Information-Seeking Behavior of Law Faculty at Central Law College, Salem
The increase in the amount, type, and format of information available on the Web has affected information-seeking behavior (Fidel, et al., 1999). Current information is important to everyone. The philosophical emphasis on direct, experiential acquisition of knowledge in the material, physical plane of existence is an important component of information seeking. Individuals have personal reasons for seeking certain forms of information (Leckie, Pettigrew, and Sylvain, 1996). Abels (2004) observes that from 1998-2000, both use of the Internet and expenditures for monographs increased.
The library is the most widely-used source of information available to literate societies. Librarians must be aware of the kind of information being sought and how it can be obtained. Because of the rapidly escalating cost of purchasing and archiving print journals and electronic media, the library has the duty to provide and maintain efficient services.
The literature of information seeking behavior of faculty is wide-ranging. Significant and interesting studies include Suriya, Sangeetha and Nambi (2004), Sethi (1990), Prasad (1998), Shokeen and Kushik (2002), Bane and Melheim (1995), Al-Shanbari and Meadows (1995), Reid (1995), Abdullah (1995), Challener (1999), Reneker (1992) , and Bandara (1993). Further reading is included in the References section of this article.
Most studies of information-seeking behavior have been done in developed countries, with much less data having been gathered on the developing world. No study has been undertaken in Tamil Nadu on the information seeking behavior of law faculty. This study investigates the information-seeking behavior of law faculty at the Central Law College, Salem.
The study used a questionnaire, which was less time-consuming and economical for a scattered population. The population of the study consisted of the 64 full-time academic staff working in the Central Law College, Salem. Guest faculty are included in the population.
The survey instrument had two sections. Section 1 collected personal information such as gender, academic rank, highest qualification, and teaching experience. Section 2, comprising 10 questions, collected data on the information-seeking behavior of the respondents. Questions in this section focused on the following areas: information sources used by the respondents, use of Central Law College library, adequacy of library collections, library use and computing skills of respondents, and the use of IT-based library sources and services. In order to ensure reliability and effectiveness of the instrument, the questionnaire was pilot tested on ten final year students. The pre-testing exercise was undertaken to identify any problems that potential respondents might face in understanding questions posed to them. Results of the pilot study showed that respondents were able to understand the questions and their responses were interpretable.
In order to save time and ensure better response rate, the questionnaires were personally distributed to the academic staff in their offices in May 2008. Fifty-six (87.5 percent) filled-in questionnaires were returned within two weeks of distribution.
Results and Discussion
Of the 56 respondents, 5 (8.92) were Professors, 7 (12.5%) Senior Lecturers, 19 (33.92%) Lecturers, and 25 (44.61%) Guest Lecturers. Forty-seven (83.92 %) of the respondents hold a master's degree.
The largest number of respondents, nineteen (33.92%), have been teaching for five years or less. Seven (12.5%) have between 6 and 10 years of teaching experience, and 13 (23.21 %) have between 11 and 20 years. Seventeen (30.35 %) respondents have 21 or more years of teaching experience. Twenty-nine (51.78 %) of the respondents were male and 27 (48.21 %) were female.
Respondents were asked to provide a self-assessment of their library skills. It was assumed that these skills might have a bearing on the ways respondents use the library to acquire the needed information. Those respondents with better skills were expected to use library resources and facilities more effectively. Most respondents rated themselves “very good” or “good,” and none reported “poor” skills.
Table 1: Library Skills
In a self-assessment of computing skills, nearly half rated themselves “very good,” while 14 percent considered their computing skills “poor.”
Table 2: Computing Skills
Information Seeking Behavior
This section includes data on the time spent by respondents on different activities, including reading and literature searching, library use, perception of the importance of various information sources for teaching and research, and the use of IT-based sources and facilities.
Time Spent on Various Activities
There is a range of teaching loads represented, but 80 percent of the respondents report spending 15 percent on research and publication and administration respectively.
Table 3: Time Spent on Various Activities
Information Channels Used
Respondents were asked to indicate which information channels they consult first. More than three-quarters “always” consult their personal collections first.
Table 4: Use of Information Channels
Nearly half of respondents visit the library at least three times a week, with another 20 percent visiting daily.
Table 5: Frequency of Library Visits
Purpose for Seeking Information
Preparing lectures is the most important reason for seeking information.
Table 6: Purpose for Seeking Information
Resources for Teaching
Textbooks and law reports are the most important resources for teaching.
Table 7: Resources for Teaching
IT-Based Sources and Facilities
More than 40 percent of respondents use the OPAC, and more than 20 percent use CD-ROM databases.
Table 8: IT-Based Sources and Facilities
Google is the search engine preferred by nearly half the respondents.
Table 9: Search Engines
Respondents were asked to provide their overall assessment of the effectiveness of Central Law College Library in meeting their information needs. More than 80 percent considered the library “Effective” or “Very Effective.”
Table 10: Library Effectiveness
The study revealed that the respondents use IT-based library sources and facilities less frequently compared with printed sources. It might be due to the lack of awareness about their availability, improper selection of materials, or unfamiliarity with these products. Similarly, it is also noted that email is the most popular Internet application, whereas other Internet-based services and applications are only used by a limited number of respondents. This is a matter of concern, as presently, electronic information sources and the Internet are considered extremely important tools for effective teaching and research. Therefore, the Central Law College library might like to review its electronic information resources.
Library staff or reference librarians could use their time better by focusing on assisting users. Reference librarians should help users improve their skills and to find the information they need. Librarians should also assist users in learning the use of IT-based resources. The library must provide adequate equipment and technology for reference librarians so that they can offer these services
The study investigated the information needs and information seeking behaviour of law faculty members at the Central Law College, Salem. Respondents use a variety of information sources for teaching and research. Books and law reports are considered mosy important. It is interesting to note that, although respondents perceived the library as effective in meeting their information needs, they prefer to consult their personal collections first.
References and Further Reading
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Abels, E.G., Liebscher, P., & Denman, D.W. (1996). Factors that influence the use of electronic networks by science and engineering faculty at small institutions: Part 1- queries. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 47 (2): 146-158.
Adedibu, L., & Adio, G. (1997). Information needs and information seeking patterns of medical students at Lautech, Ogbomoso. Aslib Proceedings 49 (9): 238-242.
Al-Shanbari, H., & Meadows, A.J. (1995). Problems of communication and information-handling among scientists and engineers in Saudi Universities. Journal of Information Science 21 (6): 473-478.
Bacha, A.K. (1995). Use of Internet in Malaysia with special reference to International Islamic University, Malaysia. Paper presented at the COMLIS IV Conference, Tehran, June 1995.
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Bane, A.F., & Milheim, W.D. (1995). Internet insights: How academics are using the Internet. Computers in Libraries 15 (2):32-36.
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