1 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS TO INFORMATION AND DEMOCRACY: IMPROVING NETWORKING AND ADVOCACY CAPACITIES IN NIGERIA By GBOYEGA BANJO FNLA
2 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS TO INFORMATION AND DEMOCRACY OUTLINE I LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS II NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? III RE- TOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS IV LIBRARY ADVOCACY (AN INTERACTIVE SESSION) V EPILOGUE
3 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS The characterization of libraries as gateways is a reflection of the re-definition and extension of the role of libraries in the context of the information society. The information society can be pictured as a society that uses information intensively and in a way that is not constrained by time or space, a society where transactions of all sorts can be processed electronically, a society where working and living practices have been modified fundamentally by information, computers and telecommunications technology. ( B.O Connor 1998) The development of the information society is driven by parallel technological progress in a range of engineering and electronic fields (microprocessors, satellites, fibre optics, video, data compression, etc) and also by the convergence of the computer industry, the telecommunications industry and the content or knowledge industries i.e..book and newspaper publishing, cinema, photographs and drawings, television, music and other sound recordings. Technology convergence enables content in any combination of media, spoken word, music, still and moving images, numeric data and printed word to be built into new packages of information and distributed to users around the world via packaged disks, terrestrial or satellite broadcast media, computers or television sets.
4 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS Libraries which have embraced the technology are empowered to: use it as an effective tool for networking, resource-sharing and on-line data distribution; act more effectively as filters and sign-posters for their customers to useful information; enhance their services by deploying the internet as a key reference tool, an almost limitless information resource, and a communication device; create web-sites and virtual libraries which can be accessed from any location around the world; Provide access to an increasing number of journals and publications in the electronic or digital formats, particularly in the Science and Engineering fields; Add value to their services by providing skills training in searching techniques for new users
5 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS Public libraries which have embraced the technology, because of their free service and wide accessibility to members of their communities, are able to act as local gateways to information and the promotion of democracy. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information. The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for life-long learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups. IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994 In the evolving information era therefore, technological advances are redefining the form and content of library and information services and reaffirming their role as gateways to the information resources of the world.
6 LIBRARIES AS GATEWAYS In the information era, the library must transcend its present role as producer and purveyor of knowledge and information by acting as a gateway to a wide range and variety of information resources and devices which are in a constant flux. This requires the recognition that quantity and availability do not necessarily guarantee quality and desirable information. In this information environment, libraries have to do more than act as hosts. As change agents, they have a role to play in converting data into information, information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom by providing the means to seek a better future, an increasingly more enlightened world IFLA 1999
7 II NIGERIAN GATEWAYS?
8 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? SET AGAINST THE FOREGOING DISCUSSION, WE WILL NOW EXAMINE THE CURRENT STATE OF LIBRARIES AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN NIGERIA TO DETERMINE WHETHER THEY CAN INDEED BE DESCRIBED AS GATEWAYS TO INFORMATION AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
9 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? By 2010 Nigeria should have evolved into a sustainable Information Society where, among other things, information and decision support systems are used to support decision making in all the major sectors of the economy; every man woman and school child, village, government office and business can access information and knowledge resources through computers and telecommunications; access is available to international, regional and national information highways information and knowledge are disseminated and used by business, the public at large That is the vision of the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) adopted in May 1966 by Nigeria and other African nations at a conference of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
10 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? It is fairly safe to say that Nigeria not likely to have fully achieved that AISI vision on schedule. However, some significant progress is being made, such as: Significant Growth in the number of computer workstations in offices, industries, businesses, research institutions, homes etc Phenomenal growth of the telecommunication sector and vast improvements in Nigeria s access to telephone services by the GSM operators and their achievements in developing a modern telecommunications infrastructure; Growing increase in the number of individuals and corporate organizations with access to the internet. Increase in IT applications in the business sector, particularly in the banking sector; Access to satellite broadcast which has given meaning to the concept of the world as a global village; However, inadequate and epileptic power supply remains one of the major handicaps to these developments. So also are the relatively high costs of equipments and services. And although the number of IT professionals in the hardware and software sectors of the industry is increasing, the quality of services still sometimes leaves much to be desired; Furthermore, given Nigeria s size, its needs and its ambitions, it is fair to state that a lot of ground still remains to be covered in both the physical and technical senses.
