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Saturday, 1 August 2020

Digital resources and their role in supporting academic services

By Nonjabulo Ngcobo and Sicelo Hlongwane

Humankind has been fully immersed on the era of the Information Age and the Internet of things since the 1980s. This paradigm shift has continuously been embraced by the masses and brought many changes to how academic libraries undertake their daily business of disseminating information to support teaching, learning and research. As a result, for academic libraries to remain relevant to patrons they are compelled to adapt to emerging changes in information communication technologies and the manner in which they disseminate information resources and sources that meet the changing needs of the user. Digital resources are considered one of the most valuable resources used by students and researchers in an academic environment.
According to Kenchakkanavar (2014) an electronic resource is a resource which requires computer access or any electronic product that delivers a collection of data, be it referring to full text databases, electronic journals, image collections, other multimedia products and numerical, graphical or time based information, as commercially available titles that have been published with the aim of being marketed for use. Electronic resources allow information specialists to provide a better service quicker and easier. The user can access the information sources stored in digital format using computers without having to be physically present in the library. The American Association of College and Research Libraries (2018) states that the information center is committed to preserve its electronic resources just as it is ensuring permanent access to it's collections in other formats.
The mere availability of electronic resources in institutionary repositories does not necessarily mean students access and use such resources. As, Manda and Nawe (2008) pointed out that users may not be aware of the availability of such resources, do not know how to access them, or do not know what the resources offer. However, information specialists (librarians) play a major role in supporting patrons by creating awareness of the library services. They provide training to equip users with new skills and knowledge to utilise electronic resources. Our general view, without supporting evidence, is that access and use of electronic resources is a major contributing factor and has a positive impact on students' success in thier academic endeavours.
Advantages of Electronic Resources.
Electronic resources offer a number of advantages not only to libraries but also to users, authors, editors, publishers, and archivists. The advantages are:
  • Saves time by providing easy and instantaneous access without wasting time on processing, printing, binding, and delivery.
  • Search and browse functions are quicker when extracting information or integrating that information into other material and to cross-search or reference among the different publications.
  • Integration of different media (Image, Sound, Video, etc.)
  • Saves library storage space.
  • Provide hyperlinks to related additional resources.
  • Allow remote access from anywhere at any time.
  • Enable simultaneous access to a large number of users.
  • Facilitate access to physically challenged persons.
  • Are eco-friendly.
  • To access and retrieve relevant articles, a good number of databases are available.
  • Multiple simultaneous access and through local networks (Global Protect) becomes easy.

Disadvantages of Electronic Resources:
University and college libraries face enormous challenges and opportunities. The amount of information that libraries need to acquire is continuously increasing and the existing resources are insufficient. There are many disadvantages to the electronic format:
  • All e-resource devices require power.
  • High cost of technology infrastructure.
  • Need special equipment to access the information.
  • Lack of compatibility among different publishers.
  • Hardware and software compatibility problems.
  • Copyright violation problems.
  • Current e-book format may not be readable by future e-book devices.
  • Book reading devices are more expensive than most paper books.
  • Lack of awareness of IT skills for usage of e-resources.
  • Technological barriers.
  • The initial cost is very high. As a result, many publishers are forced to calculate the expected benefits before embracing on a publication product (economical barriers).
  • Use of products according to the convenience of the user is not necessarily possible. There are often certain technological restrictions.
  • Lack of uniform standards in the retrieval of software products from different publishers creates problems in their usage.
  • Since reading of ICT based resources and services requires skills, the users have to acquire certain skills beforehand or take the help of intermediaries like library professionals to help them in accessing the electronic documents. Even the library professionals have to learn the skills, if they desire to serve the users effectively and efficiently.

Parthasarathy, R. 2009. Impact of Electronic Resources on Academic Program in arts and science colleges-: Tiruchirappalli A study. Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/10603/186505
Kenchakkanavar, A.Y., 2014. Types of e-resources and its utilities in library. International Journal of Information Sources and Services1(2), pp.97-104.
AACR., 2018. Library of Congress Collections Policy Statements Supplementary guidelines.
Manda, P. and Nawe, J., 2008. The impact of electronic information resource use on research output: Experiences from universities in Tanzania. University of Dar es Salaam Library Journal, 10(1-2).

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