapidly. The explosion of information might appear overwhelming – with increased academic research publishing output, a proliferation of formats of presentation of information, and enormous quantities of information of doubtful quality and origin that dilute the high quality research output and make it more difficult to locate. These pressures have transformed the demands and skills needed to search for required (quality) information and transformed what it means to be an educated person (Salony (1995; p.32). The countries with developed education and advanced library systems developed extensive instructional services programmes, planned to educate students, faculty and administrative staff through the ways of lectures, seminars, workshops, handouts, and Web-based tutorials. They stress (and strive to support) the teaching, learning, and research goals of the university. One of their goals is to provide instructional services for the university community that supports each individual's ability to use information resources effectively.
Effective user education links naturally to active learning techniques and life-long learning. Active learning, as a method of educating students that allows them to participate in class, takes them beyond the role of passive listener and note taker and to take some direction and initiative. Present lack of interest is, no doubt, partly a result of a traditional view of libraries as mere storehouses of books, with the librarians' role being passive, not directly linked to the educational process. The need for new, more effective, methods of education in developing countries ( Pakistan included), which will involve new ideas and new technology in libraries, can no longer be escaped.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to critically evaluate the current state of affairs regarding user education programme in the university libraries of Pakistan. With the aim to do so following main key points were included in the study.
The study attempted to collect data, by means of questionnaire techniques. Personal observation and informal discussion was conducted with senior library staff members, concerning the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of librarians and experts in administration within higher education institutions and their libraries. Different established literature resources on the filed and Internet sources were also consulted with a purpose to explore the related studies in the field.
The detailed questionnaire sought information and views from the library professionals in ten universities in the study. Three university libraries were selected from the Province of Punjab and two universities from the capital Islamabad. Two university libraries were included in the sample from Sind and one each from Balochistan, North Western Frontier Post Azad Kashmir. The senior librarian in each university did the selection of which individuals were to reply. Responses were received from nine universities. The target was ten per university; between eight and eleven librarians responded in each. The total sample number was 84.
No research has been carried out in the university and college libraries of Pakistan before, hence the need for this study of analyse, measure and evaluate the educational and information aspect of university library of Pakistan.
Many studies have been done in finding the relationship between proficiency and academic performance and the knowledge and skill of using the library resources effectively A questionnaire survey conducted by Cannon (1994) at a large Canadian university showed that the growth and improvement of a library-use instruction programme depends upon gaining faculty support for desired results. The study mainly aimed to determine needs and requirements of students for library research instruction according to faculty and to get some idea of faculty support for various solutions to meet those requirements.
Lawton (1989) pointed out an attempt to ascertain the requirements of the campus community in the area of library instruction. Specific user questionnaires were disseminated to faculty, library staff, and students. Results of these surveys provided guidelines for future instruction and programmes.
Moore-Jansen (1997) discussed the results of a six-year study that sought the possible relationships between such variables as student demographics, previous library background and library-use experience, and subject interests – and how these related to student evaluation of library instruction for one anthropology course. Information was collected from students over a period of time and, with the data, the author searched for students factors that were statistically significant. The results revealed that the majority of students found library-use education useful and that demographics played little role in student attitude towards user education programmes. Librarians should, instead, focus on subject interest.
The study by Pearson (1981) was carried out to gauge student appreciation of a one-credit semester-long bibliographic instruction course throughout a student's time in college. While hard data on BI efficacy may carry more weight with administrators, student satisfaction was deemed an important factor in the success of BI, especially since the course was an elective. Most evaluation of BI tends to measure short-term instruction and Pearson describes why there is a need for long-term evaluation, based on a longer period of library instruction. He suggested long-term evaluation investigate students attitudes and academic performance in subsequent years in college.
Morrison (1997) discussed the results of an exploratory study using focus group methodology in information literacy research at Concordia University College of Alberta. It discussed the concept of information literacy and the role of the undergraduate library developing information literacy skills. Participants perceived information literacy as valuable, and agreed that the library plays an important role in developing the skill of locating information. Moreover, the focus group method demonstrated potential for generating useful data in this field, particularly hypotheses for further research.
Research on User Education in Pakistan
Very few works on the practice of library instruction have been written in Pakistan. Bukhari (1996) found a lack of sufficient user-education programmes in the university libraries of Pakistan. He discovered a correlation between academic performance and education in the use of learning resources. He stressed upon the initiation of a modern user-education programme in university libraries
Nazir Ahmad (1987) identified various factors responsible for the poor library services including the lack of user education programmes. He described that students face an unsatisfactory learning environment, inadequate teaching and learning resources, rote learning and insufficient policy of guiding the library users that ill-prepares the students to contribute positively to learning and, consequently, to the social, industrial, technological and political development of the country.
