TMCNet:  The Sorry State of National, State Libraries [opinion]

[November 30, 2013]

The Sorry State of National, State Libraries [opinion]

(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aside it being important to the society and the educational sector in particular, the use of public libraries is on the decline in most states in Nigeria asides the competitive edge it is getting from most libraries going electronic. Libraries are supposed to research centers for all classes of people: students, professors, undergraduates, graduates, civil, public servants among others. It is one place that despite the valance of social media and technological educational development has remained relatively important to the development of the society, but has been literarily abandoned.


Findings reveal that the Niger State Library is in a state of comatose as the Library in Minna, the state capital was last renovated five years ago. Despite the renovation carried out five years ago, the roof of the library is leaking despite the fact that the leaking was one of the reasons why the renovation was carried out, thus exposing its contents to the vagaries of all sorts of weathers Bookshelf learnt that the last time the Library got supply of new books from the government was 15 years ago; it also lacks inadequate furniture. The last time the Library received supply of furniture was about eight years ago, even those supplied at that time were said to be of poor quality as they were locally fabricated which couldn't stand frequent utilization. The iron shelve could hardly stand on its own.

The surroundings of the library is over grown by grass, suggesting that the facility was not being maintained efficiently. Despite all the challenges, the library is still being patronized by about 600 people in a month with examination periods being the peak of time of readers who use the library.

The management of the Library declined to speak to Bookshelf, but it was gathered that the Library is grossly underfunded as what is given monthly as subvention is so meager that it cannot even cater for stationeries let alone take care of other pressing needs of the library. Sources close to the Library disclosed that in 1995 the stock of the Library was boosted with the coming of Book Aids International, an international donor which supplies books to libraries across the country in which the state Library also benefitted.

Book Aid International supplies the Library through the British Council and most of the books supplied are still what is being used in the library but with some limitation as most of the books are not in consonance with Nigerian curriculum.

Despite the supply by the Book Aid International, books on technology are completely lacking as most complains received were coming from the students of the Federal University of Technology, Minna.

While the Book Aid International stopping supply of books, Tetfund gives N3.5million yearly to Library to purchase books but unfortunately. Book Aid International and Tedfund stopped the intervention.

Authorities of the Book Aid International said due to lack of fund, it can't continue with the project while Tedfund stated that it has stopped because it can only fund Libraries of educational institutions.

Investigation also revealed that the Library which is not connected to the Internet has only eight sets of computer.

In Kogi State the Stella Obasanjo Library on Murtala Muhammed Way Lokoja, lacks electricity, inadequate reading tables, and other utilities, and was last stocked in 2006, but has ICT centre equipped with computers. However, the lack of electricity has rendered the ITC facility useless.

Director, Chief/ Executive Officer, Kogi State Library Board, Mr. Odaidu Tijani said there are no adequate furniture as most of the reading chairs and table were broken, adding that the only reading seats in the library were provided by the NYSC member who served in the organization.

He said the library was getting books donation from London Book International and Education Tax Fund and that since 2006 they stopped donating books to them, adding most of the books at the Library are no longer current.

Mr Tijani said the library's ICT centre was equipped with 50 computers and internet services but lacked electricity to power them, adding the only generator available cannot serve the entire building.

He said the library needs a standby transformer to connect electricity, but yet to be provided as it has always been promises upon promises.

According to him, the library has no vehicles, saying that the only three branches inherited from Benue after the state creation are in terrible shape "We have an impress of N80,000 monthly. We have shortage of staff as some of them have retired while new ones are not employed. We don't have security guard and cleaners. No governor since we entered this building has visited the office to see state of things. We appealed to Governor Idris Wada to help us with transformer, official and utility vehicle to aid our work," Tijani said patronage to the library is high and that by the time the e- library is functioning well, the patronage could grow.

The Benue State Library in Makurdi is at the brink of collapse following its dilapidated structure and obsolete materials which dot the expanse rooms of the two-storey building housing the once vibrant place.

