The Kano State Library has since become a COVID-19 isolation centre.
Kuje Area Council’s only local library, which has not been in use for years, has turned into a palliative storehouse, while others, like Abuja’s National Library, and those in Kaduna and Bayelsa, are on similar pages. Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Kano State’s Murtala Muhammed Library, established in 1968, is one of the few functional public libraries in the entire state, but currently remains a COVID-19 isolation centre.
History has it that the library was founded when resources of the former regional library at the then Northern region’s headquarters in Kaduna were shared among the then six northern states.
So the library started with 9,000 volumes and 2,000 government documents.
The Murtala Muhammed Library has its headquarters in Nassarawa local government within the state’s metropolis.
It also has seventeen divisions spread across various local governments in the state.
However, the library has always lacked appropriate funding and maintenance despite its role as a wealth of resource for researchers.
So, when the coronavirus hit Kano, it was locked, and in March, among five other facilities, the state government announced its conversion to an isolation centre as part of its efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.
Sources at the library revealed that, since the library’s conversion, which rendered it closed to users, no patient has been isolated there and it remains structured as a library.
Coming to the Federal Capital Territory, Kuje Community Library, located in Kuje Area Council is hidden behind two buildings (less than a kilometre to the Area Council Secretariat), namely the fire service and the Federal Road Safety Corp.
Many residents in the area have zero knowledge about its existence because it has not been put to use for many years, except, maybe recently when it served as a storehouse for palliatives to cushion the economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic on its people.
On July 1, 2017, Daily Trust Saturday reported that few locals remember any activity ever taking place in the about ten years old library (now over thirteen years old).
Back then, a road safety marshal (name withheld) who works within the premises recalled seeing some people inside the library in 2016, while a fireman said he had always known the place to be redundant.
The then local government chairman, Honourable Abdullahi Danladi Galadima had explained that the library was commissioned during the era of a former chairman, Danladi Etsu Zhin, and admitted that it has not been in use.
He said he had met it in its dilapidated state and promised to put it to use so students can have a place to study.
Mr. Ndubisi, who was Head of Section, ICT and library, Kuje Area Council explained that there was an ICT centre once run within the premises of the secretariat.
However, the building outside the secretariat is yet to be put to use even though there are computers there.
Occasionally, in 2016, for example, the place got a bit of activity when there was a youth training and empowerment program on ICT.
Inside the library/ICT centre, there were two sections, a bigger one where not less than twenty brand new computers once sat idle and dusty on portable wooden desks peered with chairs, and a smaller one with mini-cubicles for readers with a long shelf up front.
But this was in 2017. Daily Trust Saturday could not ascertain if all these items are still in the building after all these years.
There is also a rest room within the building, offices and a room where batteries for solar panels and other equipment, like printers were kept. In the event power goes out, the library and ICT centre was expected to run on solar energy.
But these were plans that were never put in motion.
The idea for Kuje’s local library was for an electronic library and a section for books and readers.
Therefore, the council had partnered with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to equip it, which they did.
The Galadima administration had said it was trying to ascertain the library’s original plan and come to an agreement with partners who showed signs of wanting to kick-start the library.
But today, since the past chairman lost his chance at re-election to the current chairman, Abdullahi Suleiman Sabo, there is no functional library in Kuje Area Council.
However, at Abuja’s National Library in Area II, there is a ray of hope as activities seem to have picked up.
Freshly renovated, one can easily miss the library because the Sign post with the blue words: National Library of Nigeria has not yet been put up.
Within the premises, people pore over books and type away on their laptops, giving the impression it’s business as usual.
One major hindrance to patronage at the National Library is its lack of a decent place for users to keep their bags.
The lockers provided years ago have long ceased to serve their purpose with their doors hanging on their hinges, interiors filled with cobwebs and dirt.
There is a much sadder story in Bayelsa State where the Gabriel Okara State Library located in Amarata axis of Yenagoa, is not equipped with the necessary facilities expected of a modern library.
Here, apart from a few staff on duty, no readers were spotted in the reading room, and the environment was unkempt with books in disarray.
Also, the building is dilapidated with weed around the premises.
A staff who did not want wish his identity disclosed, told Daily Trust Saturday that the state government “doesn’t give proper attention to the library’s development, revealing that for a longtime readers hardly make use of the facility.”
Once, the state library operated from a primary school facility at Swali community before relocating to the uncompleted structure built by the first civilian governor of Bayelsa State, Late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
“Our duty is just to come here and arrange books and do our work as civil servants, but I can say that government does not give much attention to this place. There is no power supply and the environment is unkempt,” He said.
At a private library along Imgbi road in Yenagoa, the Azaiki library, though officials declined to speak, but it was gathered that it is the best in the state with all the facilities needed for a modern library.
The Azaiki library is said to have run an e-library, have modern books in its shelves, keep some good historical artifacts and operation ICT programme.
Mr Ndutimi Sunday who frequents Azaiki Library, a private library along Imgbi road in Yenagoa, said he cannot allow his children to use the state library because it has nothing to offer.
The State Commissioner for Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Promise Ekio said during a recent interview that the state government has started the process of building an ICT park and e-library in the state, saying the work has already reached an advanced stage.
He said though some funding constraint has delayed the project, but when completed it will help in capacity building of Bayelsa people, especially in ICT development.
Far away in Kaduna, libraries face new challenges coupled with existing ones since the lockdown.
With schools yet to resume, public libraries are experiencing low turnout of readers, thus staff are placed on shifts since workload has reduced.
During a visit to the Kaduna State Library, our correspondent observed little activity with only two readers present while staff could be seen hanging around and chatting.
One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said students make up the highest category of users, and although there is an e-library, it does not function due to lack of resources to make it operational.
“We have problems with the structure also,” she pointed out. “When it rains, water enters from the roof and threatens the books we have.
“The structure is so old to the extent that water also seeps in through the ground.”
She stated that the library has been receiving books from the state and individuals, however, with restrictions still placed on some sectors, new stock has not been added to its catalogue.
At the Zonal Office of the National Archive of Nigeria located in Kaduna, skeletal service is currently offered because staff below grade nine were urged to stay at home, Salahudeen Olatunji Nafiu, a Principal Archivist said.
Nafiu stated that patronage varied as researchers still visit to proceed with work they had started before the lockdown. However, he said subscription fee has been affected with reduced attendance.
“Membership has to be based on fee because this allows us to pay for some essentials not covered by the government. Covid-19 is adding to problems we face already.
“The facility lacks proper equipment used in protecting documents that are important to the history of the nation,” he said.
However, the Gusau Institute has seen a rise in membership as more readers are coming since the end of the lockdown.
The Chief Librarian of the institute, Muhammad Isa Suleiman, attributed this to people getting tired of staying at home.
“We have made provisions for a situation like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If you say people must come to your library to use books, others will lose access to information.
“We have deployed an online catalogue with over 40 million electronic resources which were vetted and are up-to-date,” he said.