Prospects of Digital Libraries in Enhancing Academic Materials Access: A Survey of Libraries in Higher Learning Institutions in Kilimanjaro Region
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The study set out to explore prospects of using digital libraries to enhance access to academic materials to library users in the Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) in Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. Interviews, questionnaires and focus group discussions were methodological underpinnings adopted to explore the case using cross-sectional type of designs. Study findings revealed that despite the fact that each HLI had a library, but sitting pattern did not keep pace with the increasing number of students enrolled each year. Opening and closing hours were also observed to be an obstacle for many library users to access learning materials, lack of variety and updated books in various study disciplines, and involvement of a lot of mechanical books searching was also observed to be challenges facing readers in the existing libraries. The turning point for the above mentioned challenges is to establish digital library. However, digital library implementation fall into doldrums because of the following identified factors; shortage of fund, low technology, power rationing, inadequate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to the libraries, shortage of skilled personnel who can start and run digital library, unstable network infrastructures, and high cost for internet bandwidth. The study calls for deliberate action to implement digital libraries especially in HLIs in order to harvest the prospects of digital libraries in enhancing access to learning materials and consequently improving students’ academic performance.