The library located on Senator Iyorchia Ayu Road was last stocked 22 years ago during its inauguration.

Today, most of the facilities in the library are in dilapidated state while the books are obviously up-to-date with sitting capacity quite adequate but lacking patronage. As at time of visit to the library, none of the officials could be seen just as books, chairs and other materials were left carelessly.

Bookshelf also learnt that the excessive leaking roof of the complex during the rainy season has prevented staff from putting the second floor into proper use as the entire place is usually flooded within the period.

However, a glimpse of the edifice from the entrance and its surroundings depict a beautiful environment as the lawns are neatly laid with the flowers well trimmed.

Incidentally, a section of the building which holds the electronic library with an inscription boldly at the door signifies that the project was donated by the Universal Service Provision Fund.

Sadly, the modern ICT facilities with at least 50 computers remained under lock and keys, as it was learnt that the e-library is not in use, though ICAN examination was going on at the time of our correspondent's visit, the students were sighted writing exams in about three 'classrooms', but not using the facilities.

It was gathered that the inability of the state government to give its financial backing to install the computers for Internet services was why the facilities are not yet functioning.

Recently, a media publication quoted that "the only lifeline for the library was between 1998 and 2006 when the Book Aid International donated new books to the library." As it is at the moment, the library can hardly generate revenue internally to boost its services just as the Ministry of Information and Orientation under which the library board exists was allocated only N1, 378,451,060 in the 2013 state budget.

In Nasarawa State, much of what can be found in the state library at the complex of the Nasarawa State Library Board in Lafia, is part of the books the state inherited from the old Plateau State after an asset sharing.

Although the library board took off in an old and temporary local government building, the first civilian governor, Abdullahi Adamu constructed a one-storey building of three library halls each for hard books, children and e-library. He commissioned the complex with the old books inherited from Plateau State, as well as some new books.

Doma inherited a new library from his predecessor and funded the purchase of books to stock it. By 2010, the Universal Service Provision Funds (USPF) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), embarked on a project to provide an e-library there. Sets of computers and were provided there, but the first floor housing this section has remained under lock and key three years after.

At the ground floor where the complex is housing the main library, there is a decay that has eaten up the facility to its foundation. The sitting arrangement is hardly inadequate for a full class of secondary school students, just as the children section has only two desks and a few chairs.

The books in the main library are old and had not been used for only God knows when. Bookshelf learn that patronage of the library, especially with the e-library project now abandoned is low.

For the tow times our correspondent visited the library, he met only four staff. One of them, a lady, told Bookshelf that she was there "to get usable books for her project at the College of Education (COE), Akwanga, but the books do not make any sense to me. There are no books here. It is only a house; this is no library." Executive Director of the library board, Mr. Francis Anzaku told Bookshelf that "patronage is low, especially with the coming of hand held gadgets from where most people source their information. That is why we need the e-library to meet up the demand." He said funding has remained poor for the facility, especially during the previous administrations, but added that "the administration of Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura has given assurances that we will have a well stocked and furnished library.

"This is just as the governor has embarked on a project to provide six e-libraries in different locations. By the time these libraries come up, we will be emerging as a model in e-libraries for the rest of the country," Anzaku who spoke on phone said.

In Abuja, the library faces accommodation crisis. Sometime in October the Chief Executive Officer of the National Library, Abuja, Malam Habib Jato, said the library was at the risk of getting evicted due to rents it owed the owners of the building which the library is using as its temporary site before completion of its permanent site.

Malam Jato said the library owed two and a half years rent which totaled N228.690 million which resulted in the landlord threatening to eject the library. He also said inadequate funds had hindered the execution of many of the organization's projects such as capacity building in Information Communications, Technology, and the development of the National Readership Promotion Campaign, among other initiatives.

Jato said the "lack of headquarters building, which makes operational coordination and service delivery difficult has also made work more difficult." Meanwhile the National Library permanent site is slated for completion in 2015.

Copyright Daily Trust. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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