Academic scientists’ scholarly use of information resources in the digital environment. Perceptions and barriers

Publication Date03 September 2018
Date03 September 2018
AuthorAlia Arshad,Kanwal Ameen
SubjectLibrary & information science,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information in society,Information literacy,Library & information services
Academic scientistsscholarly use
of information resources in the
digital environment
Perceptions and barriers
Alia Arshad and Kanwal Ameen
Department of Information Management, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the academic scientistsscholarly use of information
sources, the disciplinary differences in their use and the barriers encountered, particularly while using journals.
Design/methodology/approach A quantitative research design based on the survey method was
used to achieve the objectives of this study. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to all the
academic staff of three disciplines science, life sciences and pharmacy. Together, they constituted
24 departments of theUniversity of the Punjab. This oldest and largest publicsector university was selected
as a sample.
Findings The ndings showed that e-journals, e-reports and online reference sources were frequently
used. The disciplinary differences were found with regard to the use of e-journals and e-books. Users of
e-journals lacked skills of advanced searching and were not able to determine the quality of e-journals.
Respondents faced certain barriersin usage such as payment of e-journal articles not available through the
Library,slow internet speed and lack of informationliteracy instructions program.
Originality/value Previous researchers conducted studies that were focused mostly on the academic
scientistsperceptions and the extentof electronic information sourcesuse. Researchers in Pakistan mostly
examined students and research scholarsuse of electronic information sources and very few studies were
conducted to investigateacademic scientistsscholarly information seeking behavior.This study is valuable,
as it investigatedthe scholarly use of information sources by academic scientists and particularlydisciplinary
differencesin their use, digital literacy skills and the barriers encounteredwhile using e-journals.
Keywords Barriers, E-journals, Life sciences, Digital literacy skills, University of the Punjab,
Academic scientists
Paper type Research paper
Since 1990, an ever-expanding growth in the electronic information resources (EIR) has
signicantly transformed the scholarly information landscape and information-seeking
behavior of consumers.Hawthorne (2008) described the major developments in libraries and
information centers in the context of the USA stating that web-based electronic resources
were widely available beginning in the mid-1990. Libraries offered web-based catalogs,
bibliographic and full-text databases, electronic journals, and eventually electronic books
through the web(p. 2). Studies have been conductedsince the beginning of the twenty-rst
century to investigate the use of EIR by academic staff, students and researchers because
libraries and information centers tend to spend a heavy part of their budget to access
EIR (Ibrahim, 2004;Kindilchie and Samarraie, 2008;Tenopir et al.,2003;Weingart and
Anderson, 2000). The objectives of such studies were to assess the patronspreference of
format in using print and electronic information sources. The ndings of these studies
Use of
Received6 May 2018
Revised18 July 2018
Accepted2 August 2018
GlobalKnowledge, Memory and
Vol.67 No. 6/7, 2018
pp. 467-483
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/GKMC-05-2018-0044
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
revealed a growing trend towards using EIR by the academic staff and researchers. There
have been challenges facedby information professionals in the marketing of e-resources and
guiding patrons for usingEIR.
Studies conducted locally in Pakistan (Ahmed and Amjad, 2014;Amjad et al., 2013;Arif and
Ameen, 2011;Mirza and Mahmood, 2012;Raq and Ameen, 2012;Tahir et al., 2008;Tahira and
Ameen, 2016) commonly reveal the growing trend of using electronic information sources
among users, particularly university students and academic staff. These studies also show that
users prefer online information resources, particularly open access scholarly journals, to the
Higher Education Commissions (HEC) subscribed databases and e-journals. Khan et al. (2014)
investigated academic research scholarsuse, perceived satisfaction and problems faced in
using digital resources and services of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities.
Researchers also investigated the information needs of academic staff, researchers and
students in Pakistani scenario. Iqbal (2010) examined the information needs and information
seeking of medical researchers in Punjab. The results of the study depicted that medical
researchers preferred to use information sources in electronic format as opposed to print and
audio visual format. They preferred e-journals accessible through the librarys subscription.
However, e-journals subscribed by libraries were not fully meeting the information needs of the
researchers. In 2008, Tahira explored scholarly information needs and seeking behavior of
academic scientists and technologists at the University of the Punjab. She reported that the
print information sources available in the library and the number of e-journalssubscribed by
the Higher Education Commission was less as compared to the online information sources
accessible through the web.
The researchers conducted studies that were focused mostly on the academic staffs
perceptions and the extent of EIRs use. However, the challenges faced in using electronic
information sources,particularly e-journals were not addressed. Therewas limited literature
on the assessment studies of academic scientistsdigital literacy skills in using e-journals.
Therefore, there appeared to be a need to investigate the scholarly use of information
sources by the academic scientists and the barriersthey encountered while using e-journals
in a Pakistani scenario.
Literature review
Electronic information sources have some advantages over their print counterparts, as
they can be delivered to the end users at their desktops. Researchers investigated the
information-seeking behavior of academic scientists and noted that the emergence of electronic
information sources has signicantly transformed information seeking behavior. Academic
staffs behavior in basic and health sciences was explored and researchers found that user
behavior was changing because of the availability of electronic information (Brennan et al.,
2002). Users preferred e-journals because of the advantages they offer in comparison to print
journals, such as time saving and searching capabilities. They also wanted web-based help to
enhance their digital literacy skills in using e-journals. Hemminger et al. (2007) also noted the
academic scientistsincreased reliance on web based resources, lesser visits to a physical
library and the electronic communication of information at the University of North Carolina.
Bar-Ilan and Fink (2005) conducted a study on the use of electronic and print journals by
academic scientists at Hebrew University. The ndings showed that an overwhelming
majority of the respondents (80 per cent) were frequent users of e-journals irrespective of their
rank and age. An interesting nding was that the respondents of all ages had switched to e-
journals not only in terms of use but also as a matter of preference as well.
The information needs of biomedical researchers and clinical specialists werestudied in
a survey (Grefsheim and Rankin,2007). The study ndings exhibited that journals were the

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