An assessment of user education in academic libraries:the case of the University of Zambia

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Akakandelwa, Akakandelwa
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This study assessed the effectiveness of the current user education programs at the University of Zambia(UNZA).Specifically,the study sought to identify the types of user education programs offered at UNZA;obtain the views of students,academic faculty and library staff on the effectiveness of the current user education programs;determine academic faculty's need for library use in their classes and their opinion on student's need for user education that should be provided to students.The study also sought to identify problems,if any,that affect user education and its effective implementation at UNZA.Furthermore,the study intended to ascertain the extent to which user education has administrative and academic support at UNZA.In order to achieve the above objectives,data were collected from respondents through closed and open-ended questionnaires and structured interviews.Five hundred and forty-four(544)questionnaires were distributed to students and out of these 355(67%)were completed and returned.Sixty-six questionnaires were distributed to the academic faculty,out of which 64%(97%)were completed and returned.Furthermore,six professional library staff were interviewed.The study has revealed that the current user education programs at the University of Zambia mainly consist of library orientations in the form of guided tours.It has been found that these programs are inadquate in content,timing and approach.There is no written policy with regard to library user education.Furthermore,the user education programs are not reflected in the mission statement of the library.The study has also revealed that the majority of the students are aware of the availability of library-based information technology resources but lack skills to use these resources and as a result these resources are underutilized.Furthermore,it has been revealed that that part from academic faculty in the faculties of Humanities and Samora Machel Veterinary Medicine,the level of academic faculty's involvement in user education is very low.Academic faculty in Humanities and Samora Machel School of Verterinary Medicine run courses that have componets of library skills.Most academic faculty are not involved in the teaching and giving of instruction on how to use various library resources and literature sources relevant to the requirements of their specific disciplines.The major problems affecting user education are a lack of a user education policy,lack of professional library staff,and lack of commitment from library management.Other barriers identified included lack of publicity and current awareness services,poor physical premises,inadquate library collections and information technology,and the unfriendly attitude of library staff.Despite the above problems,the study has revealed that most academic faculty are in support of the introduction of a formal user education where the teaching staff and librarians work in partnership.However,there is a general lack of support from University management in terms of funding.In order to make the user education programd effective and successful,the study concludes by recommending the implementation of the folowing elements:the formulation of a library user education policy,the establishment of a library user education committee,the creation of a library user education unit,the appointment of qualified and competent libraries,and the provision of adequate funds and adeguate publicity.
User Education in academic libraries