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Barriers to Information Seeking by Secondary School Students In Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria.


Information seeking as an underlying feature in education is not done without an enabling environment where needed resources and services are provided. Understanding the barriers to information seeking of Secondary School Students is a big step towards understanding the information seeking behaviour of students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.

Secondary school students are teenagers (who are in between primary school and university or higher education) who are provided with different wide variety of subjects in order to prepare them to choose from a wide variety of discipline and a specialty of interest. This specialty of interest is what defines the type of career they study for at tertiary institutions. It is therefore assumed that they seek information and would have barriers peculiar to the type of environment provided in the secondary schools they were educated at.

This is exactly the reason behind Kuhlthau's theory of intermediation, mediation, instruction giving and help (which has been) termed the "zone of intervention"(Kuhlthau, 2004 & Meyers, Nathan & Saxton, 2007). In Kuhlthau's theory, teachers and teacher librarians play intervening roles which assist secondary school students navigate barriers to their information seeking. Kulthau posited that a teacher librarian attached to a school library collaborates with teachers in order to provide help to students that seek information in the library; as students seeking information would pass through period of uncertainty mixed up with affective, cognitive and physical actions(Kuhlthau, 2004). The affective, cognitive and physical actions determine their information behaviour.

Kuhlthau's theory was merged with six principles of Harris and Dewdney (Meyers, Nathan & Saxton, 2007) which provided a situational context for seeking information. This situational context provides the principles viz: information needs arise from the help seeker's situation; the decision to seek help or not to seek help is affected by many factors; people tend to seek information that is most accessible; the role of peer groups and friends determines if help is sought as students seek help from people they interrelate with; and expression of emotional support determines if information is sought or not and people follow habitual patterns in seeking information.

Information seeking is defined for the purpose of this study as tasks, attempts and actions carried out by a person to solve an information need or problem through his cognitive, emotional and physical actions done in any environment of his search. The environment of study for this research were school libraries and the focus groups for this research were JSS II and SSS II in Ado-Ekiti. The rationale for this selection was because JSS II students (at their level) are assumed to have adjusted to the activities in school which includes the use of the library while SSS II students are matured enough to use and seek information. Furthermore, they are the preparatory class for national examination (Junior and Senior Secondary Schools Examination).

School libraries are libraries that support the academic programs, visions and missions of a secondary, primary or nursery school through provision of diverse forms of resources and services that meet the information need of its users. The role of school libraries in the academic prowess of students cannot be overemphasized as they are significantly connected to higher scores in examination (Smalley, 2004; Ryan, 2004; Small, 2009 and Lance, 2011), however these are studies carried outside Nigerian environment; thus there are different distinctive environmental features that would affect information seeking and the type of barriers encountered.

Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State which is the location for this research is situated in the south west of Nigeria. It is the capital of Ekiti State. There are approximately 20 private secondary schools in Ado-Ekiti which are combinations of Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) and Senior Secondary Schools (SSS) (VConnect, 2014). Though privately owned, they are still under the control of the minister of Education who monitors their activities (Onyukwu, 2011).

Kuhlthau's zone of intervention is however a theory that is yet to be applied in secondary schools in Nigeria. Thus it is not known if this zone of intervention is a reality among the research focused group, it is not also known how secondary school students navigate their barrier, the types of barriers they meet and what informs their information seeking. Though it is assumed that Private Secondary Schools are provided with every resource needed for good academic work for students (since they are privately owned and take substantial amount as school fees compared to public secondary schools which offer free education and are owed by the State government). However, this is a mere assumption as it is not known if there are qualified teacher librarians, if students seek information and if they meet barriers; it is not also known if there are intervening roles played by teachers and teacher librarians in information seeking of students. These become problems to be solved in this study.

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the barriers to information seeking in private secondary school libraries in Ado-Ekiti.

Specific Objectives of the Study

This study is specifically carried out to:

1. Ascertain what motivates Secondary School Students to seek information.

2. Find out the types of barriers to information seeking in Private Secondary Schools.

3. Determine how Secondary School Students navigate the barriers they meet during information seeking.

4. Identify the intervening roles of school teachers, the teacher librarians (if any) in the information seeking of secondary school students.

