This study seeks to investigate the accessibility of academic library services to distance learners, with specific reference to University of Ghana Library System (UGLS). The general objective of the study is to assess the level of awareness and accessibility of library services to distance students. A survey was conducted and one hundred and thirty eight (138) Level 400 distance learning students in the Accra Learning Centre together with University librarian of the University of Ghana were selected by the convenience and purposive sampling methods to collect primary data using questionnaires and interviews respectively. The Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) and thematic analysis are used to analyze the completed questionnaire and interview responses respectively.
The results from the findings revealed that a greater proportion of the respondents were not aware of the library services and programmes. Moreover, it was discovered that most of the subjects acquired their IT training through personal effort other than the University‘s. In addition, the study revealed that quite a number of the respondents were at the intermediate level with regard to IT or computer knowledge. Furthermore, distance learners had no remote access to library electronic resources and other databases and therefore did not strongly agree to the provision of their information needs through social media services. It was also evident that information needs of respondents were mostly not provided for adequately. The study recommended the following to the management of the University of Ghana Library System (UGLS); awareness creation of library resources, user education on Information Literacy of library resources and programmes, encouraging the use of social media, training/user education and initiation on borrowing of library resources.
Distance Education (DE) is described as formalized learning received when the student is at a place outside the university campus. Both the lecturer and the student are expected to have minimal physical contact, but rely much on electronic communications (Mabawonku, 2004).
According to Watson (2003),an―cDeistEducation (DE) has revolutionized and democratized the delivery and accessibility of education and has also changed how critical support services, such as library and information service, are provided‖. Indeed the present situation poses an implication for libraries, librarians and the university management as a whole. For instance, to academic institutions, library and information services must be accessible to DE students, since this helps in bringing out quality students.
The library is the centre of operations of any learning institution at the same time as it promotes the skill of reading, inquiry and independent thinking through the provision of resources to support teaching and learning activities (Mabawonku, 2004). It normally houses information equipment in a variety of formats such as electronic information sources like CD-ROM, the internet, etc. Library services are essential support services to distance education students. Most researchers in distance learning are in agreement that library support is a key element (Caspers et al., 2001).
Putting in place learning support services to aid significantly the educational curricula is much necessary. Among the many learning support services, Cox (2004) underscored that library services always played a major role in expanding distance learning programs in higher learning institutions. Just as the Library systems provide all type of services to regular students; it is the task of the university libraries to make available equal services to distance learners. Significantly, students from main stream benefit from library services such as borrowing library documentary, locate materials using OPAC, search information using Research and Knowledge Commons facilities. Other services include photocopying services, reference services and bibliographic searches (Cann, 2009; Association of College and Research Libraries – ACRL, 2008).
Taking a cue from the above, the ACRL (2008) identifies that ―every student, faculty member, administrator, staff member or any other member of an institution of higher education, is entitled to the library services and resources of that institution, including direct communication with the appropriate library personnel, regardless of where enrolled or where located in affiliation with the institution. Academic libraries must, therefore, meet the information and research needs of all these constituents, wherever they may be. This principle of access entitlement, as applied to individuals at a distance, is the undergirding and uncompromising conviction of the Standards for Distance Learning Library Services‖.
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