- Booker .T. Washington
The importance of books in the process of education can not be undermined. In the Nigerian society, education is not complete without the introduction to certain texts. If you were a student of literature, you could not escape reading certain texts that were mandatory as stipulated in the curriculum. Most young people drew inspiration from books such as Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Soyinka's The Lion and the Jewel, while others became disciples of Shakespeare after reading texts like Hamlet, and Julius Caesar.
For those who were not students of the arts, certain text books were very important to them in their quest for knowledge. Authors such as Ababio were revered because of the constant demand for text books on subjects as Chemistry and Physics. Not to stray too far from the point here, books have always been an important part of education, and indeed, the life of the average Nigerian youth, whether willing or unwilling.
In every educational institution, it is expected that there be a standard library where students can go not only to read, but also to consult books they might not have access to on their own. Indeed, from the secondary school level, schools provide libraries where students go to read when exams are drawing nigh, or when they just want to broaden their knowledge. A library can be described as a gateway to knowledge, and as such it often than not plays a fundamental role on the development of the willing student. It is expected that a standard library would provide enough resources and services to create opportunities for creativity and innovation in the academic life of a student. this creativity, most times, is not often limited to just excelling in academics, but also spreads to the students interaction even outside the walls of the school. The essence of the library is to support literacy and education, as well as serve as a point of contact between the student and the basic knowledge they need to come up with new ideas and perspectives that would shape their contribution to the growth of education. Generally speaking, it would be difficult to make headway in research, as well as preserve human knowledge if standard libraries do not exist in an institution, or if development of same is not encouraged in society. In other words, one can not undermine the importance of having a standard library in every school.
In Nigeria, one would take it for granted that every school indeed has a library in place to safeguard the student's quest for knowledge beyond what is offered by teachers/lecturers in the classrooms/lecture theater. It is very sad that in some schools in the south western part of the country, there are no standard libraries for students. Most times, the books owned by the school are locked up in stores within the school premises, while in some cases, teachers resort to giving out these books to students to take home. In situations such as these, the students end up mutilating these books, or in worse cases, losing them. In other schools where something in the semblance of a library exists, students are not given an orientation of the importance of broadening their knowledge, and as such, books gather dust, and students are quite content with the notes given them by their teachers.
The same can be said of some tertiary institutions in the country today. Apart from a handful of schools, it is quite erroneous to assume that all tertiary institutions in the country have standard libraries. For instance, when i was putting my final project together in school, i took out time to visit the library of a certain college of education in one of the south western states, i was in desperate need of a book that would provide insight to the development of one of the townships in the state. Alas, the library was in terrible condition, all i was able to get my hands on were past projects written by students of the school, none touching on the topic i was researching. In my opinion, it is quite unacceptable for a tertiary institution not to have a standard library.
A standard library should have books, old and recent on as many topics as possible; there should be adequate space for students to sit down to read, and there should be an enabling environment to do so. It is not enough to get accredited for the courses studied in the institutions, i believe schools should also be checked to be sure that they indeed have a well stocked library for students. The federal government should also make sure that books are provided for these schools to prevent the prevalence of empty libraries in schools. I have also noticed that in some schools where we find libraries that appear to be "well stocked", it happens that the books there are most times outdated, and as such of little use to the students who might need them. These should be checked, more funds should be put into the acquisition of the most recent publications, especially in the tertiary institutions to further research and keep the student abreast of new innovations.
Students should also be given proper orientation on the importance of libraries in their education. Most times, in tertiary institutions, you find students who only visit the library when exams are near. In most cases, some students never visit the library in their schools until it is time for them to write their final thesis! Most times, students complain that the books in the library are outdated, as mentioned earlier, and as such save up their money to purchase books that would meet their needs. (This is very common with students in the sciences and engineering).
Some students claim that they can do without reading books in their raw form, as they can go on the internet to search for whatever reading materials they need. In truth, the internet has indeed revolutionized the way things are done; however, libraries have also evolved too. In some schools like the University of Lagos, there are online catalogs that help the student find whatever references they might need for any topic they might be interested in. These help the average student to approach term papers and theses with a much more academic approach, and helps the student save money on the textbooks they might have had to purchase.
Libraries are very important to the development of education. Apart from encouraging literacy, it helps to broaden the knowledge of those who use them. In order to sustain the faith of Nigerian students in the Library system, more user-friendly libraries should be established in schools. Also, the federal government in conjunction with the state government should do more to develop the public libraries established in the country. It is not enough to establish libraries where we have books published over 20 years ago. To revamp the educational system vis-a-vis student performance, the reading culture should be re-introduced, with the provision of up-to-date libraries for those who are interested in them. Also, book fairs should be organized in conjunction with public libraries to encourage young writers and create a means of livelihood for those who have talent in writing.