The authorities should invest in public libraries

Since poor reading habit is causative of the poor performance of most students in school assessments and examinations, we endorse the decision by the National Librarian, Professor Lenrie Aina, for the National Library to promote reading culture among school children in the country and distribute books to pregnant women in some hospitals. As we have said on this page repeatedly, there is a connection between the reading culture of a people and the development of their society.

In most countries, public libraries are a serious component of the education curricular based on the recognition that without such resources, it is practically impossible to improve on literacy. A functional library helps in providing information to the society in different formats in the bid to encourage and promote a good reading culture which is a sine-qua non to personal and indeed national development.

But in Nigeria today, public libraries, often named “the poor man’s university,” are kept unattractive and poorly maintained while in most cases, the infrastructural facilities are inadequate. Besides, the books in stock are dated just as it is a rarity to stumble on new and current journals. Indeed, reference materials, where they exist, are old and dusty.

We have neglected this vital aspect that can help extend knowledge to a vast majority of our people. A reading culture cannot evolve until we resuscitate public libraries across the country so that those who want to read would know where to access such relevant materials.

It is rather ironical that in an information and knowledge-driven world, those in position of authorities in our country are still not conscious of the importance and the need for libraries in our public space. A way out of this malaise is for government and private organisations to establish after school book clubs, where youths can borrow books, read and learn. By inculcating the culture of reading, youths will overcome the threat and overbearing influence of the social media and computer games that are hindering their development. Failure to invest in them through a virile and well-nurtured educational foundation will compromise and imperil the nation.

A book club is like an educational resource centre that will curb the idleness of our children and enable them to deploy their free time toward self-development by acquiring skills that will prepare them for life in a rewarding environment. It will cure their phobia for bulky books and nurture their interest for reading poetry and literature. In addition, by forming reading clubs, youths will be split into groups where they will discuss, critique, analyse and hone their public speaking skills. We implore government to provide functional libraries in our public schools and ensure that are manned by trained librarians.

Again and again, UNESCO has harped on the fact that functional libraries are very important to the development of any society, arguing that “a well-read mind is assertive, articulate and seeks information to help solve daily challenges.” This is because people who read are more alert and empowered while a good reading culture improves the academic performance of children and students and also helps their mental development outside the classroom environment. In a knowledge-driven world, the relevant authorities in Nigeria will do well to invest in public libraries and make them attractive to meet the informational, educational and the recreational needs of the people.