Library profession, an endangered species, says Prof. Olaopa

As the reading culture in Nigeria declines and libraries become under-resourced, the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Prof. Tunji Olaopa has said that the library profession has become an endangered species.

Olaopa made this known when the Nigeria Library Association’s National Executive led by its President and Chairman of Council, Mr. Dominic Omokaro paid him a courtesy call in his office.

He pointed out that the association needed to do some advocacy around the library space as an information hub, adding that the association needs more than advocacy to recalibrate the profession. He promised to facilitate a courtesy visit to Vice-President, Kashim Shettima’s office and advised the association to be very creative in their advocacy by having a prepared blueprint that shows an effective implementation trajectory and a roadmap of how the issue being presented to the VP will be achieved.

Prof. Olaopa assured the association of engaging with the President of the Nigeria Association Authors and Publishers Association so that a date to visit the Vice-President will be picked when the VP will be appointed as a patron and a champion for the book policy.

According to Olaopa, Nigeria is a late starter in the knowledge recalibration dynamics; and there was a need for the Excos to inject a multi-disciplinary orientation into the profession, saying that information science is an enlarged space. Olaopa said rethinking the profession is very important; emphasizing that it was a tragedy that the school library has broken down worsening the situation.

He disclosed that during his time as Permanent Secretary, he facilitated the construction of a library, virtual library and e-library for some schools via sponsorship by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a form of community service.

The President of the association, Mr. Omokaro said the association was in the Commission for two reasons. The first was to congratulate the Chairman on his appointment as he was a round peg in a round hole.

According to Omokaro, the second reason was in three key areas. The first was the Chairman’s intervention in getting waivers for the employment of librarians into the Federal Civil Service. He informed Olaopa that the profession has had no employment in the cadre for many years; as retiring members at the top position have no replacement.

The second appeal according to him, was for the Chairman to help them resuscitate the school library system. In his words: “The last time employment was made for school librarian in Nigeria was about 30 years ago. As I speak to you, the entire school library system in Unity schools is comatose because those libraries do not exist”.

He said if Nigeria intended to continue to be a leading nation then the country must embrace the reading culture; as only readers are leaders, adding that young people needed to be inculcated with skills of readership and study.

Omokaro appealed for collaboration with the Commission to help train librarians in the Federal Civil Service to enhance their productivity and give value to the system. According to him, one of the things people are not getting as a librarian is the value. He said as a professional body, the profession’s value is not quantifiable in terms of the physical things people see but in manpower development that the profession supports.

Prof. Olaopa lauded the visit by the association as very significant as it will help reshape the library profession.

He explained that he does not believe in tokenism of dropping a few projects but in a movement that will bring about substantial results in library infrastructure and the library profession. Hence, it is not only about building infrastructure alone but bringing back the reading culture.

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