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Friday, June 9, 2017

Nigeria: Concerning Library Culture or is it Reading Culture? Part2

So what can we do? What can the government do? What can wealthy elites and business corporations do? Lots, can everyone do.

First, the nomenclature of public libraries must forthwith be changed. It is only in Nigeria you call libraries Library Boards. That name is synonymous to the low ratings and poor performance of the sector. They are called libraries, community libraries, public libraries, school libraries, so-so and so library; and not boards nor the least library boards. What’s in a name? Lots are in it. Public libraries serve the generality of the public and are established majorly with tax payers’ money or common government resources. According to an IFLA document:

A public library is an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.

So, it is imperative to call a lion by its name, public libraries, pronto!

Secondly, and most pertinently, the Nigerian National Assembly must immediately enact an Act of parliament on Library funding. The Act can be called the Library Funds Act (LFA) which will enable the Executive arm of government to appropriate funds for library development in every fiscal year. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has, under its legal responsibility to higher institutions, being stealthily supporting academic libraries and have so far spent over 25 billion naira on them. This in no small measure can account for the stark difference between the public libraries and academic libraries. So, the LFA is seriously needed not only to bridge the gap between public and academic libraries but to also leverage the creativity of librarians in public libraries and the potential of public libraries to transform the national literacy rating positively. The LFA will also afford all library types to seek and get funds for innovative library projects across the federation.
The National Assembly building: Nigeria

Also, states Houses of Assembly should do same. In this sense, the Library Boards may stay but empowered with budgetary and monetary powers to fund public libraries in each community in the states. I am also beginning to wonder why local government authorities have taken it as odium to do this common good called library for the people they serve at the grassroots. Let it be known that any grassroots governance without library projects is best a grazing endeavor of the roots of the masses. This must stop.
Still with the government, an immediate state of emergency must be declared on Library and Reading. This also coupled with the establishment of a National Agency for Reading (NAR). Thes political will must be demonstrated to drive up library development, library and reading culture.

Apart from government, wealthy elites and business corporations must divest their corporate social responsibility to this vital area. MTN has made efforts in the past with their MTN Foundation e-Library Project. Zenith Bank is trying to come up with something now under their “Adopt a Library” project. But more still need be done. I am looking forward to a wealthy elite like Andrew Carnegie who will devote substantial personal fortune as funds for building public libraries across Nigeria. They can establish foundations and allow for competitive bidding from government agencies, NGOs, communities and individuals.

Also, in this era of Reality Shows, shows in reading and literacy underscoring the values of libraries can be sponsored on network or national television stations by corporate organisations. Still on the role of the entertainment sector, Nollywood can have what I call “Nollywood Year of Reading (NYR)” where films and soap operas are devoted to Reading and Library. The NYR can come up every 5year or 3year to start with. 
And finally, reading campaigns by libraries, librarians, and library associations in addition to the efforts of the National Library of Nigeria must be taken with alarming seriousness. Sponsorship deals for such campaigns can be sought and reached with companies and renowned brands or even famous personalities such that Library and/or Reading Ambassadors are signed on to a library promotional campaign.

If we begin like this, and take some of these measures, the library cum reading culture will have good fate and the outcome will be enormous. Perhaps, just like in America, investment in Nigerian libraries may become another “leverageable investment” that the National Assembly “makes across national budget”.

As for me, my decision has long been made: I can build a community public library for Ijan-Ekiti, my hometown. I can do so much more. You can support me to do just these.