Thursday, 23rd April, has been set aside to mark the World Book and Copyright Day this year by the United Nations. Although, the current outbreak of the world’s pandemic coronavirus may affect the hosting of this memorable event by stakeholders. CAMPUS FOCUS in this special interview with the National Library, Head of Oyo State Branch, Mr. Salawu Akanni, takes a look at some of the issues affecting reading and publishing in the country.
Can we meet you?
I am B.A. Salawu, Head of branch, National Library of Nigeria, Oyo State Branch.
April of every year is World Book and Copyright Day, what is the importance of the World Book and Copyright Day?
The celebration of the Day is aimed to promote reading, culture, authorship and scholarship, publishing and of course library development world-wide
How has it been in terms of patronage of your branch library?
The patronage is very high. Many Readers, especially Students and Teachers as well as Administrators use this Library. The Library is always filled up especially during public examinations and you find people sitting outside. Our patrons also include publishers who apply for ISSN and ISBN for their forthcoming new publications that is monographs/ textbooks journals and other periodicals; and those who come for subpoena and certification service for litigation purpose.
Looking at the size of the Library, don’t you think it is small for your clientele?
Yes, it is small considering the large population of our clientele. However, this is our temporary site. The permanent site with bigger capacity under construction is near completion.
What do you think about Nigeria’s reading culture?
The reading culture in Nigeria is perceived to be poor but there has been much improvement Gone are the days of erroneous impression that Africans don’t read. Hence the saying that “If you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book” We have passed that stage. Put it inside a book and Nigerians will locate it, I bet you. Nigerians read and I mean we read very well. Today, Nigerians can boast of Professors, Writers, Scholars, Publishers and experts in different fields of knowledge and endeavors. The only concern is that people especially youth and students read mainly for utilitarian purposes which might be either to pass exams, to get job or get promotion. But I must tell you that reading should go beyond that. It is a lifelong activity. It should not be for a specific purpose but for life long development. Even as a graduate, having passed out from higher institution, if one fails to update one’s knowledge through continuous reading he/she will end up becoming an illiterate. That is why it is very important for one to read all the time whether one is in school or not for enhanced knowledge, and balanced education. Education starts from cradle to grave. That is why the Library is there to promote lifelong reading and learning.
Tell us more how the Library contributes to reading culture and national development?
Library is the heart of all of all academic endeavours. Different kinds of library exist to serve the larger community: The School Library supports primary and secondary school education programme. Also, there is the Academic Library which supports education programme of a tertiary Institution; State Library Board otherwise known as Public Library serves members of the public in a state; Special Library serves the parent organization to which it is attached, governmental or non- governmental organizations. It is set up to meet the special needs of the organization and to foster its growth such as Media Library and NISER Library. Next and most important is the National Library which is the apex library and national bibliographic agency of a country such as National Library of Nigeria. The regulatory body for the profession in Nigeria is Librarian Registration Council of Nigeria. It is the body saddled with the responsibility of the enforcement of standard of practice of Library profession in Nigeria so that library can continue to impact positively on individual, societal and national development.
Even when one is out of school, continuous reading is of great importance. That vacuum is filled by Special, Public and National Libraries. All libraries must stock varieties of materials ranging from print materials such as Textbooks, Journals to Magazines, Newspapers and Audio-visuals and their electronic versions well- organized for easy access and manned by professionals. Library thus fosters functional and quality education, the bedrock of development
What are the functions and services of your branch library?
National Library of Nigeria has many branches across the nation. The Oyo State Branch’s jurisdiction is within Oyo State functions and services of the branch are not different from others. These include: registration of publishers/authors in the state for collection of ISBN/ISSN from the ISBN Agency and ISSN Centre at the headquarters for their forthcoming publications, Subpoena/Certification, accepting Legal Deposit from publishers/authors in the state; Readership Promotion Campaign, Consultancy Reference and Photocopying services. The Branch also has e-library for browsing. The Branch opens to readers from 9.00am to 6.00pm during the week and 9.00am to 1.00pm on Saturdays, while other clientele like publishers and authors can come to the library by 8. am during the week.
From your perspective, what do you consider as challenges of effective reading culture in Nigeria.
Myriads of problems: societal distractions such as Noisy environments, Music, parties, Sports especially international soccer Wherever you see group of boys talking you should be sure that what they are discussing is football or other things but certainly not book except when they are preparing for exams as I said earlier. They spend the greater part of their time for societal activities and little time for reading; Poverty coupled with declining publishing industry leading to unaffordable prices of books. Consequently, books are not within easy reach of Nigerians. This is equally affecting library services as many of them do not have adequate funds to stock their libraries with relevant and up- to- date books that can enhance quality education in Nigeria. There is the need to resuscitate the nation’s publishing industry so that books can be published and sold at affordable prices. Another challenge is the one posed by Internet and Social Media. Although the knowledge and use of ICT is a sine -qua-non in this information age, it is being put into wrong usage nowadays. Some people especially youths have become lazy and no longer engage in serious reading because they find it easy to plagiarize other people’s works as well as copying wrong/false information from the Web without verification to ascertain its authenticity. Some even use it to defraud others while others play computer games all the time. This aspect of negative usage of ICT must be addressed. This is the reason for rampant examination malpractice because students with poor reading culture want to pass their exams at all costs. You can imagine, somebody who doesn’t read and wants to pass at all costs. The person will definitely resort to malpractice.
