What can we do to harness library policy and legislation to build the future of African libraries?
Why library legislation & policy
Library legislation and library policy have a significant impact on the future of African libraries. Most significantly, libraries must be redefined to suit the present needs of the communities they serve. Despite their differences in type, libraries all serve the same purpose: to provide equitable access to knowledge for everyone. Thus, with appropriate legislations and regulations, libraries are positioned at all levels of society to act as the society’s information core, whether through e-library or physical library facilities. In our evolving modern culture, libraries’ duties have grown beyond only providing a reading area to serving as a communal hub for societal growth and development.
As Zulu, Ngoepe, and Saurombe (2017) quote Kantumoya in 1987, a country needs library legislations in order to provide adequate and essential public library services. These services supports the needs of society and cope with the issues of current developments in information provision, which require constant funding to keep up.
Libraries as societal needs
Libraries are institutions that engage in a variety of activities and operations. They require a consistent flow of cash to carry out their given responsibilities. Libraries require consistent financing to do their mission. This may be ensured by appropriate regulations governing their Zulu, Ngoepe, and Saurombe activities (2017).
Increased access to information and knowledge, underpinned by universal literacy, according to IFLA (2015) is a necessary pillar of sustainable development, as stated in Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 – “ensure public access to information and the protection of fundamental rights in accordance with national law and international agreements.” How does this relate to society progress, and how are library law and policy reforms strategically important for promoting inclusive social growth and development?
A country’s economic, social, cultural, and political life are facilitated by extensive use of information, which contributes significantly to the country’s national income and revenue and provides employment for the majority of the people. Kanczak and Szoltysick, 2006, as cited in Ajegbomogun & Ajegbomogun, 2015). a community is built on the foundation of information literacy, and libraries’ main responsibility is to ensure that everyone has equal access to knowledge. A well-informed, educated society needs library law and policy improvements, according to this theory.
Data, advocacy & library legislation
According to the International Federation of Library Associations’ (IFLA) World Library Map, Nigeria has 1,131 libraries: 26 national libraries, 815 academic libraries, and 290 public libraries (IFLA World Library Map, 2018). This translates to one library per 176,834 Nigerian inhabitants.
There is an urgent need for effective and efficient library legislation that will result in improved funding, infrastructure, resources (physical and electronic) and capacity development for libraries in both school and community contexts. As a consequence, Nigerians would develop into more educated and literate citizens who will support government decision-making and contribute meaningfully and actively to Nigeria’s and Africa’s socio economic prosperity.
Since libraries and librarians aren’t measuring their impact, policy makers will be reluctant to make changes to library legislations & policies if there is no evidence of the positive influence libraries have on people’s well-being.
From the above, it’s evident that the lack of good library policies is a big hindrance to giving equal access to information for everyone in order to build educated and literate people who would drive progress for Nigeria’s socio-economic growth and the African continent. As a result of this lack of information and data, there are no actions to review and implement effective & efficient library legislation & policies in Nigeria and some Africa. Development partners have begun to collect data for advocacy that will be geared toward policy reform in Nigeria and Africa, as a result of this lack of information. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ IFLA World Library Map and Library Aid Africa’s and the Goethe Institut’s Library Tracker both use digital technology and citizen engagement approaches to gather and provide data on library functionality and efficiency in schools, communities, and institutions, as well as the geographic location of libraries. Libraries throughout Africa will benefit from this data in their efforts to promote library development, capacity, financing, and policy changes, which will ultimately contribute to the socioeconomic growth of each African country.
Charting a path forward
Legislation is required, according to Shachaf (2005) and Edem and et al (2017), in order to assist librarians and library authorities in the administration of libraries. As a result, a government’s library program is required in order for the government to progress in any sector.
Edem et al. (2017) outlined particular library law needs:
- It defines the area’s public library system organization and the necessary agencies.
- It shields public libraries from bureaucracy and politics, allowing the system to run smoothly.
- It tackles the issue of neglect and ensures adequate financing for public library expansion.
- Public participation in public libraries is encouraged by library legislation.
- It establishes the government’s involvement in public library development.
Many writers have asserted that policy and legislation can accelerate development forward because a lack of policy or a policy that is poorly designed curtails advancement at each and every stage, from conception to planning to execution to attempts at qualitative improvement, and at every stage, policy can propel development forward. Specifically, Edem (2017) believes that genuine legislation must be developed at the national and provincial levels in order to offer guidance for and foresee the results of implementation, and guide change. Another piece from Edem is that a legislation without a plan for implementing it is nothing more than a declaration of purpose.
Finally, in order to fully comprehend the current condition of library legislation and policy in Nigeria, an in-person policy paper research at library stakeholders around the country would be required. Consultations should be held in order to have a thorough grasp of the present laws and policymaking process. What are the most important takeaways and topics for further investigation based on the fact that each country has engaged stakeholders to document and make this information available? These efforts will be significant in providing information that will aid in the decision-making process and engaging politicians to support laws and legislation that will enhance the status of libraries in their respective jurisdictions.
Ajegbomogun, F.O., & Ajegbomogun, V.O. (2015) The library’s role in developing information literacy and societal growth. International Journal of Library and Information Science, 7(7), P. 124-129. https://doi.org/10.5897/IJLIS2015.0582
International Federation of Library Association and Institutions. (2015). Libraries and national development plans (International Federation of Library Association and Institutions)
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Library data: Policy & Legislation. https://librarymap.ifla.org/data-glossary/policy_and_legislation
Shachaf, P. (2005). A global perspective on library association codes of ethics. Library and Information Science Research. 27(4) P. 513-533
Edem, A.A., Eke, F.M., & Usoro, P.I.(2017) Public Library Legislation Implementation Strategies and Library Development in Abia, Akwa-Ibom and Imo States of Nigeria. Journal of Applied Information Science and Technology, 10 (2), P. 73-38.
Olaka, M.W (2015) Renaissance of libraries and archives in Rwanda: IFLA WLIC 2015. Cape Town.
Toit, M.D., & Stilwell, C. (2013) The KwaZulu-Natal School Library Policy and its feasibility for implementation in the Province. South Africa Jnl Library & Information Science 78(2). P/ 120-129