Akhtar Hanif (1986) reported that most students lack understanding and skill regarding how knowledge is organised, and their failure to identify, locate, retrieve and use the needed information adequately. He stressed the need for organised user-education programmes in schools, colleges and university libraries to develop among the students the ability to access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources.
Aslam Mujahid (1983) described that, along with the growth of literature, information technology has also grown much too fast for Pakistani library services and has resulted in the development of new library search techniques and standards. So the need has grown stronger of educating the library users to develop and refine their information literacy skills.
Samadani (1998) illustrated the lack of user-education programmes at all levels and found that the lack of proper grounding from schools leads to deficiency at more advanced levels. That resulted in the vast majority of students having no significant information literacy skills. He saw this significant inadequacy in students' education if they have limited essential library-use competencies.
Data Analysis and discussion
Combined Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis
The present survey attempts to investigate the availability of user education programmes on formal and informal basis, major techniques used, methods and format of presentation, timings of provision, class size, and library staffs' opinions, attitude and interests towards educating the users' needs assessment and evaluation of success. Questionnaires were sent to ten university libraries, and this analysis refers to nine that replied.
The first section of the questionnaire was based on the information about the names of the universities, libraries and their dates of the establishments and different means of communicating with them. In this section an investigation was made to analyse the number of books, periodicals and other reading materials and the approximate annual budget of libraries. The purpose of this demographic information was to analyse their different stages of development. In this situation their needs and demands would certainly vary in degrees and levels. The establishments' foundations are dated from 1882 to 1980, all but one in the post independence period.
The libraries involved ranged in book stock size from a small departmental library of just 832 to full main university libraries of over 400,000. The mean stock size was 63842, but this must be understood in terms of (in some cases) the possibility of more than one librarian from a particular library responding, and a standard deviation of approximately 100,000 (that is, a particularly skewed distribution) Similarly, with the same reservations, periodical subscription numbers ranged in number from zero to 300 with a mean of 49.8
Responses to the question of financial budgets were confused. The writer, from her experience in this field, is aware that the figures given, even though “annual purchasing budget” was clearly requested in the questionnaire, must include salaries in some cases. This is unfortunate, but not critical to the study. New acquisition numbers ranged from 5500 for a main university library, to none for a small departmental library.
The important issue in understanding the attitudes of the respondents, is whether they are in a healthy library situation or lacking development. One measure of this is growth, and one of the measures of this might be the movement of acquisitions. Table.1 shows that a majority are in a static situation, with the number of acquisitions being approximately the same, though others showed some growth or reduction.
It sought information in the numbers and status of the full-time and part-time librarians in the libraries where the respondents worked. Only one part-time professional librarian was reported; this is in the smallest of the libraries in the sampling. Perhaps the person concerned had other duties, or was possibly retired from full time professional librarianship; that library did not have a full-time professional librarian. All other libraries had at least one full-time professional librarian. All other personnel reported were full time. The number of professional librarians ranged from one (in 45.2% of the cases) to 35. Fewer sub-professional librarians (normally these would be trained to a lower level) were in evidence with 40.4% respondents having this grade in their libraries. The questionnaire also collected data on clerical or other assistants, and it was clear that all libraries used such additional staffing (though these are not closely related to the theme of user education).
The responses asked for related to the qualifications in the libraries concerned not just the qualifications of the respondents. Importantly the responses indicated the absence of any staff with an MPhil or PhD qualification - i.e. with a formal research qualification. 40.5% responded that some staff members held a certificate qualification (in a range of one to five); 15.5% responded that some held a diploma qualification (in a range from one to ten). Clearly the important qualification applying in university libraries is the taught master's degree (MA or MSc). All but 13.1% responded that some staff held MA or MSc degrees, with the number of such qualified people in the library ranging from one to 35 (mean=5.1).
Need for User Education
It aims to discover whether the present provision of user education programmes was on a formal or an informal basis. The responses revealed that 39.3% of Pakistani university libraries organised user education programmes on a formal basis and 68.9% informally. Some provided both, some neither (see Table 3).
User Education Programmes
One question was intended to find the types of user education programme provided to the users. A list of the types of user education programme given by the researcher is indicated in Table 4. The outcomes illustrate the dominance of library orientation programmes (designed to introduce new or potential patrons to the collection, facilities, organisation, and services of the university library) and to a lesser extent of basic bibliographic instruction.
