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There are many kind of libraries for different purpose. Unlike the other types of libraries that are meant for specific group of users, public libraries are not restricted to any group of users. They are more or less a universal library; as some perceive them as the "poor people's university"; expected to serve all kinds of people including young children, the physically challenged and those who, for one reason or the other, are incapacitated, such as the hospital patients and the prisoners. Public libraries serve the general needs of cities, towns, villages and some larger areas and are saddled with the responsibilities of serving the entire group of users of a community where they are located, regardless of age, sex, religion, complexion and profession.
When the librarian accepts holdings into his repository, it implies taking the responsibility for their custody. All this may be jeopardized, if the library is damaged or lost as a result of a disaster. Viewed from the point of view of the library, a disaster can be anything or event which directly or indirectly affects the normal administration of the library i. e. the disruption of services to readers on either a short-time or a long-time basis. This is different from the normal nature of events that are termed or described as disasters. Natural events like earthquakes, flood, and volcanic eruption are termed disaster because of the effects they have on human beings as well as their normal way of occurrence. Also, man-made events like fire, acts of war and terrorism, structural (building) deficiencies and chemical spills are termed disaster; because of their effects on materials and properties of the library. However, criminal acts, like book theft and mutilation are also termed as physical disasters.
It can be argued that the classification of disasters into natural and man-made has very little importance for the identification of what actually is a disaster. Thus, an event becomes a disaster, only when man and the environment he has created or lived in, are affected; whereby the environment can be a nation, community, business organization, office, museum, or library. The moment these settings are disturbed and normal services are disrupted, the situation can be termed as a disaster. Hence, a disaster as an unexpected consequences to the holdings or materials in the custody of the librarians stressing that it can be a small-scale incident or a full-blown emergency; even though in both cases, the event or situation requires prompt action to limit damages.
Alegbeleye (1993) defined disaster as an event that "results in the sudden removal of records and documents from accessibility and use"; stating further that the disaster can be regarded as an occurrence that temporarily or permanently render information contained in document inaccessible. A disaster can be seen as an overwhelming ecological disruption occurring on scale sufficient to require outside assistance. Indeed, disasters are exceptional events which suddenly kill or injure large number of people and damage properties. Looking at disaster in a generic information management context, it can be viewed as any incident which threatens human safety; and/or damages or threatens to damage a library's buildings collection (or items therein), equipment and system.
There are varied causes and for that matter classification of disaster. Alegbeleye (1993) agreed that the simplest and most common are the grouping into natural and man-made categories. They stated further that natural disasters are happenings, over which man has very little or no control and are generally initiated by such events as floods, earthquakes, storms, cyclones and hurricanes; among others. Man- induced disasters include war-time destruction, bombings, rioting, malicious vandalism, arson, negligence, power surges and failures. Irrespective of sources of disasters, the destruction and devastation they cause or threaten to cause to library resources and the provision of library services remain a critical factor in the management of libraries.
Alegbeleye (1993) also mentioned two commonly recurring causes of library disasters to include floods and fires. Anderson and McIntyre (1985) however added vandalism, theft, earthquake, insect infection and the effect of light and temperature to the list of causes of disasters in libraries. Ngulube (2005) noted that although humankind tend to associate the term 'disaster' with devastating floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophes, risks and hazards to documentary materials, which include insects and rodents, mould and humidity, tornadoes, forest fire, volcanic eruption etc. can occur anytime without notice.
