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An Exploratory Study on Access and Utilization of the Institutional Repositories Among Academic Staff at Egerton University, Kenya

by FELICITAS C. RATANYA and DANIEL MUTHEE
Institutional Repositories (IR) Dspace, Perception of academic staff, Egerton University, Digital Preservation.
An Exploratory Study on Access and Utilization of the Institutional Repositories Among Academic Staff at Egerton University, Kenya
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Contributors (2)
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Published
Feb 09, 2018
DOI
10.21428/aba3cfc0

Abstract

The proliferation of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), the paradigm shift from print to electronic formats (e- format) of resources, the increase in prices of journals, shrinking library funds and cuts in library subscriptions, have awakened academic institutions, into the establishment of Institutional Repositories (IR). In the last few decades libraries have adopted latest technologies with an aim of providing the best services in the most user friendly form. However academic libraries have encountered various challenges in keeping faith with their role of collecting, preserving and disseminating intellectual output of the institution. Faculty participation in self archiving, accessing and using the repositories has also been a major challenge to contend with. In light of this fact, this exploratory study examined the access and utilization of institutional repositories among academic staff at Egerton University. The main objective was to assess how the academic staff at Egerton University accessed and used the institutional repository for their scholarly work. Through a survey conducted among 84 academic staff, 2 ICT personnel and 4 library staff, quantitative and qualitative data gathering approach consisting of a structured questionnaire and an interview schedule was employed to meet the objectives of the study. The paper provided a firsthand description of building and developing the institutional repository at the university and also described expected benefits of the repository to the university and users. The findings indicate that the majority of academic staff was not aware of the existence of the institutional repository nor were they able to deposit their scholarly work. A lack of appropriate strategies for marketing the institutional repository among all stake holders was also eminent. The study concluded that the library should collaborate with faculty members in promoting the access and use of the institutional repository so as to entice them in self archiving their scholarly work.

Keywords: Institutional Repositories (IR) Dspace, Perception of academic staff, Egerton University, Digital Preservation.

Introduction

In the last few decades the advancement of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) particularly the internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) have enhanced the global mediums of communication especially in the scholarly sphere. In the age of electronic publishing and digital content, academic institutions are increasingly realizing the importance of institutional repositories as vital infrastructure for scholarly communication. Such a realization has created new models for disseminating scholarly research. Consequently the creation of new knowledge has redefined the relationship between authors, publishers and academic institutions. Currently Open Access (OA) has particularly gained momentum in providing access to authentic literature, free of charge. Most of the content available through OA is also free of copy right as well as licensing restrictions. A major advantage of Open Access content is that it is highly cited compared to that which is not on open access, whereby publication of research in commercial journals, the publishers often limit access rights.

According to Bankier, J.-G., & Perciali, I. (2008). it is important to foster creativity and innovation by publishing scientific findings and accessing the research of others through Open Access initiatives. As such, academic libraries are making diverse contributions to the development of many types of digital repositories, particularly those housing locally created digital content — including new digital objects or digitized versions of locally held works.

An institutional repository refers to a set of services offered by a university or group of universities to members of its community for the management and dissemination of scholary materials in digital format created by the institution and its community members (Halder, S.N and Chandra S, 2012). Such materials include e- print, technical reports, theses and dissertations, conference proceedings and teaching materials.

According to Bhardwaj, (2014) & Boufarss (2011), deposit of material in an institutional repository is sometimes authorized by that institution. An institutional repository is a means to ensure that the published work of scholars is available to the academic community even after increases in subscription fees or budget cuts within libraries.

In a university setting, an Institutional Repository (IR) provides a place for faculty work, student theses and dissertations, e-journals, datasets and so on. Whatever the particular focus of the university, for an IR to be successful it must be filled with scholarly work of enduring value that is searched and cited. IRs therefore are developed to provide scholars with a common platform so that everyone in the institution can contribute scholarly material to provide and promote interdisciplinary research across-campus.