Discussion showed that large groups sizes forced a style of presentation in which students were passive listeners, with little opportunity of involvement. In such circumstances presentation might have been improved by use of good audio-visual techniques, but almost without exception, equipment was not available. The significant use of individual help for students with problems to compensate for weaknesses in the programmes was noted.
It is widely believed among the library community that there is not sufficient staff to assist the users to enjoy their search for information in libraries. Consequently, librarians who have considerable workload remain reluctant to spend extra time to participate in user education activities. It appears from the interviews that the facilities for better teaching are generally available only in certain (mostly main) libraries.
This question (with an overall response rate of 76.2%) showed use of different methods of presentation. The extensive provision of individual help is again noted, as is the use of conducted tours and lectures.
Timing of the provision was studied (overall response = 75.0%). Again it is seen that individual ‘on-request' help is significant.
The total of responses for the provision of user education to “New students only” + “Postgraduates only” + “Researchers only” exceeds 100%. The summarised data is in Table 7.
Questions were asked about present participation in orientation programmes. Question, enquiring about the classes of participation in induction tours, had a 72.6% overall response rate for all answers (Table 8). Multiple responses were permitted. That the bulk of the first year student induction was carried out by departmental librarians is significant the 1% level (chi-square=6.55; df=1; sig.=0.010).
Group size ranged from the 50 to 70, with a mean of 44.9 and standard deviation of 5.5. However, estimated figures on attendance in cases where attendance is expected to be compulsory shows a poor record. It must be noted again that in these figures, the basis for calculation is the number of librarians giving the response, not the students themselves, and caution needs to be exercised in interpretation of the figures.
Views on the Objectives of User Education
From the literature review it is clear that the low quality of higher education in Pakistan and its library services are not in harmony with the actual needs of the academic community. It is an important principle therefore that the objectives of the university libraries in Pakistan should necessarily be based upon the educational programmes of the institutions they serve – the needs of the faculties and departments. The library can be a significant component of teaching and research only if it proves its usefulness in the provision of relevant information rather than just warehousing.
The successful execution of user education programmes depends on the policies on library use, the objectives of such programmes, the available resources, the library administration's support and interaction among the groups. The goals and objectives must be based upon the needs of the academic community being served, as stated by faculty and students. And the goals of user education must be in full accordance with the broad general aims of the parent organisation – it is important to implement the objectives of the university.
The goals and objectives as stated were interesting in their wide range. Some related to the basic acquisition of practical skills and knowledge, some related to awareness of the availability of, and targeting of, resources. At a yet more advanced level some interpreted these in terms of optimising student activity. Others looked well beyond such technical issues to matters of independence in study, self-sufficiency and motivation.
It is widely believed that the size of student group for orientation or in guided tours is important in contributing to the interaction of library staff and students. In the questionnaire information was asked to explore this. The results revealed that the class size is often very large. The professionals showed their dissatisfaction with the size of the groups of students in guided tours and with their relationship with their students. The respondents gave two main reasons for the situation: shortage of library staff, shortage of facilities. Some librarians stated that in the case of large groups, they could not break them into smaller groups because of the insufficiency of library staff.
One attributed the problem of group size to financial constraints in provision of teaching facilities. During the course of the interviews, a number of extensive discussions concerning the desired size of group arose. It was widely believed by the interviewees that a reasonable maximum size of group of 25 to 30 is desirable to allow interaction in the communication process and for good relationships between users and library staff. Several interviewees believed that not only is communication difficult in a large group, but it also affects students' concentration. Given present circumstances, some library staff believed that even in a big class it could be possible to use seminar techniques, but the majority of staff members have no experience in such activities.
The lecture-based instruction investigation (with overall response rate = 71.4%) showed clear inadequacy in the duration of the provision. This ties in with the views expressed in interview that time constraints prevented good induction.
The lack of centralisation of induction tour provision (overall response = 72.6%) at first appears to be a surprising result. Discussion in interviews showed that in a number of cases faculty or departmental librarians took their students to main libraries where the reference librarian, faculty or departmental librarians gave the induction tours. This use of specialist librarians with additional knowledge of the subject area is one strength of the Pakistani library system.
Another important issue arose in the questionnaire concerning respondents' ideas to maximise student attendance at library user education programmes. It emerged that library management and others responsible for making policies need a very different kind of approach to that being used at present, in which flexibility, team-work and enthusiasm are the key factors not only among library staff but also with teaching staff.
Shortage of money was often quoted by the respondents as a reason for not providing library books, journals, audio visual aids and other essential facilities in libraries. It was widely believed among the university library community that, with the current poor provision of facilities and restricted budget in the libraries, some heads of the colleges and universities might even be forgiven for regarding user education as a time wasting device.
