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Academic libraries are libraries established in tertiary institutions. They include libraries in Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. The roles of these libraries are similar and that is to effectively support institutions to attain the key functions of teaching, research and community service. These institutions are responsible for the production of middle and higher level manpower for national development. The extent to which they are able to effectively accomplish that task depends largely on how well their libraries are equipped with the relevant information resources.
According to the National Policy of Education (1998), the goals of tertiary education are to:
1) Contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower training;
2) Develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society;
3) Develop the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environments;
4) Acquire both physical, intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society;
5) Promote and encourage scholarship and community service;
6) Forge and cement national unity; and
7) Promote national and international understanding and interaction.
Arising from the goals of tertiary education, the National Policy of Education (1998), specifies that university education will make optimum contribution to national development by: Intensifying and diversifying its programmes for the development of high level manpower within the context of the needs of the nation;
1) Making professional courses contents to reflect our national requirements;
2) Making all students as part of a general programme of all-round improvement in university education to offer general study course such as history of ideas, philosophy of knowledge and nationalism.
4) University research shall be relevant to the nation's developmental goals. In this regard, universities shall be encouraged to disseminate their research results to both government and industries. In the opinion of Okebukola (2009), in a developed society characteristic of developed economics to which Nigeria aspires, higher education plays a key role. It provides high level human resources for driving the economy and ensures rapid societal transformation. The greater the opportunity given to the citizenry for higher education, the more expansive the horizon for rapid social and economic development. The universities and their libraries are at the forefront of this mandate of production of the necessary manpower for national development since they provide the higher level manpower required for national development. It is no wonder therefore that Aguolu (2002), noted that the university library is the heart of the university. This is because, the academic health, intellectual vitality and effectiveness of any university depends largely upon the state of health and excellence of its library which is its lifeblood. This assertion is a reflection of an age long conviction by the British University Grants Committee (1921) which noted that:
The character and efficiency of a university may be gauged by its treatment of its central organ, the library. We regard the fullest provision (of funds) for library maintenance as the primary and most vital need in the equipment of a university. An adequate library is not only the basis of all teaching and study; it is the essential condition of research without which additions cannot be made to the sum of human knowledge.
It is obvious from the foregoing that universities have always had the mandate to produce higher level manpower for national development. Harbison and Myers (1964) opined that national development is the transformation of all aspects of life of a society - cultural, social, political and economic. Thus a well developed nation is usually associated with high income per capital, many employment opportunities, availability of cheap food and other necessary human requirements, better roads, housing, water, advancement, among others. This goes to buttress the opinion of Todaro (1979) and Onokerhoraye and Okafor (1994) that development is a multi-dimensional process involving changes in structures, attitudes and institutions as well as the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality and the eradication of absolute poverty and a high birth rate.
Education is a key factor in the concept of development and libraries are very important essential tools for attaining national objectives of human resource and economic development.
In order to achieve the indices associated with development, the human resource of a nation must be developed. This is because, it is the human resource in a nation that would manage the other available resources to achieve national development. It is perhaps in this regard that Harbison and Myers (1964) opined that human resource development is:
The process of increasing the knowledge, skills and the capabilities of all the people in society. In economic terms, it could be described as the accumulation of human capital and its effective investment in the development of an economy. In political terms, human resource development prepares people for adult participation in political process, particularly as citizens of democracy. From the social and cultural point of view, the development of human resources helps people to lead fuller and richer lives, less bound by traditions.
Still on the issue of human resource development, Akingbola (2009) noted that human resource development otherwise known as human capital development presupposes investment activities and processes that produce knowledge, skills, health or values that are embodied in people. Any effort to increase human knowledge, enhance skills and productivity and stimulate resourcefulness of individuals is an effort in human capital development. Herein lies the central place of tertiary education and hence academic libraries in the drive to achieve national development. The World Bank (2008) cited in Okebukola (2009), observed that there is a compelling body of research concluding that education is the main plank of economic development. A strand of evidence is presented by the example of more than half of the members of the league of the world top 15 economies, which, in spite of the thin dose of natural resources, boosted their economic power through harnessing the power of education, Japan and Korea present examples (Okebukola, 2009).
In the light of the foregoing, the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 (NV2020) project of the Federal Government of Nigeria which is meant to identify key aspects of the Nigerian economy such as agriculture,the polity, infrastructure, education, manufacturing, Information and Communication Technology (lCT) and bring them up to international standards in order for Nigeria to be one of the world's 20 leading economics by the year 2020 comes into focus. Since academic libraries are at the centre of teaching and research in the tertiary institutions where the necessary middle and higher level manpower are to be produced, to drive the Nigerian economy to achieve this tall goal of reaching the top 20 economies of the world by the year 2020, there arises the need to take another look at the aspects of concentration by the Vision 20:2020 document vis-a-vis the academic libraries which should provide the essential information for teaching and research expected to equip the human resources that would be required to facilitate government's achievement of this Vision 20:2020 goals. It is a well-known fact that you cannot give what you do not have, similarly, a nation cannot develop in isolation of her human resources and hence cannot rise above the level of knowledge, skills and capabilities of its human resources. This is the reason why it becomes imperative that items in the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 vision which for now makes it look more like a white elephant document devoid of the essential library component should be revisited. This is compelling at this stage in Nigeria because government after government have continued to pay lip service to the adequate funding and development of quality education required to produce the quality manpower to drive accelerated national development that is required to achieve NV 2020. (Anafulu, 1997; Zakari 1997; Iromantu, 1998; Okiy, 1998; Ojoade and Ochai, 2000; Okebukola, 2009). In the light of the glaring omission of the library as an essential component of this project, it only demonstrates that the role of the library and information, necessary to drive the vision to success is still not being appreciated as observed by Fatuyi, (1997) and Ojoade and Ochai (2000).
This paper will addresses the current state of development of education and hence academic libraries in Nigeria, the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 project of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the role of libraries in national development, the library as the missing catalyst that should drive the 1\TV 2020 to success and some recommendations on the way forward.