With the increasing popularity of distance education, focus has turned to the role of libraries in distance learning process. It is widely agreed that like their campus – based counterparts, distance education learners need adequate library services if they are to gain quality education. This study sought to examine library utilization by students enrolled in the external degree programme of the University of Nairobi. The unit of analysis consisted of students from the school continuing education and distance studies enrolled in Bachelor of Education Arts (B. Ed Arts) Bachelor of Education (Bed - Science) and Bachelor of Commerce (B. com) which is basically offered through distance learning. The sample population comprised of 278 students out of 1000 that formed the target population of students and all the 14 librarians spread across the university branch libraries. Self-administered questionnaires and structured interview schedule were used as the main tools of data collection. The finding of the study indicated that effective utilization of library service is influenced by a number of factors. These include enhanced usage of the library facility like making good use of book loan service, frequent access to the library facility, adequate support from the library staff and proper induction by librarians. As a result of the research finding, some conclusions were drawn. The majority of the students were not satisfied with most of the library services offered by the central library. This was attributed to factors such as restrictive library hours, distance, lack of services at the regional centers and inadequate reading materials. The study also revealed that the University of Nairobi was still at the infancy stage of establishing internet-based service thus a hindrance to effective utilization of the library service. The library staff-recruitment and training in distance education was still wanting. Finally this study had the following recommendations: Firstly there is need to promote access to library services to distance learning student population by strengthening computer based and information service delivery, instituting library user instruction to instill effective information literacy skills and ensuring reliable, rapid access to institutional networks and the internet. There is also the need to come up with special collection targeting the distance learning community. Effective learning in the University is a collaborate effort between curriculum planners, implementers, administrators and thus in order to provide library support services to distance learners, there is need for policy guidelines to identify types and availability of the library services as well as funding service providers and targeted users.
Key words: Evaluation, external degree programme, utilization, library, library services, library users, user’s needs.
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