Johns Hopkins University Press

This study examined the influence of physical work environment on the research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria. The author surveyed a population of 312 librarians from university libraries in the region. The results indicated that the librarians' research productivity was significantly influenced by their surroundings at work. The author therefore recommends continued efforts to maintain and improve that the fitness of librarians' workplaces.


Research has become a major criterion for the professional development of librarians in Nigerian universities, in addition to fulfillment of their duties to provide quality library services to patrons. Most Nigerian universities have requirements for the number of publications a librarian must produce before being promoted.1 Librarians are expected to have published an average of four to five articles or other scholarly work in the early stage of their career. This number grows as they climb the professional ladder. Marie Kennedy and Kristine Brancolini identified obstacles, such as lack of motivation, as factors that could discourage research productivity.2

The physical work environment involves the physical or tangible features of the setting where the job is performed. Arbetsgivarverket, the Swedish government agency responsible for government employers, stated that the physical workplace consists of desks, chairs, computers, temperature, space, ventilation, and noise.3 In the past, the physical work environment of some academic libraries in southwestern Nigeria was not ideal, exacerbated by a lack of funding and inattention on the part of university administrators.4 Over the years, however, many Nigerian academic libraries have enhanced their [End Page 23] working conditions by providing high-quality office furniture, air conditioning, adequate lighting, and a well-designed office layout.5 When librarians have work settings that are appropriate for their professional duties, including good light, a comfortable office, and a clean and quiet environment, they may feel maximum willingness to conduct research. Although a good work environment has been found generally beneficial to academic research,6 little or no research links the physical surroundings of librarians to research productivity in southwestern Nigeria. To fill this gap, the current study examines the influence of work settings on the research output of librarians in universities in the region.

Objective of the Study

The broad objective of this study was to examine how the physical work environment affected the research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria. The specific objectives were to:

  1. 1. determine the level of research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria; and

  2. 2. assess the fitness of the physical work environment of librarians for research in universities in southwestern Nigeria.

The following alternate hypothesis was tested at the 0.05 level of significance: Physical work environment has a significant influence on the research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria.

Theoretical Framework

Person-Environment Fit Theory

The person-environment fit theory was developed at the beginning of the 1960s by John French and his colleagues, with later refinements by Robert Caplan and Jeffrey Edwards and Cary Cooper.7 The core premise of the theory is that stress arises not from the individual or environment separately but rather from their fit or congruence with each other. The theory addresses the relationship between individuals and their surroundings and the way workers cope with a positive or negative environment. Individual welfare is jeopardized when there is a mismatch between the person and the environment, and the disparity could have an inverse effect on productivity.

[End Page 24]

Overview of Research Productivity

The term research productivity is complex since it is multidimensional, including multiple output activities. Research productivity is used interchangeably with such terms as scholarly publications and academic productivity. It can be described as the total of an individual's journal articles, contributions to books, book chapters, reviews, conference proceedings, editorials, patents, and other output. It involves a contribution to knowledge creation and dissemination through publications in leading journals or through presentations at conferences.8 Sarah Okonedo, Sunday Olarenwaju Popoola, Sunday Oluwafemi Emmanuel, and Olusola Bamidele Bamigboye define research productivity as the entirety of librarians' research with an emphasis on publishing in refereed journals, articles, books, monographs, book chapters, and conference papers.9

Universities monitor research productivity to assess and improve faculty and academic staff performance.10 It reflects an individual's or group's ability to produce scholarly works.11 Over time, several measures have been used to ascertain the research productivity of scholars. Prominent among them is the number of publications by an author or group of authors. This metric can be further refined to denote publication types, such as peer-reviewed journal articles, books or book chapters, dissertations, trade publications, and conference abstracts. Research quantity is an important parameter of judging the productivity of scholars.12 It also constitutes the foremost criterion in promotion, merit, and tenure determinations.13

Physical Work Environment

The physical work environment is the actual or observable setting in which work is done. It includes such elements as furniture, office design, temperature, ventilation, lighting, noise level, and space. Elements of the physical environment such as noise and lighting have been shown to directly and indirectly influence psychological processes. Kumar Chandrasekar argues that the consistency of office lighting enhances employees' work experience and improves productivity.14 Anil Sarode and Manisha Shirsath suggest that lighting, noise, and air quality influence worker performance.15

