Disaster Preparedness at the State Public Library, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

There are many kind of libraries for different purpose. Unlike the other types of libraries that are meant for specific group of users, public libraries are not restricted to any group of users. They are more or less a universal library; as some perceive them as the "poor people's university"; expected to serve all kinds of people including young children, the physically challenged and those who, for one reason or the other, are incapacitated, such as the hospital patients and the prisoners. Public libraries serve the general needs of cities, towns, villages and some larger areas and are saddled with the responsibilities of serving the entire group of users of a community where they are located, regardless of age, sex, religion, complexion and profession.

When the librarian accepts holdings into his repository, it implies taking the responsibility for their custody. All this may be jeopardized, if the library is damaged or lost as a result of a disaster. Viewed from the point of view of the library, a disaster can be anything or event which directly or indirectly affects the normal administration of the library i. e. the disruption of services to readers on either a short-time or a long-time basis. This is different from the normal nature of events that are termed or described as disasters. Natural events like earthquakes, flood, and volcanic eruption are termed disaster because of the effects they have on human beings as well as their normal way of occurrence. Also, man-made events like fire, acts of war and terrorism, structural (building) deficiencies and chemical spills are termed disaster; because of their effects on materials and properties of the library. However, criminal acts, like book theft and mutilation are also termed as physical disasters.

It can be argued that the classification of disasters into natural and man-made has very little importance for the identification of what actually is a disaster. Thus, an event becomes a disaster, only when man and the environment he has created or lived in, are affected; whereby the environment can be a nation, community, business organization, office, museum, or library. The moment these settings are disturbed and normal services are disrupted, the situation can be termed as a disaster. Hence, a disaster as an unexpected consequences to the holdings or materials in the custody of the librarians stressing that it can be a small-scale incident or a full-blown emergency; even though in both cases, the event or situation requires prompt action to limit damages.

Alegbeleye (1993) defined disaster as an event that "results in the sudden removal of records and documents from accessibility and use"; stating further that the disaster can be regarded as an occurrence that temporarily or permanently render information contained in document inaccessible. A disaster can be seen as an overwhelming ecological disruption occurring on scale sufficient to require outside assistance. Indeed, disasters are exceptional events which suddenly kill or injure large number of people and damage properties. Looking at disaster in a generic information management context, it can be viewed as any incident which threatens human safety; and/or damages or threatens to damage a library's buildings collection (or items therein), equipment and system.

There are varied causes and for that matter classification of disaster. Alegbeleye (1993) agreed that the simplest and most common are the grouping into natural and man-made categories. They stated further that natural disasters are happenings, over which man has very little or no control and are generally initiated by such events as floods, earthquakes, storms, cyclones and hurricanes; among others. Man-induced disasters include war-time destruction, bombings, rioting, malicious vandalism, arson, negligence, power surges and failures. Irrespective of sources of disasters, the destruction and devastation they cause or threaten to cause to library resources and the provision of library services remain a critical factor in the management of libraries. …

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