Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

 

Date of this Version

1-2011

Abstract

Conflict in simple terms, means a state of disagreement, controversy or opposition. It could also mean the existence of a prolonged battle, struggle or clash between two or more parties. Obegi and Nyamboga (2008), quoting Nicholas (1992) described conflict as situations where two people (or groups) wish to carry out acts which are mutually incompatible. He further states that conflict involves, “the pushing and pulling, giving and taking, process of finding the balance between powers”. In either case, conflict is generally characterized by a breach of peace or understanding among parties involved. Various dimensions to the causes of conflicts have been identified by writers. Namande (2008), citing Donelson (1999) asserts that any factor that creates dissatisfaction can increase the chances of conflicts among people and this may include struggle for resources, egocentrism, ethnocentrism, bigotry, assertion, struggle for recognition, ignorance, pride and fear. According to Obegi and Nyamboga (2008) conflict has structural causes, proximate causes and trigger which are evident in the presence of pervasive public policies and structures, inadequate security measures and unsatisfactory state of economy. Though it is often said that conflicts are desirable in shaping human ideologies and relationships, they never occur without negative consequences. Very often such consequences constitute serious threats to humanity and undermine particular human development objectives. Such threats may be in the form of diseases, hunger, poverty, high death toll and destruction of property which are evident in the wars going on in some countries of the African subregion. There is therefore the need to design effective measures for resolving conflicts. Wikipedia (2005) sees conflict resolution as the process of attempting to find solution to or settle a dispute. This process may take different patterns which include the use of force or authority of the state to enforce peace and the establishment of relationships or agreements among groups (Obegi and Nyamboga, 2008). The application of force or coercion and adjudication in resolving conflicts seem to be harsh strategy capable of bringing about uneasy peace that could be easily eroded. Thus, a more permanent way of resolving conflict should make use of negotiation and arbitration. This approach relates to the “conflict transformation” approach of Lederach (1997) as identified by Obegi and Nyomboga which sees conflict as caused by changes in relationships which can only be resolved when negative or destructive interaction patterns are transformed into a positive or constructive relationships and interactions. The application of this approach would result to lasting peace between the groups in conflict. However, one factor that has been found common in a conflict situation is the absence of the right information or breach of communication between the parties involved. Provision of the right information has been seen as the Panacea for conflict resolution. According to Gisesa (2008), researches regarding conflict and peace have revealed that conflicts are based on deficiency of information, stressing that cases of misinformation, wrong information or missing information enhance disparity in opinions and social differences which may lead to as well as heighten conflicts. Against this backdrop, the library is seen as a very important system that provides the relevant information that helps society to understand the realities of any conflict situation. In addition to providing information for resolving conflicts, libraries can as well help in preventing conflicts. Echezona (2001) citing Ogunkelu asserts that libraries equip researchers with techniques of identifying and preventing conflicts at an early stage, which could be by inviting discussions and brainstorming from experts on conflict resolution in workshops and seminars, and documenting the information so generated for users to learn the art of resolving and managing conflicts, thereby increasing the value of human intellectual output. Though the public library has been conceived by many as being better situated to reach out to the society for conflict resolution, the academic library through the community service aspect of its function is also in a very good position to offer conflict resolution services. Perhaps, the realization of the potential roles of the academic libraries in offering congenial services for conflict which is now seen as a global problem has prompted some universities to introduce the course “Peace and conflict resolution” as general studies course. Thus, the academic library is expected to offer conflict resolution services by making materials available both for teaching and learning as well as for community out-reach programmes. There seems to be total lack of research on the role of the academic library in conflict resolution. This research, therefore intends to bridge this gap.

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