The physical work environment of librarians in southwestern Nigeria does not match what can be found in developed countries such as the United States, where electric power is more reliable and the technologies used are cutting-edge. Although improvements have been made, Nigerian libraries fall short of these state-of-the-art facilities in wealthier countries.16 [End Page 25]

Work Environment and Research Productivity

Several studies have linked the work environment to research productivity or output in general. Quan-Hoang Vuong and his coauthors, for example, determined that work surroundings affected the research productivity of Vietnamese social scientists.17 Similarly, research in the United States by Shane Desselle, Brienna Andrews, Julia Lui, and G. Leela Raja found that faculty output was related to work environment variables.18

The favorable influence of the physical work environment on research productivity might result from enhanced creative performance.19 Creativity has been observed among workers in different job settings. For instance, creative behavior was noticed among information technology employees due to their physical work environment.20 Similar creative behavior was observed with the inclusion of makerspaces,21 which have been added to modern libraries' physical work environment.22 Still, few studies have addressed librarians' physical work environment as it relates to their research productivity directly.


Research Design

A descriptive survey design was utilized in this investigation. Descriptive survey design gathers data from a large group of individuals and then analyzes the information.

Population and Sample Size

The study's population was made up of librarians from universities in southwestern Nigeria. According to preliminary information, 363 librarians were employed at over 32 universities. The total enumeration technique was used, examining all 363 librarians in the population.

Research Instrument and Reliability

To assess the instrument's reliability, a pretest was administered to librarians at Landmark University in Omu-Aran, Kwara State University in Malete, and the University of Ilorin in Ilorin, using 30 copies of the questionnaire distributed among the three campuses. The internal consistency was evaluated using Cronbach's alpha, resulting in values of 0.847 and 0.800, respectively, a good level of reliability.

Method of Data Collection

The researcher acquired a letter from the head of the Department of Library and Information Science at Adeleke University in Ede, introducing the survey and the researcher to each member of the university's administration. The letter outlined the purpose of the survey and requested the librarians' aid in completing and submitting the questionnaire as quickly as possible while protecting responders' identities and data confidentiality. Participation in the survey was entirely voluntary. To support the researcher with questionnaire administration, monitoring, and collecting, research assistants were recruited and trained. The questionnaire was physically delivered to the offices of the respondents. Respondents were assured that any information they provided would be kept entirely confidential and used exclusively for academic research purposes. [End Page 26]

The study spanned three months, between November 23, 2021, and February 10, 2022. During this period, all the academic libraries in Nigeria were fully operational. Safety protocols and public health measures that had been implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic had expired. Although patrons and library workers were still required to wear face masks to slow the spread of the virus, schools were fully open.

Method of Data Analysis

Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data collected for this study. Descriptive statistical methods such as frequency distribution, percentages, mean, and standard deviation scores were used to provide demographic information about the respondents and to answer the study questions. To test the proposed hypothesis, inferential statistical methods such as linear regression were used.


This section presents the findings from data gathering and analysis. Of the 363 questionnaires issued to librarians, 312 were returned and verified as authentic for study. This equates to an 85.9 percent response rate.

Respondents' gender and academic qualifications indicate that the majority (54.2 percent) are female and hold a master's degree (72.1 percent). Furthermore, the largest number of responders (22.4 percent) are between the ages of 40 and 44, and 44.6 percent have been employed for 11 to 20 years. The largest group of respondents hold the rank of librarian II (28.2 percent), indicating three or more years of professional experience, followed by senior librarians (23.7 percent).

Table 2 reveals that librarians are highly productive in terms of the quantity of publications, with a mean of 2.80. This finding reinforces the perception that librarians strive to publish since their promotion is highly dependent on their number of publications. Furthermore, the study's findings indicate that journal articles are the most common type of publication, with 1,146 produced in the last three years. This is followed by conference proceedings, which totaled 316, less than half the number of journal articles. Other publication types, such as textbooks, book chapters, and coauthored textbooks, show a similar pattern, with 304, 258, and 252 occurrences, respectively. The large gap between journal articles and other publication types may be due to a great focus on journal articles in the Nigerian education system.

