ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES ON THE LITERACY LEVEL OF NIGERIANS

ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES ON THE LITERACY LEVEL OF NIGERIANS

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CHAPTER ONE

 INTRODUCTION

 1.1 Background of the Study

 Public libraries contribute significantly to the educational development and literacy level of any community. They are often considered as an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries by definition are libraries established and maintained by the government for the entire populace (Otubelu, 2005). Similarly, public libraries are libraries provided wholly or partly from public funds and the use of which is not restricted to any class of persons in the community but freely available to all (Prytherch, 1999). Thus, a public library is the information storehouse and the custodian o1 knowledge for posterity in its community of operation. It is not just the clearing-house for all informational, educational and recreational needs of a community; it is more importantly, a source of power. This power derives essentially from the backdrop of the fact that as storehouses of knowledge and repositories of human heritage, public libraries are primarily saddled with responsibilities bordering on conservation, preservation and of course, transmission of the peoples culture As such, they are not only significant as instrument of social and political changes, but indeed, as the principal guardians of freedom of thought.

 Making their own contribution on important roles play by public libraries, Abel and ISSA (20 12) noted that public libraries assist people to contribute to the growth of knowledge, make much use of leisure as well as promote personal and social well-being, develop their creative and spiritual capacities capable in their daily occupation, discharge political and social obligation to become better members of home and community, keep pace with progress in all fields and educate themselves continuously.

 Public libraries are said to have existed between 28 and 39 B.C in Ancient Rome (Abel and Issa, 2012). They are established with the main mission of

providing access to materials and services to meet the present and future needs of the community they serve. This is amplified by Onadiran in Ejikeme (2004) who maintained that public libraries have a particular aim of serving the general public towards the upliftment of education and awareness of rural and urban persons to enhance aid develop their personalities. The main objective of the public Library system according to the source is to provide information resources to support education, culture and mental relaxation. In order to support education, culture and mental relaxation, public libraries make available materials in both print (books format) and non-print (electronic format) to enlighten and broad the scope of the users.

 The above statement underscores the basic functions of public libraries in providing public enlightenment in areas directly attracting the attention of the community. This also means aiding to eradicate the high illiteracy rate within an’ human society as a step towards the attainment of growth and development. Discussing the task of public libraries Aleyideino (1992) proclaimed that the Public library has the task of assisting the public in their reading skills for the development of its community since literacy is considered as the “bedrock of every development” while the public library is seen as the “focal point of peoples inquiry into physical and social phenomena of their environment” or better still, “the People’s University”. This made Benge (1970) to remark that “the public library, in under-developed countries, should he regarded as an agency among others, that promotes mass education and eliminate illiteracy among people.

 Public libraries can he differentiated from academic, school, and special libraries because they serve the needs of a diverse service population including small children, students, professionals, and the elderly (Whole, 2011). Public libraries are universal libraries. They are expected to serve all kinds of people including young children and people with disabilities or even people who for one reason or the oilier are incapacitated. Such people include patients in the hospitals, prisoners blind, deaf and dumb etc (Aina, 2004). Similarly, the services of the public libraries arc provided for all, irrespective of age, race, sex. religion, nationality, language or social status. According to Otubelu (2005), public libraries also provide services to those categories of users who cannot, for one reason use the regular services and materials for instance rural population, disabled persons, hospital patients and prisoners.

                  Although public libraries serve the public at large, including those who are

also served by other types of library. Irrespective of the types of library, they provide informative benefits to members of immediate communities and environment in

which they are constructed. This is because; they constitute places for all classes of people: all individuals have access to printed and other materials and other information. However, in order to do this, resources are provided and services are organized so as to enable people make use of the library in their own time to service their own informative and educational interest.

 In order to reach out to the citizens, public libraries must provide extension services. Extension services is a virtual ‘library within a library” providing service to schools, shut-ins and various organizations throughout the city. Extension services endeavors to meet the needs of widely scattered residents through its bookmobile, classroom and deposit collections to schools, day cares, fire stations, nursing homes, senior citizen apartments among others through special services such as delivery and pick-up of library materials to shut-ins (Gary. 2010).

 Public libraries extend their services and materials to rural population through the services of the mobile libraries. Mobile libraries are vans which carry materials and staff to the rural population within a state and materials is borrowed out and also those that arc already due are returned in the process (Otuhelu, 2005). Public library extension services such as bookmobile have the potential for a greater variety and quality or service (Friese, 2008). According to Kihat (1990), mobile services have reached segments of the rural population that would not otherwise have any library facilities at all. The bookmobile and its counterparts have brought improvements to rural areas, stimulated reading interest, and have increased general awareness on health, nutrition, child care and family planning among others. To this end, Abel and Issa (2012) rightly stated that it is therefore no coincidence that one of the most significant developments in public librarianship has been the library’s effort to reach out to the community. Thus, Umar (1980) underpins this essence in his observation that a good public library system attempts to serve the entire population with all its dimensions of needs,

 It is necessary’ that the public library makes its extension services available and known to the entire community, thus bringing the need for it to undertake extension services. As Oklah (1987) puts it the value of library’ extension services came with the consideration of the ways the public library can perform its functions effectively, one of which is to reach out to all members of the community library services. Unfortunately, in spite of the lofty goals and laudable aspirations discussed above, public libraries are grappling with a number of challenges such as lack of fund, lack of mobility, inadequate staff, lack of awareness, lack of current materials etc. 

