African Libraries – Museums For Artifacts!

Information Science which is primarily concerned with the analysis, collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information helped so much in the areas of information preservation. The need to preserve information led to the discovery of libraries. There would have been information chaos had man not come to the discovery of managing information. The word “library” came from a Greek word “liber” meaning, book. Library therefore means a collection of sources of information such as books, audio visuals, etc which are usually kept in a house.

Education which is the bedrock of any nation is dependent on information which can be sourced from the libraries. It is unfortunate that these institutions have been left for so long unattended to, thus jeopardizing information acquisition and its subsequent dissemination. Public libraries in most African countries, which could be a source of invaluable knowledge to users especially students, have over the years suffered total neglect by government at various levels. It is surprising to hear about the huge sums of money allocated to the education sector each year but there is always nothing to show for these allocations.

Because these libraries are owned and funded by the government and their uses, free for all people, adequate attention has not been given to public libraries over the years. Most public libraries do not provide the needed conducive reading environment and are not accessible to their users. Out of sheer ignorance on the parts of some countries’ Educational Ministries they do not see the library as an integral part of learning; hence most libraries today in most of these African countries are nothing more than museums for antiquities, where you readily see books of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The criteria for selecting those who are saddled with the responsibility of manning the education ministries are a wonder to so many well-meaning people of Africa and beyond. When people who are qualified to hold such sensitive positions are put in place, things will look different in terms of overhauling, rebuilding, rehabilitating and re-equipping these libraries with up-to-date books and even computerize them.

However, it is evident that public libraries which have the functions of acquiring and organizing information materials are in themselves lacking in these areas due to negligence. Libraries, as part of the institutions that emerged to keep track of information, need continuous updating so as to keep interactions and even the business of information acquisition and dissemination booming. It is not surprising that Africa which is the base of civilization is still trotting backwards in these areas information technology. It should be remembered that the earlier we began seeing things in the right perspective, the better it would be for us. When we understand that nothing is truly impossible, our desire for excellence will be achieved. Also, encouraging private participation by way of giving support to private and other special libraries that are open to the general public, can as well be an added advantage.