While academics still prefer to publish their research in books and journals, they are disseminating their unpublished work more frequently through Open Access, digital outlets. Academics often present their works in form of grey literature which is not limited to conference presentations, technical reports, and preprint, datasets, supplements to published work, and electronic theses and dissertations. An institutional repository basically monitors and controls scholarly output and serves as an indicator of the scope and extent of the universities’ research activities.

According to the Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) data the majority of institutional repositories are built using open-source software. The most popular Institutional Repositories (IR) software platforms are Dspace, eprints.org, Fedora.

While most academic libraries in developing countries have taken the initiative of developing and maintaining IRs, the majority has not made an effort to create awareness among the academic staff or even to other users in the community on the usefulness and potential benefits of IRs. Little is also known on how the users particulary the academic staff perceives the access and extent of use of the Institutional Repositories (IRs). There is evidence that most academic libraries find themselves struggling to make institutional repositories active and vibrant against a lack of interest from faculty and scholars (Bankler & Perciali, 2008). There is also evidence that most academic libraries particularly in developing countries fail to articulate the special needs of faculties as they plan and develop the Institutional Repositories (IRs). It is a failure to not consistently consider the needs of faculty and scholars during the design phase of IRs since this leads to low or no usage of IRs. According to Wu, Mary, (2015) if the purpose of IRs besides preserving and disseminating knowledge is also to encompass the core disciplines in the institution, then IRs must be designed with the unique needs of the scholars in mind. It should be in the interest of academic institutions to ensure that mechanisms of quality assurance have been put in place in order to establish locals rating standards for research and publications.

Institutional Repository at Egerton University

Egerton University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Kenya. As provided by The Universities Act No. 42 of 2012, the university has a mandate in: Advancement of knowledge through teaching, scholarly research and scientific investigation and dissemination of the outcomes of the research conducted by the university to the general community. From such a mandate, the university library is required to centrally store, preserve and disseminate the intellectual output generated from various departments of the university to the user community. The university library is required to enhance service provision by digitizing all theses acquired from the graduate school to provide access to students. Therefore this served as one of the main drivers of creating an institutional repository (IR) to not only enhance visibility of the research output but to avoid duplication of work, enhance citation, readability and encourage self archiving by both students and staff. As part of this initiative Egerton University Library established an institutional repository in July 2013 with initial support installation of Dspace from the national consortium, the Kenya Library & Information Services Consortium (KLISC) in collaboration with eifl. The main goal of the institutional repository is to capture, record, store, preserve and disseminates the intellectual assets of Egerton University. Since the year 2013 the university library has maintained the Repository and has currently uploaded 1500 theses, 20 journal article abstracts and 150 Conference proceedings. The library has made initiative strategies for marketing the repository to the end users through training sessions, distribution of how-to-use handouts and have consistently consulted with all the faculties on how to address the unique informational needs at departmental level.

Objectives of the study

This study was undertaken to realize the following objectives:

  1. To find out the purpose of accessing the institution repository by academic staff at Egerton University

  2. To assess the level of access and utilization of the institutional repository among academic staff at Egerton University.

  3. To assess the challenges hindering use of the institutional repository among academic staff at Egerton University.

Review of Literature

In an effort to manage education and research, academic institutions in the developed countries have made efforts to digitize their scholarly output with an aim of providing effective service delivery to users. According to Wu, Mary (2015) the goals of implementing IRs in academic libraries have been discussed by a number of pioneers in the early 21st century. The commonly acknowledged functions of IRs are long term preservation, organization and distribution of scholarly content by the institution to its communities. Decades have seen enticements of faculty participation in depositing of content in the IRs. Allen (2005) conducted a survey to compare the attitudes and behaviors of academics from different disciplines towards depositing content in IRs. The study revealed that the number of humanities documents in IRs was currently lower than that from the science and technology disciplines. According to Manjanatha and Thandava (2001) humanities and science oriented disciplines were found to have low level of awareness of IRs but held a positive attitude towards providing free access to scholary results of the university.

Benefits of Institutional Repositories

Some of the main objectives for having an institutional repository are to provide open access to institutional research output for self-archiving, to create global visibility for an institution's scholarly research, and to store and preserve other institutional digital assets, including unpublished or otherwise easily lost ("grey") literature such as theses, working papers or technical reports.