These challenges have in no doubt constituted a problem to public libraries in achieving their objectives in Nigeria. For instance, Abel and Issa (2012) supported that public library system in Nigeria suffers most by ways of neglect, lack of recognition, inadequate funding and personnel which have negatively affected the provision of the desired services by the public libraries.

 The cases of public libraries in Kogi and Benue States are not different from the deteriorated conditions of other public libraries in other part of the country. Kogi State Library Board has four functional branch libraries while on the other hand, the Benue State Library Board has ten branches across the state. Despite the significant roles play by public libraries in bridging information and knowledge gap as documented in the literature, the services rendered by the public libraries in both Kogi and Benue states are still discouraging. Both personnel and facilities required for smooth running of public libraries in the states seem not to he adequate, hence, the failure of the libraries in meeting information and educational needs of the people. This situation has greatly deprived both urban and rural dwellers of the two states from taking the advantage of public library services for growth and development. This is worrisome and instigated the researcher to

empirically examine public library extension services in Kogi and Benue states.

Statement of the problem

                            An important aspect to be considered in the process of inducing the

development of Nigeria is to develop an effective information system mechanism for the nation to be successful in its quest for education for all .An exchange of the required information is necessary to co ordinate, control and directs human activities towards accomplishing their stated objectives. To ensure col1ection and dissemination of information on a regular basis, it may he necessary to develop formal communication channel whereby the public can be informed of development.

 One requires information to communicate effectively and a major channel through which required information can be achieved is public library. Public libraries are recognized as essential resource centres, which no user can afford to dispense if he wants to attain his developmental goa1s. Public libraries continue to play an important role in the adult education programme in sustaining the diverse forms of cultural expressions. This is because, public libraries attempt to meet a wide varies of readers needs, providing varied information resources such as text

books, journals, literary books and other publications. Considering the overwhelming advantages of public libraries therefore, when a society lacks

adequate public library services, its future is in doom. This is because; the illiteracy rate in such society is always very high to the detriment of societal growth and development. A society that is not informed is deformed. The present case of public libraries in Nigerian society is worrisome as major and important services to be provided to the societies by these libraries are lacking and inadequate. The cases of public libraries in Kogi and Benue States are not different,

 In fact, the observations as a result of the visits of the researcher to some public libraries in Kogi and Benue States showed that the public libraries rarely provide extension services 10 rural dwellers in the States. This could among other factors he as a result of’ lack of human and material resources, inadequate funding or poor infrastructure. In spite of the above, no effort has been made to assess public library extension services in these libraries and this may affect the educational, political, and social development of the rural populace. It is against this background that the study was carried out to examine issues surrounding extension services in public libraries in Kogi and Benue State of north central Nigeria in order to fill the existing information gap in knowledge.

Purpose of the Study

 The general purpose of the study was to examine public library extension services in Kogi and Benue States of the North Central Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought to:

1.       Identify public library extension services available in these libraries

2.       Identify resources employed in the provision of public library extension services in these libraries

3.       Examine the level of awareness of public library extension services in these

libraries

4.       Examine the purposes for public library extension services in the two states.

5.       Identify the challenges confronting public library extension services in these libraries

6.       Proffer strategies for enhancing public library extension services in these

libraries

Research Questions

            This study was guided by the following research questions

1.   What are the public library extension services available in Kogi State Library Board Lokoja and Benue State Library Board Makurdi?

2.   What are the resources employed in the provision of public library extension services in these libraries

3.   What is the level of public library extension services awareness in these

libraries?

4.   What are the purposes for public library extension services in these libraries’?

5.   What arc the challenges confronting public library extension services in these libraries?

6.   What are the strategies for enhancing public library extension services in these

libraries?

Significance of the Study

 The findings of this study will be of great benefit to the following groups of people; the disadvantaged, public, primary and secondary schools, departments of library and information science, other researchers in related fields and library administration.

 To the disadvantaged people in the society, the findings that will emerge from this study will help to improve extension services of public libraries to those who cannot ordinarily make use of the libraries due to their living very far from a library facility. This is because, through the findings, the need and purposes of public libraries in society building will he made known to stakeholders for necessary actions at the advantage of the people.

                       To public primary and secondary schools, the result of the study if well

utilized will provide an avenue for them to continually improve the reading culture of their pupils and students especially after school and during the holidays. This is because; the findings of this study will serve as eyes openers to the management of Nigerian school system to proffer solution to their ill-fated service delivery in the states and nation in general.

 The findings of this study will also he beneficial to departments of library and information science in that it will provide literature which will iii turn add to the existing literature on the subject matter. In addition, researchers in related area will greatly benefit from the result in that, the material will form an important reference tool that will sharpen the focus of their studies. To the library administration, the findings of the study will expose them to the major challenges confronting the provision of extension services so as to make case for improve public extension

services in these libraries.

Scope of the Study

 This study was Limited to Benue and Kogi states of the north central Nigeria. Kogi and Benue State are located in north central Nigeria. They arc bounded by Nasarawa. Niger, Kwara, E.nugu. Cross River and Taraha States respectively.

Specifically, the study assessed public library extension services in Kogi State Library Board lokoja and Benue State Library Board Makurdi in terms of public library extension services and resources available for public library extension services, level of awareness and the need for such services, challenges confronting public library extension services and strategies for enhancing public library

extension services.


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