Research Questions

1. What informs the information seeking of secondary school students in the library?

2. What are the barriers to their information seeking?

3. How do secondary school students navigate the barriers to their information seeking?

4. What are the intervening roles of teachers, teacher librarians and the library to the information seeking of secondary school students?

Research Design

A case study survey design was used for this study. Data was gathered using focus group discussion (group interview); unstructured interview and observation. A pilot study was carried out with 25 teachers and teacher librarians using structured interview method. A random sampling technique was used to select 5 schools out of 20 privately owned ones in Ado. Junior Secondary School (JSS II) and Senior Secondary School (SS II) in each school were used as the sample to the study using a saturation sampling technique. Thus everyone present in the class participated in the group interview. The rationale for using a focus group to gather data is because it is quick, convenient, allows for interaction and involvement of all and the researcher is free to ask questions and point at students who might be shy to talk. Furthermore, the researcher can verify from class members the veracity of a response given by another. Besides, a barrier is something very visible and disturbing to information seeking of students, it is what a student mentions immediately asked; not what is shown for him to opt to choose or leave as some secondary school students would choose options that paint their school in a great view not minding ethical deliberations which they were informed of. The focus group interaction was recorded using a Camcorder tool, Galaxy Tab and Samsung (Android) Phone Voice Recorder. Two principals, a teacher in charge of the library and a student prefect were interviewed using face to face unstructured interview design. Thus the sample for this study was 252. Qualitative data analysis was applied; and data was analyzed by transcribing the recorded data and coding them. Like codes were arranged and placed under facets that represent them and evidences of research were selected for analyses. The observations which were written down were aligned with the transcribed data and analyses from the focus group discussions and unstructured interview responses.

Literature Review

Literature selected were majorly those that have focus on information seeking of secondary school students in Nigeria. Okpa Iroha in Owate and 0kpa(2013) and Adebamowo(2011) portray school libraries as supportive of the educational enterprises of its host.

In Meyers, Nathan and Matthew (2007), Lilley (2008) and 0gba(2013), barriers were found to be an ingredient part of information seeking. This (barrier) has been defined by Kuhlthau(1993) as a state of uncertainty where the individual is in doubt and his cognition can no longer assist him in his search process; providing a help phenomenon in which a teacher librarian who is in charge of the library is suppose to provide. Plethora of studies carried out in Nigeria have found barriers to information seeking of secondary school students to range from lack of innovativeness of librarians, insufficiently spaced single room which lack the basics of a library design, inadequate provision of seats for students population in the secondary schools and restricted access to school library and its resources(Ahmad,2011 and 0lusola,2011). This was the same finding in 0gunniyi(2010) who found a dearth of professionally qualified librarians as a major barrier. In Idieggbeyan-Ose and 0koedion(2012) findings showed that materials in the libraries they studied were outdated and scanty while Arua(2011) observed that there were no furniture(tables, chairs) in the library and students enter the library with their own books, chairs and tables. In Arua(2011), books were locked up in stores and in Ahmad(2011), 5.47% of books were accommodated in principal's office while there was insufficient space in the library. Here, an average seating capacity of 27 students were recorded and some of the school libraries surveyed were run by teachers' librarians on part time basis. The above studies however have not related the above barriers to effect on patronage of the library nor did they show navigating methods towards the barriers met in the library. Thus it is not really known if students patronise the library and the motivating factors towards its use (amidst the numerous barriers they meet); for where there are barriers, there should be navigation methods. This is the approach this study is taking; providing barriers and the navigating approach.

