Towards Improving Our Public Libraries In Nigeria, By Vershima Orvell-Dio
The general state of public libraries in Nigeria was appraised and the challenges identified… One of the resolutions of the conference was that a public library policy will be developed and presented to the National Council on Education and if it requires legislation, the Federal Ministry of Education would take the necessary further steps.
We have read an opinion piece published in the PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, written by Omoniyi Ibietan. In the piece, Mr. Ibietan has nostalgically chronicled his experiences using the library, here in Nigeria and abroad. He bemoaned the state of public libraries in the country. We thank Mr. Ibietan for his interest and for takingtime to express his concern about the state of our public libraries.
Citizen Ibietan has performed his patriotic duty as a Nigerian and we believe he has not only spoken for himself alone but also for the public in general. It now behooves on us as an institution established to serve the public to not only meet these spoken of expectations but to also surpass them. We are already on this.
The National Library of Nigeria is required by its enabling Act to have presence in all states of the federation. To meet up this mandate, the organisation had in the past been expending most of its budgetary allocations in building new branches. However, upon his appointment as the National Librarian in August 2016, Professor Lenrie Olatokunbo Aina expressed that the organisation must give a facelift to its branches across the country and his management has decided that in the face of dwindling funding, the construction of new state branches should be put on hold and rather funds should be focussed on renovating the existing branches. It is a strategy aimed at making the places more comfortable for the users, thereby retaining existing users and at the same time attracting new ones. This is already in the works. That is why in its 2018 budget, the organisation has not provided for the construction of any new branch. However, provision has been made for the renovation of state branches in Lagos, Imo, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa. This renovation goes beyond replacing leaking roofs and painting of walls. The renovation exercise includes providing reading spaces for children to promote a reading culture among kindergarten and primary school pupils, ensuring stable electricity supply, ensuring that the toilets are clean and do have running water at all times, so that readers who become pressed to ease themselves would have no reason to leave our premises just on that account. But besides the renovation, new shelves and books would be bought this year. The process is on, to employ contractors in accordance with the Public Procurement Act 2007 and before the end 2018, these would begin to manifest soon.
For the branch in Area 2, the National Librarian, Professor Aina has directed the internet bandwidth should be increased immediately for the use of readers, while the sum of fifty million naira has been earmarked in the 2019 budget proposals for the renovation of the branch. The following state branches have equally been scheduled for renovation in the 2019 budget year: Sokoto, Enugu, Niger, Kaduna, Kwara and Edo. We have also made provision to buy new furniture for the branches.
Although the National Library of Nigeria has no control over public libraries owned by states, but because of its status as the nation’s apex library, it is leading an intervention that may influence state governments to pay more attention to public libraries. Earlier this year, the hourable minister of education, Adamu Adamu approved that the National Library of Nigeria convene a conference of directors and chairmen of state library boards. The conference which had its theme as “Repositioning Public Libraries in Nigeria” held between February 27 and 28, 2018 and twenty-six state libraries were represented. The general state of public libraries in Nigeria was appraised and the challenges identified with probable solutions to surmounting the challenges. One of the resolutions of the conference was that a public library policy will be developed and presented to the National Council on Education and if it requires legislation, the Federal Ministry of Education would take the necessary further steps.
Let me also inform Nigerians that, the completion of the headquarters building of the National Library of Nigeria is also in sight. Already, efforts are being made to review contentious issues around the project an actual completion cost be established with a view of pursing special intervention funds that would be deployed to the completion of the project.
Vershima Orvell-Dio is head of public relations at the National Library of Nigeria.