26 Dec 2013

ENHANCING READING CULTURE: THE ROLE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES

By Poisefreak,
Thursday, December 26, 2013


While in school I had been quite addicted to reading, I majored in History and so it was imperative that I dedicated at least two hours of my day to reading something new. The hostels were very rowdy most of the time, and reading in class was out of the question, so the next best place I sought comfort was the Library. I spent a good number of my University days at the Library, after a while I worked there, so the affinity was one that lasted till my final year.

Libraries have always been a “treasure house” of some sort to me, and in my opinion, a well-equipped and stocked library is as good as Santa being real and delivering gifts to my doorstep. The essence of a Library is in its ability to meet the need of the adventurous reader who would want to broaden his/her knowledge but has no personal access to a wide range of books. A good library should not only serve as a conducive environment to study, but should also be a place where up-to-date referrals can be found to aid learning. There are about 11 public libraries in Lagos state, but a majority of these Libraries offer merely a conducive atmosphere to study. After paying visits to one or two of these libraries, and speaking to a few people, one can readily conclude that the development of national treasures as libraries has taken the back burner on the agenda of the state. The State Public Library at Shagari Estate, Ipaja is a forlorn looking building with no sign of life upon entering its gates, inside you find a lone security guard at an old looking table who upon noticing you are “new” asks you if you would like to register to be a member of the library, or just read.


With the ASUU strike still on, it was clear on my visit that more young people turned in to the library to either work on their final year thesis, or just catch up on where they left off when the strike started (with the hope that the strike would be called off). The Library was eerily quiet, with the ceiling fans rotating at an exasperatingly slow motion, (all that came to mind was one of those scenes in a mob movie where stooges are made to count money in hot rooms in Panama). A good number of the sockets in the library were bad, which made it very difficult to work with a laptop. The same goes for most of the other public libraries in Lagos, where it seems people are only allowed to read, and not “study”. Books available in these Libraries are very outdated, with not much literature available for readers who would like to engage in specialized research. There is not back up plan for electricity in these libraries, and as such, when power is out, readers are left to read in a stuffy atmosphere. I would like to mention at this point that it is ordinarily very rare to find people who visit public libraries, and I wonder why no one is making a conscious effort to draw people to the library as more than a building with whitewashed walls, but as a place where knowledge can be acquired. In an era where almost everything is computerized, a good number of the public libraries are lagging behind, (I mean stone ages) and a visit to the section of the Lagos State Government’s website provided for the Lagos State Library Board showed that no one is ready to embrace an electronic library in the nearest future.

I made it a point to access the web presence of a good number of public libraries in the United States, and it dawned on me that we really do have a long way to go when it comes to the role of public libraries in enhancing reading culture. In a state as urban as Lagos, one would expect that Libraries would be developed enough to compete with contemporaries of their status in other countries in the world. There are several Higher institutions of learning in Lagos state, including the Lagos State University, University of Lagos, Yaba College of Technology and Lagos State Polytechnic to name a few. The students who attend these schools cannot rely alone on the libraries in their institutions for whatever research work they might need to take on. The Lagos state government should make it a part of their agenda (and not just politically) to really enhance the Libraries we have in the state. Apart from the usual “facelift” on the outside that is typical of political “renovations” of public infrastructure, the eleven Public Libraries in Lagos state should be completely reorganized and redesigned to meet up with the 21st century. These Libraries should be equipped with state of the art computers and internet, as well as books that would bring the average reader up to date in whatever topic he/she might be interested in (this is not to say archives are not important). The transformation of Public libraries in Lagos state would be the first step in campaigning for the infusion of a sustainable reading culture amongst young people.

I would like to acknowledge the fact that Rome was not built in a day, and that there are a number of factors militating against the proper development of Public Libraries in Lagos state (funding et al), but the future of Nigeria is at stake, and more attention should really be directed at encouraging people to want to read. Public Libraries (where well equipped) would be a good gift to communities where they are, as it would function to increase the level of literacy of people, as well as provide the “grassroots” with “dividends of democracy” vis-à-vis computer literacy and connection to the wider world via the internet. It would also serve to enhance Adult Literacy, and events could be put together to develop people’s interests in fields that could become valuable to the state’s economy. The development of Public Libraries would also mean the creation of job opportunities for young men and women who can share their theoretical and technical skills and put them to use for the development of the people the Libraries play host to.

Reading is a great way to pass time, but imagine a situation where reading is amplified by the government you voted for with state of the art equipment and books to keep your brain “nourished” for days on end, where you can feel like you are a part of something great. That is what our public libraries should be if we are interested in encouraging the art of reading amongst young people, and Nigerians in general.




Links to Websites of some Public Libraries in the U.S
Brooklyn Public Library
L.A Public Library
Chicago Public Library






Poisefreak has a passion for educational development in Nigeria. An avid reader, closet political analyst and daytime writer, she hopes to change the face of education in Nigeria one blog post at a time.

1 comment:

  1. At Puzzlextra we know that whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. - W. Cronkite. Great post. https://www.facebook.com/puzzlextra

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