Theft of Law Books in Nigerian University Law Libraries: An Investigative Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

The university library supports teaching, research, dissemination of information, and community service. University law library may be part of university libraries or an annex to the faculty of law building (Aliu 2001: 2, 5). The law library is the focus of this paper. Law libraries are special libraries who provide legal information through relevant law books and periodicals for their clientele, most of whom come from the legal profession: law students, law teachers, law practitioners, and others in related disciplines. Jegede (1985: 233-234) classifies law libraries into seven categories:

* Federal Court

* State Court

* Law School

* Practitioners

* Federal and State Departments

* Faculty Libraries

* Libraries of Legislatures

This classification does not include university law libraries. Faculty libraries are not the equivalent of university law libraries. Law libraries have been classified by Ifebuzor (1994: 39):

* Specialist Library: The oldest type of law library, including libraries of commercial firms, courts of justice, and government departments.

* Legal Practitioner's Library: Practising barristers and solicitors.

* Academic Law Library: This includes university law libraries, college law libraries, the law library of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), and the Library of the Nigerian Council of Legal Education at the Nigerian Law School.

The importance of the law library to the legal profession has been stressed by legal professionals. Ademola (1994:xvii) observes that the legal profession makes great use of books and texts. Obilade (1979:13) says that, "law libraries are ... essential to the proper study of law." To complement this, Doherty (1998:60) remarks that a library is an indispensable requirement in a law office. Without a law library, lawyers and law professors cannot do their jobs. The Nigerian Council of Legal Education requires every university law library to have the relevant, current, and adequate law books and periodicals before it can pass accreditation. Such legal materials consist of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, both local and international. These materials are very expensive, but university law libraries must acquire them.

Unfortunately, these expensive law books and periodicals are stolen and mutilated on regular and continuous basis with impunity and without compunction. Schaefer (2001:185) and Calhoun, Light, and Keller (1997:158) agree that deviation from formal social norms supported by the state will attract penalties such as fines, arrest, and imprisonment. Therefore, stealing law books is a crime and whoever does it will be regarded as a thief. Wrigley (1992) writes more about these matters from the perspective of libraries.

Theft and mutilation of library books are common. Law libraries are not exempt. Saturday Punch (1977) carried a report on the disappearance of 66 volumes of law books from a State Ministry of Justice in Nigeria. Jegede (1994: xiv) reports that thieves attempted to steal law reports from the University of Lagos Law Library. Heaps of law reports were later found by the waterfront by the university security staff. The collections of the Supreme Court Library and the Lagos State House of Assembly have also been ravaged by thieves. There are other reports of the theft of law books from university law libraries in Nigeria; for instance, the University of Ibadan Law Library lost 225 volumes in 1992. In the US, Bean (1992:28) reports that about 250,000 books are stolen from libraries in the US each year. Bean further reports that an inventory conducted at the University of Maryland found that the library had lost 30,000 volumes, while the University of California at Berkeley lost 150,000 volumes within a period of three years. The universality of the theft of library books is incontestable. …