[page 98↓]



Several methodologies have emerged in the research into university facilities but in this study the researcher was interested in two broad approaches documented by Rosenberg.1 One approach entails starting with the policies on higher education, then focussing on specific institutions before zeroing in on the learning facility in this case the library. The other approach is to examine what is actually happening at the facility level and then place the findings in the general context. The latter approach was selected for this study. By focussing primarily on the university libraries the research maximised on the experience of university librarians and users and collected data that reflect the actual realities rather than the official position as championed by university administrators.

There are six public universities in Kenya established by acts of parliament and five private universities that have been licensed by the Commission of Higher Education, the body charged with the responsibility of monitoring the operations of higher education institutions in Kenya. These institutions differ in terms of enrolment levels, courses they teach and sponsorship. While religious bodies run some of the private institutions others are operated by commercial enterprises. Given the qualitative nature of the study, limited finance and time at the disposal of the researcher it was not possible to survey every university in Kenya. Instead it was decided to concentrate on a selected number to produce a case study of university libraries in Kenya. It was hoped that from the data collected it would be possible to make generalisations about university libraries in Kenya.

Therefore this study is based on data collected from the 4 university libraries in Kenya chosen for their range of size and mission for the provision of high quality information over a substantial period of time. These are libraries of the following universities:

  1. University of Nairobi (UON)
  2. Kenyatta University (KU)
  3. United States International University (USIU)
  4. Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA)

Statistical information such as the overall university expenditure, user populations, various resources such as monographs, journals, electronic information sources, and personnel were obtained through survey method. This method was also used to gather descriptive information on the state-of-art concerning university library practices, the problems faced as well as to generate recommendations to these problems. To achieve these, statistical forms, questionnaires, interview techniques and group discussion techniques were applied.

The following subjects were involved in the research:

  1. Four university librarians
  2. 80 undergraduate and postgraduate students
  3. 40 lecturers

Therefore the total sample size was 124 subjects.

For each of the universities the researcher selected a purposeful sample of faculties to be involved in the study. This was based on the assumption that users in certain faculties are likely to use the library more and therefore supply more useful information from the library experience for the study. In the case of University of Nairobi (UON), United States International University (USIU) and Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) the faculties of arts and social sciences were selected. At Kenyatta University (KU) the faculties of education, arts, commerce and home science were selected. From lists of students in each of the departments, a simple random selection for 20 students was done for each university. Effort was made to ensure that there was at least one student from each of the departments, one was a first year student and at least two were [page 100↓]postgraduate students. A random sampling of 10 lecturers from the selected faculties in each of the four universities was done and included in this study. All this was to ensure that all departments and years of study are included in the research.


The various instruments used in this study can be found in Appendixes I-IV. Statistical forms were circulated one to each of the four university librarians. These were used to collect statistical data relating to user populations, library expenditures, and collection size such as monographs, journals and electronic sources, as well as the human resource situation in the university libraries. Figures were collected for a period of five years from 1996/7 to 2000/01 academic years. This was expected to make it possible to capture the changes that have taken place over the recent past.

Questionnaires were administered to lecturers with the aim of gathering the following information. First, information was collected on their perception of the role, function, and importance of university library and secondly their views on the adequacy of the existing library services in teaching and research.

Interview schedules were used to tap the views of chief librarians of each of the universities so as to assess the situation in the libraries over the last five years. They were used to collect information on the resources possessed and services provided by various individual libraries, the existing administrative structures of the libraries and finally the problems that face university libraries in meeting the informational needs of learning, teaching and research.

Group discussion framework was used to collect students’ experiences in the use of the university libraries. A set of questions was used to initiate discussion of experiences in the use of the library. These included, first their perception of the role, function, and importance of university libraries in their academic work and secondly their assessment of the adequacy of university library services in their learning activities.

Literature review was used to explore past and present experiences in the management and use of university libraries in Kenya as it has been documented. It enabled the [page 101↓]researcher to investigate the factors that have influenced the development of university libraries in Kenya in terms of funding, management and use. For this purpose, both primary and secondary sources were used. The primary sources included:

  1. Annual reports of university libraries in Kenya
  2. Recorded histories of university libraries in Kenya
  3. Official publications of libraries including accession lists, occasional papers, newsletters, handbooks, journals and catalogues
  4. Government documents including acts of parliament, decrees, policy papers, statements on education, development plans and findings of commissions of education as they relate to university libraries
  5. Unpublished theses and studies on university libraries
  6. Publications of the Kenya Library Association

Secondary sources included books and periodicals on higher education and librarianship.


Actual data collection extended over three months, from February to May 2002. A letter explaining the purpose of the research, a copy of the interview schedule and a statistical form were to the university librarians selected for participation. The four of them agreed and later personal contact was made to arrange the appropriate date and time when the interview could take place. Clarification was also done on the statistical data needed. In all cases the researcher managed to interview the librarians. The researcher made notes during which were later compiled. In some cases the interview had to be rescheduled because the librarians had pressing commitments. The filling of the statistical forms also took time because the data was not readily available in the library records

The questionnaires for teaching staff accompanied by introductory letters were hand delivered to the persons and dates agreed on when to collect them. In the case of discussion groups, one sitting was organised for each university. The selected students [page 102↓]were contacted and agreed to avail themselves for the discussion. The turn up of students for the group discussion was as follows: UON (13), KU (12), USIU (13), CUEA (16). There was a lot similarity in the views collected from different institutions with a tendency to complain about the inadequacy of library services.


This study has combined both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was collected on the trends of user population size, acquisition, expenditure of institutional funds and human resource and training over a five-year period. This data has been analysed, summarised and presented in tables using totals, ratios and percentages. Data from different institutions has been presented where possible in single tables to facilitate comparison. In regard to each issue, textual comments have been made with direct reference to the statistical data.

Hand in hand with this, qualitative data such as relating to users’ experiences in library use as well as information relating to practices and procedures and opinions expressed by librarians has also been compared and summarised. Under each issue a discussion has been done with similarities and differences in what is taking place in the selected institutions being brought out. It is out of these discussions that general conclusions have been reached and recommendations made.


The researcher also made a survey of the existing literature on university libraries. It was observed that there is scarcity of literature on Kenyan university libraries as a whole and librarianship in Kenya in general. Most official documents of universities do not deal with libraries specifically but generally with university facilities. So they were of limited use. There has been little research and writing in the area of librarianship in Kenya and much less on the subject of university libraries. Librarians in Kenya have not been publishing much whether in journals or books and much research that has taken place lies more or less in theses form.

[page 103↓]

Another problem encountered was related to library statistics. In the course of the study it became evident that statistics on library expenditure and collection growth were not regularly collected and in some cases the researcher had to go by estimates. Indeed this was a big problem such that some statistics such as those on use, interlibrary loan had to be discarded because they were scanty and did not facilitate comparison.

Footnotes and Endnotes

1 Rosenberg, Vol. 1., p. 9

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