Accessibility and use of online databases: a case study of INASP/PERI initiative in Kenyan university library
This study assesses the impact of online databases accessed through the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) on teaching, learning and research in Kenyan universities. The online resources are a new innovation in these libraries and the study therefore sought to establish the current status in relation to access and use of the resources. It focused on the available access facilities, users' awareness levels and training in use, challenges hampering access and use of the resources and sustainability of the PERI initiative in Kenya. A survey was conducted in four universities (two public and two private). It targeted university and reference librarians, lecturers and Masters students. Questionnaires were used to gather information from lecturers and Masters students, while university and reference librarians were interviewed as key informants. The general response rate for all the 136 target respondents was eighty percent (80%). Findings point at limited use due to inadequate access facilities in the university libraries. Users' awareness of availability of the INASP/PERI online databases in their local libraries is low- only 18% of all the lecturers and Masters students were able to mention a few of these academic databases. Most who claimed to be aware associated online databases with the search engines - Google and Yahoo! The study found out that 93% of the lecturers and 72% of the Masters students used print resources as compared to 73% of lecturers and 82% Masters students who used online resources including search engines. This is because the print resources are readily available in their libraries unlike access to online databases that is hampered due to various reasons. The study also established that information literacy training in Kenyan universities is still uncoordinated with lecturers teaching Communication Skills (a common unit) to undergraduate students only. Librarians teach the unit's library component on request by lecturers. Both lecturers and Masters students are not empowered to access and use online information. The study identifies various challenges that hamper access and use of the INASP/PERI online databases by the academic community in the country. The major challenges include inadequate access facilities; inability of the databases to adequately cover the information needs of most users in private institutions; insufficient bandwidth; lack of space, lack of awareness; high computer illiteracy and inadequate professional staff. Other challenges include lack of support facilities and services; lack of support from respective university administration and time limits to access and use the online databases. The lecturers targeted in the study indicated that the provision of online resources by their university libraries has not had a big impact on their work. The implication is that the expected outcome from access and use of the PERI online resources namely quality research and publishing, effective teaching and learning are, not therefore being achieved in Kenya. The study concludes that the country's academic community is not contributing towards the production and dissemination of knowledge through use of ICTs as envisaged by INASP/PERI. There is need for all stakeholders to urgently address identified challenges to enable maximum utilization of these resources. This dissertation outlines some recommendations that are useful for addressing the issues.