Information Retrieval Systems in Academic Libraries in Nigeria


Information is very sine-que-non in the development of any society. This is so because information they say is power. According to Gregory (2010) defines information as a “difference that makes a difference”. Information also means something to a user if it is communicated in a medium he can easily understand, for example in the rural areas, town criers, village meeting and different agencies from the basis for packaging information.

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This chapter therefore reviews existing related literature on:



There are basically three main types of information systems namely;

  1. Database management system
  2. Bibliographic reference retrieval systems
  • Question – answering systems

In a database management system, Seltzer (2000) defined database management system as a set of software prgrammes that controls the organization, storage, management and retrieval of data in a database.

The database management system accepts request for data from the application programme and instructing the operating system to transfer the appropriate data. When a database management system is used, information systems can be changed much more easily as the organization’s information requirements change. New categories of data can be added to the database without discruption to the existing system

Finally, database management system uses any of a variety of database modelse such as the network model or relational model. In large systems, a database management system allows users and other software to store and retrieve data in a structured way.


Edoka (2010), defined bibliographic reference retrieval system as a, “system normally deals with text, such as titles and abstracts of book and articles and retrieval citations to items of specific subject are stored in a library file”. For example a user might request for all bibliographic reference dealing with “the design of modern information retrieval system” to identify particular citations, the content of the items on file must be specified.

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Thus, content analysis or indexing plays an important role in reference retrieval system.


In information retrieval, question answering is the task of automatically answering a question posed in natural language to find the answer to a question, a question-answer computer programme may use either a per-structured database or a collection of natural language documents (a text corpus such as the world wide web or some local collection).

Question answering research attempts to deal with a wide range of question types including fact, list, definition, how why hypothetical, semantically constrained and cross-lingual questions.


The main functions performed by information centre are perhaps best understood when viewed in the broader context of the complex cycle by which information transferred through formal channels.

These information transfer cycle means a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order. Transfer of information from its generation to its end user becomes possible through many processes. These processes are also regularly repeated in the same order. These processes complete a cycle which is called (ITC) information transfer cycle, which comprises generation, collection, storage, communication and retrieval.











Information is created with the happenings of incidents and activities of human. If an activity or an incident does not happen, no information is created. Information is mostly created by research and development programmes, government activities, survey and census of population, business and industrial, organizations etc and presented in format by author, scientist, researchers, editor writer poets, novelists, dramatists, etc over the web, information s produced by the general people irrespective of their background and is not restricted only to academics such as cholars, scientist etc.



It is the mass production of knowledge through publishing companies or others that will help the mass distribution of knowledge in some physical or electronic form.

Previously, the information had been disseminated in the form of book. Many conventional and non-conventional, printed sources of information are nowadays available which are different in size, shape, types and format.


The storage is the process by which the information described and presented in the documents are stored. Information is collected and stored by libraries, documentation centres, information analysis centres, data banks, data centres e.t.c. computer has been accepted as a room for storing of information. it can store a huge amount of information in the form of database.

  1. ORGANIZATION: It is how that representation of knowledge is found among others of its kind in the library environment, the classification and catalogue, shelf list, various kinds of guides etc it facilitate the retrieval function. All these tools are equipped with controlled vocabulary. In the computer environment, organization is facilitated by databases, search engines etc.
  2. RETRIEVAL: It is a process of getting information from the collection of a library for providing answer to the queries of the users etc.
  • COMMUNICATION: It is the process of transmission of information from one place to another, from the creator of information to its users.



Diffusion is viewed as a more targeted flow of information to a particular segment of society. The diffusion of information should find its way to people who actually need it instead of targeting the people who will use it for their own benefit.

Utilization is the adoption and implementation of the knowledge by the users. Information is needed by each and every person of modern society for some purpose or the other. When information is consumed by one person, it gives new dimension to his knowledge, this knowledge when he applied to some other purposes it gives birth to new information. thus the information cycle is continuum in nature.


The different kinds of libraries, archives are trying to preserve information in different formats over web, the internet archive and the cached page of search engines are serving some purpose in this regard.


       The principle needs and demand of users of information services really call into two broad categories.

  1. The need to locate and obtain a copy of a particular document for which the author or title is known.
  2. The need to locate document dealing with a particular subject or capable of answering particular question.

The former of these two may be referred to as a “known item need” while later obviously may be referred to as a “subject need”. The ability of the library to supply known items when needed is its document dealing capability.

The ability of the library to retrieve document on a particular subject or provide the answer to a specific question is its information retrieval capacity. These two functions, document delivery and information retrieval are the major activities engaged in by information services.



       Information retrieval is the science of searching for documents, for information within documents as well as that of searching relational database and the World Wide Web.

Awrt (2001) “it can also be seen as a research and market driven theoretical and experimental inter-disciplinary effort, the facets is on different aspects of the information seeking process depending on the researchers background interest”.

