Theses, Projects, and Africana Materials Management in Nigerian Academic Libraries: The Case of Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library
Chinwe M. T. Nwezeh
Academic libraries support their parent institutions in teaching, research, and community development. Aguolu (1989) maintains that libraries are social agencies designed to conserve knowledge, preserve cultural heritage, provide information, support education and research, and serve as fountains of recreation. These responsibilities are executed in a number of ways. Academic libraries acquire conventional material as well as specialized and unconventional materials that have research and educational value.
The thesis or dissertation is an essential aspect of a degree, which proves that a student has mastered the skills necessary to succeed in a scholarly field, and which makes an original contribution to that field (Duke and Beck, 1999). Anunobi (2002) states that the production of an original work in the form of project report, thesis, or dissertation is usually a standard requirement for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees awarded by universities. The Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library collects only postgraduate degree theses (i.e., Masters and PhD theses). Undergraduate theses are stored in the departments of the graduating students. Nigerian tertiary institutions use “project” to refer to works produced in respect of undergraduate programmes, while “theses” is commonly used for works prepared for postgraduate degrees (Nnadozie, 2006). This confirms the assertions of Prytherch (2000) and Ifidon (2006). Egonu (1999) argues that theses/dissertations refer to bound copies of research reports produced for the award of a certificate, diploma, first degree, masters, or doctorate. Parsons (1976:13) states that the names themselves cannot be regarded as a reliable indication of the sort of work involved, because they are used rather indiscriminately and can be virtually synonymous.
A thesis or dissertation begins with the conception of a researchable topic. The student develops a research proposal under the supervision of an academic staff member within the department. The proposal is presented in an oral presentation. The student eventually submits the proposal to a postgraduate committee (Kiondo, 2004).
At the University of Ghana, there are three stages in the approval of theses and dissertations. The research proposal must be approved by the department, a faculty committee, and an academic board (Fosu and Alemna, 2006). According to Schwarz (1973), the dissertation is the first expression of maturity and mastery in a field. Lang (2002) states that the dissertation should be publishable or a source of publishable material. It should demonstrate a student's capacity for significant professional performance beyond graduation. Projects and theses are produced within the parent institutions of academic libraries. The libraries collect and preserve copies of these works. According to Okoro (2003:69), part of the reason for procurement, preservation, and management of theses and projects is that these unpublished sources have vital intelligence information. Johnson and Kallaus (1987) states that these works are collected and stored to assist departments in communicating with each other and the outside world, to provide a record of the past, and to supply data useful for legal purposes.
Location of Theses and Other Africana Materials
Masters and PhD theses produced in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife are kept in the Africana section of the library. Books published by Africans on Africa are also housed in this section. People from all over Nigeria and researchers from outside the country come to make use of the materials in this section of the library. The use of Africana materials is not limited to any group of people. Both staff and students consult books in the section.
The Postgraduate College of Obafemi Awolowo University sends theses to the library for processing and making available to researchers. The theses are not catalogued but are shelved alphabetically according by author. They receive an ownership stamp and are indexed. Researchers used bound volumes of the index to locate the theses they want to consult.
The books housed in the Africana section are catalogued and classified. books published by African writers have a copy in that section, section while other copies are put on the open shelf and can be borrowed. The circulation of Africana materials is restricted. Some requested Africana material can be photocopied.
Ranganathan wrote that “books are for use”. Adequate provision should be made for circulation and use of these materials. Users of African materials must obtain permission of desk officers before gaining access to these materials. Circulation outside the library is prohibited. The Africana section of the library is patronized by students from within and outside the university, as well as academics and non-academic staff from within and outside the university.
Terms of Availability
Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library opening hours are:
Monday-Friday: 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:00a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Although library staff work morning and afternoon shifts, patrons can only access Africana materials during a specified period. The Africana section is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Non-students and visitors to the library establish their identity before they are attended to by the schedule officer(s). The students of the institution must present their school identity cards before they are attended to. The services are free-of-charge. In the case where photocopy of specific pages is allowed, the user bears the cost.
Table 1: Number of Books and Theses Requested in 2004/2005.
Inaugural lectures, seminar papers, and staff publications are also acquired and organized for use in the Africana section.
Table 2: Number of Inaugural Lectures, Seminar Papers, and Staff Publications Requested in 2004/2005
Table 3: External Users in 2004/2005.
Table 4: Books and Theses Requested in 2005/2006
Table 5: Inaugural Lectures, Seminar Papers, and Staff Publications Requested in 2005/2006
Table 6: External Users in 2005/2006
Table 7: Books and Theses Requested in 2006/2007
Table 8: Papers Requested in 2006/2007
Table 9: External Users in 2006/2007
Conclusion and Recommendations
The data shows clearly that in patrons make a great deal of use of books and theses in the Africana Section of Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library. Theses and other unpublished material in the section have research, academic, and archival values. Management of these materials in academic libraries where they constitute a vital component of the collection is essential for satisfactory service to clients.
There is a need to fully automate the university library system. More computers should be provided for the functioning of the library. Even though the library is undergoing a full scale automation of all its services through grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the research sections of the library, including the Africana section, serials section, and documents section are not yet connected. There are no computers in these sections of the library. All the same, ongoing training is being provided for the staff, to get them ready to function in the new automated system.
It is generally accepted that computer applications affect an organization's structure, employment patterns, quality of service, and employee work life. The importance of computerization has become more apparent as computers move from their traditional role in the “back office” to supporting the day-to-day activities of workers and managers, particularly those involved in knowledge or information work.
Provision should be made for the physically challenged in the library as a whole. The library building should be modified to provide easy access for the physically challenged.
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