The National Policy on Education (NPE) made clear provisions for school libraries in the primary and secondary education curriculum, including a librarian. This underscores the importance of school libraries. The school library is the hub of information and a significant player in making pupils information literate. Nigeria’s aspiration to compete in the global knowledge economy depends on producing information literate school leavers. As such there is need for Nigeria to go back to the basics of library services provision as stipulated in the NPE, and considers the role and place of school libraries.
School libraries are places for the development of study skills that pupil can take with them, further into higher education and even workplace. School libraries assist in developing reading, learning and other literacy skills of pupils. In fact, reading and debating clubs in schools require the use of books and other information resources, which can be borrowed from the library. The school library should be seen in the light of what academic libraries are, to their institutions. For instance, in Namibia, school libraries provide teachers with access to materials relevant to the curriculum they are expected to teach and for their professional development. The school library therefore, is a central player in the teaching and learning process of the primary and secondary education. In addition, pupils can be exposed to computers in a well equipped school library, thereby enhancing digital literacy in such an early stage in their life. More so, school libraries provide conducive and friendly spaces for learners, who may not have a conducive study space at home because of socio economic conditions/ inequalities.
Where school libraries exist, the biggest drawback is the absence of professional librarians. A well equipped school library, without professional librarians is a mere collection of books. Such schools are managed by volunteers or non professionals with little or no training in key areas such as cataloguing, classification, stock taking, weeding, or processing of books. Consequently, no stock taking or weeding of old book is done, resulting in many old and outdated books, leaving no room for innovativeness. Volunteers or non librarians also lack the skills of information repackaging and indexing of information resources for easy access.
The role that school libraries play in the Nigerian school curriculum should be strengthened. Academic quality in schools should be shared responsibility. School libraries should be considered as key stakeholders towards academic improvement of pupils in our schools. The International Federation of Library Institutions and Associations (IFLA)/United Nations Educational and Scientific Commission (UNESCO), School Library Manifesto is quite clear on this. Good experience in the school library can bring about an unprecedented enthusiasm for learning that can last a lifetime. Libraries that are well equipped with current and relevant materials are assets to any school.
School libraries help children to develop curious and inquiring minds. This will stand them in good stead as they go further in education. Again, school libraries help children to perform well academically as they develop the skills of independent studying. Academic achievement is an indicator for completion of studies. This is of utmost importance in Nigeria where currently, we have the singular honour of having the highest number of out of school children. For Nigerian children to acquire quality education and not just be parrots of crammed outdated lesson notes, school libraries in all public and primary schools must be refurbished and equipped. Therefore, school libraries that are adequately staffed and funded should be provided.
Author: Nelson Edewor