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‘Why reading culture is on decline amongst students’

What is your take on the reading culture amongst students nowadays?

There is generally a poor reading culture amongst our students these days. It is only when exams are approaching that one sees students coming in to read. This is because they have not developed the culture of continuous reading. They are supposed to read all the time, not only when exams are approaching. Besides, the new communication technology has attracted our youths so much so that they do not embrace reading culture as we had it in the past. A lot of them are now relying on handsets. They feel that what they get in the handsets will take the place of books. There is need for our youths to develop a culture of book reading. They should only compliment it with resources they get from the internet.

What would you say are the factors militating against efficient library services in the state?

As for patronage, many people would want to come down to use the library. But a lot of them come only to meet the inherent challenges in the library.

A reader comes in but the heat makes it hard to settle down. We currently don’t have a solution for the heat situation. If you go to our reading halls, there are no fans and even if there were to be fans, there is no power supply in the library.

A contract was given to connect power to the library in 2014 but the contractor failed to complete the work because of non payment. We have been here since 2004 and we have not had power supply. You can imagine what we have been going through.

You talked about books; when readers get the kind of books they want, they will be attracted to the library, and what are the books they want? Of course current books. I can confidently say that over 90 per cent of the books we have in this library are from donor agencies. The Book Aid International of London has, over the years, supplied us with books.

They have supplied books to many developing countries. They have zones they distribute books to. In Nigeria we have the Northern Zone with headquarters in Kano, the Eastern Zone in Enugu and the Western Zone in Ibadan.

Over the years, we have participated in book sharing across the north, the east and the west. Many of the books we have in the library have their source from these book donations. At a point the ETF came in to assist public libraries with book donations because of the dearth of books in many public libraries.

Unfortunately, however, in 2006, both the Book Aid International and the ETF stopped their assistance to public libraries. The ETF, now TETFUND, said they were not established for public libraries and that they only came in for intervention.

They resolved that after assisting for a period, the government of the various states should take off from there. On its part, the Book Aid International said that having helped public libraries for some years, it was expected of the states to take over from there. But unfortunately, the state has not been able to come to our aid in terms of supplying current books.

Money has not been provided for us to buy books. What I am saying, in essence, is that if you visit our book shelves, the most current books you will find are as old as 2006.

So if you are talking about readers being encouraged to come to the libraries because of the availability of current books, it cannot be from our library because we do not have current books stocked. However, some of the old books, including the science-related books, have remained relevant today and are still utilised by our users.

However, if you observe most of the people that come to make use of the library here, you will find that they come with their own books. Students come with their books in most cases. They come only to utilise the space. Some researchers from universities come here to make use of our encyclopaedia and other materials.

Could you tell us about the condition of facilities and staffing in the library?  

As I speak to you, we do not have enough shelves to display some of the books we have. Electricity is a big problem and furniture is also a problem. If you go to the reading halls, you will find that a lot of the furniture is broken, most of which have been given out. Most of the furniture were donated by corps members.

Since we started operation in this library complex, the government has not offered to furnish this place. What we have here are some of the furniture we brought from our temporary site, many of which were given way over the years, and they have not been restocked.

The library complex also leaks in some places. And you know that leakages are not friends to books. We have leakages all over.

As far as staffing is concerned, we don’t have enough staff. Some of our staff members have retired and there have been no replacements. There has been an embargo on employment in the state and that has affected us adversely. Many a time we take advantage of students that come here on internship. Many a time, I get involved in the library work due to inadequate staff.

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