More findings from Idiegbeyan-Ose and Okoedion(2012) and Ogunniyi(2010), showed that there was no library hour in secondary school libraries in Nigeria. According to 0gunniyi(2010), lack of library hour in schools' timetable and lack of relevant materials are major challenges facing information seeking in secondary school libraries. This type of barrier was blamed on Ahmad (2011), who found that lack of participation and interest of teacher librarians affected the types of rules found in the library as some of the library rules were antagonistic to information seeking of students. However, where there is no library hour in Nigerian secondary schools; it becomes an issue to know the roles librarians in secondary schools actually play and also how students visit the library for information seeking; as findings from a study carried outside Nigeria has shown that the presence of librarians in school libraries do not only boost reading but also test scores of students (Lance& Hof, 2011). Though in Meyers, Nathan and Saxton (2007), findings showed that the effect the presence of a librarian has on students information seeking depends on the innovativeness and interest of the librarian in his students; in this same study, findings also showed some librarians who were not innovative (but dependent on the school policy) created barriers to students' information seeking in the library.

In Smalley (2004); Marcoux(2009); Small, Snyder and Parker (2009) findings showed that teacher librarians alone do not contribute to the information seeking of students in the school library but also teachers. However these are studies carried outside Nigeria; and previous literature of studies in Nigeria have not shown the role of teachers and teacher librarians in the information seeking of students.

Research findings

This section provides responses obtained from the three research instruments used above. Data collected through observation assisted in providing conclusions of findings from the group interview and single interviews (with two principals, a student prefect and a teacher librarian). A structured interview carried out with teachers and teacher librarians was used as a pilot study for this research. Findings showed that there were no teacher librarians in the schools' surveyed; the only teacher who said he was one had no qualification in library or information science. In respect to library hour, findings from the pilot study showed that secondary school students in the schools surveyed have a school policy that apportions time for students to use the library; this assumed time for library visitation is during "free periods". Meanwhile, various kinds of barriers were found to be as follows: lack of organization of books in the library; problem of identification of books by the students; insufficient space, time and shortage of books; inability to access latest books and inadequate ICT (Information and Communication Technology) tools. There was found no form of collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians (here interpreted as teachers in charge of the library). The findings of the pilot study guided the researcher in the main study. Data analysis and report of findings for this study has been done under facets and sub-facets.

Motivating Factors to the Information Seeking of Secondary School Students

Secondary school students were found to be motivated by the urge to be successful in life, to do well in exam, by the schools' policy on noise making, by the interpretation of the schools' "free periods" as "library period" and as form of leisure. For example:

Policy on Noise Making in Class, to do Well in Exam and to be Successful

School Policy on Noise Making

"... we have school policies like 'you shouldn't make noise in the class, it has some penalties ..."

As a result of the above policy, students developed the habit of going to the library to avoid making noise in class. However this was the finding only in one of the school's visited.

Exam or Continuous Assessment

"When we want to do test or exam."

This was the view of the majority of the class. However for these category of students who only go to the library when they have exam or test, their school was found not to have motivating factors that encourage the use of the library and thus the students visit the library inconsistently: For example:

"we use the library once two, Three times in a week ..."

To be Successful in Life and increase in knowledge

"I use the library because it makes me increase in mine knowledge"

"When am bored ... to concentrate on mine work ... so that I can be successful ... to read and to learn."

The above finding was only found in two of the schools' visited; among the junior class.

Free Periods in Teaching Time Table, Library Periods and School Policies

"... we use the library when our teacher is not around"

"We go on our own ... break time and our mealtime, pleasure time and when we are less busy"

"... almost everyday ... when we are free ... when others are offering subjects which we don't do, we go to the library ..."

"When we don't have any class, we come to the library ..."

It was a general finding here that students visit the library when they are not offering the subject been taught in class. However, this library type of library visitation is still engrafted with barrier as teaching period apportioned to each subject is limited. This was observed when students in the library were told to go back to their class since another teacher has just entered the class. However further findings from only one of the schools' surveyed showed that there were days and periods apportioned to each class as library period; and each library permanent period does not coincide with another class library period. For example:

"On our timetable, we have library time ... on Fridays ..."

"library time is always on our time table(free period), the teacher just put it(wrote it down)recently".

However it was found in this school that the translation of free periods as library periods was done by the teachers in charge of each class and not the teacher librarian. For example:

"... what am saying is that the other juniors, they put library [library time], but here in senior, they will not indicate library there ... its an open period, they can put what they like ..."