On the other hand, some interview respondents seemed against any instruction for students in the libraries. They thought that students at this level are (or should be) mature enough to search and work independently in libraries. Some librarians thought that instructing students is too time consuming and they think that they should not go out of the way to assist students.
Effectiveness and Necessity of User Education
The study also tested librarians' opinions on the effectiveness and necessity of user education respectively. The results show strong positive opinion in both cases. However the Spearman rank order correlation between them is low but significant at the 5% level (rho=0.224; N=84; sig.=0.040).
There are three topics included here: identifying the needs of students, evaluation of the success of user education programmes, and other evaluation issues.
Needs of Students
Though the library user is an important component in the library system, information providers have continuously neglected this aspect, and no adequate empirical work has been done on the demands, use behaviour and use patterns of users. Most library professionals stressed on the study on information needs and use pattern of university library users to assess their information needs, requirements and problems effectively in such a complex information system. On the basis of such survey a library could develop and design an effective user education programme.
Evaluation of Success
The study explored whether there had been any attempt to evaluate the success or failure of a specific course in library user education in the respondents' libraries. Two universities ( Peshawar and Quetta ) did not answer this question and it might be considered that their answers would have been negative. 14.1% of the valid response indicated ‘yes'; this reduces to 10.7% on inclusion of the missing universities. The question arises of whether there is a difference between main and departmental responses. A chi-square test was applied to the cross-tabulation of responses and type of library. There is no statistically significant difference (chi-square=0.141; df=1; sig.=0.708 (n.s.)). It was pointed out that the students who have been coming to attend the courses found the programmes effective for library usage and for achieving student confidence. It was stressed that library staff members need to make good relationships with the users to achieve this. The problem, as noted elsewhere, is attendance. This was a majority view.
It was noted in the analysis that the more advanced philosophical objectives (related to student independence and confidence) seemed to come mainly from the senior professional library staff, and the pragmatic approach more from others. Most of the libraries studied never provide information about regulations, organisational systems and services. And if the students cannot comprehend a command it is difficult to obey it. Because many such concepts are alien to students, they are often disregarded completely.
Findings and Recommendations
The responses from both the librarians and the experts suggest the common international three-tier structure encompassing orientation to the library, basic bibliographic instruction and advanced bibliographic instruction. They recommend that orientation allow new users in their university libraries to get the basic knowledge about the library's services and holdings. Basic bibliographic instruction gives users a perceptive about the library policies, systems of organisation and acquaints the users with the information resources in their respective fields of specialisation. Advanced bibliographic instruction gives more advanced information in library skills. One of the priorities (or the way of informing and educating the users about the availability and use of resources and services) that emerged from the response is to provide a guidebook or handbook containing this three-tier programme, which would be useful for students. At more advanced level it was suggested students would be taught about the availability and use of different research tools (catalogues, indexes, abstracts and bibliographies) as time-saving search devices. Differentiation between index and abstract, and how to use a citation index, should be made clear to the students. Some of the respondents suggested course-related instruction as one of the main priorities – that gives students an understanding of the importance of information resources in their specialist fields.
The respondents deemed it necessary that a dedicated instructor librarian or a subject specialist should educate the users on how to locate subject-specific information referring to books, journals, reference materials, manuscripts, government publication, microfilms, microfiche, videos, and electronic means of information, and on how to use electronic databases and the Internet resources. Some of the respondents believe that library users should be taught about the use of computer networks and the Internet. It is because …nowadays more and more libraries are becoming the part of global networks and university libraries should equip users in the use of different databases as the first priority. For this purpose library staff should also be trained in the use of multimedia, global communications and Internet.
The replies recommended that since there is a tremendous development in technology, instruction in the use of Internet and World Wide Web must contain a conceptual component, in order to allow the users to predict future problems and solutions when changes are encountered.
It was noted that the library administration needs to check and update its strategic plans in terms of working relationships, and change priorities for maximising attendance. This is a dynamic process that needs constant re-examination. A small number of librarians described the effectiveness of joint meetings, called to share ideas. In this way the library staff and faculty jointly became an active part of library policies on the basis of their specific knowledge and enthusiasm (and with a vision to create a new organisational culture) that passed on to the students and achieved better attendance levels and motivation. The practice in some universities of making course work assignments count towards degree results has also proved to be a strong influence.
It emerged from the responses that in some libraries, sometimes audio-visual and other teaching aids can be used. However, it does take a time for library staff to prepare slides for overhead projection or to make other programmes to demonstrate various aspects of library. For this they need training and facilities that are severely lacking in certain libraries.
It was expressed that more training opportunities for the continuing education for library staff in modern aspects of librarianship should be provided, such as data processing and information science, new computerised services, new type of materials, preparation of teaching aids, etc.
