ACADEMIC LIBRARIES IN NIGERIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The university libraries have long been recognized as the “hearts” of their universities. To fulfill their mission of supporting the educational objectives of their parent bodies, which include teaching, learning, research, and cultural development, the libraries had to develop and maintain standard books, journals, and audio-visual collections and services. During the “oil boom” era, the libraries flourished–they were busy filling their shelves with learning materials in order to sustain the main academic disciplines established by their parent universities. Today, the story is very different. University libraries have problems even in maintaining core collections, which represent their universities’ curricula and activities because of lack of money and management. The proliferation of universities, despite the economic torpor in the country has increased the problems of the universities and their libraries so much that now their future seems uncertain.Talking to Mr Afolayan, an information scientist, he said academic libraries in Nigerian Universities are at crossroads due to the fact that they are operating in an era of dwindling financial resources that are not forthcoming and thus affects the efficiency and effectiveness of their functions. Mr Tokunbo, a graduate of Library Science and information is of likely opinion and said, if the Nigerian academic libraries are to meet the expectations of the planned vision of the library, the government will need to pay attention to education by improving her commitment in education. In addition, the need for periodic training for librarians and library staff cannot be overemphasized.
Dr Bode Ojo, a Library and Information science lecturer is of the opinion that the advent of ICT has affected the role and services of libraries including the academic libraries, also has it revolutionized the transportation of information. The rapid pace of development in the field of Information Technology (IT) and the emergence of networked information services have prompted a comprehensive review of the library; specifically, the academic library and information science profession. It is obvious that most developing countries including Nigeria is still far behind with much work to reform the academic libraries. He concluded that the library of today should no longer be a library of the 17th century image but rather be a folder of information system. The library of today should not merely store documents but devise means by which the contents of such documents can be rapidly and effectively transmitted for use.
Internet has become an effective means for storing, sharing and accessing information which cut across the business world, libraries, education, and individuals. A few of the most popular internet means of communication include e-mail, World Wide Web, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), Usenet, and Telnet. All these technological devices can be regarded as backbones of the concept of 21st Century. The Internet and its technology continues to have a profound effect in promoting the sharing of information especially in academic world, making possible rapid transactions among businesses and supporting global collaboration among individuals and organizations.
Information Communication Technologies have already begun to exert massive transformation of education systems in developed countries–distance education universities are now quoted on the stock exchange; the best teachers in the world are becoming available anywhere at the click of a button. The library as the life-blood of higher education institutions can benefit tremendously from the facilities provided by the ICT. The university libraries can be transformed into a new information services unit, providing electronic cataloguing, electronic on-line public access catalogue, electronic acquisition and serials control, electronic inter-library loan, and electronic circulation functions. But it must be realized that many university libraries in Nigeria are yet to take advantage of modern ICT.
The majority of the higher institutions in Nigeria, even those with good Internet connectivity, are still at a low level of the integration of ICT in teaching, learning, research, library, information and managerial services. There is a need for professional development in the integration of information technology into education and learning. The global trend is towards the use of ICT in all spheres of human endeavour, such as e-commerce, e-governance, e-finance, e-libraries, etc. In the educational sector, the trend has been the integration of ICT into all spheres of education, such as on-line courses, tele-education, tele-medicine, distance education, virtual learning, virtual laboratory, etc.Digital revolution has dramatically changed the face of libraries in the 21st century. This posed a challenge to academic libraries to digitize their services and resources through appropriate ICT application in order to remain relevant. Therefore, there is a need for urgent call for both the government of Nigeria and the university managements to set up ICT Research Institute. There should be linkages between universities, Research Institutes, and government agencies to access information without barrier. In addition, it is advisable for the government to introduce monitoring bodies, which are made up of experts for ICT development, and financial support should be encouraged from bodies, the government, and agencies. The Ministry of Education should integrate Information technology into secondary schools and colleges of education. It will be difficult for Nigeria to be truly part of the Information Age or Global Village without active participation of the higher institutions in the use and development of ICT.