This was the response of the teacher in charge of the library in this school. However for other schools, though there were free periods in which students are expected to use the library, there was no permanent period defined as library time. For example:

"... what they do is this ... because we always tell them ... if you have a free period or if the teacher is not around, you go to the library ... we have a library time, that why we put the free period there...".

The findings above provides new knowledge to previous findings by 0gunniyi(2010) where it was found that there was no library hour in Nigerian secondary schools. This research finding has shown that there are permanent free periods which has been assigned(orally and in written form) as library time; and free periods in which teachers are not around and students were assumed to know they are suppose to use the library. However findings from this study showed that teachers and not librarians have motivating role on the information seeking of students in the library. For example:

Intervening Roles of Teachers in the Information Seeking of the Respondents Intervening Roles of Teachers

"... there's no period that you'll say,, this ... period, all the school move to the library ... No, it's the students and the teacher that would decide what he wants to use with the free period ..."

"We go to our class teacher ... we take the book to our teacher and she'll explain to us ..."

"... when you ask them, what are you doing there? they'll tell you they have a free period and you ask them, what are you doing then? You see them running to the library ..."

The above were responses from the teacher in charge of the library and from one of the principal's surveyed. However this research provided a new finding which was not found in earlier studies, this was the intervening roles of Student Prefects in information seeking. Students' Prefects are students given authority to rule, direct and influence others positively majorly because of their distinctive characters and intelligence which has marked them out from others. Findings in this area are as shown below:

Student Prefects as Intermediaries in Academic Issues

"... sometimes, when am reading something and I don't understand what am reading, I'll go and meet the librarians boy or girl ... that please can you enlighten me on this?"

"Most of the times, I'll go and meet the student[Library Prefect] in charge ..."

This was the findings from junior students. Other findings showed that student prefects also provide library services to students that use the library instead of the teacher librarians. For example:

"We take books home but we sign with her[the library prefect] ... like just 2days ...".

Further findings also showed that students surveyed also seek assistance from those sitting next to them. For instance:

Fellow Students' as Intermediaries

" ..if someone is beside me, I'll ask the person to help me and if that person doesn't understand , we go and meet another person ...".

However other students were found to prefer solving their problems on their own. For example:

"... we use our textbooks ..."

The research findings above have differentiated the findings in Meyers, Nathan and Saxton(2007) where it was found that teachers corroboration with teacher librarians encouraged or impeded information seeking. In this study, there was no corroboration of any type and yet, students go to the library, study and seek assistance on their own. However, there was a new kind on intervening role played by students who were given keys to the library and thus authority to discipline. For instance:

Intervening Roles by Students with Authority of the Library Key

"We'll go and look for them and ask for permission to use the library and they'll give us the key ... they'll follow us to the place and tell us that we're in charge ... if anybody is making noise in the library, the person would be sent out ... the person given the key[would send him out] ...".

Here, the student that collects library key when library is locked has the authority to discipline students and intervene in the area of noise making.

The Barriers to Information Seeking in school Libraries and Navigation to Barriers

The Libraries observed in this study were found to be small and just the size of a room; though there were some that were smaller than a normal room. However, while only one library was organised, neat and had a toilet; the rest were shabby looking with dirty, dusty look. It was however generally observed that library books (there was no electronic resource) were organised according to classes; though in two of the schools observed, library materials were disorganised and were not current. Table A below provides more information from the observation
Table A: Items and Furniture in the School Libraries

Items       School A(T)        School B(N)        School

Books       Old, dusty         Old irrelevant     Relevant
            newspapers;        Books(for          books not
            old                adults), old       arranged
            encyclopaedias;    encyclopaedias     and no
            scattered books    and no call        call
            with no call       marks              marks.
Furniture   1 shelf; 11        2 tables, 7 long   3 tables;
            chairs; 2 old      chairs, one        18 chairs
            tables and a       shelf.             and 2
            blackboard.                           small
Sitting     11                 28                 18

Items       School        School E(B)

Books       Relevant      Organised
            books         (according
            organised     to
            according     class),neat
            to class      materials
            but no call   but no call
            marks.        marks
Furniture   2 tables,     2 shelves,
            17 chairs     white board,
            and 2         toilet, 2
            small         reading
            shelves.      tables.
Sitting     17            20

The libraries observed had no modern outlook. It was however not surprised that it was only in one school that students visit the library every day; this is in E(B)above. It was surprising how students could visit the library everyday despite the small reading space of the library. on inquiry from the teacher in charge of the library, it was found that there were navigating methods applied in the use of the library and which made it easy for only one class to be in the library per time. This is shown below.

