A Critical Examination of the Problems Militating Against the Development of Public Libraries in Nigeria. - Manknow

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A Critical Examination of the Problems Militating Against the Development of Public Libraries in Nigeria.

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A Critical Examination of the Problems Militating Against the Development of Public Libraries in Nigeria.

 

Before critically examining the problems militating against the progress and
development of public libraries in Nigeria, it is necessary to gain insights on the meaning of public libraries and its importance in Nigeria.
Public libraries have been established in many countries of the world and are often considered as an essential part of having an educated and literate population.
Public library is therefore a type of library that is made accessible to the public and generally funded from the public taxes and operated by librarians and library paraprofessionals, who are also civil servants of that nation.
Public library can also be said to be a library that is open to the public and generally funded by taxes of the public.
The most common and peculiar characteristic about the public library is that services offered are entirely free of charge. Another characteristic worth mentioning about the public library is that public libraries are meant to be accessible to all even without restrictions.

Objectives of Public Libraries

There are a lot of reasons why public libraries were established. Public libraries are therefore established to meet certain objectives for which it was created for. Some of those objectives include;

1.  To provide basic services free of charge:

Public libraries were established by the Government to provide information service to the public without collecting any monetary charge. It is assumed that the public has indirectly paid for the service they are offered through the taxes paid to the local government. These taxes are used to ensure the growth and maintenance of the public libraries.

2. To Provide Information Sources that can serve the General Public:

One of the common objectives of public libraries is to provide relevant information resources to serve a variegated number of needs of users of all levels. Public libraries is capable of providing information resources that would meet the needs of professionals in all educational fields, illiterate, students of all levels, the blind, the lame and all other categories of people.

3.  To Act as the Depository of the Public it serves:

The public library act as the depository of the public it serves. Publications including books, Newspapers, journal articles emanating from the public can be house and preserved by the public library.

4. The Public Library Aims to Preserve the Cultural Heritage of the Parent Public it serves:

Every public has its cultural heritage that is well respected and regarded as important. The cultural heritage includes the values, norms, rules, ethnics, history, and paths expected of the people to follow. The library acts as an important repository that is capable of housing, storing, preserving all information and documentation related to the cultural heritage of the public.

5. The Public Library Aims to Promote Literacy:

An educated and literate nation is one of the major objectives of the public libraries. The public library should be considered as the hub of knowledge where people can freely invest quality time in developing innovative and quality skills.
All of the above objectives should be met by a truly functional public library.

6. Support to Other Libraries

The public libraries are also established to provide support to the establishment of other libraries.
An Overview of the Services Rendered by Public Libraries
An overview of the services rendered by public libraries is truly as important aspect to delve into when examining the setbacks of public libraries in Nigeria. Every public library’s services can be generally class into the following steps, which include;
1 .     Organization of materials for ease of access and convenient use
2   .     Guiding the user in finding the materials needed
3   .     Providing information services
    4.     Providing library assistance to cultural, civic and educational organizations
5.     Collecting special materials of interest
6.     Sponsoring cultural and educational programmes in the library for children, young people, and adults
7.     Providing specialized services such as abstracting, indexing and bibliographic services.

A brief History of Public Libraries in Nigeria

In 1962, a document was announced of the UNESCO, in which it was stated that each region of Nigeria was responsible for the creation and regulation of the activities of local libraries in Nigeria.
This document showed that the development of library in Nigeria took place even before independence. There was a library in Eastern Nigeria that was constructed in 1959, Eastern Nigeria also received a 5-year plan of the development of regional libraries and mobile ones with about 1, 600 of books.
It will not be wrong to say that the West was the heart of the library development in Nigeria before in independence because they had the Ibadan university library founded in 1948.

Significance of Public Library in Nigeria

As earlier said, public libraries were established in so many nations of the world, so as to produce a literate and more civilized citizens.
The significance of public library in Nigeria cannot be overlooked. Public library is a necessity when it comes to producing innovative Nigerians that can stand global competition. Public libraries in Nigeria therefore remain an important facet of our educational and economic system.

A breakdown of the benefits of public libraries in Nigeria

·        With the help of public libraries, innovative citizens that can be able to compete globally can be produce
·        Public libraries store and preserve the cultural heritage of the public libraries
·        They promote high level literacy in Nigeria through the various outreach programmes they conduct
·        They contribute in  serving the general public through the organization of lectures, conference and seminars
·        They are seen as a hub of knowledge to researchers, scholars, professionals, staffs, and students etc. to improve skills and develop minds.

