Date of this Version
Library Philosophy and Practice 2012
Library Education in Nigeria was very much tied up with the general social and political history of the Country. As such, those who aspired to become librarians went to Britain to qualify for the Associate of the Library Association (ALA). However, with the attainment of independence in 1960, the country witnessed the establishment of educational institutions at various levels. The first Library school was established at University College Ibadan in 1960.
Prior to 1960, the Carnegie Corporation has sponsored two studies (Margaret Wrong in 1939 and Ethel Fagan in 1940) to survey the Library needs of West Africa with the view to formalizing its training program. Wrong recommended for a Library Training Institute to be established in Nigeria while Fagan, recommended instead the establishment of a Regional Library Institute to cater for the whole of British West Africa. Consequently, the British Council, Carnegie Corporation and the Governments of Gold Coast (Ghana), Nigeria and Sierra Leone jointly financed the Achimota Library School in Ghana, which was opened in 1944. The main objective of the school was to “improve the technical competence of Library Assistants and to prepare them for the first part of the British Library Association Registration Examination.” (Aguolu and Mohammed 1987).
The stage for the development of Library Profession in Nigeria was set up with the arrival of John Harris as the Librarian of the University College Ibadan in 1948. “He was not only instrumental to the development of the University College Library, but also organized the Native Authority Libraries in 1950, the first organized Library Training course” (Dean 1966). Similarly in 1952, Joan Allen organized a course for Reading Room Attendants under the Northern Regional Library Service while the Eastern Regional Library Board created in 1935, introduced a training course for Library Assistants in 1956. Another turning point in the history of Librarianship in the Country was the UNESCO seminar on Public Library Development in Africa held at Ibadan in 1953. Aguolu and Mohammed (1987) observed that “it laid the foundation of modern libraries in Nigeria and help crystallize the concept of the library profession and librarianship itself.”
Based on (Lancour 1958 and Sharr 1963) reports on Library needs of West Africa and Northern Nigeria respectively, two Library Schools were established in Nigeria. The first was the Institute of Librarianship which was opened at the University College Ibadan in 1960, and the second was at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1968. These institutions were built on different philosophical and professional orientations. The Ibadan Library School began with one year basic professional program leading to the award of the post-graduate diploma with the main objective of “educating the leadership for the library profession”, while the Zaria Library School started with under-graduate program leading to the award of the Bachelor of Library Science (BLS) degree based on the objective of “training professional librarians at all levels with well rounded education up to international standard while placing emphasis on the problems facing libraries in Africa.”
It apparently became clear in the mid 1970s that the two existing Library Schools despite their parallel philosophical orientation, cannot meet the nation’s library needs. Thus, in 1977 and 1978 two additional Library Schools were established at Bayero University Kano and University of Maiduguri respectively. Presently, there are over fifty institutions including Universities (Federal, States and Private) Polytechnics and Colleges across the Country that offer Library and Information Science programs at Certificate; Ordinary, National and Higher Diploma; Degree and Higher Degree levels. The proliferation of library programs in different types of institutions can be seen as a good development for the profession, on the other hand however, it has given rise to issues of relevance of curriculum to professional practice; quality of Library School’s graduates; and their competence in the field.
On the issue of curricular of Library Schools, Conant (1990) lamented that “employers’ lack confidence in the functions of library schools as gate keepers to the profession”. In order to restore this confidence according to him “library schools must revise their curriculum to correspond appropriately to the knowledge and skills required of the professional librarian.” One major weakness of library schools curricular identified by Danton (1946) is “the inability of library schools curricular to be integrated with any theoretical discipline such as Sociology, Education, Political science etc. on which practical disciplines are based or on the philosophy of the subject to serve as its foundation”.
Library Education was of sufficient international concern to merit the Standing Committee of IFLA (1976) Section for Library Schools, to decide to undertake the task of formulating International Standards for library education. This move pre-supposed the existence of differences in library education worldwide. IFLA still recognizes the uniqueness of each country, hence each country should decide for itself what kind of librarians and information specialists it needs and what kind of training such persons ought to have. Agada (1985) puts it clearly when he said “while theories and principles may be universal, however practice cannot and need not be. Relevance dictates that practice be adapted to local needs and circumstances.”
The quality of products from library schools is another contentious issue between employers and educators. Employers are interested in the production of practical persons who can fit into the library environment immediately after graduation. Banjo (1984) for example, specifically analyzed the qualities required of a Special librarian thus “must be a man who is able to sense, identify, and interpret information in a special area for the use of the specialist in that area. He must therefore be versatile, adaptable and highly imaginative. Here in lies the challenge to those providing education for special librarianship.”
Reaction from the field of practice based on the accounts and reports of library administrators and employers has indicated consistent short comings on the part of the Bachelor of Library Science (BLS) graduates. Ita (1986) stated that “products of the undergraduate programs are in general rather weak and less imaginative. For a long time a certain air of vagueness seems to hang on them so that they approach their professional duties with little confidence.” Affia (1986) another seasoned library administrator observed that graduates from the BLS programs have a feeling of insecurity in certain job opportunities. To sum up employers’ expectations of library education, Cronin (1982) has this to say “professional qualification and experience do not automatically guarantee acceptability in the eyes of employing organizations. Employers want individuals who have certain positive characteristics. Basically, these can be defined as good communication and organizational skills, the ability to work in a small team, and the ability to work with minimum supervision.”