Navigating Method by School E(B) for the Small Space of the Library

"What am saying is that ... it's not possible for 3 classes to be going directly to the library ... their free period does not come at the same time ... they follow the time table".

The above evidence was corroborated by pieces of research evidence from the JSS II, SSII and the Library Prefect. This is shown below.

"....not all classes ... like JSSII maybe doing something and SSII, it's their library time".

"... there's only one class that can be in the library at a time ... other Students cannot enter the library until when we leave".

"... like in junior school, they have library period ... on Fridays ... its fixed in their timetable and its not the same period that others have because the library is very small".

The above evidence of findings was corroborated through observation when a teacher entered the library and told the students to go back to class because their teacher was around. Thus there are permanent free periods (defined as library periods in E(B) above) for each class in different days of the week and there are free periods in each day of the week which is not at the same time with other classes. But for other schools which do not have permanent free periods defined as library periods, students visit the library voluntarily when they have no class; and thus many students do not bombard the library because it is on voluntary basis and because their library is not pleasing. For example:

"We don't normally go to the library except when we have free periods ..."

This has brought new findings to that of Ahmad(2011) and Olusola(2011) by showing that though secondary schools surveyed have small library spaces, students are still able to get seats in the library since they don't visit the library at the same time. There were however other barriers which were found in this survey. They are shown below

Noise making, unmannerly attitude and navigating actions

"... some people go there just to go and play ... anybody can disturb ..." Their navigating action is this: "we leave the library...."

"Noise, fellow students, playing music in the library ... they'll be shouting when they're suppose to be reading ... because they are the seniors ..."

Navigating action is this: "there's nobody we can report to ... we leave the library for them ... we go to our class and read".

This was the response from junior students who were unhappy in using the library but found solace in their classrooms. This was however the situation in only one of the schools visited as there were library rules against noise making in other schools. For instance:

"... if anybody is making noise in the library, the person would be sent out ..."

"We have school policies like 'you should not make noise in the class, it has some penalties".

Restricted Access to the library and Library Resources

It was found in this study that there were generally different levels of restrictions to the use of the library. Some were however mild while others were not. In one of the school libraries surveyed, the entrance to the library was locked up and the key was with the head teacher. It was the head teacher that opened the library during this survey. It was however observed that some student had their free period and where outside chatting. When the head teacher was asked why the library was locked, he responded:

"When they want to read, they come to ask for the key ..."

In another school, the library was found to open only when the student prefect or the teacher in charge of the library is around; students were also found to take materials from library shelf (to read in the library) only after obtaining permission from the student prefect or the teacher in charge of the library; this was a general finding in all the schools surveyed. For instance:

"... we can ask any teacher, if a teacher (teacher librarian) is not around; we would carry our books, come here(their library seats) and read ... we won't touch the books on the shelves if not given permission ...".

"When we don't have any class, we come to the library ... yes, we can also take books from the shelves, we take permission from her [pointing at the library prefect]".

"... if the teacher or the student prefect is in the library, we'll seek her permission ... [but] if [none of them] is in the library, the library will be closed ..."

The above was the evidence from two of the schools surveyed. However students who are persistent were found to look for the teacher in charge of the library or the student prefect to ask for the key and permission to use the library. For instance:

"We'll go and look for the student prefect or the teacher ... and ask for the permission to use the library ... and they'll give us the key".

However, another barrier comes up here as when the student with the key is about to leave, he locks up the library and any other student interested in using the library would have to go to the teacher or prefect and get permission to use the library. For instance is the evidence of the above findings from students:

"We'll tell them to go and ask for permission ..."

