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AVAILABILITY AND UTILIZATION OF LIBRARY FACILITIES BY STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

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 CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Persons with visual impairment, like their sighted counterparts, require information at the proper time and place. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has made the world a global village yet persons with visual impairment are still having problems in gaining access to information transmitted through the internet and other printed reading materials for their education. This is unlike their sighted counterparts who can read newspapers, magazines, novels and textbooks visually. (Maduagwu and Kassim 2001) noted that, for information acquisition, persons with visual impairment depend solely on listening skills and the use of brailed books. However, Maduagwu and Kassim (2006) observed that readers with visual impairment require books-reading materials in special formats such as computers, Braille machines, large print books, recorded information, talking books, listening equipment such as tape recorders and recording studios.

Visual impairment, according to Ugwuanyi, Igbo and Obiyo (2012) is characterized by inability of the person affected to perform visual functions due to damage done to the organ or tissue resulting in the loss of sight or vision. Mengal (2010) perceives a person with visual impairment as one who suffers from sight impairment and defects his eyes to such a degree that it makes one disabled in terms of one’s visual abilities and perception. Sight is very crucial in one’s life and it enables an individual to interpret his environment whether it is friendly or unfriendly, harsh or accommodating (Ugwuanyi, et al, 2012). The authors added that visual impairment is any loss or abnormality of the physiological or anatomical structure of the eye. Atinmo and Dawha (1997) noted that the need for specialized reading materials for readers with visual impairment has become acute and urgent because of its importance for their education and training. Unfortunately, these type of books may not be available or utilized by students with visual impairment in the universities in Enugu State.

Moreover, Chapman and Stone in Okeke (2001), see students with visual impairment as people who have difficulty in seeing which necessitate the use of special educational methods or adaptations to access materials and use special aids and equipment for learning which may not be possible to find in the university libraries.  Because the child’s vision is impaired he requires special aids to enable him access information from the university library. The students with visual impairment though not too many in number, no doubt encounter difficulties in their physical, emotional, social and educational development.  The population of persons with visual impairment in Nigeria, according to Atinmo (2007), is estimated at 3 million and that very few of these have received formal education and are capable of reading and writing in Braille.  The need for all to read and be informed is not in doubt, whether through formal or informal process. Libraries are recognized all over the world as institutions of inestimable value, providing a variety of information resources for the benefit of users (Oyegade, 2003).  Most libraries, especially public libraries, which should play a pivotal role in supporting learners with visual impairment are grossly underfunded and neglected (Oyegade, 2000).  Oyegade further states that while efforts have been made by various organizations to set up modest library services for students with visual impairment in their catchment areas, there have not been any concerted efforts at the national level to establish national, coordinating library services for students with visual impairment in the society.

Libraries are rooms where books and other materials are kept for readers and researchers. Maduagwu and Kassim (2001) perceive libraries as the nerve centres of educational institutions. A university as one of the educational institutions should have good library. According to Uwanife (2010), a good library is the one that has a combination of print books, and non-print or audio visual materials that contain information both for non disabled and disabled students. That is why university libraries are very critical for every academic activity in the university. As Reitz (2004) stated, university  libraries are the centres for collection of books, journals and other information materials which are relevant for use by students, scholars and the general public for learning, teaching and research. This implies that university libraries are established to help students and teachers to accomplish their set goals in teaching, learning and research. Writing about the objectives of university  library, Ifdon (2004) itemized the objectives of libraries as follows:- provision of materials for undergraduate instructions of any kind, term papers and projects as well as materials for supplementary reading, provision of materials in support of faculty, external and collaborative researches.  University libraries also make provision for specialized information on the region within which the university is situated as well as cooperation with other academic libraries, with a view to developing a network of academic library resources that is at the disposal of all scholars (Fabunmi, 2004). In order to perform the above functions, university libraries provide information sources in both print and non-print format. Some of these include generalized or references materials such as dictionaries, bibliographies, abstracts, indexes, travel guides, yearbooks and encyclopedias.

In every university library, information-bearing materials are acquired, processed, organized, preserved and disseminated for use for users. Aina (2004) posits that for a university library to be relevant to the users, information bearing materials are readily acquired and made available to the clients or users of the library. But in spite of the benefits of university libraries, the students with visual impairment seem not to benefit maximally from these resources. This is because meeting the information needs of the few literate persons with visual impairment in Nigeria with the right kind of library services, media formats and accessibility has remained a seemingly unachievable task by the institutions that cater for their information needs.

Availability of library facilities in the context of the study means information or reading materials that can be easily obtained or used by the readers. Availability also means a condition of being available, accessible or obtainable by the user. Availability of library facilities, according to Aguolu (2002), refers to the physical presence of information resources within the library. Such resources, according to the author, include: books, journals, dictionaries, encyclopedias, internet facilities, dissertation, audio visual materials and government documents. Aguolu also noted that availability of library facilities means ensuring that library- based information, resources, published and unpublished materials, printed and non-printed ones, audio visual materials which may ordinarily not be immediately located in the university library are ready for use. As in Aguolu perceives availability of library facilities as ensuring their presence in the Nigeria university libraries for immediate use.

