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Social network as the enabler for library services: challenges of Nigerian academic libraries

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Social networks have become new avenues for libraries to interact with their patrons. Social networks allow individuals to join and create a personal profile, then formally connect with other users of the system as social friend. This new concept is precipitated by the emergence of information and communication technologies which has ushered in web tools applications for libraries. In Nigeria, academic libraries are gradually engaging social networks to deliver library services to their patrons. This has become necessary because 21 st century library users are resorting to the internet to seek information thus relegating libraries which are key players in information provisions and services. However, academic libraries are evolving and rebranding their services to re-establish their worth in the information landscape using social networks. This study seeks to examine the role of social networks in enabling library services with a focus on the library of the Federal University of Technology Owerri Nigeria. It discusses the types of services provided by libraries through social networks and further, investigates factors that undermine effective use of social networks in Nigerian academic libraries. A descriptive survey research was adopted for this study while questionnaire was used as data collection instrument. Also, data were analyzed and presented using percentages, charts and frequency tables.
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Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries (QQML) 5: 107-115, 2016
_________________
Received: 27.1.2015 Accepted: 21.3.2016 ISSN 2241-1925
© ISAST
Social network as the enabler for library services:
challenges of Nigerian academic libraries
Emezie, Nkeiru .A.1 and Nwaohiri, Ngozi Maria2
1The Library, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria
2The Library, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria
Abstract. Social networks have become new avenues for libraries to interact with their
patrons. Social networks allow individuals to join and create a personal profile, then
formally connect with other users of the system as social friend. This new concept is
precipitated by the emergence of information and communication technologies which has
ushered in web tools applications for libraries. In Nigeria, academic libraries are
gradually engaging social networks to deliver library services to their patrons. This has
become necessary because 21st century library users are resorting to the internet to seek
information thus relegating libraries which are key players in information provisions and
services. However, academic libraries are evolving and rebranding their services to re-
establish their worth in the information landscape using social networks. This study seeks
to examine the role of social networks in enabling library services with a focus on the
library of the Federal University of Technology Owerri Nigeria. It discusses the types of
services provided by libraries through social networks and further, investigates factors
that undermine effective use of social networks in Nigerian academic libraries. A
descriptive survey research was adopted for this study while questionnaire was used as
data collection instrument. Also, data were analyzed and presented using percentages,
charts and frequency tables.
Keywords: Social networks, Library services, web 2.0, Academic libraries. Nigeria
1. Introduction
The advent of information and communication technologies and mobile devices
have posed challenges for libraries as well as created new opportunities. One
significant challenge is the low patronage being experienced in today‟s
academic libraries. Library patronage is on the decline, mostly because users are
exploiting alternative sources like the internet and mobile devices to meet their
information needs. This change in information seeking behavior has foisted on
libraries to explore new means of providing information and interracting with
their users. It is no longer news that libraries are evolving to meet the needs of
21st century information seekers. The trend is that libraries are exploiting Web
2.0 technologies to re-establish connections with their users who have resorted
Emezie, Nkeiru .A and Nwaohiri, Ngozi Maria
108
to the internet. Like the proverbial mountain going to Mohammed, todays
libraries are taking their services to millenial patrons who now „reside‟ on the
net. To keep up with the demands of the 21st c academic environment, academic
libraries are incorporating new concepts to provide the needed services and
retain their relevance. Social networks (SN) are among the new concepts that
libraries are engaging to interact with their patrons.
2. Definition of term
Social networks have been variously defined and often used interchangeably
with social media (SM) and social networking sites (SNS). A social network
represents relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations,
animals, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities
(www.webopedia.com). Downes (2005) define social networks as a collection
of individuals linked together by a set of relations. In a more elaborate term,
Kempe, Kleinberg and Tardos (2003) define social network as a set of people,
organizations or other social entities, connected by a set of socially meaningful
relationships such as friensdship, co-working or information exchange, and
interractions to better achieve desired outcomes by sharing expertise, resources
and information.
Social networks (SNs) are becoming an integral part of academic library
services. It has been recognized that through the milieu of library 2.0
technologies, SNs enable library services via connection, communication and
collaboration with the users.
Figure 1: Social Networks in library services
Social networks
Social networks are bringing people closer and removing the barriers of
distance. In Nigeria, academic libraries are gradually engaging social networks
to deliver their services as well as transform the library into a more attractive
area. The Federal University of Technology (FUTO) library has been playing
supportive roles to actualize the missions and visions of her parent institution. In
the bid to promote resources and services, FUTO library has engaged social
networks to create knowledge, disseminate information and communicate with
users in the university community and beyond . Several studies on social
networks in Nigerian academic libraries have explored the use of social
networks by libraries and librarians, their potentials, opportunities as well as
Library 2.0
Library services
Connection
Communication
Collaboration
Users
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries (QQML) 5: 107- 115, 2016
109
challenges. This study will focus on the library of the Federal University of
Technology Owerri, Nigeria (FUTO), to determine how the emergence and use
of social networks have enabled library services. However, there has been no
study known to the researchers on how the emergence of social networks have
enabled academic library services in Nigeria.Thus, this gap is what the present
study seeks to fill.
