Education system: ARLS stage conference, demands improved funding of libraries 

Academic and Research Libraries Section (ARLS) has called for proper funding, quality infrastructure in libraries to improve effective education in Nigeria’s higher institutions.

ARLS national chairman, Dr Ifeanyi Ezema,  made the call in Port Harcourt, Rivers State during the association’s 8th National Conference and General Meeting held at the Rivers State University between November 15 and 18, 2022.

Delivering his address at the event attended by over 80 participants drawn from various institutions of higher learning across the country, Dr Ezema while highlighting the critical roles libraries play in educational system in the country, however lamented that inappropriate or lack of funding as well as non-existent of library infrastructure have impeded the lofty impacts.

“Higher educational institutions in Nigeria are established to develop highly skilled manpower for sustainable national development. Academic and research libraries have very critical roles to play in supporting teaching, research and community services which are the core mandates of higher institutions. 

“Unfortunately, academic and research libraries are faced with serious challenges and under funding is central. These challenges are becoming increasingly complex with the dwindling budgetary allocation to education and neglect of academic and research libraries. 

“Many cases of this neglect are internal as heads of institutions often pay lip-services to library development in terms of collection development, training and retraining of librarians and development of ICT infrastructure. Usually, a little attention is given to these libraries only during accreditation of programmes.    

“Being at the centre of academic activities in our higher educational institutions, academic libraries must congregate to chart better ways of mitigating these challenges. Proper funding of academic libraries is a catalyst for quality higher education. Therefore, if Nigeria is really serious to develop competitive manpower for the present knowledge economy, there is a need to develop critical library infrastructure for acquisition of the required skills and competencies by librarians,” he said. 

With the theme of the conference, “Re-tooling Academic and Research Libraries for Quality Higher Education,” speakers were unanimous in highlighting the need for Nigerians to elect credible leaders in 2023 who would be proactive in providing adequate funding for effective learning particularly in the era of information communication and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) propelled by digital technologies. 

“The next Nigeria leaders must be creative in providing the required funding for library development in particular and education in general to attract foreign students and academics in the country. This will not only eliminate industrial crisis in our higher educational institutions but also provide greater opportunities for our involvement in the 4IR and global knowledge economy. 

“As the administrators of higher educational institutions prepare to deploy the new technologies for retooling and re-skilling, they must also support librarians through training locally and internationally to acquire the required skills and competencies that will drive national development. The librarians must be competitive among their peers in other institutions across the globe. Certainly, this cannot be achieved without technologically equipped libraries that will be the envy of the global scholarly community,” they said. 

The Vice Chancellor, Rivers State University, Prof. Nlerum Okogbule, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Prof. Nnamdi Sunny Okoroma, in his address lauded the researchers for hosting the conference in the institution and called for a synergy among higher institutions associations, unions for an enhanced learning structure in the country. 

Highlights of the conference attended physically and virtually were presentation of Award of Meritorious Service for Library Development to Havila Groups which was received, on behalf of the MD and CEO, Otumba Lanre Adesuyi, by Prof Charles Omekwu, who lauded the ALRS for their recognition as well as courtesy visit to the management of Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

ARLS, is the largest section of the umbrella body, Nigeria Library Association, the apex professional body of all librarians in Nigeria.

ARLS is composed of all professional librarians working in universities, colleges of education, polytechnics and research institutes across the country.