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Towards Facilitating Inter-Library Cooperation Among University Libraries In Nigeria 

By 

Mmejim, Innocent Chima CNS, MOI E-mail: profinno97@gmail.com 

George, Emmanuel Smile E-mail: ma adaye@yahoo.com Library Unit, Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State 

Abstract 

The library and information science profession today has undergone a paradigm shift from that of a library staff sitting behind the charging and discharging counter awaiting library patrons to walk in before providing library service. Today, the library must go out to locate and engage her publics. The need for library cooperation among university libraries in Nigeria is very imperative since no library is an island. The changing trend in this digital age has made it imperative for Nigerian university libraries now to develop ways on how to manage access to materials available in electronic format and effectively share them, since the digital age has provided a platform on which they have to share their resources in the 21st century. 

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Introduction 

The essence of this work is focused on bridging the gap towards facilitating inter-library cooperation among university libraries in Nigeria. The emergence of computer has revolutionized modern society, one wonders how life was conducted prior to computers and their peripherals. Like other fields of human endeavours, there is no aspect of library activities that digital processing is not applicable. Digital technology is of particular importance when information is to be gathered, stored, retrieved and evaluated (Kennedy and Davies, 2006). 

The importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigerian libraries is no longer an issue in contention. The issue in contention is how Nigerian libraries can ensure their continuous derivation of the benefits from new opportunities afforded by ICT. In order to bridge the gap that exists between traditional and modern methods of information storage, retrieval and provision in the digital age, the use of ICT in library operations must be seriously emphasized. 

Ideally, ICT is expected to have a major impact on the management, structure and work activities of Nigerian libraries. as first step to bridging the gap, Nigerian libraries must accept one basic fact which is, ICTs are enablers of innovation in the managerial and operational processes in libraries, the use of the technologies of modern computer-based information systems is a major force that has the capabilities of transforming the traditional methods used in cataloguing and classification, indexing, abstracting, etc. It is expected that all technologies that process, store and communicate data and information in libraries should be managed as integrated systems and be used as access tools for the libraries resources. 

Nigerian libraries with access and those without access to information technology is actually narrowing, as the “Information Age” continues to expand the horizon through which information services are provided in libraries. This is one of the many challenges confronting Nigerian libraries and librarians as information technology sweeps the 

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world. Many Nigerian libraries are now converting the contents of their print resources into electronic databases thus, increasing their dependence on technology. 

Technology has provided opportunity for librarians in Nigeria to know how they can combine computer and communication technologies in the performance of library tasks and inter-library cooperation. This confirms Williams and Sawyer’s (2003) assertion that, in the era of information technology “we will have everything connected to everything”, which are internet-based remote control devices to regulate our libraries. Technology has brought about a completely difference way of providing library services resulting to the development of new services (Gbaje, 2007). 

The internet is now the dominant mode of information exchange in libraries in the digital age, then, it is no longer a luxury but, a necessity which Nigerian libraries must accept and adopt to close the digital gap. 

Conceptual considerations 

The concept towards facilitating inter-library cooperation would only be critically analyzed if we look at the widening imbalances of access to ICTs in Nigerian libraries and, its perceived in the light of the following postulations: 

❖ There is a gap that exists between traditional and modern methods of processing, storing, analyzing, retrieving, providing and using information in Nigerian libraries. ❖ There is inequitable access to ICTs and other internet-related technologies associated with the provision and use of information services in Nigerian university libraries. ❖ There are imbalances of access to ICT among Nigerian university libraries and these imbalances have implications for equitable access to quality information service delivery in Nigerian university libraries. 

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The university library: These are several types of libraries in existence serving different kinds of clientele, which include: 

❖ School library ❖ Private library ❖ Academic library ❖ Special library ❖ National library ❖ Public library 

This paper will only focus on the university library which is also known as the academic library. The academic library is the general name for all libraries situated, located and built in institutions of higher learning e.g. universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. The establishment and development of academic libraries in all parts of the world is in complete agreement with the development of their parent institutions – the universities. The university libraries are the most properly developed and funded of all types of libraries in Nigeria. Its functions include: 

❖ Collection/acquisition of knowledge in all formats. ❖ Organization of knowledge for easy storage and retrieval. ❖ Storage and preservation of knowledge for use of posterity. ❖ Retrieval and dissemination of knowledge. 

