The poor maintenance of public school libraries constitute a major setback to the inculcation of a healthy reading culture among students, according to some librarians. The librarians who spoke in Osogbo on Tuesday said that the physical condition of many libraries as well as the absence of the necessary reading materials does not inspire students to patronise libraries.
They also decried the complete absence of libraries in some areas, stressing that such gap would affect the personal reading habit of the students as well as their performance in examinations. Mr John Ekun Babatunde, a Librarian with Baptist Girls High School, Osogbo (BGHS), told NAN that due to poor maintenance of the library, only 50 per cent of students patronised the facility. Babatunde urged the management of the school and the government to embark on the renovation and rebuilding of the school library and also provide computers with relevant textbooks and materials. A librarian at Salvation Army Middle School, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said public schools needed to be revived by equipping them with relevant textbooks.
“I believe that if the state government can fund most of the public school libraries and also provide a counselling unit, the reading culture among students would be improved,” he said. Also speaking, Mrs Eunice Omirefa, the Inspector, Principal Community Development Department, Ife East Local Government, said the council does not have library.
Also at Ooni Middle School 11, Oke-Ogbo, in Ife East Local Gove rnment , Ile-Ife, the Principal, Mrs Sidikat Opeloye, told NAN that the school had no functional library. Opeloye said though the school library had few textbooks that could assist the students in developing a reading culture, there were no chairs, tables and librarian to manage the books.
Private school principals and librarians, however, identified the social media as the major cause of the decline in reading culture among primary and secondary school students. In Ondo State, librarians in public schools also decried the poor reading culture of students which, they said, had brought about low patronage of libraries.
At Akure Commercial Secondary School in Oke-Aro area of Akure, the school librarian, who spoke on condition of anonymity, observed that many students lacked the zeal to read in the library but preferred to read on their phones. Olatunde Adedeji, a senior secondary student in the school, urged the state government to equip school libraries with the latest books that would be in tandem with the school curriculum.
Adedeji urged government to inaugurate a task force to monitor public libraries so that every student could learn how to use the library effectively. Similarly, at SUBEB Primary School, Okuta Elerinla Estate, and St. Michael Secondary School, Akure, library attendants, called for the introduction of e-Library.
The librarians advised that school principals should introduce a special period for library in schools and organise a programme to enlighten students on the proper use of library They said that this approach would help change the reading habit of students in public schools. They also urged the state government to train librarians in proper maintenance culture. Mrs Adenike Olupojo, the Vice Principal, Wexford College, Oba-Ile in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State, said that the school library was 75 per cent equipped with relevant textbooks and journals. According to her, internet facilities had reduced the use of libraries by students to source for information.
“The use of internet by students is taking away library stock because they can easily get relevant information from the internet. “The internet now represents the library, making it not as useful as it was in the past.’’ In Abeokuta, the Director, Ogun Library Service, Mr Abdullateef Benson, called for increased funding of libraries to ensure revival of reading culture among students.
The director, who expressed concern over “the negative attitude” of students to reading, noted that poor state of libraries was a major reason for the development. He noted that most libraries including schools’ libraries were no longer ‘’attractive’’ because they were not regularly stocked with new books. Benson, who is also the Secretary, Conference of Heads of Public Libraries in Nigeria, also urged parents to join in the crusade for the revival of reading culture among the students. He urged them to buy literature books for their wards rather than watch them engage in unproductive activities and get obsessed with games on mobile phones.
According to him, libraries now experience low patronage because of poor reading culture. Benson explained that there were no more functional libraries at the local government areas in Ogun. Mr Adeniyi Adeoye, an educationist, in an interview with NAN, stressed the importance of functional libraries in national development. “There cannot be any meaningful development without education or enlightenment and there cannot be qualitative education without the provision of library facilities where people can get materials to read and be well informed.
“The development of a country depends greatly on how much information its citizenry are exposed to. “Functional libraries can help curb unemployment among youths by providing them with timely and accurate information. “ It accelerates the level of individual advancement as well as educational development. “When an individual is well informed, it bridges the gap between knowledge and ignorance and it broadens a person’s horizon. “Libraries help to provide books from which credible information could be accessed,” he said. Also commenting, Mr Johnson Akinpelu, a lecturer in the Mass Communications Department of the Moshood Abiola Polythecnic, Abeokuta, said conventional libraries were still relevant and sustainable in spite of the advent of e-Libraries.
“The soft copy of any material is a product of the hard copy and before a material is uploaded to the internet, it has to be taken from the written substance. “Presently in the nation, there is a general problem of electricity and without power supply, access to the Internet either through a mobile phone or a computer system is difficult. “There are also some historical materials that can only be gotten in hard copies because the copyrights are restricted. “There is also the issue of credibility of the source of information which is very essential in information dissemination. “Some information on the internet are not credible because the sources cannot be verified.
“We know that the qualification and credentials of an author are written in his books,” he said. A public secondary school principal in Abeokuta, who spoke on condition of anonymity, advised that libraries in public schools should be well equipped, to encourage reading. He said that the teachers could not even encourage the students to visit the libraries because they were filled with outdated materials. “I advise that libraries should be funded and reading should start from the primary school, so that the child can cultivate the habit of reading before he gets to secondary school and other higher institutions.
“The federal and state governments evolve a policy that child must read not less than five books in a term and ensure the schools enforce it. “This will also encourage and assist the child to cultivate the habit of reading. “Parents should also encourage their children to read and even set up libraries in their homes. “This will give the teachers in the school less work to do because the child will know more than his classmates,” he said. (NAN) reporters/OJO/NKO