Availability of library facilities in the university libraries may help to ease research work of students with visual impairment and enhance their academic performance and helps in the development of educational institution (Aguolu, 2002).    Furthermore, Popuola (2001) in agreement states that facilities could be a motivating factor for users to change their perception in seeking information once such information is available and adequately satisfy their needs.

It is an indication of the quality and quantity of teaching learning and research resources present in the university libraries.  Availability of library facilities give the students with visual impairment confidence in carrying out their research work.  Thus Fabayo as quoted by Ugwuanyi (2007) revealed that availability of library facilities refers to the presence of library facilities students with visual impairment can lay hand on.  This means that its adequacy in quantity and quality promotes students learning activities.  The availability of library facilities enhances the easy and its proper utilization.

Contributing to the concept of availability, Popuola (2001) perceives availability of library facilities as a sinequanon to effective library services.  The author further asserts that the task of the library is that of collecting, sorting and organizing books and made them available to the users.  This suggests that the effectiveness of any library is best measured in terms of availabilities accessibility and utilization of library facilities.  Aliyu as already citied perceives availability in terms of immediacy as a useful indication of utilization sine a perfect immediate availability rate is ideal.  This implies that library facilities should be seen as a place in all information request are immediately satisfied.

Utilization is the act of making use of certain things for a purpose. It is also seen as making use of library facilities for the purpose of attaining educational goal. Utilization of library facilities therefore, refers to the extent of usage of library facilities such as books, journals, research works by students. These library facilities are the materials needed in the library to facilitate learning. In line with this view Prout (2009) states that library is not just a reservoir of knowledge or information and human experiences but it also creates an avenue for accessing this treasure. The use of library facilities stimulates interest, excitement and instills confidence in the user to develop his potentials and capabilities both academically and socially (Ugali, 2007). The more accessible sources are, the more likely they are to be used. This is because readers like to use library facilities that require the least efforts to be accessed.

In view of this, students in universities especially students with visual impairment make use of the library for academic materials, equipment, assistance and guidance.  Information resources utilization refers to the various means used for facilitating instructions to help teachers teach better and students learn easier and faster.  Gadsby (2000) defines utilization as to make use of something for a particular purpose. Library facilities utilization is a way students with visual impairment make use of available facilities publications in their academic research.

Students with visual impairment, especially those in the universities in Enugu state, are expected to make use of library facilities for academic pursuits and research. Adetoro (2004) reported that the effort of higher institutions in Nigeria to provide library facilities has not had significant impact on the visually impaired population. Batcheller  in (Ugwuanyi et al) noted that talking clocks and thermometer specialized barcode scanners, and palm pilots all make daily life, education and employment more accessible for persons with visual impairment when provided in the library.

This may be that the universities libraries may find it difficult to procure the needed learning facilities for students with visual impairment provide space for storing the materials and employ trained librarians in the field of special education. Furthermore, the negligible numbers of students with visual impairment at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Caritas University could be another reason for not providing library facilities for students with visual impairment. The students with visual impairment have not been taken care of in most of the libraries in Nigeria.  There has been near total neglect (Agbaje and Olabode, 2000).  Unfortunately, there are no national statistical figures to give the total number of student with visual impairment in Nigeria, neither do we have the total figure of those who are receiving service or who should receive service (Atinmo, 2002).  In Nigeria, people with disabilities are victimized by neglect, superstition, inaccurate stereotyping, and exploitation.  Cultural beliefs about disabilities often include shame, prejudice and exclusion from community (Haladu, 2007).  Ajogwu (2006) noted that the students with visual impairment in Nigeria have inadequate library services and that libraries often fail to have specific, special provisions that encourage the blind students to use the library. This is in spite of the continued demand for equitable library services, appropriate media-formats and accessibility by students with visual impairment to foster their need for self development, academic success; information needs satisfaction and uninhibited integration into the society.  Therefore the strategies that could be adopted to improve the library facilities for students with visual impairment such as adequate orientation, proper organization of library facilities, the use of computers, trained personnel, and adequate supply of relevant materials are not seen in university libraries.  In Caritas University and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there are learning facilities provided by the libraries. These learning facilities include books, printed and non printed materials, referenced materials, newsletters, internet, facilities, journals, magazines, among others. However, one wonders if there are any learning facilities in the libraries that cater for students with visual impairment. Since students with visual impairment are seen in both universities, the researcher deems it right to find out whether there are library facilities available for them, and if available, the extent the students utilize the facilities.  Another issue of academic concern is the issue of gender in utilization of library facilities.  Fleer in Ugwuanyi (2009) observed that the emphasis on objects rather than people seem to be interest of boys more than that of girls whereas a strong component of faminity is concerned for people.  Osisioma (1995) on gender differences noted that there has as yet not been any clear difference concerning this issue.  A Study carried out by Onyeizugbo (2003) alluded that “sex roles are rigid in Africa particularly in Nigeria …… gender differences are emphasized”. It is common place to see gender stereotypes manifest in the day-to-day life of an average Nigerian.  Certain vocations and professions have traditionally been regarded as men’s (medicine, engineering, architecture) and others as women’s (nursing, catering, typing, arts).  Typically, parents call boys to wash cars, cut grass, fix bulbs or climb ladders to fix or remove things.  On the other hand, chores such as washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, among others are reserved for girls.  In a nutshell, what is regarded as complex and difficult tasks are allocated to boys, whereas girls are expected to handle the relatively easy and less demanding tasks.  As a result, the larger society has tended to see girls as the weaker sex”.  Consequently, an average Nigerian child goes to school with these fixed stereotypes. Gender issues, both on the part of the teacher and students, have been documented to affect achievement generally (Kennedy, 2000; Erinosho, 2005).

