In Nigeria, a lot of people perceive libraries as elitist institutions, patronised by only those who can read and write. This explains the need for us to stress the true significance of libraries, especially public libraries, as we need to portray them also as spaces fitting for the unschooled, dropouts, as well as artisans. Hence, the need to make everyone (the seemingly ‘less-elitists’ inclusive) know that they are good enough to make use of a library, and how much information and skill for a better life they can acquire from using a library.
A good number of educated people in Nigeria often abandon libraries after schooling because they do not see the need for using libraries afterwards, and the root of our “wahala” in Nigeria can largely be attributed to that. This also tells us that libraries, in the light of their total essence, have to be redefined to Nigerians. Nigerians need to know that everyone, regardless of demographic and socio-economic status need library services at every stage of life and for one reason or another – at infancy, through school, for workforce development, start-up information, business success, as senior citizens, et cetera. Ironically, we (librarians and libraries) have so much boxed ourselves in as ‘necessary adjuncts for quality education,’ forgetting that Nigeria is not a highly literate society. We forget that people go through school and leave school, and that life after schooling is long. Yes, libraries help in achieving quality education (SDGs / Goal 4), but more importantly, libraries drive development in all sectors of the economy, even beyond education.
Making everyone understand that libraries are necessary for all at every stratum of society is what Library Advocacy Group is all about. We have seen children in Ghana who do all their homeworks in libraries because that is the way they function. In Botswana, a wedding ceremony in a rural area must have a librarian present to add the ‘bookish element”. In Kibera, Kenya, libraries give sanitary towels to young girls in partnership with manufacturers. In Nakaseke, Uganda, libraries educate farmers on how to have better harvests and how to boost sales of their produce. Contrarily, in Nigeria, we pretend that libraries are only about books! Hence, we must be reawakened to the elastic nature of libraries, not just as learning hubs, but also as a creative space, social space, development centre, engine room for idea incubation, to mention but a few. “It all begins with an idea.” Just like an ad of MTN (one of the largest telecommunication brands in Nigeria) says, “…paucity of ideas can stall the progress of a nation…”, the dearth of libraries, non-use of the available ones, largely caused by poor understanding of their essence, can as well be disastrous to the growth and development of any nation. Libraries are warehouses of ideas! Libraries are citadels of information capable of showing how ideas can be put to work in every facet of personal and national development. Therefore, we need to enlighten the citizenry about the use of libraries for information sourcing for personal development. We also need to give libraries all the support they need to be all that they can be. That is our declared mission as the Library Advocacy Group.
Having said all that, we implore everyone to join hands with us to reposition libraries in Nigeria. We encourage you to partner with us in the quest for a better Nigeria through library development. Lastly, we encourage library and information professionals in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large to embark on similar campaigns, as this is one of the ways our profession and professionals can gain significant relevance in the society of today.
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