Scientific Research in Librarianship: A Panacea for Library Development in Nigeria
Tony. I. Obaseki
Salisu Dasuki Ibrahim
Julliet N. Momoh
Research in librarianship is a core aspect of library education and any library school programme. Day (1997) observes that, “it is a means for students and librarians alike to investigate the cause and effect of phenomenon as it affects the profession and come out with possible solutions”. It also allows students try out principles and theories they have learnt in the classroom.
Research is the arrival at a dependable solution to a problem through collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. Osuala (1993) says that, “it is the most important tool for advancing knowledge”. Ochogwu (2007) states that “research is needed in various operational activities of the library profession, especially into why people do not consult the library.” Research can be pure or basic, which is uses theories to investigate questions and phenomena, and applied research that uses accumulated data and knowledge to investigate a particular problem. Kpeke (1997) states that, “findings of a scientific research are powerful tools in national and curriculum planning”. By implication the advancement of a discipline is based on the strength, types, and outcomes of researchcarried out and how these findings are judiciously put to use.
Research in librarianship investigations often discusses theoretical phenomena and findings rather than testing relationships between variables. In line with that, Ochogwu (2007) states that:
Oduwole and Ikhizana (2007) assert that, “research output in librarianship is poor, as fifty percent of the librarians sampled with up to ten years experience have no publications.” They further argue that the growth and development of any profession depends on extensive research.
This does not augur well for librarianship, as the application of scientific findings in formulating strategies and policies is necessary to enhance library service. For research findings to be considered adequate, they must be based on evidence and experimentation. Osuala (1993) says that “experimentation is often confused with the scientific method by laymen who equate experimentation with physical science and further equate physical science with science itself”. Despite its scientific rigors, experimentation is only one aspect of the scientific method which itself involves a great number of activities and is widely accepted.
Panda (1997) says that “librarian researchers unknowingly are fast becoming laymen in research.” A majority of research in librarianship is pure research. Researchers in the profession shy away from scientific (experimental) research. In same vein Obaseki (2008) states that “out of about 23 students admitted into the Bayero University postgraduate library school for masters in 2004, only about 1% used inferential statistical tools such as Chi Square, t-test, anova, etc., in analyzing data for their studies”. The implication is that research findings of 99% of these professional librarians will not be considered an input for reconfiguring policies for libraries. This system impinges on the development of librarianship as a profession and a discipline, in an information age where librarians need to play key roles in preserving abundant knowledge.
Factors that Inhibit Research in Librarianship
The fact that most librarians are not inclined toward scientific research hinders the growth of the library profession. Library educators are responsible for the fact that most library students do not delve into scientific research, which stems from fear and ignorance of applied research methods. It is hard to find training in statistics in most Nigerian library schools, and most such training is given by someone from mathematics or education. Busha and Harter (1981) cited in Powel (1997) state that:
The major responsibility for imparting research skills to librarians must belong to the LIS programmes. Unfortunately, this is not a universally-held view and the track record of LIS programmes regarding the teaching of research skills is not outstanding. These antecedents negate the selection of research methods by students and professional librarians alike as questions such as why, how, and when to use proper statistics propels them to alternative research methods whose findings are less useful to policy formulation.
Missing zeal on the part of librarians to investigate phenomena affecting the library is an impediment to scientific research in librarianship. Librarians view research investigations as requirements for certification and not for the development of the profession. Practicing librarians have a lackluster attitude toward the development of the profession. This is exhibited by most librarians’ lack of a record of publication. Furthermore, this lackadaisical attitude inhibits the growth of the profession.
The perception of the librarian in the eyes of the public reflects how the profession is evaluated and valued. The answer to the problems with the professional status of librarians lies in adequate research, because only scientific research can earn the desired response from funding and governing authorities.
Funding of research in library and information science is bleak. The funding regime at the moment does not encourage applied research; for example, applications for research funding are based on research excellence rather than relevance to practice. Goulding (2007) states that, “there is no reason why a piece of research could not fulfill the criteria for research excellence and be practically relevant, but recommenders draw distinction between research and practice per se.” Moreover, Brophy (2006) asserts that:
This implies that applicants for research funding in librarianship still must generally be an individual scholar.
The introduction of novel concepts such as information and communication technology in libraries has made libraries centers of attraction. This has not dispelled the notion that the discipline or profession is still very unpopular in Nigeria (Obaseki 2008). People still tend to find it hard to comprehend why someone would study library science. The first question is where will you work after graduation from the college? The assumption is that a library graduate ends up in the library, which to many are unmaintained building where books are warehoused.
This has led to the drastic reduction of potential library students, with many leaving the profession, and too many who take refuge in the profession as a ploy to leave home for a university environment with no real zeal for librarianship. These persons will not make any meaningful contribution to the field. This has taken its toll on the profession, with trained librarians working in organizations such as financial institutions, not in information management capacities but as cashiers, drivers, and courier handlers.
The profession has witnessed a decline in its public rating in Nigeria. There is little or no scientific research emanating from library schools or practicing librarians, and, therefore, there are no findings to be applied for solving problems in the profession. Research studies carried out in library schools are more like term papers and reports.
For librarians to take their place in this information age as the real information scientists:
The establishment of relevant research methodology and statistics for library schools in Nigeria cannot come at a better time, especially given the proliferation of information. Nigeria cannot afford to be in isolation. There is hope that Nigerian professional librarians will take steps to address recent shortcomings, advancing the enabling environment for the development and growth of the profession in Nigeria.
Day, J. (1997). Curriculum change and development. In Kume, J.E.L., & Wilson, T. (Eds.) The education of library and information professionals in the United Kingdom. London: Mansell: 31-52.
Brophy, P. (2006). Looking back to the future: Research agendas for library and information science. Retrieved 2009 from www.bl.UK/service/information/pdf/brophy.pdf
Goulding, A. (2007) Searching for a research agenda for the library and information science community. Journal of Library and Information Science (39): 123.
Kpeke, E.E. (1997). Let us discuss cubiculum theory and development. Ughelli: George and Sons: 54-55
Obaseki, T. I. (2008). Attitudes of librarians towards the application of information and communication technologies in polytechnic libraries in Northern states of Nigeria: A thesis submitted to the Department of Library Science Bayero University, Kano, for the award of Masters’ Degree in Library Science: 31
Ochogwu, M.E. (2007). The internalities and externalities of library and information delivery services in Nigeria by 2015. Nigerian Libraries (40): 15-26
Osuala, E.C. (1993). Research methodology. Benin: Africana-Fep Publishers: 10.
Powel, R.R. (1997). Basic research methods for librarians. 3rd ed. UK: Glasgow: 45-46
Panda, B.P. (1997). Research methodology for library science. India: Anmol: 23