The potential of Library 2.0 for research libraries in Kenya.
Kwanya, Tom Joseph Mboya.
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The environment in which libraries currently operate has changed drastically. For instance, the emergence of new information and communication technologies, exemplified by the Internet, has changed the way people seek information, communicate and collaborate. Thus, modern library users have embraced new information seeking behaviour as well as expectations for better usability, faster response times to needs, and constant access to unrestricted library services. As libraries struggle to cope with these changes and user expectations, some library users are already reducing their levels of usage, preferring to “Google” than visit a physical library. Similarly, library circulation statistics indicate that the usage of the traditional services and products is decreasing steadily while the usage of electronic resources and services is increasing. Critically, most users do not presently perceive the library as the first or only stop for information. Libraries are therefore struggling to attract new users and retain the existing ones. Research libraries in Kenya, due to their vision and mission as well as the heightened expectations of the users, are under immense pressure to change. Indeed, a number of them are already changing by introducing new services facilitated by the emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools. However, the services and products are still limited in scope and depth because they have been patterned after the conventional services. One of the greatest predicaments the research libraries currently face is how to model and manage this change. This study investigated the potential of the Library 2.0 model of library service in facilitating the research libraries in Kenya to respond more closely to the emerging user needs and expectations. The study employed interpretive qualitative research methodology and multiple case studies to investigate the current status of research libraries in Kenya and their challenges in meeting the dynamic needs of the researchers. Furthermore, the study investigated the extent of application and use of the Library 2.0 model. Data was collected from five case study sites – African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya Agricultural Research Institution (KARI) and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) – through interviews of researchers and librarians; focus group discussions with researchers and librarians; Social Network Analysis; direct observations; and mystery shopping. The data was analyzed using content analysis, conversation analysis, descriptive/interpretive techniques (Heideggarian hermeneutics) and Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) such as Nvivo and UCINET. The findings of this study show that most research libraries in Kenya do not have documented vision, mission or strategic plans; are underfunded and understaffed; hold inadequate collections in equally inadequate physical spaces; largely apply the traditional library service model; face negative internal politics and unfavourable organizational structures; and lack mutually beneficial linkages. The findings also indicate that the research libraries in Kenya are underutilized and barely meet the needs of the researchers in their current status. The findings of this study also suggest that the Library 2.0 model holds great potential to enable the libraries to take their services and products everywhere the researchers are; remove the barriers to accessing library services; facilitate and direct constant purposeful change in their services and how they are delivered; harness the active participation of the users; retain the new breed of users (Patrons 2.0); and remain user-centred. Based on the findings, the researcher recommends that the librarians who head research libraries should hold PhD degrees to enable them to participate effectively in institutional decision-making; the research libraries should establish close ties with academic libraries supporting programmes related to their research interests; the research libraries should form a specialized consortium and association to serve their unique interests; the research libraries should consider grey literature as an important source of research information and develop strategies of managing it; and schools of librarianship should introduce courses on ICTs, models of library service, marketing and facilitation (training) to equip the students with the skills needed to meet the emerging demands on librarians. The researcher also proposes a Research Library 2.0 meme map which is an adaption of the Library 2.0 meme map. The former map is different from latter in that it is specific to research libraries and recognizes the fact that an effective Research Library 2.0 requires the active interaction of enhanced collection (Collection 2.0), library physical space (Physical Space 2.0), researchers (Researcher 2.0) and librarians (Librarian 2.0) to thrive. The researcher also recommends that further research be conducted to investigate the potential of the Library 2.0 model for all the other library typologies in Kenya and Africa; explore the influence of gender on librarianship in Africa; investigate the application of Social Network Analysis in library and information research; and develop an inventory of all types of libraries in Kenya.
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