Inter-library cooperation: This could be likened to networking as it has to do with the sharing and the linkages of libraries and or organizations for cooperation or sharing of capabilities, experiences and resources through the use of computer and communication gadgets. In inter-library cooperation, the resources of all the cooperating libraries and organizations are pooled together in a seamless interconnectivity, thereby providing a massive array of resources accessible to anyone on the network. 

Networking or inter-library networking or cooperation is the surest way to increase organizational capabilities and capabilities in service delivery, by expanding the resource base of a library to include those of the other libraries or its peers on the network. It’s the concept of inter-library 

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cooperation that fostered the idea of globalization and the global village. The internet and library operations out of an effort in the late 1960’s to connect together a United States Defense Department network called ARPANET and various other radio and satellite networks, the internet which is now a global revolution was born. 

The aim initially was to try out an experiment to help scientists and researchers from widely dispersed fields to work together by sharing scarce and expensive computers and their files. The internet can be portrayed using a room filled with spiders, with each spider spinning its own web, yet the web sets are interconnected, with each spider able to cross over into any chosen set of webs. The internet enables a person to send and receive information with other persons whose computers are connected to it wherever they are located in the world. Even in the libraries, the concept of the internet is referred to as the “Information super Highway”. 

Digital library (e-library is a library that stores information electronically and made accessible to users through electronic systems and networks, but having no single physical location. It is therefore analogous to a library as a store house of information, but has an existence in virtual reality. Or is a bookless space, facilitating the provision of information resources predominantly by electronic means, including the web, e-mail, fax, and electronic transfer scanned documents across the internet. In this kind of space, there is wireless access to the library network and the internet provides all the software needed. As services and resources are largely “invisible”, students and staff acceptance of such a paradigm shift requires a holistic model of service, which minimizes isolations, encourages interaction and strives to enhance the online environment (Tuomi and Namaala, 2007). 

Information technology: Is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of information by means of computers, office machines and telecommunication (Ehikhamenor, 1993). In other words, computers 

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provide the processing, storage and retrieval capabilities, while telecommunication of data from one work station to another. 

Nigerian university libraries must adapt to the changing trend 

Globalization and technological innovations are processes that have created a new global change; A change powered by technology, fueled by information and driven by knowledge. The emergence of this change has serious implication for the nature and purpose of educational institutions (Tinio, 2002). ICT is a force that has changed many aspects of the way we live and do things. If one compares such fields as medicine, tourism, travel, business, law, banking, engineering and architecture. The impact of ICT across the past two or three decades has been enormous. The way these fields operate today is vastly different from the ways they operated in the past (Oliver, 2002). The rapid breakthrough in new information and communication technologies will further change the way knowledge is developed, acquired and delivered (Mlitwa, 2007). 

Advance in ICT and globalization have enabled resource sharing and exchange of information for various purposes worldwide. This development has placed libraries in most advantageous positions especially university libraries that will enable them to serve the information needs of the global village. This brings into focus the concept of digitization as a means of globalization. However, it has become necessary for Nigerian university libraries to make their intellectual collections available for global access via the internet in order to fit into the new direction. Nigerian university libraries need to digitize their scholarly and literacy materials for online access. 

According to Ikpahindi (2007), libraries are duty bound to acquire, preserve and disseminate information from whatever source. Hence, there is need for such sources of information to be kept, preserved and made available in a more convenient and accessible format. Over the years, Nigerian university libraries have been burdened with the problems of space accessibility and preservation. 

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The changing trend in the digital age has made it imperative for Nigerian university libraries now to develop ways on how to manage access to materials available in electronic format and effectively share them, since the digital age has provided a platform on which they have to share their resources in the 21st century. 

ICTs have offered Nigerian university libraries more efficient ways of acquiring, organizing, storing and disseminating or transmitting information. New information technologies are integral components in the status quo of libraries (Mosuro, 2000). In recent times, the traditional methods of providing information services are changing, and also, the performance of library tasks is undergoing a major change process. Libraries are thus being transformed from book-centered to information- centered institutions, and emphasis is shifting from book collection and storage to access and provision of electronic information services (Atinmo, 2000). 

In the great ancient libraries of Egypt and Mesopotamian which date back to about 3000 B.C., information resources of that period underwent a series of developments in their storage methods. From that time to this present decade in library history, technology has impacted greatly on the operations of libraries in the provision of information services. 

The information technologies found in Nigerian university libraries today is a combination of computers, storage media and telecommunication. In other words, computers provide the processing, storage and retrieval capabilities of information in the library, while telecommunication or communication of data (information) from one workstation to another in the library (Ajibero, 2002). 

