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IMPORTANCE OF VIRTUAL LIBRARIES SUPPORTING STUDENT LEARNING

Aside providing access to information resources, academic libraries play a significant role in the student experience. Libraries exist to enhance the acquisition of knowledge by their clientele through the provision of reading materials – book and non-book for the purposes of teaching, learning and research. Library is to support teaching, learning and research activities and today is a busy information center, where information is packaged in various formats to the advantage of the users. The value of the library collection depends not only on the quantity of information sources but on the effective ways and means of providing and interpreting them to users. Some of the terms used in the library activities such as cataloguing, classification, charging and discharging, etc. are not common to the users; hence these should be interpreted in the easiest understandable ways

The academic library has traditionally been seen as the ‘heart of the university’ serving the academic community of its parent institution. However, the metaphor has been used loosely and with little evidence that it reflects institutional realities. He refers to a number of areas: “Students and faculty alike fail to involve library resources and services in regular learning and instruction, turning to the library primarily as an undergraduate study hall or reserve book room. Research provides compelling evidence that school libraries and library staff have a positive impact on student achievement. Studies show that this remains true when variables such as socioeconomic factors are accounted for.

In the digital environment, libraries provide access to digital materials and in such a fluid environment, successful support for e-learning requires flexibility and creativity. E-learning is becoming more common in academic institutions as a delivery mechanism for information content. Increasingly librarians are directly involved in developing e-content and delivering services to support e-learning and it is believed that ICT offers librarians opportunities to redefine how information and associated instruction are communicated to students and faculty. As information systems increase in complexity and new resources continue to spring up, librarians are becoming indispensable counselors in the electronic environment. They are called upon to assist faculty and students in identifying and evaluating many sources, and to serve as true advisors and teachers independently of time and place rather than as custodians of collections. In ICT context, the university librarian will have to rethink and reassess information strategy, offering alternative modes of delivery. Many academic libraries are experimenting with online information literacy tutorials, courses and instruction.

Innovative learning environments are learner-focused and emphasize valued learner outcomes. They encourage collaboration and inquiry, both for learners and teachers, and allow teachers to teach in the style that best suits the needs of diverse learners. Students need a virtual library as well as a physical library because of the different learning opportunities that can be supported by virtual libraries. If a virtual library is carefully planned and designed, it can provide a rich learning environment. School libraries can exist in two different spaces, a physical space and a virtual space. Each space enables different learning activities and serves different purposes for learning; many libraries exist only in one space, whereas others maintain a hybrid space, both a physical and virtual space, in recognition of the distinct information uses and learning activities that can occur in each environment. All libraries, whether virtual or physical, create an environment for learning and the primary purpose of school libraries is to support, facilitate, and enhance the formal learning of the institutions that created them. The resources in these libraries, whether physical or digital, have been selected to support the curriculum that is taught in the schools and these information sources are utilized by students, teachers, and teacher-librarians in resource based learning activities.

Virtual libraries offer opportunities for learning that are not possible in their physical counterparts. Whereas physical libraries operate with designated hours, virtual libraries are available anytime and anywhere there is an Internet connection. Virtual libraries provide immediate access to a range of resources not available in physical collections. Virtual libraries often contain more up-to-date information than physical collections. Their sources can be searched more efficiently than those in physical libraries, and the information they contain can be updated more frequently. Well-designed virtual library collections are organized and managed to increase the productivity and efficiency of the user believed that virtual libraries complement other virtual learning environments such as those provided in distance education and courses offered online. Many students who are accustomed to using the Internet as a source of information expect schools to make quality online resources available to them in order for them to complete school assignments.

 

Article by: Blessing Bassey

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