CAPACITY BUILDING FOR SUSTAINABLE LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Department of Library and Information Science, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu-Ode
Tai Solarin University of Education Library, Ijebu – Ode
Tai Solarin College of Education Library, Omu-Ijebu , Ogun –State, Nigeria
The world is currently in what has come to be conceptualized as the information age. It is important that the library be built up to full capacity to play its very crucial role in appropriating the benefits of the era. This is avoid capacity failures, often fingered for the continued development problems of poor countries; for the failures of policies or why investment and aids are not generating desired impact. As a basis for conclusions, the paper analyses the state of present capacity with respect to library and information services, human and technical set-up, and institutional capacity.
Keywords: Building capacity, library, information services, sustainable.
That capacity building is now a critical component of management and performance is no longer a point of controversy. Indeed, development discourse today is incomplete without emphasizing the need to build adequate and sustainable capacity in all spheres of endeavour. This is why capacity failures, most often, had been fingered for the continued development problems of poor countries; for the failures of policies or why investment and aids are not generating desired impact. There is no doubt that the essence of building capacity in all areas of human life, including the field of library and information profession and services in Africa, is to enhance the ability of countries, local institutions and people to efficiently manage development on their own, in a smooth and sustainable way. According to Obadan (2003), adequate capacity in terms of its building and utilization, has often been described as the missing factor or link in the development of most poor countries, Nigeria included.
Library and information services over the years, has had its share of capacity problems. The commonplace nature of dilapidated and ill equipped libraries and information centres in human and material terms, are evidences of weak capacity. The challenges thrust upon library and information services by globalization, digitalization and indeed information and communication technology use, has largely necessitated the need for capacity building and utilization initiatives and programmes. This will only achieve positive results if done on a long term. The situation of built capacity in Nigerian libraries and information centres leaves much to be cherished. The human and institutional dimensions of it, reminds one that a great deal of work needs to be done. Nawe (1996) described the situation of built capacity in the field as laxity on the part of library and information managers and professionals in striking a balance between planning for resources in general and human resources which she adds, has substantially contributed to professional slowness in facing up to challenges.
Capacity and capacity building
The concept of capacity and capacity building mean different things to different people. The dictionary definition of capacity relates it with the power of someone or something to perform or do something or to produce something. But according to UNDP (1993), capacity is the ability of individuals and organizations or units to perform functions effectively, efficiently or sustainably. In another vein, Johnson (1993), cited in Ohiorhenuan and Wunker (1995), viewed capacity as a country's human, scientific, technological, organizational, institutional and resource capabilities. It is pertinent to note that the concept of capacity itself has development colouration. Another understanding of capacity as put forward by Obadan (2003), see capacity as people, institution and practices that enable a country to achieve its development objectives. He adds that capacity has both human and institutional dimensions with the following components namely:
- Skilled human
- Leadership and vision
- Viable institutions
- Financial and material resources and
- Effective work practice, including systems, procedures and
- Appropriate incentives
Apart from the above, other dimensions to capacity, in the opinion of Osineye (2000), include technical, financial and investment capacities. Capacity building, in the words of Nsouli (2000) simply refers to the development of skills and institutions. In the opinion of Dia (1996) capacity building is characterized by three main activities: skill upgrading (general and job specific); procedural improvements and organizational strengthening. Obadan (2003), defined capacity building as those deliberate and incidental endeavours through investment in people, institutions and practices, to enhance human abilities and institutional capacities in the pursuit of development. In the view of Ohiorhenuan and Wunker (1995), capacity building means the process of enhancing' individual skills, or strengthening the competence of a particular organization. The thrust of the foregoing definitions is that, capacity building has two distinct dimensions, human or skill capacity building and institutional or organizational capacity building. It is crucial also to state here that capacity building as a concept is treated and understood in economic and social development contexts.
State of built capacity for library and information services in Nigeria
The built capacity for library and information services in Nigeria will be discussed here in relation to the two major dimensions of capacity building. Built capacity, over the years with regards to library and information services has not satisfactorily tackled the nation's capacity needs, owing to weak implementation discipline, resource problems, inadequate technical inputs and poor national governance conditions; culminating in inefficient use of available capacities. This explains the prevailing capacity gaps (ratio of deviation between required and actual needs) that exist in the profession today.
State of prevailing human/technical capacity
Technical or human capacity refers to the development and the improvement in the human resources capabilities through the acquisition of general and technical knowledge, skill and effectiveness required for the realisation of goals. Human capacity therefore includes general education, on the jobtraining and professional deepening in cross-cutting skills.
Library and information services and profession in Nigeria has suffered significantly from the problem of inadequate utilization of indigenously built capacity or expertise. The profession has had to contend with the phenomenon of 'Brain drain', to developed countries and African nations alike. The depletion of quality library and information manpower, helped by poor remuneration and incentives among others, has created a yawning capacity gap that may never be filled. Obsolescence among library and information workers also hinders built capacity and utilization especially in the face of a rapidly changing profession like information work. Obsolescence in the words of Perruci and Rothman (1996), cited in Ojiambo (1992)is the loss of once held knowledge and failure to become familiar and knowledgeable about new knowledge in one's field. The fact that many librarians are yet to acquire the required information and communication technology skills necessary to function in this modem hi-tech era, attest to this assertion. The library and information service environment in Nigeria is populated by professionals many of whom either lack or are slow in adapting to the new information skills which Omekwu (2002), identified as computer and internet literacy, systems use, systems administration, system maintenance systems networking and development. Our training institutions have continue to produce inadequate and 'half baked' librarians and information scientist who graduate without acquiring the practical skills and to some extent, requisite theoretical knowledge necessary for effective functioning in the present knowledge based information environment. This situation compounds the existing capacity gap and the problem of weak capacity base of the information services profession in Nigeria.