3. Research Questions
i. What are the Social Networks used in Nigerian academic libraries?
ii. What type of services are provided through Social Networks in
Nigerian academic libraries?
iii. In what ways have Social Networks enabled library services?
iv. What are the challenges of Social Networks in Nigerian academic
libraries?
4. Literature Review
MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Flickr, Blogs, Wikis,
Youtube, Podcasts, Academia.edu and Hi5 are few examples of social networks
being used by libraries to connect their users. Several studies however, revealed
Facebook as the most commonly used site. (Ezeani 2012; Mausibau et al ,
2011; Atuloma, 2011). One of the primary uses of Facebook by academic
libraries is to market the library with a library fan page. By linking to the
library‟s website, the Facebook page acts as a portal to the library (Farkas,
2007). Blogs and wikis have been recognized as ideal sources to disseminate
news and information. Blogs in academic libraries are tools to reach out to
students. Draper and Turnage (2008) in their survey found out that blogs were
overwhelmingly used to market the library service. Twitter is a real-time
communication platform. It allows users to create an account, post and receive
messages to a network of contacts, as opposed to send bulk email messages
(Musibau et al, 2011). There are libraries which use Twitter to connect
themselves with important information sources (Milstein, 2009). Social
networking sites help establish a cordial relationship with users while attracting
them to the library environment.
5. Social networks and libraries
Social networking sites allow librarians adopt a new role by placing themselves
into a social realm with users (Ezeani, 2012 ). To provide the needed services,
libraries are using social networks to connect, communicate as well as
collaborate with users in an innovative way. It has often been stated that the
major reason why libraries are using social networks is to connect with their
patrons. De Rosa et al (2007) admit that librarians make use of social
networking sites with the purpose of “being part of their communities”. By
reading blogs, group postings and message boards, the librarian becomes an
active participant, who is able to anticipate and advise patrons as needs arise.
Emezie, Nkeiru .A and Nwaohiri, Ngozi Maria
110
Linking to patrons profile also keeps the library within the consciousness of
users, potentially increasing interraction (Courtney, 2007). Social networking
sites allow libraries to reach out to patrons and vice versa.
In contrbuting to the importance of social networks to libraries, Suraweere et al
(2011) admit that the use of online social networks by libraries and information
organizations is increasingly prevalent and a growing tool that is being used to
communicate with more potential library users. Ezeani (2012) add that social
networking sites are two way transparent communications that encourage a
feedback mechanism; connecting people with shared interest. Furthermore, in
citing Steiner (2009), Ezeani states that the use of social networking tools
enable librarians to identify library patrons on the social cyberspace and pro-
actively provide the type of information that would normally result from
reference service. Social networking tools are not only being used as a vehicle
for promoting services, programs and new resources but they are also used for
reference service. Students are using tools like Ask a Librarian, meebo and
twitter to ask questions in “real time and this is assisting in promoting the
library as a relevant, efficient and helpful place.
In the social networking platform, users are both consumers and producers of
online content (Ezeani, 2012). Users add value to library services in social
networks by creating knowledge repositories on Wikis, developing
bibliographies through social bookmarking sites, building historical and cultural
collections through media sharing applications, and forming relationships with
like-minded individuals in social networking communities (Kroski, 2007). In
this platform, users can help create new library services by contributing their
knowledge through online network (Casey & Savastinuk, 2006). While, the
library can be harvesting information from individual users for improving
library services, academic research, etc. (Chu,2010 ). SNs in libraries act as
information resource while supporting collaboration between students and
libraries. Succintly put, social networks are rebranding the academic library and
re-establishing their worth as key players in information dissemination and
knowledge creation.
6. Challenges of social networks in library services
Majority of users do not visit social networking sites for academic purposes
rather they perceive that Social networking sites are mainly for fun and
entertainment. Coyle & Vaughn (2008) noted in their study that users‟ attitudes
towards using SNS to enhance and encourage interaction for educational
purposes are not very supportive. According to Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield
(2008), students do not use Facebook to contact university personnel and do not
expect to interact with faculty through SNSs. Librarians also exhibit poor
attitude towards the use of SNs. It is expected that librarians should be at the
fore of patronizing library‟s sites yet a greater number are averse to the use of
technology. Charnigo and Barnett-Ellis (2007) surveyed the attitude of
academic librarians towards facebook and found that most could be described as
being apathetic.
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries (QQML) 5: 107- 115, 2016
111
7. Methodology
The study employed descriptive survey as research design while questionnaire
was used as data collection instrument and distributed to thirty two (32)
academic librarians in Federal University of Technology library Owerri. Data
was analyzed and presented using charts, frequency table and percentages.