Automated information retrieval systems are used to reduce what has been called information over load. Many universities and public libraries use information retrieval systems to provide access to books, journals and other document. Web search engines are the most visible information retrieval applications.

Therefore, once the document are acquired, it need to be organized and controlled so that they can be identified and located in response for various types of users demands. Lancaster (2000) organization and control activities;

  1. Classification
  2. Cataloguing
  • Indexing
  1. Abstracting

The indexing process involves two distinct intellectual steps: the “concept analysis” which we might also call “content analysis” of a document and the “translation” of the conceptual analysis into particular vocabulary. It is rare that the two steps offers different constraints and bring in different factors affecting the performance of the system. For efficient conceptual analysis, the indexer needs both an understanding of what the document is about that is some comprehension of its subject matter and a good knowledge of the need of the needs of the system. The recognition of what the document is about and why users may be interested in it, what aspects of the documents are of most importance is what constitutes conceptual analysis. The conceptual analysis of a document may be recorded on paper. It is more likely that it exists only in the mind of the indexer.

The second step in the indexing process in the translation of the conceptual analysis is into some vocabulary of index language. In the majority of systems, this involves the use of a “controlled vocabulary”, that is limited set of terms that be used to represent the subject matter of document. Such as vocabulary might be a list of approved key words or phrases occurring in the document being indexed.

The terms used by an indexer to represent the subject content of documents, whether from a controlled or an uncontrolled vocabulary are referred to generically in this book as indexer terms according to Obodoeze (2008) and Enemchukwu unpolished mimeograph.

Therefore, once the indexing process has been completed, the documents go into some form of document store (database) and the indexing records go into a second database where they are organized in such as way that they can conveniently be searched in response to various types of subject and other requests. The database of indexing records or document representations may be simple as a card file or an indexer in printed form.

In a modern system, however, it is more likely to be a machine readable file on magnetic tape or disk. The database may be termed the indexer to the document store.

The steps involved at the output side of the systems are similar to those involved at input. The user population to be served submits various requests to the information centre and members of the staff prepare search strategies as also involving the two steps of conceptual analysis and translating. The first step involves an analysis of the request to determine what the user is really looking for and the second involves the translation of the conceptual analysis into the vocabulary of the system. The conceptual analysis of the request, translated into the language of the system is the “search strategy”, which may be regarded as a request representation in the same way that an indexing record may be regarded as a document representation. Godfrey (2000) “once the search strategy has been prepared, it matched in some way against the data base of document representation. This called involve a search of card files, printed indexes, microfilm or magnetic tape or disk. Document representations that match the search strategy that is satisfy the logical requirements of the search are retrieved from the data base and delivered to the requester. The process may be complete when the requester is satisfied with the result of the search which may in some cases mean that he is satisfied that nothing in the database is exactly relevant to his needs.

Nevertheless, some form of conceptual analysis translation activity is needed even in this situation in searching a card catalogue, a printed index or an on-line system.

The only difference between a retrospective search service and a current awareness, for example, relative dissemination of information services is that in the later the search strategies or user interest of system users, there are matched against the representation of incoming documents on a regular basis that us, every time the users at the same regular intervals.

Some of the requests made to the information services are for specific documents, for which the author or title is known, rather than request for information of documents on a particular subject in the case of these known tem requests, the request is made to the document store through author or title access points in the indexes or catalogue of the collection or possible by some other approach such as that of report number or patent number. The ability of the centre to supply needed document delivery capability.

So far, no attempt has been made to give a precise definition of information retrieval system although the scope of this term was certainly implied in the previous discussion. As it is most commonly used, the term information retrieval is really synonymous with literature searching.

Edoka (2000), says that literature searching some collection of documents using the term “document” in its widest sense, in order to identity those document which deal with particular subject. Any system that is designed of facilitate this literature searching activity may legitimately be called an information retrieval system. The subject catalogue of a library is on type so it is a printed subject index.

The output of an information retrieval system usually consist of one or more bibliographic reference, perhaps with some added information such as an abstract or a list of the terms under which the document representative are usually delivered to the person who requested for the search. The requester may then ask the information centre or some other centres to deliver some or all of the documents referred to in the output of the literature search.

Hence, information centre activity sometime referred to as “question answering” which can also be regarded as a firm of information retrieval. A question answering service attempts to produce the direct answer to a particular question, many libraries and other types of information centre provide a question-answering service of any kind. It is sometimes referred to as quick reference or a factual reference service.

Clearly, question answering may be second stage in a larger information activity. The first stage involves the use of some information retrieval system. Perhaps, a library subject catalogue a printed index or even a back of the book index in order to identify document likely to provide the answer to a question posted by a user.

