The development of both human, economic and infrastructural resources take a huge part of every nations’ agenda. It is fulcrum on which every activities and operations of government and organisations are hinged. Thus, countries are classified based on their level of economic, human, educational and infrastructural development. Interestingly, countries of the world are classified as developed, developing and under-developed based on these indices and not on population sizes. Development is an aftermath of consistent effort of nation-building. The Economist defines nation-building as transforming a failed country by establishing order through the rule of law and creating legitimate government and other effective social institutions, as well as a credible currency and a functioning market economy. The term is often used when referring to government policies that are designed to encourage a strong sense of national identity. However, in this article, the focus will be on identifying one of the factors that help to achieve nation-building in the face of rapid changes and globalisation.
Gambari (2008) submits that in these days of globalisation and rapid international flows of people and ideas, having a viable nation remains synonymous with achieving modernity. It is about building the institutions and values which sustain the collective community in these modern times. He opined that nations just don’t happen by historical accident; rather they are built by men and women with vision and resolve. Nations are built by ingenious and resourceful individuals who are well informed and equipped with relevant skills needed to drive a knowledge economy. Moreover, a nation cannot be principally defined by its roads, bridges, hospitals, ultramodern infrastructures and all kinds of state-of-the art-facilities, but also by its people. Therefore, it is imperative to find out what should be prioritized in the developmental agenda of government, especially in Africa. Thus, we need to identify institutions that facilitate the development of the human mind, which makes them furnished and prepared both mentally, psychologically and intellectually to bring about the overall development in a nation. One pivotal institution for achieving the development of the people in the knowledge economy is the library.
A library is an institution saddled with the responsibility of acquiring, processing, storing, and disseminating information in order to meet the educational, recreational, social, political and economic needs of its clienteles. Library types are: Academic libraries – libraries in higher institutions such as universities, polytechnics, and colleges; School libraries – libraries in primary and secondary schools; Special libraries – libraries in special institutes which provide subjects-based information needed to meet the specific needs of its users; Public libraries – libraries available to serve the interest of everyone in the community irrespective of education, skills, gender or creed; and Private libraries – libraries owned by individuals and are sometimes opened for other users to use based on certain conditions. Providing equitable access to information bothering on economy, politics, social, technology etc., is one of the principal role of the library. It has been said that information is the fifth factor of production after land, labour, capital and entrepreneur. This is because without relevant information, there will poor management of the available resources which may negatively impact on the overall development of such organization, society or nation. More so, with relevant information one can reduce the cost of production without negatively impacting on the overall quality of such products.
It is noteworthy to emphasize that the nation-building efforts by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, as well as the unflinching supports from non-governmental and international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and Africa Union (AU) among others, may remain unsubstantiated without investing in the development of libraries and information centres in Nigeria. Libraries serve as information hubs and knowledge gateways for creativity, innovation and development. That is why China recently built an ultramodern futuristic library with staggering 1.2 million books. This shows that China understands that to excel technologically, economically and socially in the knowledge economy, there has to be strong, dynamic and outstanding information institutions. Today’s libraries are maker spaces and developmental laboratories where ideas are generated and flagged off for the advancement of a nation.
The foregoing suggest that libraries are imperative in nation-building, and the earlier we start investing in libraries in Nigeria, the more progressive and developed we become. Library development is also quintessential in achieving the African Union development agenda of 2063 and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. The defunct UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which elapsed in 2015 was not achieved in Africa and by extension the world over, because the basic structures needed to enhance its achievement were not in place nor efficiently catered for. Ignorance as a result of poor access to information regarding achieving all round development of people, societies and nations was one of the barriers that hampered its feasibility. Government, stakeholders and personalities need to start providing sufficient funds and take informed decisions towards revitalizing libraries in Nigeria at all levels. Countries that have witnessed consistent raise and high ranking in development are those with high level of human development enshrined in consistent revitalization of various information hubs like Libraries, Archives, Museums, innovation laboratories and human development centres.
The following includes ways libraries can contribute to nation-building:
- Educational advancement: Well-funded academic and public libraries are viable assets needed to advance education in Nigeria. Ordinarily, academic libraries provide the information resources needed for quality teaching, research and learning in higher institutions. But beyond this, access and effective utilisation can be ensured by proving bespoke services which specifically meet the needs of the users. Libraries also give parent institutions the needed global recognition through enhanced access to research outputs from students, researchers and faculties by making them available in digital institutional repositories. Furthermore, research strength, wider readership and global visibility of research can be ensured through open access institutional repositories.