However, studies separately carried out by Billings (2000); Kalawole (2007) Aguele and Uhumniah (2008) indicated that male students performed better than female students in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor skill achievements.  In contrast, many researchers have provided reports that there are no longer distinguishing differences in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor skill achievements of students in respect of gender (Arigbabu and Mji, 2004; Bilesanmi – Awooderu, 2006).  In Enugu no data known to the researcher is available to determine the influence of gender on utilization of library facilities by students with visual impairment.  Based on the foregoing, therefore, this study is very important because it helps to address this issue of gender.

 

Statement of the Problem

Students with visual impairment have been noticed to depend on other students for their assignment, term papers, read their notes and carry out their research. It has been observed that their mates help them access information from the libraries and read such information to them, thereby making them dependent on others.  In some cases they may not get their assignment ready as at and when due because they have to wait for their classmates to be free and this could be frustrating. For students with visual impairment availability and utilization of information resources do not come easily. This is mainly because readable materials for them have to be in special format, in Braille, large print or recorded on cassette tapes, as well as talking books.  This could be due to the fact that library facilities are not adequate, and also some on other factors that hinder effective utilization of library facilities such as poor orientation by the librarians, inadequate manpower, neglect by the university administration.  It is on this ground that the researcher wants to carry out the study. Another issue of academic concern is the issue of gender of student with visual impairment in the utilization of library facilities.  It seeks to ascertain the difference in the utilization of library facilities among male and female students with visual impairment.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to ascertain the extent of availability and utilization of library facilities for students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State. Specifically, the study seeks to:

  1. Determine the availability of library facilities by students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State.
  2. Ascertain the extent of the use of library facilities by students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State.
  3. Determine the factors that hinder the use of library by students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State.
  4. Determine strategies that could be adopted to improve the use of library facilities for students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State.
  5. Determine the gender difference on the utilization of library facilities in universities in Enugu state.

 

Significance of the Study

The study has both theoretical and practical significance.  Theoretically the study is anchored on Ajzen theory of planned behaviour (1985) emphasizes the attitude and behaviour of students with visual impairment towards the non-availability of library facilities, is used to show the need for adequate provision of library facilities in the universities. This implies that when adequate provision of library facilities are made available, the attitude and behaviour of students with visual impairment becomes positive. Practically the following will benefit from the findings of the study librarians, university administration, students with visual impairment, Enugu state government.

To librarians as information providers, they will benefit from the result as it will help them to improve on their approach to information provision to students with visual impairment. They will also identify information materials that are lacking and provide them in their various institutions. The findings will also guide them on the best way to make library facilities easily available to students with visual impairment for effective utilization. The result of the study will be known to them through sensitization, workshops and seminars.

The study will be of benefit to the university administration. It will enable them to understand the need to allocate fund, provide the appropriate library materials and services and also train staff who will attend to students with visual impairment in the library. The university administration will therefore, be in a better position to make adequate provision to ensure that all students are accommodated in the school libraries. They will also make proper arrangement so that all can benefit maximally and academically.

The findings of this study will also be of help to students with visual impairment (SVI). This is because if the library facilities that are needed are available and accessed by SVI in the universities, they will gather data that will help them in their research work. The findings of this study will be made known to them through orientation.

Equally, the government of Enugu state will also benefit from the findings of the study as the findings will motivate the government to provide funds for the universities to buy more information materials to equip the libraries. Government will be informed of the findings of the study through publishing it in the newspaper and holding stakeholders workshop.     The findings of the study will also benefit future researchers. This is because the suggestions for further research will serve as reference tool for their research.  Future researchers will be informed of the findings of the study by making the copy of this work available in the library.

 

Scope of the Study

The study will be carried out in Enugu state.  It is limited to students with visual impairment on the extent of availability and utilization of library facilities in the universities in Enugu state.  The study will be delimited to two universities in Enugu state, the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Caritas University.  It will also look into the factors that hinder effective utilization of library facilities and the gender difference on the utilization of these facilities.

Research Questions

  1. What are the library facilities available for students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State?
  2. To what extent do the students with visual impairment utilize the library facilities in universities in Enugu State?
  3. What factors hinder the utilization of library facilities by students with visual impairment in universities in Enugu State?
  4. What strategies could be adopted to improve the use of library facilities by students with visually impairment in universities Enugu State?
  5. What are the gender differences on the utilization of library facilities in the universities in Enugu state?

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