According to Yeates (2003) many academic institutions have set up IRs to meet a variety of institutional needs, including:

  1. Enhance Knowledge sharing within the institution

  2. Provide a base for investment in information and content management systems which can be leveraged

  3. Provide more flexible ways of scholarly communication

  4. form the infrastructure for new scholarly publishing

  5. Increase institutional visibility

  6. Maximize access to publicly funded research

  7. Increase number and diversity of scholarly content

Challenges facing access and use of institutional repositories

Despite the numerous benefits of institutional repositories in academic institutions, one primary challenge is the lack of faculty participation. Without the willing power of the faculty members to contribute their works, the collection may not be sustainable nor encourage growth. Faculty members may be reluctant to self-archiving their scholarly content into the repository for fear of backlash from the publisher, a believe that depositing their work is too time consuming or holds little value. Some may be wary that the system contains grey literature and may not have gone through the process of peer-review. This notion may imply that such works may detract from efficacy of their own professional research or writings.

Clifford Lynch and Joan K. Lippincot (2005) indicate that several challenges are to be addressed and ultimately overcome in building a large-scale repository including: data access, economic sustainability, discovery of data, data integrity, and scale. These challenges include:

-        The need for top-down and bottom-up support. Far too often this support is difficult to attain. In most cases libraries lack managerial support in establishment of institutional repositories. There is more concern particularly in institutions in developing countries where minimal or no budget is set aside for establishing institutional repositories. The management should think seriously about planning for library services like other projects of the institution. institutional repositories which may easily disintegrate if not properly managed.

-        Most educational institutions have little or no access to the internet and networks, and bandwidth is limited. Expanding networking would encourage institutions and local journal publishers to build websites and provide content online and in so doing enable users access research materials especially if they were made available free of charge.To this end, the arrival of fibre-optic cables in African countries is very timely. Recently the first of four undersea fibre-optic cables went live, connecting African countries along the East Coast to high-speed broadband internet. The lines touched ground in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.

Developing strong ICT policies is not just about improving Internet coverage — it also includes supporting institutions to manage intranets, repositories and networking projects. For example, the Kenya Education Network Trust (KENET) promotes the use of ICT in teaching, learning and research in higher education institutions. According to Kelly Riddle (2015) policies for library publishing in an IR require monitoring to make sure they are providing the highest quality services for faculty and staff publishing material in the IR. Researchers and scholars may sometimes be apprehensive if infringing into publisher’s copyright and they feel they lack awareness of their own intellectual property rights (IPRs). Contributors to the Institutional repository feel reluctant into providing their bibliographic details of their scholarly output in the absence of incentives more so if they realize they can get incentives from other platforms or publishing houses.

Many universities and research institutions, but not all, have repositories for academic papers. However the growth in usage of these repositories by researchers has been very slow and the number of papers deposited remains small since no real mandate to deposit copies of papers in an institutional repository yet exists.

According to Bamigbola, Alice A. (2014) the use of IR is jointly determined by the level of awareness and attitude. A study by Christian (2008) and Nwokedi (2011) revealed the major barriers to use of IR by faculty at the University of Lagos and University of Jos as lack of awareness or ignorance, fear of plagiarism, constant power failure, copyright issues, server unavailability and lack of time.

Methodology

A survey research design was adopted for this study. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data. To enhance validity and reliability of the questionnaire, various experts from the field of information science were consulted. Institutional repository managers were also requested to review the items in the questionnaire. Respondents for this study were selected using multi stage sampling technique. In the first instance the study worked on the nine faculties in the university. A sample of 108 academic staff were randomly selected to represent the sample. This figure was purposively selected from departments. The study worked on an appropriate sample using the method by Kathuri & Pals (1993) to get a sample size of 84 academic staff who regularly used the institutional repository. Through an interview session, the study also involved 2 ICT personnel and 4 library staff members who had relevant information about the installation and management of the Institutional repository at Egerton University.

Analysis of data

Structured questionnaires were distributed among the 84 academic staff. 80 questionnaire were filled and returned giving a response rate of 95.2%. Data was thereafter analysed using descriptive statistics. Percentages, frequencies, tabular summaries were used to summarize and present the data.

