Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Libraries and Access to Information in Plateau State, Nigeria

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Libraries and Access to Information in Plateau State, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Rural inhabitants in the context of this research refer to people living in the core Nigerian rural areas and have very little or no level of education. They are people whose lifestyles are characterized by extreme poverty and illiteracy. Plateau State is the twelfth largest state of Nigeria, and it is roughly located in the center of the country. Its capital is Jos and it is celebrated as "The Home of Peace and Tourism". It has a population of around 3.5 million people (http://www.plateaustate.gov.ng/page/ata-glance, 2015). The state comprises three geo-political zones: Plateau North, Plateau Central and Plateau South. PLSLB is a public (State) library with the head office in Jos and two outreach libraries in the other two geo-political zones: Pankshin (central zone) and Shendam (southern zone) of Plateau State, Nigeria. Successful sustainable development in developing countries like Nigeria and states like Plateau depends on the level of commitments by governments and other stakeholders to providing the rural populace with valuable information that are relevant to their specific information needs, empowering them to understand, use and share such information, for the purpose of problem solving and better decision making. Beyond access (2014) attested to this fact when it described information as vital to every development outcome - everything from health to agriculture to supporting open government.

A lot has been said and done about access to information at global and regional levels. For instance, IFLA has made many great efforts towards promoting increased access to information. In February 2015 in New York, IFLA presented the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development to the United Nations (UN). The Lyon Declaration calls upon UN Member States to recognize the importance of increased access to information in supporting the post-2015 development agenda (IFLA takes Lyon Declaration to the UN, 2015). Despite all efforts made for increased access to information, the impact of the access to information advocacy is yet to be noticed among the Nigerian rural inhabitants because the real rural inhabitants are yet to be reached. For Africa in general and Nigeria in particular to achieve sustainable development, the real rural inhabitants must be increasingly empowered with good information. Therefore, this study intends to identify the information services rendered by PLSLB to the rural inhabitants in Plateau State, Nigeria, the perception of the rural inhabitants about Plateau State Libraries, the impact of the information services offered on the rural inhabitants, the challenges faced by PLSLB and suggested ways out.

Statement of the Problem

A library is supposed to serve all categories of people, old or young, men or women, educated or illiterate, physically challenged or not and so on. However, this is not always the case especially in developing countries like Nigeria, because of the general wrong perception that libraries are meant for only the educated. This is why it is very rare to see rural people use the library and this cannot also be separated from the fact that rural libraries are not available in most rural communities in Nigeria and where there are, the rural inhabitants cannot access the information being provided by these libraries because the information are not tailored to their information needs. PLSLB has only two outreach libraries in the entire Plateau State. The question then is; does each of these libraries really meet the information needs of the real rural inhabitants in its entire zone? It is on this note that this study uncovers the status quo at the PLSLB as regard the cause of access to information by rural inhabitants in Plateau State, Nigeria.

Objective of the Study

The study aimed to examine various information services for Plateau State rural inhabitants by the PLSLB, Nigeria. The specific objectives are to:

(i) identify information services by PLSLB for rural inhabitants;

(ii) find out the perception of the rural inhabitants about PLSLB;

(iii) identify how PLSLB information services have impacted the rural inhabitants;

(iv) identify the challenges hampering PLSLB information services to the rural inhabitants; and

(v) identify the possible ways out of the identified challenges. …

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