This explained the reason why many of the respondents interviewed go with their books to the library whenever they are able to. It also corroborated the previous findings of Arua(2011) and Ahmad(2011) where it was found that library books were locked in stores and that 5.4% of library books were in principal's office. Though the restrictions in this study are mild as students can still navigate this barrier and use the library.

Lack of Teacher Librarians

In all the libraries surveyed, findings showed there were neither qualified teacher librarians nor permanent teachers in charge of the library. Though, in one of the schools, there was a permanent teacher in the library; however from observation and interaction with him, he was found to be incapacitated as he could not see clearly and was not appreciated by the students; besides, he also was not a qualified librarian. The evidences of the above findings are provided below:

"am just sitting here ..." This was his response when asked what he does in the library.

"... No ... at times, the person would not be there".

This was the response of some of the students surveyed. Here they complained that the person in charge of the library was not always around and so they are unable to seek for his assistance. This was corroborated by a student prefect in another school. For instance:

"If they could get a permanent teacher in the library to organise them [students]..."

Thus there were no permanent teachers attached to the library and there were also no teacher librarians. However there are teachers in charge of the library who were found not to always be in the library since they are also teachers in charge of classes; they therefore spend more time in their classes than in the library. For instance:

"... I stay there[library] when I don't have class but when I have class, I come here ... I'm their class teacher ... I'm in charge of them ..."

The findings above corroborates previous research findings which showed that there was dearth of teacher librarians in Nigerian secondary schools (Ogunniyi, 2010).

Lack of ICT in the Library and Restrictions on Use of Phones

It was found that there were no information technology tools in the schools surveyed. For instance:

"We don't have laptops [at home] ... we use handsets ..."

When they were asked what happens if they use handsets (phones) in class, the response was this:

"... Eehh! It's impossible ... it's not allowed ... our former maths teacher will never allow it ..."


In line with the findings above, it is recommended that the Ministry of Education gets more involved in the set up of school libraries and in the types of services they provide by doing the following:

1. Carrying out annual accreditation of schools which starts from the library.

2. Providing lists of materials and resources to be made available in the library.

3. Making the employment of a qualified librarian a requirement for accreditation of a school library.

4. Making provision of a modern library first requirement for the approval to set up a school.

5. Providing blue print of school library as a requirement to set up a school.

6. Ensuring that information literacy skill is taught in secondary schools.

7. Involvement of the librarian in curriculum planning of the school.

8. Collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians in the information seeking of students.

9. Training Library prefects on the use of the library and getting them involved in the set up of a modern library for students.


This research has brought out new information seeking culture among secondary schools in Ado-Ekiti by showing that Nigerian secondary school students (in Private schools) do not wait to be taken to the library before they visit it. This contradicts the findings in Meyers, Nathan and Saxton (2007) where it was found that students' visitation of the school library was determined by their teacher. However previous studies in which lack of library period was found a big barrier to information seeking with the conclusion that secondary school students had no library period was clarified in this study. It was shown that the schools investigated all had free periods (which were every day in a week) in which students were expected to voluntarily use for information seeking in the library. However while some schools left the designated free periods undefined and thus giving freedom to students to use it for what they liked; only one school defined its free period as library period (as it was reflected in their class notice board) and students in each class knew that they had to be in the library as a duty. Barriers found in Meyers, Nathan and Saxton were different from the one found in this study and underneath the barriers found in this study was the absence of qualified teacher librarians. Though it was assumed that the involvement of Ministry of Education in the information seeking lifestyle of secondary school students could be beneficial as schools would be made to provide required experts needed for library use. However the presence of student prefects in all the secondary schools investigated was found interesting as they were found to do the actual work a teacher librarian should have been doing with respect to information seeking of students. Junior students looked up to them for assistance while their colleagues admired them, thus they were not only assisting in the information seeking of students but also in the moral upbringing of students.


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Chidinma Onwuchekwa Ogba

Ekiti State University,
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Date:Mar 1, 2015
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