11 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? But, more to our purpose, the new technological advances are yet to be embraced in any significant way in the management of Nigeria s libraries and information services Although it has, regrettably, not been possible for me to secure the empirical data to buttress this assertion in time for this presentation, I believe we are on firm grounds to make the following generalizations: Existing applications are extremely few and are still the exception rather than the rule. They are largely limited to libraries in tertiary institutions and special libraries; They are mainly used for providing uncomplicated Online Public Access Catalogues (OPAC), and access to CD-ROMs and the Internet. Crucially, the new technologies have not been used for developing a national networking or resource-sharing capability, nor have they been used for creating local web-sites or databases for distribution on the global information network, the internet.
12 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? The technological inadequacies of the current Nigerian library and information services sector aside, existing libraries are also grossly poorly resourced in the conventional paper format. Library services are generally absent in public primary and secondary schools. Consequently, millions of children whose education do not go beyond secondary education miss the opportunity of developing the information skills needed for self development and those who proceed into tertiary level education do so without having acquired the vital information skills required for studying at that level Library resources in most tertiary institutions are far below the acceptable standards for teaching or research. A World Bank Book Intervention scheme has provided some improvements to the collections of some government-owned universities. Also, under another ongoing initiative, the MTN Foundation s UniversitiesConnect Library, two university libraries have each been specially fitted with state-of-the-art e-library equipments including: 125 networked computers, VSAT equipment and internet connectivity. In spite of these two laudable interventions, the overall situation in most of the libraries in tertiary institutions remains far from satisfactory.
13 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? The National Library of Nigeria is burdened with the dual responsibilities of providing public library services in state branches spread all over Nigeria as well as the traditional national library functions of national bibliographic control. It therefore lacks the funds and capacity to provide the required leadership role for a national resourcesharing/networking service. The provision of public libraries is the responsibility of state and local governments. However, most communities in Nigeria, whether in urban or rural areas, lack public library services of any sort while most of the existing ones are too poorly funded to be able to provide current publications and basic library services. In general, other types of libraries, whether catering for the needs of policy makers or researchers, are unable to offer effective services because of inadequate funding. At every level of the Nigerian society therefore, library services for formal and informal education, policy making, research and development, business, culture and recreation are grossly inadequate and uncoordinated..
14 NIGERIAN GATEWAYS? The sharp decline in library funding have their origins in the drastic reductions in government spending on social services following the devaluation of the Nigerian currency in the 1970s. Consequently, many librarians advocated library cooperation and resource-sharing as ways of ensuring optimal utilization of the nation s scarce library resources. The issues were widely discussed at the 1974 Meeting of the working group on interlibrary lending and the subsequent 1980 Conference on Cooperative Acquisition. Following that conference, the National Library undertook to co-ordinate a national inter-library lending service. But the operation was, at best, small-scale, lacking wide support and it soon fizzled out. To sum up, the following are the salient features of the current state of libraries and information services in Nigeria: Insignificant investment in new technologies Inadequate current information resources in any format in most libraries Absence of resource sharing/networking services Grossly inadequate annual subventions Lack of a central coordinating body for library services Near-total absence of effective school libraries Absence of effective public library services in most communities and the poor state of existing ones
15 III RE-TOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS
16 RE-TOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS The task of reforming and re-positioning Nigeria s libraries and information services for their anticipated role as the gateways to National and global information and knowledge in Nigeria s emerging information society is urgent, difficult and would require the commitment of library managers to a new vision of their profession, a reinventing and re-branding of library services, the implementation of new policies for library development, massive investments in technologies and information resources, increased and regular funding and, crucially, government support. To jump-start the reform process and underline its importance, it is imperative that the Federal Government should urgently convene a high-powered national stakeholders meeting on the reform of library and information services in Nigeria. The meeting should result in affirming the important role of library and information services as gateways to information and democracy in the emerging Nigerian information society and approve a roadmap of vital reforms for their revitalization. It should also approve:.: A budget and funding plans for the reform programme Policies and guidelines on minimum standards on library funding, resources and services The urgent establishment of a National Commission to coordinate library services in Nigeria The urgent review and amendment of the National Library s statute to refocus its responsibilities in line with its new role as the hub for the national network of library and information services.