 Problems Militating Against the Development of Public Library in Nigeria

The United Nations educational scientific, and culture organization (UNESCO) seminar on the development of public libraries in African held in the university college Ibadan in 1953, was a good thing that happened to public library development in Nigeria because it went further to state that; “professional public librarians should as far as possible adopt the knowledge acquired during professional training to local conditions in Africa and should use all suitable techniques for increasing the use of books and other materials for information”.
The above statement clearly points out that Africa librarians should bear in mind that their environments have particular problems of which he should be conscious of the problems militating against public library development in Nigeria include:
1. Finance:
Finance has remained a major challenge to the development of public libraries in Nigeria. In other words, public libraries are poorly funded in Nigeria.
Although, the public libraries in Nigeria is funded by the taxes paid by the general government. This tax is normally used to support other areas/ facet of the public economy and educational system.
Moreover, some of the funds meant to be allocated for the support of public libraries are impeded as the result of corrupt leaders or those in charge of allocating the fund to these public libraries.
2. Inconsistent Payment of Salaries of Library Staffs Working in Public Libraries in Nigeria
There are situations whereby salaries/ remuneration of Librarians of all professional level working in a public library are not paid. This is of course a serious issue that would of course deplete the tenacity and zeal of public librarians to offer optimum services.
Also, some public librarians are not highly paid according to the services they render to users of the public library. This is another reason orchestrating the lack of zeal to offer high-quality services by library staffs in a public library.
3. Lack of Support
Another fact hindering the development of public libraries in Nigeria is the lack of support by the majority of the populace. Where the community in which the public library is located is largely comprised of illiterates, it is difficult to get enough public support. Thus, people will tend to support other essentials services like hospitals, markets in place of library service.
4. Mishandling of Library Materials by Users:
There is the tendency for people to abuse any free service and such abuses constitute services problems to public libraries. Misuse of library materials by the public library’s users include; pilfering, mutilation overdue, thus deflecting the stock and making library materials unavailable users.
5. Inexperience Staffs:
There is inadequacy of trained professional librarians to manage and organize different sections of the public libraries in Nigeria. This of course is a serious problem that would impede the development and progress of public libraries in Nigeria. Quality services cannot be offered without qualified librarians. 
A common mistake or error made by some public library in Nigeria is employing individuals with qualifications of extraneous disciplines like engineering, public administration, physics etc. to work as librarians. This will of course encumber the provision of quality service to patrons of the public library, therefore making it very difficult for public libraries to achieve the objectives that they are established for.
6. Failure to Develop/ Update the Collections of the Public Library:
Collection development is an important facet of the library that should never be derided. In fact, collection development can be seen the heart of any library.
However, public libraries in Nigeria have failed to adequately and consistently update their collections as a result of lack of fund. Publications are continuously produced each and every year. Old publications become obsolete as time advances. If the public library therefore fails to update its collections, then its collections would become obsolete and hence, can less relevant.
Most public libraries’ publications are so old that they become literally useless to their patrons. If the public libraries cannot serve recent publications to their users, then, these libraries can never meet the purpose or objectives that they were originally established for.
8.     Lack of Reading Culture among Nigerians
Public libraries in Nigeria are hardly encouraged by the Nigerians. Most public libraries that have been set up in communities hardly see users patronizing the services of that public library even when the services are made free.  The problem in this case is not the fault of these public libraries but the lack of reading habits in most Nigerians.
Nigerians do not fully embrace the reading culture. Most people disillusion the fact the “readers are leaders”. They believe that one could succeed entirely without reading books and acquiring knowledge. This is actually a big problem that is militating against the growth and development of public libraries in Nigeria since public libraries cannot meet the objectives it was established for.
It is pertinent to note that a greater percentage of public libraries’ patrons in Nigeria are actually students.
9.     Lack of Adequate Furniture:
There is no doubt that the lack of reading habits or culture exhibited by most Nigerians has thwarted the development of public libraries in Nigeria. Among the few population that visits public libraries in Nigeria, students accounts a larger percentage of this population.
The public libraries in Nigeria notices an influx of students during the period of external examinations like WASSCE, JAMB, NECO examinations, GCE and many others. Some public libraries may fail at this point in providing enough furniture like reading carrels, chairs etc to accommodate these large amount of students since it was not planned for.

10.                                                                                                                                     Influence of the Internet to the Negligence of Public Libraries in Nigeria
The internet as we know it is a rich source of information. Ever since its inception, the internet has been able to gather information on various aspects of life. Google being a search engine that provides a mechanism to search through the internet is able to boost over a trillion searches every year across billions of web pages.
The advent of the internet can also be seen as an encumbering factor that is impeding the development of public libraries.
So many people in Nigeria prefer using the internet as a valuable tool in meeting their information needs. Although, information sourced out the internet may be erroneous because information on the internet can be provided by anybody, even by the general public. People still do not realize this.
The internet may be said to contain a lot of erroneous information, it is also pertinent to note that some information over the internet can be trustworthy and verifiable especially those from trustworthy sites like Wikipedia.org, Google Scholars, Brittanica.com and many others.
For public libraries in Nigeria to meet the demands of the general public, information resources need to be provided in a variety of sources including the electronics formats (E-formats) which is the non printed formats, and also the printed formats.
11.                                                                                                                                    Epileptic Power Supply
This is another hindering factor militating against the development of public libraries in Nigeria. As a result of poor funds, public libraries are unable to meet up to the desired power supply demanded for. Power supply is very necessary in all public libraries. Power supply is needed to enable the use of electronic resources and also enable the access of internet service by patrons or users of the public library.

Solutions to the Problems Militating Against the Development of Public Libraries in Nigeria.

As long as public libraries in Nigeria cannot meet up to the major objectives they are establish for, they can be said to be lacking a lot in development. Public libraries were established so as to produce a literate and more educated people in the public and these objectives are made possible through a number of services.
However, there are encumbering factors militating against the development of public libraries in Nigeria which I laid emphasis on above.
There is therefore need to examine the setbacks of public libraries in Nigeria, as well as providing helpful solutions that will alleviate or completely put an end to the problems militating against the development of public libraries. Some of these solutions are listed out below;
·        Outreach literacy programs should be taken seriously by public libraries in Nigeria to encourage reading culture or habits among the general public.
·        Public libraries in Nigeria should deploy the use of information resources of all formats
·        Internet services should be provided in public libraries in Nigeria to encourage students, research scholars, professional workers to patronage the library service
·        Public libraries in Nigeria should only employ employees with degree in library and information science for quality library services
·        The government should play their role in funding public libraries in Nigeria so as to ensure regular power supply, consistent updating of public libraries’ collections etc.
·        Librarians and other staffs working in public libraries should be paid interesting emoluments for encourage of quality services.
·        Appropriate measures should be taken against the mutilation, thefts and other misuse of the public libraries’ information resources.
·        Research should be conducted from time to time to provide new ways of improving public libraries’ services in Nigeria.

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