Results and discussion

Level of awareness on the existence of Egerton Institutional Repository

The study assessed the levels of awareness on the existence of an institutional repository at Egerton University. This required respondents to state their level of awareness based on 10 statements. Table 1 summaries the responses.

From table 1, it is a clear indication that the majority of academic staff is aware that there is an institutional repository exists at Egerton University. A close examination of table 3 indicates that 50 (62.5%) respondents were aware of the existence of the institutional repository, with 40 (50%) of the respondents indicating that they were aware of the contents of the institutional repository at the university. Manjanatha and Thandava (2001) support the view that a low level of awareness of IRs held a positive attitude towards providing free access to scholarly content.  However 20 (25%) said that they were not aware of the existence of an institutional repository. 55 (68.5%) of the respondents indicated that they knew the purpose of an institutional repository, 30 (37%) of the respondents indicated that they knew the benefits of using institutional repositories, while 10 (12.5%) indicated that they did not know the benefits of using an institutional repository. Only 2 (2.5%) said that they knew how to deposit their scholarly work in the institutional repository. 60 (75%) of the respondents indicated that they are able to access theses through the institutional repository. This shows that the most popular content in the repository was the availability of the e-thesis.

Purpose of accessing and use of institutional repository

The study sought to establish the purpose on access and utilization of the institutional repository. Responses were given based on 3 statements. A summary of the responses is given in table 2.

It was established that the majority of the respondents accessed institutional repositories to search information and search for research articles. From table 2, the majority of 40 (50%) indicated that the main purpose of accessing and using the repository was to search information. This was further enhanced by 30 (37.5%) of the respondents who indicated that they accessed the repository to search for research articles. Therefore cumulatively 70 (87.5%) of the respondents acknowledge that they had a purpose to access and use the institutional repository at the university. However only 10 (12,5%) indicated that the purpose for the using the institutional repository to submit their own scholarly work. Such a finding implies that the academic staff was not aware that they could deposit or self-archive their scholarly work in the institutional repository. According to Wu, Mary, (2015) due to a lack of faculty work, targeting students works such as thesis and essays had enabled some academic institutions adhere to the goals of an institutional repository; to collect, preserve and disseminate the intellectual output of an institution in digital format.

Challenges encountered in use of the institutional repository

Here, the study sought to find out the challenges that respondents face in accessing the institutional repository at Egerton University. Table 3 provides a summary of the responses given.

The study sought to find out the challenges that academic staff face in the access and use of institutional repository. A summary of the responses is given in table 3.

An examination of table 3 shows that 20 (25%) respondents indicated that the lack of awareness of the institutional repository was a challenge on access and use of the repository. 10 (12.5%) indicated that power supply surges was a major challenge that hindered access and use of the repository. For 50 (62.5%) of plagiarism was also given as a challenge which affected access and use of the repository. 60 (75%) of the responses indicated fear of not being able to publish as a challenge, while 65 (81.2%) indicated lack of policy, 20 (25%) lack of time, 70 (87.5%) copyright issues and 20 (25%) indicating slow internet as challenges to access and use of institutional repositories. From the findings there is  a clear indication that copyright issues with 70 (87.5%) responses are considered the most difficult to resolve. According to Wu Mary (2015) as a workaround to the risk of copyright infringement, libraries have encouraged faculties to deposit preprint to the institutional repositories in place of the published version. However it is observed that preprints have not undergone the peer review process and may differ with the published version.

From an interview session with ICT and Library staff charged with maintaining the institutional repository at the university, some challenges in the use of the institutional repository were cited as;

  1. Lack of a workable policy

  2. Lack of management support

  3. Power supply surges

  4. Lack of skilled staff

  5. Unwillingness to deposit scholarly works by academic staff

  6. Unreliable server back up

Respondents were further asked to give suggestions on how the university library would improve access and utilization of the institutional repositories among academic staff. Some suggestions were given as follows:

·       Identify vigorous strategies for marketing  IRs;

·       Provide literacy training to curb on under-utilization of IR

·       Encourage postgraduate students and faculty to take the initiative to acquire IT skills,

·       Library to liaise with graduate school to make it a mandatory requirement that all theses and dissertations be submitted to the university library in electronic format.

