Some libraries in the country have been turned into social event centres to generate revenue for basic maintenance following decades of neglect, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria has shown.
Correspondents, who visited some libraries in some states in North-Central Nigeria, observed that many of them were desolate with neither workers nor readers on sight.
At the National Library in Jos, it was observed that weed had taken over the vicinity, while a part of the fence had collapsed.
Banners of various events slated to be held at the expansive premises of the library were also sighted
Ruth Davou, a teacher, whose residence is a few metres away from the facility, told NAN that the library was always used for wedding receptions on Saturdays.
“From what I have heard, many people prefer to hold the wedding receptions in the library premises because the charges are cheap.
“A friend of mine, who held her wedding reception here in March, paid N15,000. I think that is cheap and affordable,’’ she said.
Ms Davou said that the library had been “quite lonely’’ for a very long time, and expressed surprise that wedding receptions had become a daily routine at the premises.
“Ìn the past, most readers preferred to visit the libraries on Saturdays because that is the best day for research activities.
“The situation is different now because instead of the quiet Saturdays, we now have noisy Saturdays in the neighbourhood,’’ she said.
She advised the Federal Government to fund the libraries to make them assets to people searching for knowledge.
Efforts to speak with the management of the library proved abortive, but a security personnel, who craved anonymity, claimed that the workers had been on strike “for some time now”.
Wandoo Mac-Ikpah, a 400-level Mass Communication student of the University of Jos, equally has expressed disappointment at the poor state of the national library, but added that the university library was not any better.
“I used to visit the National Library when it was functional, but I stopped at a point because most of the books there are out-dated.
“I prefer to use facilities at the cyber café even though the internet connectivity is usually epileptic.
“Since fire gutted our school’s general library last year, we have been patronizing the smaller library at the main campus of the university, but it does not have materials we require for modern researches,’’ she said.
She said that the institution had often offered lessons on how to use the library but that using the school library had proved rather difficult because it lacked basic infrastructure like chairs, tables and a strong network to access materials through the internet.
She further said that the computers were grossly inadequate and hardly sufficient to meet the rising needs of the students.
Like Mac-Ikpah, many other library users and managers in Minna, Niger State, have decried the state of libraries in Nigeria and called for improved funding for the sector in view of its relevance to intellectual growth.
Makji Dajwal, a lecturer in the information and library science department of a Polytechnic, while decrying the state of dilapidated reading structures in some public libraries, accused government and the private sector of abandoning the libraries.
“The situation is worse in the rural areas. There, no one cares about the libraries at all. I find the situation appalling,’’ he said.
“Some libraries have electronic and media equipment but a lot of the items are outdated; the Niger State Public Library Board has logistical support for mobile library initiatives in rural settings but this initiative is yet to take off,’’ he said.
He said that the state library was livelier with an average of 100 regular users weekly, but lamented that the state lacked adequate public library legislation.
“The most shocking aspect is that the state does not even recognise the Nigerian Library Association,’’ he said..
Mr Dajwal called for technical support, especially in the areas of electronic libraries and new library technologies.
He also suggested an urgent need to review the Library and Information Science Curriculum in library schools to meet the needs of the 21st century library and information science worker.
A post-graduate student, Deborah Yunusa, however attributes the collapse in library services to the lack of current materials and basic infrastructure in the libraries.
“If we want to resuscitate our libraries, we must create a serene environment for library services
“An enabling environment is necessary to get satisfaction when using the libraries. Those concerned should renovate the structures and also organize capacity building for library workers to improve service delivery,’’ she said.
She however, expressed the hope that libraries in the country would soon become active in view of the recent announcement by Lenrie Aina, the National Librarian, that the federal government had approved N1.8 billion for the expansion and renovation of national libraries nationwide.
Meanwhile, Doorshima Iorchir, a 100 level student of Benue State University, Makurdi, has applauded the institution for giving adequate orientation to its new students on how to use the library.
“Aside the orientation exercise, the institution also has a course dedicated to the use of library for research and other academic activities. I find this very encouraging,’’ he said.
Donald Hile, a lecturer in the Department of Physics, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, also says he is happy at the state of ibraries in the institution.
“The institution has a good and functional library with qualitative facilities.
“The library has quality books and is equipped with modern communication gadgets,’’ he added
The lecturer challenged the students to access facilities at the library to ease discoveries in their various disciplines and be abreast of current trends in their areas of study.
But while the libraries in the school are encouraging, the situation is different in other parts of Benue.
Damian Daga, a writer based in Makurdi, told NAN that the libraries in the state were not good for people seeking to consult them for their researches.
“The association of authors has been making frantic efforts to ensure that libraries do not lack current books. We have been trying to ensure that those seeking information are not disappointed.
“We have engaged ourselves in researches so as to come out with quality books because they are very scarce in the libraries,’’ he said.