- Information literacy support: Alesina and Reich (2015) submit that nations stay together when citizens share enough values and preferences and can communicate with each other. This means effective communication cannot be ensured in an information illiterate society. Literacy support initiatives of libraries can help to achieve this in Nigeria. As such, libraries carry out various programmes that engender literacy development of its citizens. This is why Bernadette Jagger, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism on 28 March 2018 called on public servants in Namibia to make use of public libraries and information resources centres within their ministries. It’s a welcome development and Nigeria need to encourage reading habits and provide sufficient funds needed to finance standard public libraries needed for such.
- Economic development initiatives: Research libraries are essential in conducting and disseminating researches that engender economic development in Nigeria. Most researches emanating from research institutes are taken through librarians and research experts in such institutes who depend heavily on the information resources provided in the libraries to carry out meaningful researches. Outcomes of current economic researches are reported in books, monographs, occasional papers, policy briefs and in-house journals and preserved in libraries for posterity sake. For example, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) research outcomes are disseminated through several forms of publications and made available for use in the library. Other research institutes’ libraries in Nigeria include: Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) library in Ibadan, Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) library in Benin, Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) library in Edo, National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) library in Umuahia, and Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIRO) library in Lagos among others. These institutes’ libraries are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring qualitative research dissemination as well as providing equitable access to them in the library. Therefore, research libraries are handy in fostering economic development initiatives of a nation and should be funded for this purpose.
- Cultural preservation: Libraries are essentially established to preserve the culture, beliefs and values of the society. This is achieved by preserving various indigenous knowledge, archeological discoveries, historical artefacts, and cultural events captured and recorded in tapes, CDs, VCDs, DVDs and made available as electronic resources. Most historic cultural heritage of communities, local settlements and remote villages are collected, recorded, digitized and preserved for posterity sake. Librarians are trained – in courses like Oral history and Information, to collect such veritable information and make them available for use in the libraries. When the culture of a community is preserved, the age long approach of food production, fashion, agriculture could be sustained and modernized to meet the contemporary needs of the people. The digitization of various historic heritage, values and customs could create educational opportunities, and can be used to encourage tourism among citizens, thereby contributing to the development of the nation.
- Community development: The development of the community where libraries are located is fundamental to the sustainability of libraries, and also serves as proofs that libraries are change agents. Libraries and librarians provide information that go beyond a simple consultation or support process but expand into meaningful and inclusive collaborations, building stronger relationships and partnerships within the community. Libraries are introducing various developmental initiatives that transcend just providing books and answering users’ queries. Some public libraries provide information such as agricultural information needed for rural development as pointed out by Nwokocha and Chima. Similarly, information as regards funding for local products or projects could be gotten by consulting some agricultural bulletin and advertorials in the library.
- Support for Democracy: Today’s libraries are more proactive and innovative in achieving sustainable democracy and inclusive government among citizens. Information about governance, rule of law, election and inclusive government are provided by librarians as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, libraries are getting actively involved in educating the electorates on their social right as stipulated in the 1999 Nigerian constitution. This was exemplified by Library Advocacy Group (@NigLibrarians) as we informed the Nigerian public by advocating on twitter on 25 January 2018 with the hashtag #YourVoteYourRight about their voting right, and what needs to be done to exercise it. The group also enlightened the public on the need to get their Voter’s Cards and participate in the forthcoming election. This is one of the ways librarians have been supporting democracy in Nigeria.
Consequent on the foregoing, library development is imperative in nation-building. We must as a matter of urgency, refurbish, renovate, reinvent and revitalize libraries in Nigeria. The initiative such as Adopt-A-Library introduced by Lagos State Government to improve public libraries’ services in Lagos need to be sustained and taken to a higher altitude. Other states, corporate organizations, and agencies need to follow suite. There should be total overhauling of the public libraries in Nigeria. Staff development and empowerment should be a priority for library management boards, heads of library units and ministry of education. Government must ensure that sufficient budgetary allocations are made available for library development in various strata of the country. This, if sustained, would bring about the human capacity development needed to achieve a sustainable nation-building.
 The Economist. Accessed 6th April, 2018 at https://www.economist.com/economics-a-to-z/n#node-21529949
 Gambari, I.A (2008) The challenges of nation building: the case of Nigeria. Accessed 6th April 2018 at http://www.mafng.org/anniversary/challenges_nation_building_nigeria.htm
 Alesina and Reich (2015) Nation-building. Accessed 29 March 2018 at https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/alesina/files/nation_building_feb_2015_0.pdf
 Research Institutes in Nigeria. Accessed 6th April, 2018 at: http://www.commonwealthofnations.org/sectors-nigeria/education/research_institutes/
 Nwokocha,U & Chima,J.N (2016) Library and Information Services for Rural Community Development in Africa: Problems and Prospects. Accessed 28th March, 2018 at library.ifla.org/2081/1/S27-2016-nwokocha-en.pdf
Author: Ayeni Phillips