The findings in Table 3 on the fitness of the physical work environment of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria revealed that the physical setting is conducive to research. Specifically, librarians reported a quiet working environment with a mean of 3.45. This is closely followed by sufficient space for work activity (mean = 3.42). Librarians were also found to [End Page 27]

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the respondents
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Table 1.

Demographic characteristics of the respondents

have a pleasant setting in terms of temperature and fresh air (mean = 3.33), and lighting in the workplace was appropriate (mean = 3.24). There were no hazardous biological agents (mean = 3.21) and no heavy physical demands that cause strain (mean = 3.20). This result showed that library management takes good care of the library surroundings; preserves libraries as quiet places; provides librarians with appropriate workspace, ventilation and air conditioning, and lighting; and avoids assigning strenuous physical tasks to librarians.

The findings in Table 4 are the result of a hypothesis test focusing on the influence of the physical work environment on the research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria. An r-value of 0.286 indicates a positive relationship between physical work environment and research productivity. The strength of [End Page 28]

Table 2. Research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria
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Table 2.

Research productivity of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria

the relationship is 21.6 percent. The regression analysis of variance (ANOVA) yielded an F-value of 27.647 and a p-value of 0.000, as shown in Table 4 (significant at a 0.05 level). This indicates that the independent variable (physical work environment) and the dependent variable (research productivity) have a significant relationship. Consequently, the null hypothesis is rejected, showing that the physical work environment has a significant influence on the research productivity of librarians in southwestern Nigerian universities.

The statistical analysis also revealed that R2 = 0.082 and adjusted R2 = 0.079. R2 is the total variance in research productivity that can be explained by the fitness of the physical work environment. This implies that the physical setting accounts for about an 8.2 percent variance in the research output of librarians in universities in southwestern Nigeria.

Discussion of Findings

Research publications are an essential component of an individual's academic success since they represent an important gauge of scholarly achievement.23 The results of this study of the research productivity of librarians in southwestern Nigerian institutions revealed that they are highly productive in terms of quantity. This is a positive outcome for the profession because the number of publications is the most important metric to examine when evaluating performance. The physical work environment was shown to have a significant positive influence (8.2 percent) on the research productivity of librarians. [End Page 29]

Table 3. Fitness of physical work environment in university libraries in southwest Nigeria
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Table 3.

Fitness of physical work environment in university libraries in southwest Nigeria

[End Page 30]

Table 4. Statistical relationship of physical work environment and research productivity
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Table 4.

Statistical relationship of physical work environment and research productivity

This study discovered that librarians report physical work conditions that are conducive to research. This finding may come as a surprise to some, given the loss in financial support for libraries over the years.24 The study shows, however, that, regardless of a library's financial status, management continues to provide for the physical structure and services. The reason could be that university libraries are vital for the accreditation of academic programs in Nigeria.

These findings support those Odunayo Salau and his team, who indicated a meaningful relationship between physical work environments and productivity among academic staff of selected public universities in Nigeria.25 The educational institutions studied by Salau and his colleagues included Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, Ekiti State University in Ado Ekiti, Lagos State University in Ojo, Osun State University in Osogbo, and Ondo State University of Science and Technology in Akure, all in southwestern Nigeria. This study is also consistent with the findings of Chika Uchendu and her team, who discovered a substantial association between the physical work environment and academic staff productivity.26


The study concluded that the physical work environment has a significantly positive influence on the research productivity of librarians at southwestern Nigerian universities. Librarians' research output was found very high in terms of quantity, and their physical work environments were described as conducive to research. Suitable physical work environments also promote the research and scholarship of researchers and students with varied reading and study patterns. As a result, the study therefore recommends efforts should continue to ensure that the fitness of the physical work environment is maintained. [End Page 31]

Adebowale Jeremy Adetayo

Adebowale Jeremy Adetayo is a systems librarian in the Department of Library and Information Science at Adeleke University, Ede, Nigeria; he may be reached by e-mail at:

Olateju Abayomi Adeleke

Olateju Abayomi Adeleke is principal librarian at Lagos State University in Ojo, Nigeria; she may be reached by e-mail at:

Elizabeth Bukunola Lateef

Elizabeth Bukunola Lateef is principal librarian at Crawford University in Igbesa, Nigeria; she may be reached by e-mail at:


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