Information Needs and Use Pattern of Disadvantaged Communities: a Case StudyMahendra Kumar Seth Regional Research laboratory CSIR Bhubaneswar-751013I India Baman Parida Dept. of LIS Utkal University Vanivihar Bhubaneswar-751004, India
Efforts at the local, regional, national, and international levels are necessary for development of a society and a nation. The quality of planning and programmes depends upon the quality of human resources devoted to them. However, the rapid spread of higher education has resulted in the deterioration of the standard of education in every sphere: ill equipped laboratories, poorly stocked libraries with conventional thinking, an information explosion without thevuse of information technology in academic institutions, inadequate space in buildings and playgrounds, neglected and remote campus facilities, uninterested and ill-qualified teachers, inexperienced administrators and managers, a lack of involvement by parents and guardians in the affairs of institutions of higher education, and a lack of vision from the academic and executive bodies of the universities. All these factors have contributed to the decay of higher education in general, as described by Gupta (2004). Disadvantaged people (mostly scheduled caste and scheduled tribe [SC/ST]) in India do not have economic resources for their educational development, even if our constitution has provided various special privileges for this since independence. Instead, they have to depend on academic libraries. The libraries and information centers in academic institutions in India are not able to cope with the growing demands of its user communities. A recent report states that, "except some of the states in the South, Maharastra, West Bengal, and Metropolitan areas that at least have the basic structure, in the rest of the states and UTs the growth is haphazard with no significant and planned development. In the computer age, the important thing to do is computerization of libraries, especially academic and special libraries, for effective and efficient services. Out of 29 States and 6 Union Territories only 12 states have enacted their public library legislation. Recently Orissa Public Library Act-2002 was passed as 12th Public Library Act in the country without provision for cess. This is the state of affairs even after more than 57 years of Independence" ("Library development in India.")
Changing Information Environment
Kanjilal (1997), states that,
Students from historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, who come to universities coming from underdeveloped areas, are eager to fulfil their information needs. Orissa, for example, is an underdeveloped state of India that has a population that is 40% historically disadvantaged castes and tribes. They are often unaware of government plans and programmes for them and of the help they can receive from libraries. They may believe that class notes are sufficient to pass examinations. Some may want to study more by visiting the library, but do not get materials at the right time (ARI-1991).
Literature Review and Methodology
A number of studies have been made in the area of information needs of students, teachers, scholars, scientists of various academic institutions and research organisations in India and abroad, including (Ahmad (1983), Gupta (200), Mohod, (2003), Ambedkar Research Institute (1991)Sahoo,(1998), Fizdani (1998), Wilson (1994), Zumer(1994), but this type of research is unusual, since it studies the information needs and requirements of a particular community, i.e. the SC/ST, the most educationally undeveloped and largest disadvantaged community in India. The present study is focused on the information needs and seeking behavior of the SC/ST students, researchers, and faculty, with specific reference to higher education in Orissa. The aim is to assess the information needs of SC and ST communities in higher education, to identify the most useful sources of information, and to obtain suggestions for further improvement of these communities.
A structured questionnaire was administered to elicit both quantitative and qualitative information. The study covers of all the SC/ST students, researchers, and faculty working in the eight universities and twelve autonomous colleges of Orissa. Five hundred questionnaires were distributed. The questionnaires were checked and 324 questionnaires were found fit for analysis. Secondary data has been collected from Annual Reports, College Calendars, Academic Libraries, brochures, syllabi, advertisements, and government departments of Orissa and India. The time period for studied was 1999- 2004.
The present study was conducted in the academic institutions of the eleven districts of Orissa, covering SC/ST students, researchers, and faculty. Khurda district (the state capital) has three universities and two autonomous colleges. Twenty institutions are represented the study, out of which equal numbers of questionnaire were distributed among SC/ST students, researchers, and faculty of eight universities and twelve Autonomous Colleges.
Table 1: Distribution of Responses
The table above shows district-wise distribution and collection of data from various institutions in Orissa. Among 324 respondents, the largest majority of the respondents are from Khurda district (29.01%), followed by Puri district (10.49%). More institutions in the study are located in Khurda(3+2) which is also the capital city. A small number of respondents are from Gajapati district(3.70%), which is an underdeveloped educational district. A larger number of SC are from Khurda 62 (27.93%). There are 32 (31.37%) ST respondents. The fewest SC are from Gajapati (1.35%) , no respondents (ST) from Denkanal. Similarly, Korda and Mayurabhanja districts are having more ST respondents (31.37% & 24.51%) than any other district in the state.
Table - 2 : Categorise Distribution of Colleges and Universities
It follows from the above table that from the study population 324 respondents, 67.90% are from SC and 32.10 % from ST, which are half of the SC in both the institutes of Orissa taken for the study.
