Professor Chinwe Veronica Anunobi is the new National Librarian and Managing Director of the National Library of Nigeria (NLN). In this interview, she talks about the key priority areas of her administration and how she intends to reposition the apex library in Nigeria. CLEMENT IDOKO brings extracts;
What do you think can be done differently to improve the services provided by the National Library of Nigeria?
My mandate here is no different from the mandate of the National Library of Nigeria itself. I am therefore ready to contribute my share in the implementation of the mandate of the organization which is: to assemble, maintain and expand a collection of books, periodicals, brochures, newspapers, maps, musical scores, films and recordings, among others. suitable for a library of the highest quality. The mandate also includes establishing and maintaining a branch of the National Library of Nigeria in each state and making the facilities of the National Library of Nigeria available to the public and others on appropriate terms.
We are commissioned to research and collect Nigeria’s knowledge heritage as produced in Nigeria, outside and about it. We must process them and keep them for posterity, make them visible and accessible to the reading public even beyond the coasts of this country. We must work to preserve our cultural heritage from extinction. This mandate places enormous responsibility on the National Library of Nigeria, holding it as the custodian of all past, present and future historical, social, political, legal and economic information of the nation.
It is therefore my duty to take over and continue the relay race. My administration will tackle this immense mandate by addressing traditional and information technology-based businesses.
Can you share the main areas of interest in your NLN repositioning offering?
The first is the digitization and development of the Nigeria National Repository (NRN). We are going to progress assiduously in the digitization of our collections. It is not only a question of preserving it, but also of making it accessible to the public in a more accessible way. We will start this immediately after we resolve any copyright issues with the respective copyright owners. While we haven’t acquired all the necessary scan scanners yet, we have some that we can get started with. Following digitization and with some available in Nigeria in electronic form, we will develop and implement the Nigeria National Repository (NRN).
Another focus is the area of virtual library services. My administration will take advantage of information technology and make things more convenient for the public. As a result, it will no longer be necessary for people to physically visit our branches before accessing our materials. They will only need the access points (computer and internet) of the national library and the services will be accessible to them. We plan to pursue this from two angles; first, our indigenous materials through the Nigeria National Repository (NRN) which will form the database that will be available to global and national communities. Second, we plan to subscribe to global databases and make them available to our users. We want to explore the possibility of making a universal subscription on behalf of all consumers of such databases and then giving them home access, according to their needs. This will not only help reap the benefits of economies of scale, but more importantly, will help our nation to retain foreign currency that would have been used for subscriptions, if done individually.
We will also focus on automating Library operations and services. Advances in technology have made it easier and faster for us to get results than usual. We will exploit the advantages offered by information technology tools to make life easier for our customers. By that, before the end of my administration, we would have completely eliminated the file catalogs and in their place a unified catalog of public access online (OPAC) which will link the documents in all our branches. This will be part of our virtual library services. Through OPAC, users of the National Library will confirm availability and therefore access any resources that the National Library of Nigeria may provide.
Are there any plans to provide library services to hard-to-reach people or to improve the environment for side libraries?
One of the main thrusts of NLN’s strategic plan is to provide a wider reach of information and bibliographic services to Nigerians through its rich collections. In addition, our branches are only located in state capitals. However, some members of the public are also entitled to use our services, but due to various circumstances, they may not use or afford access to our resources. Chief among them are internally displaced citizens, those in Correctional Detention Centers (CCCs) and remote areas of our senatorial districts. To bridge this gap, we will explore ways to give this class of citizens a sense of belonging by offering them our services.
Also, the mandate to have a branch of the National Library in all the states of the federation was vigorously pursued by my predecessors. At present, we have 34 functioning branches of the National Library. We have seven in the Center-North including FCT, five in the North-West, six in the North-East, six in the South-West, four in the South-East and five in the South-South. We have yet to establish our presence in four states, namely; Anambra, Delta, Kebbi and Zamfara.
However, of the 34 branches, 21 are operating in temporary buildings while 14 are either in fully completed or to be completed prototype buildings. My administration will endeavor to establish branches in the remaining four states, work towards the completion of the prototypes of buildings already started, and engage in the continuous improvement of the internal and external environments of the already existing branches.
It is also important to clarify that the 2020-2024 strategic vision of the National Library is to connect and build informed citizenship. In addition to our ongoing awareness campaign through a readership promotion campaign, we intend to launch a program called the ‘Family Book Club’, where families and communities will be encouraged to document their biographies preferably in local communities. indigenous languages. In doing so, we would have improved literacy and preserved, in print, our cultural heritage from extinction.
The National Library also serves as the memory of our nation. So, I am looking at how we can bring into our fold some of our precious and rich legacies that we are losing to modernity. Whether they are in oral or physical form, we will collect them and keep them as much as we can. Soon we will be contacting the custodians of these resources, namely traditional and government institutions as well as families, on how we can achieve this.
In order to encourage readership in schools, we will endeavor to collaborate with schools in the unit to facilitate the establishment and management of school libraries. Thus, we will cultivate a culture of reading oriented towards the construction of an informed citizenship. This is prompted by a preliminary finding that aside from schools in the Federal Capital Territory, many other schools do not observe library periods as part of their curriculum.
What do you think of the previously abandoned National Library of Nigeria headquarters project in Abuja?
Mr. President gave the directive that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) should take charge of the completion of the National Library building. The President has spoken and the Ministry has taken it up; there have been a series of meetings on this and we hope the project will be completed soon. It is indeed a national monument and located at a strategic location. Efforts are underway to complete the project.
On the issue of funding; the National Library provides social services, we do not generate funds, but the truth is that the government will not always provide enough funds.
One thing I can assure you is that my administration will explore opportunities such as partnership and how organizations through their corporate social responsibilities could help us.
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