What is your suggestion on how to solve this Individual problems?
It’s simple, Self-Modification is what I call it. You modify yourself to be a good reader by first seeing reading as lifelong learning for self-development in all areas. Secondly, determining and placing one’s priorities right. Yes, I know there are times a person need to relax, have fun and engage in other things since all work without play makes Jack a dull boy and vice versa. One needs to have a schedule and place one’s priority right. You can decide to set aside three or more hours for reading per day and ensure you stand by the arrangement without compromising. It is better to locate a library for this purpose to avoid distraction. It should be noted that the library primarily caters for the educational needs of the members of the public, it equally provides for their entertainment and recreational needs. It is a place where one can relax and read for pleasure. Some libraries have audio-visual/ viewing center’s where clients can watch global live programmes such as world cup, Olympics as well as highly educative and informative programmes. Here at the National Library, Oyo State branch Ibadan, no distractions because of the serene and conducive environment. As you can see everybody is busy reading.
What Programmes has National Library put in place to sensitize the public on Reading?
Yes, National Library of Nigeria organizes Readership Promotion Campaign every year to sensitize the public on the importance of life long reading for an all- round personality development. Features of the programme includes: Presentation by scholars on the theme of the event, discussions and comments, debates, quiz and reading competitions among invited primary and secondary schools and award of prizes to schools and students. The prizes range from computer set, books to bookshelf and tablet. The annual Readership Promotion Campaign serves as a platform for discussing challenges bedeviling reading culture and education in Nigeria and chatting a way forward. You know education is the pivot of national development and if education suffers a setback, it will certainly have negative impact on national development. The establishment also organizes sensitization workshop on the importance of compliance with International standards in publishing as regards application of ISBN, ISSN and Legal Deposit submission.
What does it entail for a person to register with the National Library of Nigeria as a reader?
Registration is free for readers. However, bags and food items must be dropped at the point of entry. Readers can bring in their personal books. Readers can access and use library books but they can’t take it out of the library. They can however make photocopy of portions of consulted materials. In other words, National Library does not loan out its books.
The issuance of International Standard Book Number can(ISBN) and International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) to Nigerian publications is a mandate of National Library of Nigeria and it is an international Programme. This ensures that people outside Nigeria are able to have access to all books published in Nigeria. The procedure for issuance of ISBN includes application letter by the publisher on a letter head with traceable address including the phone number and the email address with Certificate of Incorporation of the publishing outfit attached to the letter. As for Author-Publisher, certificate of incorporation not required but he must support his application with any of the following items: driver’s license, national ID card, passport, acnd voter’s card. Publishers are expected to submit Legal Deposit Copies of their published works in the case of ISBN. As regards ISSN, a publisher must first of all produce a maiden edition of the publication for title check in the organization’s database to ascertain that the same title is not already in existence. If the title is certified free the publisher will be required to submit an application letter together with the Legalized Deposit copies of the maiden edition. If the same title is found in the database, the publisher will be advised to change the title. This is a measure the library uses to guard against duplication of titles and plagiarism. As regards journals from institutions/organizations especially academic journals from tertiary institutions, provision of Certificate of Incorporation and other items listed may not be necessary. As mentioned earlier, publishers/author-publishers must submit Legal Deposit copies of all their published works which are then published as National Bibliography of Nigeria: Three copies by commercial publishers, 10 copies by State Government and 25 copies by Federal Government. National Bibliography of Nigeria serves as intellectual heritage of the nation. The ISBN and ISSN is like trademark for protecting their works with prospects of increased visibility and global marketing.
What is your advice to Publishers on the issue of Plagiarism and what roles do the National Library play to help publishers protect their publication against plagiarism?
The measures of NLN in protecting author’s work have already been explained while shedding light on ISBN/ISSN. Another measure is that readers are not allowed to take away our books. They can only read them in the library. Besides they cannot photocopy a whole book but some pages. We adhere strictly to instructions written in a book and call the attention of the authors if need be. This is to ensure that a book is not plagiarized from our end here. My advice to publishers is that they should be upright in their Job. Allowing books to be plagiarized from their own end can discourage authors from patronizing them. This can have adverse effect on the industry and discourage authorship and scholarship. The government should do everything possible to eradicate piracy to pave way for adequate returns and royalties for Publishers.