John Shiklam who visited the Gusau Institute, Kaduna, writes that the library stocked with over 25,000 books, is a researcher’s delight
The Aliyu Mohammed Gusau Library is a researcher’s delight. It is cosy, serene and upon stepping in, you are welcomed by a scholarly spirit that pervades the large hall stocked with over 25,000 books.
The inside naturally spurs the visitor with its comfortable corners for reading and easy access to volumes.
Since time immemorial, libraries remained one of the most credible sources to human knowledge with wide range of resources.
The second section of the library, located on the third floor of the four storey building is stocked with hundreds of bound volumes of newspapers, magazines, journals and video tapes on various events in the country.
The library is one of the core components of the Gusau Institute (GI), founded about six years ago by Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd) who served variously as National Security Adviser and Minister of Defence.
Located at No.1 Dendo Road, Off Ahmadu Bello Way in the northern city of Kaduna, the library aspires to be the preferred research destination in Nigeria for post graduate researchers on wide variety of subjects.
Researchers from across the globe will find the archive of newspapers, magazines and videos very useful. The newspapers and magazines dated as far back as 25 years provide a clear perspective of affairs over the past quarter of a century.
Another section, located on the other wing of the building contains historical pictures and pictorial documentary of Gusau’s stages in life, particularly his military career, public service as well as his numerous awards within and outside the country.
Mohammed Isa Suleiman, the Librarian who spoke to THISDAY during a tour of the library, said latest technologies were being deployed to digitalise the library.
He dismissed fears that the advent of the internet and Information Communication Technology (ICT), are a threat to libraries, arguing that “although we are in a digital age, the emergence of new technologies will never displace libraries as libraries provide more credible information than the internet where every manner of information is posted.”
According to him, “we are in an era of information explosion. Information and ICT come with new developments but it has its disadvantages.
“For instance if you google Nigeria, you will get about 500 million results. So which one do you select? Which one do you use? That is why the information in the book is more reliable and accurate than the one in the internet.
“If you come to look for a particular book, you can get it precisely where it is. One thing with the cyber space is that anybody can just write something and post. Whether it is an authority or not, whether the information is correct or wrong. Everybody is free to post or publish any information. Somebody may go searching and Google will bring such result at your disposal.”
He maintained that, in the case of a book, it has to undergo some stages of scrutiny before publishing which ensures a good level of accuracy.
“So the technologies are not a threat to libraries because we have libraries and information centres. Most libraries are information centres. What distinguishes a library from information centre is the introduction of ICT,” he said.
According to him, information centres basically provide information related task, using computers and information technology while libraries provide information related task with books, paper, CD and other hard wares.
He revealed that the Gusau Library is deploying the latest technologies to make research materials easily accessible to users.
He said for instance, that plans were under way to convert the newspapers and videos into e-Granary to make them easily accessible.
“e-Granary is a digital library that you can access more than millions of books. It is not on the internet, it is an opened and free source and we intend to scan editions of past newspapers and convert them to portable document format (PDF),” he explained.
Suleiman said, after converting them to PDF, they would be uploaded to e-Granary so that library users can access them.
“It will not be online, if you come here with your laptop, we will connect you to the e-Granary through wi-fi and we will set up the browser on your laptop and you will use the browser to access the newspapers,” he said.
According to him, all the VHS video tapes had been converted into a hard drive. “We have somebody who is converting all our videos into a system where they can be saved forever.
“But for record purposes, we will keep the VHS video tapes as the original sources so that anyone who wants to access them can get them. For anyone who wants to randomly access the videos, we have them in our computer where you can search for what you want,” he said.
Most of the videos were tailored towards the need of Gusau, who according to him, is connected to things that have to do with security, history, international relations and issues concerning Nigeria.
“Some of the videos have to do with the Oputa Panel, some are on panel of enquiries, etc. But we are trying to put all the videos in a format and in order before we allow people to have access to them.
“For now we open our doors to people for the use of the books only. We are still working on the newspapers and magazines tirelessly to ensure that everything is put in a format that is easy before our users start using them.” He noted that information is not only limited to books, pointing out that video tapes are also sources of reliable and authentic information. “So we are trying to expand how our users can get information from videos.”
He stressed that apart from books, there is also a digital library which has more than 25,000 volumes of books which can be accessed on the premises.
“Our digital library is a reliable source, it is not like any source you can access on the internet. Some authorities in the United States decided to get materials online, vet them out and put them in a small hard drive of two terabytes which can be accessed from anywhere while you are in our premises.
“You have the whole of Wikipedia downloaded on that device. So you can come here and use the device without connecting to the internet. If you go to some universities in the United States, South Africa and some countries, they don’t necessarily use internet, they use intranet.
“They can get selected videos and put them in their server so that students and researchers can only have access to recommended and vetted videos. With your intranet, you can have billions of resources in a particular device and your students can have access. That was the reason why we promoted the use of intranet than internet because the internet has been saturated with all kinds of information. But with intranet you can get reliable and precise information,” he said.
Suleiman said most of those who visit the library are people that are into serious research, especially those who are doing their masters, PhD, university lecturers and other private individuals engaged in doing research.
“The library opened six years ago, we have more than 500 members both within and outside the country. We have people coming from the United States, Germany, Ireland, just to use the facility,” he said.
He said efforts were being made by the library to create awareness among Nigerians on how to use the library and how to search for information online.
He noted that most people will go to Google and spend the whole day searching for a particular information without getting the required result.
No matter what, libraries will continue to play an important role as a repository for knowledge in any society despite the emerging technologies. The use of these technologies as exemplified by the Gusau Library, testifies to the fact no technology can take the place of libraries.