TABLE - 3 : Education Level Distribution
A majority of the respondents are from SC, where 81.52 % are PG/M.Phil/PhD, 58.29% are from +3 /Degree, and 87.88% are other levels of respondents. But in +3 levels the ST percent is very closer to SC (41.71%) and very poor percentage in higher levels.
TABLE - 4: Reading Interest Among Respondents Category-wise
Reading interest among SC/ST respondents is shown in Table-4. It is found that SC respondents are interested more in textbooks (25.45%), class notes (18.18%), and newspapers (16.82%) and have less interest in government publications (0.45%), non-fiction (0.91%). ST respondents are less interested in government publications, fiction, indexing/abstracting, and non-fiction (0.96%), having more interest in textbooks (32.69%), class notes (26.92%).
Table - 5 : Types of Information Provided in the Libraries
Educational and sociological information are more used by the SC and ST communities than any other information in the field of academic institutions. Whereas 22.42% of information are related to education, 21.73% are sociological and 15.71% are economic, among all the six categories of information given in the above table.
TABLE - 6: Types of Document Provided in the Libraries
Table-6, shows that the academic libraries in the study have more general types of material (22.34%), while other major collections are related to particular courses. Research and technical material are less importance. Special material (19.59%), commercial sources (14.18%) and entertainment (14.27%) are found in the collections also.
User awareness of the services provided by the library is essential for effective use of the collection. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of difference services. Information collected in this regard has been analysed and presented in the following table.
TABLE - 7: Service Offered in the Libraries
The libraries circulate textbooks more than journals and have no interlibrary loan service, with low percentages of other services, including index/abstracting (1.48%), bibliographic(2.22%), CAS/SDI (5.93%-only in higher institute). In comparison to colleges, universities provide fewer textbooks (77.04%) and more in reference (42.96%), journals (42.96%), trans/reprographic (31.85%), news clipping (6.67%), CD-ROM/online (9.63%), Internet searching (11.85%).
TABLE - 8: Information Needs Satisfaction
Some respondents were satisfied with present service (9.595), staff (12.53%), collection (13.94%) etc. There was more response on the question of mechanical aid required (26.21%), more funds (26.21%) and collection development (21.36%). Some of the respondents are not satisfied with present service (45.81%) and staffing levels (5.03%), but most respondents were neutral on all questions in this category.
TABLE -9: Purpose of Visit to the Library
The highest percentages of users (27.78) visit the library to borrowing books, to find books and journals 77(23.77%), while 19.75% of users use the library to study. The reasons for coming to the library largely depend on free time available or not having various alternative sources of study or research materials.
TABLE -10: Frequency of Visit to the Library
Respondents stated that they visit the libraries daily (11.42%), weekly (25.62%) and occasionally (33.33%).
The study reveals that the progress of people from scheduled caste and scheduled tribe in higher education is unsatisfactory. SC shows more progress, and urban areas fare better than rural institutions. This area of librarianship is neglected and needs immediate and continuous attention in Orissa . For all these academic libraries, UGC and ICSSR grants, aid., etc., is available for library infrastructure (Ghoukhande and Kumar 2004). There is no separate budget for libraries. Even the existing books in the libraries are not properly catalogued, and are not maintained properly due to lack of funds, manpower, training, expertise, space, and technology. Orissa faces the challenges of actually preparing a plan from scratch, a complete blueprint to develop academic libraries during the coming centuries.
Conclusion and Suggestions
In a disadvantaged rural community, there is a struggle for daily survival. People are deprived of education and information. This deprivation is made worse by a lack of awareness, affordability, motivation, and information access, which leads to greater imbalances among and between regions, castes, and gender, etc. This does not mean that they are not developing, and that facilities provided by the government do not help them in improving their plight. Their access to higher education is made easy by these programmes but could be made more effective by implementing them properly.
Librarians in Orissa can no longer be silent spectators at the IT revolution. Libraries in the industrial and academic environment as well as public libraries in the developed states are making full use of the information technology tools. We, in Orissa, must change with the times and learn from latest trends, adopting sophisticated technology in libraries and information centres in order to keep pace with other states in our country (Parida 1999). All these can be solved by the following measures:
The library has a very important role to play in education. Without a good library, education cannot attain its desired objective (Seth 1992). Each educational institution should have a library with adequate funds, infrastructure, collections, and technology. In Orissa, even though we do not have electronic information or information technologies in the academic libraries yet, some private and government organizations, institutions, and agencies are acquiring computer applications for their day-to-day information needs. Neighboring states like Andrapradesh, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh are more advanced in using electronic resources in their academic libraries. Recently, the government of Orissa highlighted to use of IT in its governance and also implemented the Right to Information Act on 12 October 2005, for more transparency and convenience, which is a milestone for the overall development of the state. It is time for cooperation among libraries in Orissa's as well as India's academic institutions, which will help students to access library information in order to prepare themselves for the challenges that they will face in the forthcoming 21st century.
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