Ezemba (2004), stated that the internet computer based world wide information network has had an enormous impact on libraries. Libraries use the internet and its multimedia component the World Wide Web to answer reference question and to provide access to materials not previously available to their patrons. Therefore, a system that stores physical chemical or other types of data and answers question from the stored data may be referred to as a “data retrieval system”. The stored data may be referred to as a data bank examples are census data, their physical properties data.

Passage retrieval system is another type of information retrieval system which may be termed as an intermediate between a system that retrieves documents or their representations and one that attempts to answer question directly. A passage retrieval system is one that store a body of text in some subject area and can retrieve a passage of text, for example, a paragraph when it matches a search strategy representing some information need. A computer based system may store a body of legal text, for instance the status of a particular state and in which particular word combination occur.

Question answer system attempt to deal with a wide range of question types including: facts, lists, definition, how, why hypothetical, semantically – constrained and cross-lingual question. Search collections vary from small local document to collection to interval organization document, to complied news wire reports, to the World Wide Web, according to Wikipedia the free encyclopedia.



The major components of information retrieval systems are evident. The system may be considered to comprise six major sub-systems.

  1. The document selection sub-system
  2. The indexing sub-system
  3. The vocabulary sub-system
  4. The searching sub-system
  5. The sub-system of interaction between the user and the system (user-system interface).
  6. The matching sub-system that is the sub-system that actually matches documents representations against request representation.

In some ways, the matching sub-system can be considered the least important of the effectiveness of the complete system that is on whether or not it can retrieve items that satisfy the information needs of users, although clearly the efficiency of the matching sub-system economic and overall system efficiency, measured for example in response time. In a conventional computer based system, the computer contributes directly only to the matching operation. It acts as a giant matching device. But in most system at least it contributes nothing directly to the selection of documents, the indexing and searching, the preparation of search strategies or the interaction with system users that is for the purpose of “request negotiation”. These are all intellectual activities governing the effectiveness of the system.

The important factors controlling the effectiveness of retrieval system may be separated into groups:

  1. Database Factor

Factors associated with exploitation of the database.

The major database factor which can be regarded as “input factors” are there:

  1. How completely and accurately the subject matter of these documents are recognized and represented in the indexing operation?
  2. What documents are involves?
  3. How adequate is the vocabulary of the system to represent the subject matter of these document?

There are also the “exploitation or output factors”.

  1. how well the staff of the information centre is able to understand the information needs of the users (users system interaction)
  2. How they can transform these needs into searching strategies?
  • How adequate is the vocabulary of the system to represent the subject interest of system user.



There are many problems which however militate against effective information retrieval.

  1. The bottleneck associated with the process in a large collection when using a non-automated information retrieval system (catalogue card, indexing register etc) as time required to check through the catalogues, indexes, abstracts, most often, there are cases of missing catalogues torn indexes e.t.c which in turn, compound the problem of information retrieval. Besides, time is also required to provide catalogue card indexing register etc.
  2. In the application of computers and related technology in academic information retrieval in academic libraries in Nigeria, there is also some traditional impediments that involves.
  3. Cost of acquisition and installation, the problem of finance which when considered in relation to global inflection trend become very obvious because academic libraries in this country are starved of vital fund that should be used in the development of the services especially towards automating their information retrieval system.
  4. Problem of erratic power supply contributes a major handicap to the effective use of automation in information storage and retrieval in academic libraries in Nigeria.
  5. There is also the problem of computer literacy or computer literate personnel for effective usage. Usually, this requires training and retraining of library personnel which attacks additional financial burden or lost to the library’s lean resources.
  6. Government apathy to libraries is also an other serious problem which has hampered the development of academic libraries in Nigeria, in reference to automation and other aspects.



       Although the federal polytechnic library Nekede at the present makes use of the traditional and veual catalogue card, indexes, abstracts in retrieving relevant information for its users, effort have been made by the library to meet with the new trend in information retrieval system.

Existing automatic storage and retrieval system suffer from a variety of users, perhaps the most obvious problem is the miss match between the requirements of a sophisticated electronic system and the retrieve ignorance of those who use it. Lack of trained personnel may therefore limit the potential development of such systems. However, it is still necessary to overcome a variety of social problem among users and operators and to take care of copyright protection and authors rights.

Nevertheless, the trend towards automation will continue. The development of users, friendly interface will simplify the interaction between the user and the automatic file system. Parallel searching and fast text scanning method will speed the information search process. Improved query formulation will cope more effectively with improved systems and easier ways of using them, automatic information storage and retrieval will become common place in our lives.

Onilne Resources: 50 summary a database management system dbms is will only provide papers as a reference for your research. The papers ordered and produced should be used as a guide or framework for your own paper. It is the aim of to only provide guidance by which the paper should be pursued. We are neither encouraging any form of plagiarism nor are we advocating the use of the papers produced herein for cheating.

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