Motion pictures, filmstrips, audiocassettes, video records and tape slides would be useful for educating the users. But, in university libraries of Pakistan in the current poor budget provision it is impossible to acquire sophisticated media such as computer assisted instruction (CAI), video recorders/video tapes, projectors and motion pictures.
Tape-slides, the most popular audio visual aid available in Pakistan proved useful to instruct users. It saves librarians time and efforts to repeat the same material again and again. University libraries could co-operate for developing those teaching aids and, by request for donations through exchange programmes, those aids could be achieved. The valid percentage response is 14.7% for regarding the availability and use of technical aids – but only 8.8% considered these sufficient.
Integration into the Curriculum
It has been observed that most students only seek for guidance and assistance when they have problems in connection with their work. Many respondents suggested that user education programmes should be integrated with the curriculum and students assignments.
Making User Education Compulsory
It was noted that if students were to be informed that user education programmes are compulsory and essential for their studies and are being integrated with their syllabus, then they will be motivated into accepting user education relevant for their subject.
Correlation of Assignments and Projects
There is a need to correlate students' assignments and projects with library use and library user education programmes.
Need for Collaboration
This need for co-operation in delivery and in the decision on the contents was emphasised by many. For that purpose it was suggested a liaison officer might be appointed to develop such an integrated curriculum.
The university libraries must conduct surveys and other techniques in order to assess their users' needs assessment and information seeking behaviour on regular basis.
Signs, Guides and Self-Tuition Materials
Study recognised that a good system of library signs and guides is vital to supplement and reinforce any instructional programme. The purpose of those library handbooks, library guides, literature search handouts and all such materials is to acquaint the user community (students, teachers, researchers and external users) with availability of learning resources and the search techniques they should use. But, in the libraries of Pakistan, such guides and self-instructional materials are frequently inadequate. Inadequate guiding signs in the libraries are perhaps significant contributors to intimidation of the users.
The study has shown that user education is constrained by various factors, so affecting the image of library, library usage frequency, and library use instruction patterns. The responses illustrate that existing practices of user education programmes are organised on an informal basis in most universities; some provide together formal and informal schemes. One reason for the domination of informal programmes is the lack of policy, lack of provision of resources for a formal programme and lack of co-operation between the university authorities and library management.
The survey suggests that, despite many difficulties, there remains some deal of activity in this field; most students in universities are exposed to library orientation, but there is less provision of basic bibliographic instruction and advanced bibliographic instruction. Lack of awareness of the importance of such programmes and resource constraints appears to be an important dilemma in initiating and developing an effective programme. It has forced library staff into partial retreat as they have already been preoccupied with their other basic services and responsibilities.
Responses regarding the aims and objectives of user education programme have suggested that very few of the university libraries surveyed have formalised their aims, though in the section on professional opinion and in interview discussion, many respondents were able to propose what the desired goals should be.
One restriction to the success of such programmes in Pakistan is the absence of interaction between the library staff and the faculty. It was found that there is little consultation with faculty in the planning (setting the objectives and contents, teaching methods and techniques and evaluations) and implementation. The experts told that there is some sort of common suspicion about the intent and targets of programmes among the faculty. The psychological problems are reported in the library staff in terms of the non-appreciation of their efforts and their inequality of status.
The reasons for not establishing user education as an imperative element of higher education cannot solely be described in terms of resource problems. It emerges from the responses that most librarians are not equipped with required knowledge and training to teach users effectively. It was also revealed that a majority do not have adequate subject expertise and that library science curricula do not insist on the information and educational objectives of libraries and do not consider library user education as an important element of library practice. Some resistance has been reported from the faculty who think that library staff members lack teaching experience and the necessary subject knowledge. Library staff members have to go a long way towards building the sense of confidence in which the faculty trust the capabilities of library staff and motivate their students to attend the user education course.
The responses indicated that individual user help was required more by the students than were lectures and tutorials. This could be considered as a significant resistance to the successful execution of a formal user education programme – a fact that should not be ignored. But it was also pointed out by the respondents that an ideal user education programme is a structured combination of orientation, lectures, and seminars, guided tours, and printed handbooks with the aid of available audiovisuals. This is not currently implemented properly as there is a dominating practice of helping users individually.
It was found that the reason for unpopularity that such programmes are designed without studying their users' actual demands, their backgrounds and limitations. As the responses show, the success of user education programme depends in understanding their problems, needs and previous library use experience. The surveys into the basic composite needs of different group of users is recommended as vital for the formulation of goals and objectives, the course content and methods required to guide them.
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