State of prevailing institutional capacity
Institutional capacity deals with the development of capabilities of organizations and institutions, such that their set goals are realized. Institutional capacity has to do with reinforcement of institutions capability to use available resources and staff more effectively; developing new structures and reorganization of structures and processes for efficiency. But the scenario pervading library and information service landscape is rather lamentable. Governments over the decades in Nigeria have not accorded the required recognition to the library and information service profession. Indeed, the strategic place of information in economic and socio-cultural development has always been on paper and has not been practically demonstrated by successive governments. Consequently, library and information institutions in Nigeria suffer from continued neglect and ill-funding, especially in the face of dwindling economic realities. This in turn has affected the quality of information services which are still largely traditional; the formulation of policies for the development of information infrastructure and the training of human resources needed. Closely linked is the capacity gap created by inadequate investment in library and information institutions and processes responsible for building and utilization of available capacity. Poor local investment in the field is made evident through the poor financial, infrastructural and resource shape of most of the libraries and information outfits in Nigeria. The public owned institutions are worst hit as many of them are now mere 'storehouse of books'. In the words of (2000), there is inadequate financial provision for the information sector by African governments, information professionals are also not highly regarded which has led to low human resources development in the area.
Other indicators of Nigeria's weak library and information institutional capacity is poor work environment, inadequate working facilities, poor work incentives, poor remuneration and choking government policies such as import tariff on books importation, publishing inputs and equipments, computers and other information tools. Library and information services institutional capacity in Nigeria is such that utilization of vital facilities such as computers, databanks, telephones, faxes, copiers etc are available in few institutions who rarely put such facilities to optimum use due to inadequate finding, poor maintenance culture, incessant power failure among others.
The challenges of building and sustaining adequate library and information services capacity in Nigeria are likely to be intractable. Indeed, it is important to state that the financial resources necessary for positive intervention in the capacity building initiatives in the profession is grossly inadequate. The task of information skill retention and its effective utilization also comes to mind particularly in our government owned institutions. The constraints of addressing the problems of capacity utilization which includes poor remuneration, inadequate work facilities and tools, un-conducive work environment, measuring of the real value of training and general under-funding are also noteworthy.
The challenge posed by inadequate assistance to key institutions/bodies such as Nigeria Library Association (NLA), in the vanguard of supporting and encouraging capacity building efforts is also worthy of mention while sluggish training need assessment and the declining quality of output of library and information schools and institutions also deserve consideration.
Adequate attention also needs to be focused on the high turnover rate of skilled and technical staff in our library and information institutions in search of greener pastures abroad. Lastly, the information services profession also faces the problem of chronic inadequate physical facilities and institutional constraints reflected in poor policy performance, weak procedures and processes among others.
Strenghtening capacity: way forward
The weak capacity situation of Nigeria's library and information service workers and institutions must be addressed with the aim of reversing the status quo. There is an urgent need for the institution of a more systematic approach to capacity building and utilization in the field. First and foremost, government regulatory bodies and professional bodies in the library and information work arena must realize the need for concerted efforts towards building appropriate capacity and reducing to its barest minimum, constraints of capacity underutilization. The provision of an enabling environment and the fostering of professionalism in public and private institutions must take a prime position.
Governments and relevant organizations must provide adequate funds for the rehabilitation of facilities and of library and information infrastructures in the nation's schools. They should also consider seriously, provision of adequate funds for research and training activities in these schools. Government and owners of libraries and information centres in the country must also accord the provision of facilities and adequate remuneration, priority places for the purpose of utilization and retention of acquired skills. Institutions should take a critical look at their organizations with a view to carrying out necessary restructuring leading to the recruitment of fresh personnel in appropriate areas and the commensurate assignment of duties and tasks. This will ensure maximum use of knowledge and skills acquired.
Information training institutions and departments must carry out a re-assessment of their training curriculum and make it conform to the training needs of today's library and information work environment. On the job training in terms of short courses, conferences and workshops must also be carefully examined such that it meets the training needs of the personnel in organizations in order to address the recurring problem of obsolescence among information workers while the provision of adequate budget for this purpose must be priortised.
The task of building capacity for sustainable library and information services in Nigeria from the foregoing discourse poses great challenges to say the least, but achievable. It has also been made clear in this paper that governments, public agencies, private owners of information institutions, educational departments and institutions, all have roles to play in the attainment of these goals.
The built library and information service capacity in Nigeria has not met environmental and professional callings. Government neglect, information skill deficiency and institutional ineptitude have converged to ensure that the realsation of the knowledge age goals and objectives of the field is unattainable, at least for now.
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