Today, circumstances have changed in Nigerian university libraries as information delivery processes have been enhanced through the use of improved ICT system. Mwamba (2002) also reports that libraries have now been found to shift their focus of operations from library-centered to information-centered, from the library as an institution to the library as an information provider, and to the librarian as skilled information specialist 

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functioning in all related information environment, from using new technology for the automation of library functions to using technology for the enhancement of information access and delivery not physically contained within the four walls of the library, and from library networking for information provision to area networking for all types of information resources providers. 

Olanlokun (2003) opined that, at forty, Nigerian university libraries have come of age, and the relevance of libraries are becoming increasingly clear at the dawn of the information age to perceptive elites. 

Undoubtedly, the changing trend inherent in the digital age is impacting positively on all facets of library and information services, and the Nigerian community is now aware of the role which the library can play in the information superhighway. 

Impact of ICT on Nigerian university libraries in the provision of library and information sciences 

Arising from global trend, librarians are now posed for training and re-training to enable them be part of the bridging tools in the digital-divide. Oduwole, Oyewumi and Oyesiku (2002) viewed that, one of the major characteristics of the information age, today is the growth of information services of various kinds in archives libraries, museums and formal educational institutions which accounted for the bulk of what could be classified as information. The growth in technological development in the field of computer networks, is boosting the functions and operations of Nigerian university libraries. In line with this, Rahman (2002) has observed that, the process of retrieval and dissemination of information services in libraries has witnessed a rapid growth because of the computer networks. 

Hence, Nigerian university libraries can successfully manage the exponential growth of information with the help of this technology. The digital age has brought with it innovations meant to bridge the seemingly wide gap that had existed between traditional and modern methods of information organization and delivery in Nigerian university libraries. 

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Today, the advent of computer networks has ushered a new path to the library and has given a new dimension to the traditional jobs of the library. The pace of technological innovations and the need for different formats in information presentation in the digital age appeared to be some of the major reasons why Nigerian university libraries are using computers, computer networks and other associated technologies in the organization and provision of information services. It is on the basis of this that Singh and Sharma (2002) agreed that today, the electronic revolution is affecting the traditional role of libraries as institutions that collect and store information and make available to the users. They noted in this digital age that, the electronic information sources are very accessible, reliable and highly cost effective, and this is having an edge over print sources. In the digital age, attention is given to ICT in Nigerian libraries being the engine room of development and single-most important technology that would drive the 21st century libraries. 

One of the noticeable trends in the digital age today is the ever- increasing demand for ICT facilities in the organization and provision of library and information services in Nigerian libraries. This is because, the use of technology has provided the capacity of turning digitized libraries into credible and functional information resources centers. Ajayi (2002) has observed that, the emergence of the digital economy and information revolution is now re-defining information search models in Nigerian libraries irrespective of the type and size. The growth of internet in the digital age has now created information search convenience for information seekers in Nigerian libraries, and librarians are now more interested in providing information services to library users with multiple integrated technologies due to easy accessibility and retrieval of the information needed. Ideally, the revolution in ICT infrastructure in the digital age is changing the nature and level of interaction between librarians and clientele. It is now enhancing affordable access to easy information retrieval as well as enabling libraries to cooperate with one another by way of inter-library cooperation. It has now made Nigerian libraries to become 

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more effective and efficient in the performance of various tasks in relation to acquisition, cataloguing and classification, indexing, serials control, processing, circulation and so on. ICT driven libraries are gradually being transformed into new information service centers, providing electronic cataloguing, electronic inter-library loan services, and electronic circulation functions etc. 

According to Aina (2003), the availability of full internet access in any Nigerian university library will facilitate online access to the world of information and inter-library cooperation. 

Measures needed to facilitate inter-library cooperation among Nigerian university libraries 

The world over, one of the common barriers to the use of ICTs in the digital age is associated with information literacy. Information literacy is an art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, culture, and philosophical context and impact (Shapiro and Hughes, 1996). 

To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information (The American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989). 

The digital age is characterized with enormous challenges as new innovations in ICTs are emerging. Thus the need for education that is ICT- based for all librarians. This type of education will assist the librarians to: 

❖ Articulate reasons why their libraries must digitized their library materials and work strictly on a preferred digitizing policy that will define the purpose and process of digitizing their library materials, identify what materials to digitize, determine priorities for digitization, access human resources to be involved in the digitization exercise. 