17 RE-TOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS The National Commission for Libraries and Information Services would be responsible for carrying forward the plans and policies approved at the reform meeting and for advising the appropriate governments and agencies on their implementation. Thereafter, it should, among other things::: Monitor the implementation of standards of funding and services set for various libraries Establish an Endowment Fund to solicit grants and donations, to be utilized for supporting the execution of strategic projects Plan, formulate, develop and recommend national guidelines on library services and advise governments on their implementation Encourage private sector partnership in library development programmes Collate, analyze and publish information relating to libraries in Nigeria. Appraise continually the inadequacies and deficiencies of information resources and services in Nigeria. The National Library of Nigeria will be the hub of the national network of libraries and information services and would be responsible for developing appropriate networking tools and services, e.g. online national union catalogue, inter-library lending services etc Libraries connected to the network would be able to conserve their scarce resources by devoting it to satisfying the primary needs of their user community while the resources for satisfying their secondary needs are sourced from within the network. To accomplish its role as network facilitator and Nigeria s library of last resort, the National Library would require sufficient funds to invest in: : Information resources in a variety of formats Appropriate information and communication technologies and relevant software.
18 RETOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS It is crucial that the importance of a viable school library system should be emphasized in the reform policies, in view of their importance in nurturing early reading and information handling skills. Appropriate recommendations should therefore be made to Federal, State and Local Government education authorities in this regard. Similar emphasis should be given to the urgent need for the reform of public libraries because of their unique role as the most accessible gateways to information and democracy for the vast majority of the people. Special funding should be procured to ensure that they are able to provide access to the internet and offer internet skills training to the public Librarians of the new information era would require skills in handling information on paper, electronic and digital formats and will be required to act as change agents. Library schools need to adjust their curricula for training new entrants to the library profession. Appropriate capacity building courses should also be arranged for the existing library manpower The President, NLA and the Director/CEO of the National Library of Nigeria would have a busy time employing state-of-the art marketing, lobbying and advocacy skills to initiate and promote this reform agenda in the months ahead!
19 RE-TOOLING AND RE-ENGINEERING NIGERIAN GATEWAYS The funds needed to implement the capital and recurrent requirements of these reforms would be very considerable and securing them would require the commitment and support of governments at the local, state and federal levels, as well as the private sector. Some possible sources of such funding for this project as a whole or for relevant parts of it would include: Education Trust Fund, Petroleum Trust Development Fund, MTN Foundation, Niger Delta Development Commission to mention a few, The good news is that there are increasing signs that companies in the Nigerian private sector, particularly in the petroleum, telecommunication and banking sub-sectors, are now devoting large slices of their annual profits to supporting worthy projects, large and small, within their corporate social responsibility remits.
20 IV LIBRARY ADVOCACY
21 LIBRARY ADVOCACY ADVOCACY has been described as the process of turning passive support into educated action of stakeholders It is used by library institutions and associations, among others, as a tool for mobilizing support for library services as a whole or for specific issues e.g. encouraging greater use of library services, support for increased funding for services, support for a new library legislation etc. Its use-/non-use in Nigeria will be discussed in respect of: (i) readership promotion (ii) Librarians Registration Council Decree enactment. Suggestion for making it a more effective tool will be discussed A list of to dos by the NLA or the managers of the Nigerian library sector for which advocacy might be an appropriate tool will be considered. After considering a procedure for planning an advocacy campaign, the session will end with an exercise.
22 LIBRARY ADVOCACY PROCEDURE FOR PLANNING AN ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN Create an Action Plan Goal/Objective Target audiences Key messages Strategies and tactics for getting the message out Budget Campaign timetable Sell the value of the campaign to members Look for sponsors, partners and funding Launching of the campaign Promoting the campaign
23 LIBRARY ADVOCACY EXERCISE Create an action plan for a campaign for mobilizing support a proposal to establish a National Commission For Libraries and Information Services.
24 EPILOGUE Presently the underdeveloped nations of the world are those which came late to the industrial revolution and the underdeveloped nations of the future will be those which will come late to the information revolution Thank you!
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