Reviewed By: Morgan Barker, Mary Calo, Michelle Reid, James Rice, Heather Waisanen, and Kaitlin Watkins
Link to article: https://sajlis.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/1639/1474
This study examines the factors that hamper access to and use of public library services in Nigeria – both urban and rural (Salman, Mugwisi, & Mostert, 2017). Obasi (2015) noted low development of the country’s public libraries with limited branches, lack of information and communication technology (ICT), a shortage of human and information resources, and inadequate rural information networks. Nigeria’s public library system was originally established in 1952, during the colonial era. In 1953 public libraries were placed under the control of a state agency created by the Nigerian government. Initially they were seen as a tool for continuing education for children who exited school at an early age and for remedying educational system deficiencies (Obasi, 2015). However, after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the unstable economy and political structure led to a decline in quality of service. Several challenges have hampered use of the services, including inappropriate reading materials, inadequately trained staff, high illiteracy rates, the lack of a reading culture, and irregular electricity supplies (Harris, 1970; Salman, 2006).
This case study seeks to establish levels of access to services and facilities offered in Nigeria’s public libraries, gauge the use, and satisfaction of services. Based on the data the authors extrapolate the lack of support for public libraries in the country and offer eight recommendations to address these issues with the overall goals of better serving all Nigerian libraries and fulfilling the roles designated by IFLA’s Public Library Service Guidelines (Koontz & Gubbin, 2010).
This article showcases an international perspective through a lense of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), the IFLA Public Library Service Guidelines (Koontz & Gubbin, 2010), and the IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto (1994). The authors also compare their findings with studies from around Africa, Singapore, Kuwait, China and West Bengal (India).
The article considers the following core research questions:
What are the current levels of access to library services, and facilities in Nigeria?
What factors (if any) obstructed access to, and utilization of public library services in Nigeria?
Were library users aware of the depth, and breadth of services available to them?
Were there any patterns of library service utilization that could be identified?
Were library users satisfied with the library services they were aware of?
Secondary research focus:
Expanding the study to include the views of current librarians, to give the study a broader perspective.
The authors used a case study approach in order to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The case study included questionnaires administered to 394 registered library users (out of a countrywide total of 29,277), and interviews conducted with 12 librarians. The library users were chosen using convenience sampling while the librarians were selected based on their positions as the highest qualified from each of the branches. Due to multiple limitations faced by the authors, nonprobability sampling was used throughout (Israel, 1992). The authors used a purposive sample of libraries, as a truly random sample was not feasible due to both large distances between locations and personal safety concerns. Using a purposive sample of extremes, they selected one State Board library and one rural library from each of the six regions in Nigeria. Because nonprobability sampling was used, it is not possible to generalize the results of the case study to the entire population of library users in Nigeria with a measurable degree of certainty. However, the consistency of results across the twelve libraries does provide a high level of confidence, particularly for male library users (who made up 85% of the convenience sample). Library non-users were excluded in this case study.
Findings and Conclusions:
The authors conclude by focusing on main service drivers – awareness and access. The study, however, excluded marketing elements used in Nigeria. The impact of marketing would have provided context for types of users being spoken to, what services were being advertised, etc. For example, the authors found that the majority of respondents were students, male, and highly educated. Marketing materials could provide a broader look at what the authors highlight as government responsibilities, in regards to library services. The author’s concluded that development and empowerment of the population is an especially critical goal. Those who are not male, students, or educated may not see any relevant means to access services – as awareness campaigns may not be structured to meet their needs. A needs analysis is a critical component mentioned by the authors, as a comprehensive respondent pool would add validity to these efforts in Nigeria.
Takeaway – American Libraries:
This study poignantly revealed several challenges to Nigerian libraries’ ability to successfully provide relevant services to the general population. Not surprisingly, rural libraries are impacted more than urban libraries. Barriers to access include an overarching lack of awareness from the public as well as irrelevant, outdated, and limited library materials. Usage and user satisfaction remains closely tied to access, and therefore these barriers significantly reduce libraries’ ability to impact the community. Though Nigeria may seem to exist worlds apart from the United States, many of these same barriers to access exist for marginalized communities served by public libraries found within this country. Similar to Nigeria, rural libraries in the United States are granted fewer resources resulting in less available, often outdated materials. Much like in Nigeria, U.S. libraries tend to direct services and materials towards the privileged populations and through a white lens. This practice overlooks the specific information needs of marginalized populations; increasing barriers to access and reducing overall usage and satisfaction from the general population served.
Libraries within the United States may benefit from careful consideration of the results found within this study. First, the recommendations call for community engagement, critical and specific community information needs assessments, and collaboration from community partners in program and service development. This call to action requires increased library outreach, partnership, and actively listening to the voice of the population served. Second, libraries need to be funded consistently across states and populations. Without financial aid, libraries are unable to provide the services and materials necessary to support their communities. Finally, library staff must engage in continuous education focusing on cultural competency, the specific needs of the population, and the most effective ways to reach that population in meeting identified needs. Though conducted in Nigeria, this study, once again, highlights the critical importance of a deep knowledge, respect, and collaboration with the community. Only then will libraries establish a culturally relevant practice and service to the population served.
Harris, J. (1970). Libraries and librarianship in Nigeria at mid-century. Paper delivered at the Nigerian Library Association Conference. Lagos. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED053768
IFLA/UNESCO. (1994). IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto. Retrieved from http://www.ifla.org/publications/iflaunesco-public-library-manifesto-1994
Israel, G.D. (1992). Sampling the evidence of extension program impact. University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences PEOD5. Retrieved from: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pd005
Obasi, N.F.K. (2015). Indices of access to information in nigerian public libraries and citizens’ political participation. Retrieved from: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Salman, A.A. (2016). Provision and utilisation of public library services in nigeria. [PhD thesis]. University of Zululand.
Salman, A.A., Mugwisi, T., & Mostert, B.J. (2017). Access to and use of public library services in Nigeria. South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, 83(1), 26–38.