Conclusion

Primarily there are essential benefits of institutional repositories for institutions and their libraries. Through sustainable Institutional repositories the status of academic institutions would be elevated to higher visibility both locally and internationally. Institutional repositories are powerful in moving academic institutions to higher levels more so in supporting scholarly communication, provide universities with and opportunity to collect, store and disseminate institutional output while bringing in value, visibility and prestige to the affiliated institution. The study revealed that the majority of academic staff at Egerton University is still not aware of the existence of an institutional repository in the university. The study also indicated that for the few academic staff-members who were aware of the existence of the repository, they may not be conversant with the process of self archiving and as such most of their scholarly results remain unshared or critiqued. Libraries should therefore ensure that they vigorously market the institutional repositories with an aim of creating awareness to users and enhance proper access and usage.

The paper pointed out several technical and non technical challenges which have a bearing to the success or failure of the institutional repository as an effective scholarly and communication model. The study has revealed that the academic staff’s lack of participation is a major challenge. According to Lynch, C.A (2003) academic staff is not expected to willingly offer up their time and work to the self-archiving process hence there is a need to advocate collaborative efforts between library staff and faculty.

The study recommends that all stakeholders need to be sensitized about benefits of open access, advocacy for improved government, donor and institutional support and funding for required infrastructure, staffing and continued staff training, marketing of IRs; and information literacy training to curb on under-utilization of IRs and other information resources, encouraging postgraduate students and faculty to take the initiative to acquire IT skills, mandatory requirements that all theses and dissertations must be submitted to the university library in electronic format would enhance the adoption of Open Access (AO) initiatives in other academic institutions. In the words of Lynch (2003): An IR is “recognition that the intellectual life and scholarship of our universities will increasingly be represented, documented and shared in digital form, and that a primary responsibility of our universities is to exercise stewardship over these riches”.

References

Allen, J.(2005). Interdisciplinary differences in attitudes towards deposit in institutional repositories. Education and Information Technologies. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/files/418/11879168.pdf Accessed on 14/4/2016

Amunga, H. (2011). Open Access Initiatives in Kenyan Universities: Issues and Suggested Solutions. Paper presented at the KLA National Seminar, 14-16 July 2011, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. Available at: http://klanationalseminar2011.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/amunga_open-access-initiatives-in-kenyan-universities.pdf.Accessed 18/5/2016

Bankier, J.-G., & Perciali, I. (2008). The institutional repository rediscovered: What can a university do for open access publishing? Serials Review, 34(1), 21-26. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.serrev.2007.12.003

Bamigbola, Alice A.(2014). Surveying Attitude and Use of Institutional Repositories (IRs) by Faculty in Agriculture Disciplines: A Case Study. Elsevier Ltd. Available at: (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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Halder, S.N and Chandra S, (2012). Users’ Attitudes towards Institutional Repository in Jadavpur University: A Critical Study. Pak Publishing Group in its journal International Journal of Management and Sustainability.Vol.1 Issue 2 Pages: 45-52

International Conference on Digital Libraries (2004). Knowledge creation, preservation, Access and management. 24-27 February. New Delhi: The Energy and Resources Institute.

Kimberly Douglas (2004). International Conference on Developing Digital Institutional Repositories: Experiences and Challenges: Available at: http://images.google.co.ke/imgres?imgurl=http://library.ust.hk/conference2004/IRposter.jpg&imgrefurl=http://library.us. Accessed 7/4/09

Lynch C.A. (2003). Institutional Repositories: essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the digital Age. ARL Bimonthly 226 February 2003. Available at:   http://www.org/newsslet/226/ir.html accessed 17, April 2009.

Kelly Riddle, (2015). Creating policies for library publishing in an institutional repository", OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, Vol. 31 Iss 2 pp. 59 - 68 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/OCLC-02-2014-0007

Robin Yeates, (2003). Institutional repositories, VINE, Vol. 33 Iss 2 pp.96-101. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03055720310509064 Accessed on 18/5/2016

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