Meanwhile, a disaster plan, according to Lyall (1993), is a document which describes the procedures devised to prevent and prepare for disasters, and those proposed to respond to and recover from disasters when they occur. The responsibility for performing these tasks is allocated to various staff members who comprise 'the disaster team'. The plan should be comprehensive enough to consist several independent yet interrelated smaller plans, recognizing that every disaster has three phases; before, during and after. A number of plans is required to cope with each of the phases namely: 'before phase', should encompass two types of plan viz: preventive and preparedness; implying everyday routine operations. Whereas preventive plans recommend actions to prevent most disasters; such as the repair of leaking roofs, the improvement of maintenance and the upgrading of security, preparedness plans aimed at ensuring that identified disasters can be managed recommending actions such as the identification of important items in the collection, the purchase of plastic sheeting, the provision of freezing facilities and the training of staff to enable them to respond to different disasters. The 'during phase' requires a response to the disaster; the effectiveness of which is hinged on the thoroughness of the preparedness plan. The 'after phase' is where the recovery plans are implemented; though not in details; given the unique nature of every disaster.
In each of the preventive, preparedness, response and recovery plans, priority attention should be given to possible areas to be affected by the disaster. These areas are:
- personnel including staff, users and visitors
- collections and records including all categories of archival records, serials, monographs, manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, computer discs, optical and video discs, pictorial materials, and their related catalogues.
- It is also important to consider the protection of the institution's vital records. These are usually considered to be those records without which the institution could not operate. All legal documents, essential files and financial records are included in this category
- building and equipment including equipment, vehicles, air conditioning plant, plumbing, electrical services and computers (Lyall, 1993).
The desired that the plan be prepared by a team and not an individual is due to the fact that such a plan must naturally apply to the building and all its contents, including people, collections, records and equipment. Thus, preparing the plan involves five main steps viz:
- conducting a risk analysis
- identification of existing preventive and preparedness procedures
- making recommendations to implement additional preventive and preparedness procedures
- allocating responsibilities
- devising procedures to respond to and recover from disasters (Lyall, 1993).
On their part, Newey, Lepschi & Croft (2008) identified the objectives of the disaster plan as including to:
- minimise damage to the collections;
- recover and repair any damaged collection materials; and
- return the library and archival services to normal.
These objectives are facilitated by the plan through provision of a framework and guidelines for the following:
- rapid and effective response to an emergency;
- good communication;
- ensuring staff are well trained;
- ensuring appropriate equipment and materials are available; and
- enabling assistance from outside organisations. Historical Background of Kwara State Public Library, Ilorin
After the creation of Kwara State along with others in 1967, the need for a public library service in it became pressing. The Northern regional library, Kaduna was decentralized for the new States to establish their own. The area court building was chosen as a suitable place that could accommodate the new library, before it moved to its location in October 1967. Apart from the inherited library materials from the defunct northern region, a total sum of 300 pounds was released to the Interim Administrative Council to purchase more books for the library. On 1st April 1968, the Kwara State Library commenced services to the public after which it was realized that the borrowed building was quite unsuitable due to its closeness to the central market. The problem of accommodation persisted for two decades during which the library moved from one building to the other. The lack of a befitting infrastructure was a setback to the library and frantic efforts were made by many to secure a suitable and permanent building for the library. In November 1987, the then military Governor, Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullahi laid the foundation of a purposefully-built library where it presently occupies. The completed building was commissioned by the then military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on 21st November 1990. Between 1990 and 2001, the teeming reading population in the State made use of the library. Within a decade and half, the building got dilapidated, its stock became out-dated and irrelevant to the information needs of users. On assumption of duty as Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki visited the dilapidated library and promised it a face-lift. Renovation started on 23rd November, 2005. The transformed library building was commissioned and put back to use 1st July 2006 (Kwara State Library Handbook, 2006). Like other libraries, it comprises the Administrative, Technical Services and Reader Services, Acquisitions, Cataloguing/Classification, Circulation, Reference, Automation, Children and Serials divisions as well as an Internet café. Electronic resources are available through dedicated websites for the library while it uses ALICE for windows for its automation and an electronic device system for the security of its collection. The library was established primarily to serve as local center of information that will make all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its numerous users irrespective of their age, sex, race, religion, nationality, language or social status. However, there is no total claim to it that the library has fulfilled these service provision obligations to its numerous patrons.