8. Data analysis and presentation
Thirty (32) copies of questionnaires were distributed to all academic librarians
in FUTO library, twenty eight (28) were returned and found usable for analysis
representing 93% of the response rate.
Gender of respondents
Figure 2: Gender of respondents.
Out of the 28 respondents, 8 (29%) were male while 20 (71%) were female.
Social Networks used in Nigerian academic libraries.
Figure 3: Social networks in Nigerian academic
libraries.
0%
50%
100% Facebook
Blogs
Twitter
Flickr
Emezie, Nkeiru .A and Nwaohiri, Ngozi Maria
112
Figure 3 shows the social networks used in Nigerian academic libraries. They
include Facebook 28(100%), Blogs 25(89%), Twitter 17(61%) and Flickr
3(11%). All respondents indicated that Facebook is the most common social
network used in academic libraries in Nigeria.
Type of library services in social networks
Figure 4: Library services in Social Networks
Key: C.A.S Current Awareness Services, R.S Reference Services, MLS
Marketing Library Services, U.I User Instruction, KS Knowledge Sharing.
Figure 4 reveals that the services library renders through Social Networks
include Current Awareness Services 26(92%), Reference services 19(68%),
Marketing Library Services 15(53%), User Instruction 7(25%), and Knowledge
Sharing 21(75%).
Social Networks as enablers of library services.
Figure 5: Social Networks and Library services
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries (QQML) 5: 107- 115, 2016
113
In figure 5 above, 24(86%) of the respondents reveal that social networks enable
connection between library and users, while 23( 82%) viewed that SNs enable
communication between library and users. 20(71%) affirm that SNs improve
internet skills of librarians. Also, 17(61%) of the respondents agree that SNs
enable collaboration between library and users; open access and library
digitization whereas (15)57% of the respondents are of the view that the
presence of social networks improve internet connectivity in academic libraries.
Challenges of Social Networks in Nigerian academic libraries?
Table 1: Challenges of Social Networks in Nigerian academic libraries
Challenges
Frequency
Percentage
Unskilled staff
20
71%
Poor internet connection
28
100%
Low user engagement
17
61%
Low awareness of the library‟s presence in
social networks
22
78%
Library‟s information update is slow
11
39%
Insufficient power supply
28
100%
All the 28(100%) respondents indicated that poor internet connection and
insufficient power supply were major challenges to social networks in Nigerian
academic libraries. 20(71%) indicated that unskilled staff contributed to
challenges of social networks whereas 61% viewed that low user engagement
and low awareness of the library‟s presence in SNs hinder effective use of SNs.
However, 11(35%) are of the view that the slow pace of information update on
library SNs is also a constraint.
9. Discussion
The study corroborates with the findings of Ezeani (2012), Akintunde et al,
(2011) and Atuloma (2011) that Facebook is the most common social network
used in Nigerian academic libraries as indicated by all the respondents.
Academic libraries engage social networks for Current Awareness Services,
Reference services, marketing of the library and Knowledge sharing. Few
respondents however, agreed that the library renders User Instruction on Social
networks.
The study sought to find out how social networks enable library services. Based
on the findings, social networks enable connection, communication and
collaboration between libraries and users. In other words, social networks are
making libraries re-establish contact and reconnect with their users whose
attention has hitherto been diverted to the WWW. Social networks enable
librarians improve their internet skills as they participate and interact with users
in the social media. This assertion confirms the views of Courtney (2007) that,
by reading blogs, group postings and message boards, the librarian becomes an
active participant, who is able to anticipate and advise patrons as needs arise.
Emezie, Nkeiru .A and Nwaohiri, Ngozi Maria
114
Linking to patrons profile also keeps the library within the consciousness of
users, potentially increasing interraction. Furthermore, social networks enable
digitization of library materials and open access to library resources. This
finding tallies with Ezeani‟s (2012) report that social networks are used mostly
to provide current and up to date information to clients and provide links to
other open source library resources.
Insufficient power supply and poor internet connectivity were indicated among
others as major challenges hindering effective use of social networks in
Nigerian academic libraries. Electricity remains the life blood of ICT. Social
networks can only thrive where electricity and powerful internet connections are
adequately provided.
10. Conclusions and recommendations
Social networks have permeated our lives and are assuming a center stage as
indispensable tools for connection, communication and collaboration. Nigerian
academic libraries have joined their counterparts in other countries of the world
to engage SNs in library services through the library 2.0 technology milieu. This
new concept is rebranding the library into an attractive area for patrons.
Unfortunately, Nigerian academic environment is constantly challenged with
insufficient funds, incessant power outage or lack of it at all coupled with poor
internet connectivity where they exist. This anomaly has constantly frustrated
laudable ICT projects in Nigerian universities and academic libraries in
particular.
This paper therefore recommends a robust technological infrastructure, adequate
provision of electricity and skilled personnel who are the facilitators of social
media services in libraries. These three essential elements (technology. power
and personnel) form a tripod upon which a viable social network can stand.
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