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Today libraries are shifting their role from the custodian of traditional information resources to the provider of service-oriented digital information resources. Widespread use of computers, increased reliance on computer networks, rapid growth of the Internet and explosion in the quality and quantity of information compelled libraries to adopt new means and methods for the storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.
The modernization of libraries and information centers enabled information transfer and access, there by establishes a network of libraries and information centres. This initiative helped in resource development, resource sharing and their utilization at various levels. Information professionals subscribe to e-journals, CD-ROM databases, online databases, web-based resources, and a variety of other electronic resources. They participate in library consortia and build digital libraries. However, these libraries have been hampered by many constraints to embark on successful application of information and communication technology (ICT) for their operations, resources, and services (Williams & Channaveeraiah, 2008).
In this age of globalization, the importance of ICT to people generally and information professionals in particular cannot be overemphasized. This is true because ICTs facilitate quick and easy access to a wide range of information/information resources world wide. In fact, it is now difficult to imagine a world without information technology. The provision and use of ICT is part and parcel of the entire system, to both the students, information professionals and the institutions. It is one thing to recognize the importance of ICTs and another to know if they are effectively used by professionals, students and academics. If ICTs are put to effective use, the essence of acquiring them is to a large extent justified vice-versa.
Lowe and McAuley (2002) defined information and communication technology literacy as “ the skills and abilities that will enable the use of computers and related information technologies to meet personal, educational and labour market goals”. Ebijuwa (2005) defined ICT as tools used for collection, processing, storage, transmission, and dissemination of information. With advances in ICT, electronic information resources such as electronic books, electronic journals, CD-ROM databases, OPAC, Online databases and the Internet have launched the world into an information age. No institution or organization can still rely on only traditional printed information resource to perform effectively and efficiently. To librarians, ICT is a significant development that provides tools for managing the avalanche of information generated by modern society.
Borrego, et al. (2007) observe that there have been many studies of users of electronic resources in the professional literature in the last few years. In a recent exhaustive review of the literature on the subject, Tenopir (2003) analyzed the results of over 200 studies of the use of electronic resources in libraries published between 1995 and 2003. The main conclusion of this review is that electronic resources have been rapidly adopted in academic spheres, though the behaviour varies according to the discipline.
ICT Skills for Information Professionals
In recent years, work for the information professional has become characterized by fast-paced change and new skills requirements. This transformation has been brought about by the constant emergence of relevant new technologies (Ashcroft, 2004). Information professionals are increasingly required to adapt their skills and practice in order to gain an awareness of technological advances. As a result, the profession itself exists in a state of flux alongside these emerging technologies, with traditional roles being increasingly subsumed by new skills and working environments and, therefore, job descriptions (Ashcroft, 2004).
Information professionals are now expected to be aware of and capable of using and demonstrating emerging ICTs (Nwakanma, 2003). There is a need for additional training to augment the traditional skills knowledge base with a competency in ICT use. Information professionals must be flexible and adapt traditional skills to incorporate the requirements of technological advances (Biddiscombe, 2001; Sharp, 2001). Given the current situation, whereby ICTs are being continuously updated or introduced, and traditional formats are being replaced or supplemented by digital formats (such as ejournals and ebooks), it seems likely that there will continue to be a need for regular training for information professionals.
There is also an increased focus on communication skills, with more players involved in the electronic information environment. Information professionals are being called upon to work closely with ICT users and providers (including IT staff) and to work in collaboration with others in the profession (Wittwer, 2001). Some groups of library user lack necessary IT skills to obtain quality information (Stubbings and McNab, 2001) and, therefore, information professionals will be called upon to act as both educators and intermediaries (Sharp, 2001).
Given these circumstances, information professionals are required to have increased teaching and communication skills. It is vital for those in management positions to recognize the imperative of continuing professional development (CPD) and ensure that staff are proactive in maintaining up-to-date levels of expertise. The significance of CPD in this climate has been acknowledged by both the United Kingdom’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the United States’ American Library Association (ALA).