Varsity libraries short of new books – Survey

Segun Olugbile

University libraries in the country may in no distant time become antiquities.

A survey last week by our correspondent at six of the universities - University of Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Ibadan; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Lagos State University, Ojo; and Bayero University, Kano, showed that the volume of current books and journals was less than 25 per cent.

Although all the university libraries visited claimed to have computerised their operations, there was no evidence of this in most of them.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation recommends that a library must acquire 10,000 books and journals annually. In addition, it must provide seating facilities for at least one quarter of the population of the community in which it is located.

But, all the universities visited by our correspondent did not meet these conditions. However, the University of Ibadan, and the Obafemi Awolowo University, with about a million and 742,000 volumes respectively met the 10,000 additional volume condition.

However most of the books are outdated. They were acquired between the 1950s and 1970s.

The UNILAG, with a students’ population of 36,000, has 350, 000 volumes in its libraries and a seating capacity of 3,000

The OAU with a students’ population of 22,732 has 742,000 volumes.

But the percentage of active materials was put at about 20 per cent by a Librarian, who pleaded anonymity.

The OAU Librarian, Mr. Michael Afolabi, said that the first generation universities used to buy no fewer than 5,000 journals annually but they now struggle to acquire less than 500.

The number, he said, was extremely low when compared with foreign universities like Harvard in the United States that buy about 15,000 journals annually.

Afolabi said because of inadequate funding, the OAU could only subscribe to “a little less than 400 journals” for the current academic session.

Afolabi, who is also the Chairman, Committee of University Librarians, noted that besides the dearth of current journals in higher institutions, textbooks particularly in sciences, medicine and engineering were inadequate.

He said the problems were common to most university libraries in the country.

Technical books, according to him, could only be considered current within the first five years of publication. Most of the books in this category, he added, now come as eBooks.

The Librarian, ABU, Zaria, Prof. Doris Bozimo, said the institution’s library as at last week had 500,000 volumes for its 30,000 students, and academic staff.

Bozimo who put the library’s seating capacity at 2,000 could not provide the percentage of active materials in the library. She only said it was low.

She, however, said that inadequate funding and lack of commitment to library development by the National Universities Commission was responsible for the poor state of libraries in the universities.

Bozimo wondered why the NUC scrapped the library in its office and replaced it with quality assurance unit when it was supposed to have provided leadership for the universities.

She said though 10 per cent of budgetary allocation to each university was meant for library development, government sometimes failed to release such grants. For instance, Bozimo, like Afolabi, said this had not been paid since 2001.

The Librarian, Lagos State University, Ojo, Mr. Tajudeen Seriki, told our correspondent that the library had about 70,000 volumes for over 33,000 students. The university’s library, established in 1984, sits 400 people at a time.

At the Bayero University, Kano, the acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Danjuma Maiwada, said that the school’s library has 200,000 volumes for 30,000 students.

Maiwada who put the library’s seating capacity at 2,000, however, said, the school had awarded a N192million contract for the completion of the second phase of the library extension.

Though the acting Librarian, University of Ibadan, Dr. Georgina Ekpeyong, declined to speak with our correspondent, sources put the volume of books there at about a million. The library, according to the sources, sits about 5,000 users at a time.

The student population is at 25,000.

One of the sources told our correspondent that the percentage of active materials in the library was not more than 25 per cent.

The source said that the provision of $3million by the McArthur Foundation to the university had impacted positively on the ICT facilities at the library.

On the implication of the dearth of current books in the universities’ libraries, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, LASU branch, Dr. Odewumi Esgee, said the nation’s search for solutions to its problems would not be achieved if urgent steps were not taken to redress the trend.

The Punch, Tuesday, March 22, 2005