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❖ Acquire rboad-based education that will assist them to confidently demonstrate their information literacy competence through which they can communicate their ideas in data to the world of scholarship. ❖ Stimulate their interest positively and sustain their awareness of 

their expected roles as information professionals in the digital era. ❖ Generate in them a great deal of thought to the onerous tasks of developing library collections that will be technologically driven. ❖ See the need to use the vast materials that abound as information 

resources in the cyberspace and the libraries. ❖ Improvement of connectivity in libraries. 

In this era of ICT, Nigerian university librarians who are not information literate as Hennatta (2005), rightly pointed out, are potential national risks because they ceased to be information literate processionals in the digital age, a development which will bridge the gap between inter- library cooperation among Nigerian university libraries and that of the digital divide. 

Benefits of inter-library cooperation among university libraries 

The benefits derived from facilitating inter-library cooperation is expected to have positive result on university libraries in Nigeria. Traditionally, one of the basic functions of the library, according to Odini (1991), is to match the information needs of users with information contents of documents. Performance of this function requires the services of library staff, library facilities and equipment. Therefore, ICTs in Nigerian university libraries: 

❖ offers quick and easier ways of performing increased workload of 

library tasks with greater efficiency. ❖ enhances adequate ICT for easy accessibility of information needed 

by patrons in Nigerian university libraries. ❖ enables major policy roles and strategies to be defined in relation to 

ICT in Nigerian libraries. 

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❖ concretize the prospects and hope for information users as Nigerian university libraries are now involved in resource sharing enabled by ICT. ❖ Enables Nigerian libraries (especially universities) to fully adopt the use of ICT in information handling and library activities/services such as indexing cataloguing, reference and information retrieval services, circulation, serial control/management and the provision of other technical services. ❖ Enables Nigerian university libraries to establish positive correlation 

in the networked world. 

Initiatives and programs aimed at achieving inter-library cooperation in Nigerian university libraries 

The interventions to achieve inter-cooperation among Nigerian university libraries have been on course over the years. Successive governments in Nigeria, local and international donors, agencies and foundations, the federal ministry of education and its collaborative agencies and parastatals etc. This is done either through partnership initiatives, workshops, seminars and conferences to ensrue acquisition and sustainability of skills among librarians for information accessibility in Nigerian university libraries. 

Apart from associations such as United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO), Ford Foundations, Carnegie Corporation etc. International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) at the global level, African Initiatives by West African Association (WALA), Association of African University Libraries, and Western Area (SCAULWa) have equally been on course. In order to have access to latest information, the need to add the African continent in the Wide Area Network prompted the Association of African Universities (AAU) to initiate and fund the database of African theses and dissertations (DATAD) project, which aims at presenting African theses in digital form and then providing electronic access to them at the continental level. In the same direction, the standing 

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conferences of West African University Librarians (SCALUWA), the Committee of University Librarians of Nigerian universities (CULNU) have initiated consortiums and programs aimed at creating access to digital information resources. 

According to Ochai (2007), the virtual library initiative by the Nigerian Universities Commission is another digital project aimed at bringing electronic information to Nigerian universities. The NUNET is aimed at providing the network backbone in each university, linking all Local Area Networks (LAN), enabling universities to communicate via e- mail. 

The Education Trust Fund (ETF), the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) and the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) have also organized workshops in recent times, notably among these are workshops on “Capacity Building for Librarians of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria by ETF and National Interactive Seminars on “Digitalization of Library Materials aimed at creating awareness on librarians on access to electronic information resources. Other projects are the Polytechnic Network (Polynet), the School Net Program, the Nigerian Education Academic and Research Network (NEARNET), the Digital Library Program etc. 

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Conclusion 

Inter-library cooperation and resource sharing among libraries and information centers in the country may be greatly jeopardized if there is no policy to regulate it in the face of easy flow of resources across borders. National Information policy will therefore specify how libraries in Nigeria will go into cooperative resource-sharing either among themselves or with those overseas. Resource sharing is a delicate enterprise and therefore requires carefulness and caution. ICT is only tool towards facilitating inter- library cooperation among university libraries in Nigeria. 

Administrations of Nigerian university libraries should collaborate with their parent institutions to re-order their priorities through a major policy in their libraries; by this, Nigerian university libraries will be able to face squarely the challenges of adequate and effective way of providing library and information services that characterized the digital divide in Nigerian university libraries. 

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