History of Library in Nigeria

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As a student, there was a time you had to go to your school’s library. At that time, you never really thought about the concept of a library as a big deal since it felt perfectly normal to you.

But do you know that there was a time libraries didn’t exist in Nigeria and even when they began springing up, these libraries were quite few and far between?

In this post, we will take a look at how libraries have grown and evolved over the years from the pre-Independence period till date.

History of Libraries in Nigeria: How They Evolved Over Time

History of Library in Nigeria

Let’s get started.

On a national scale, the history of the library in Nigeria can be traced to as far back as the 1930s when the government established the Nigerian Division of West African Library Association (WALA). At this time, the efforts and activities of this association was geared towards producing a National Library.

Prior, to the establishment of the national library, there was already a major library in Nigeria at the University of Ibadan. This library was established in 1948.

Also, there was a library in Eastern region around 1959. At that time, this region had created a 5 year plan to develop regional libraries and mobile ones with over 1600 books.

The establishment of a Library Advisory Committee by the Nigerian Government in the 1950s led to rechristening of the Nigerian Division of the WALA to the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) in 1962.

The Library Advisory Committee was able to work out plans for library services in the country and the committee also persuaded the government to set up a National Library.

This became a reality after the country attained independence. Prior to this, the Ford Foundation of America had collaborated with the Federal Government by providing funds and the necessary expertise for a feasibility study. This led to the appointment of Dr Carl White, a distinguished Scholar/Librarian. Dr Carl arrived Nigeria from the U.S in 1962 and he was pivotal in setting up the necessary technical personnel for the National Library.

In September 1964, the government passed the first library-related legislation which was the National Library Act and this Act later became the National Library Decree No 29 of 1970. Consequently, the National Library of Nigeria came into existence. It was a grade “A” parastatal and the apex library in the country.  This library is the giant memory of the nation, her intellectual store house and the data bank for learning and remembering process.

The National Library is also known as the vanguard of library development and information services delivery, advising institutions, organizations and MDAs at all levels of government on library development.

Prior to the establishment of the National Library, UNESCO released a document in 1962 which it stated that each region of Nigeria should be responsible for the creation and regulation of the activities of local public libraries in Nigeria.

Also, libraries became an important part of the educational system in the country. According to Nnamdi Azikiwe, universities are responsible for the development of races, nations, and separate people hence it is expected that these institutions be the centers where the material world was ruled by the power of intellect. He believed strongly in the power of knowledge and education and sincerely wanted to make Africa the continent of light, which meant the light of intelligence. This was one of the reasons why he donated 12,000 of books and magazines to the library of Nsukka, University of Nigeria. The library was established in 1960 and named after him.

At present, the libraries in some of the country’s universities are among the biggest in Africa: Ahmadu Bello University (Kashim Ibrahim) has about 1.2 million of books Nsukka, University of Nigeria has about 717,000 of books University of Ibadan has about 450,000 of books, Obafemi Awolowo University has about 401,000 and the University of Lagos has about 375,000 of books.

Also, government primary and secondary schools have libraries however; the development of these school libraries has been quite poor as they have received little attention from the government compared to those of tertiary institutions. You’d be surprised that many of these school libraries have barely up to 1,000 books.

Another important part of the library history in Nigeria are the private libraries. Many individuals and private organizations clamouring for the improvement of the reading culture in Nigeria have gone on to set up private libraries.

Some of these libraries have been briefly profiled below:

Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries (ZODML)

The first ZODML was opened in 2000 at 196 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. It was officially opened with more than 22,000 books and audiovisual materials available to over 6,000 patrons (including students from government schools) to browse through and borrow, it is a rich and thriving space for knowledge seekers and book lovers. Additionally, the library comprises internet learning centres, libraries in government schools and prisons and monthly reading programmes (CATHY, JSRP and SSRP).

The resources used in founding ZODML were grants and gifts from the widows and daughters of the late Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue.

The centre was set up with the mission to provide free channels for Nigerians to access information and learning tools to acquire knowledge. It was inspired by the life of Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue who rose from a farming background to become the first company secretary and legal adviser to the African Continental Bank through self-learning and access to libraries.

ZODML has an online library which was created in 2012 to broaden the reach of ZODML’s services and resources beyond its physical locations.

Chapter Eleven Limited

Chapter Eleven Limited is another privately owned library available for public use. The library is located in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. The centre was borne out of a desire to provide a comfortable ambience for people to read/study without any distraction.

The library provide 24/7 power supply, reliable internet connectivity and a peaceful ambience.

YouRead Library

YouRead is located on Herbert Macauley Road in Yaba. The centre was setup as part of GTBank’s commitment to improving the reading culture of the young people in Nigeria.

It was formerly called the Herbert Macaulay Library but it has since been transformed from traditional library to a sophisticated facility to help young people read more.

The library is one of the oldest in Lagos State. Also, it is home to one of the oldest bibles [Apocrypha] in the world and the centre opens to the public on Mondays to Fridays between 8 am and 4 pm.

Access to the YouRead Library is free. Also, there is a digital library arena where computers containing the curriculum of students between Junior Secondary (JS) 1 to Senior Secondary (SS) 3.

Additionally, these computers contain e-books on various areas of study, and history about Lagos. This library is quite beneficial to the Yaba community as it encourages the reading culture among students. As we know, Yaba houses two tertiary institutions and numerous secondary schools.

LeanHUB Library

LeanHUB Library is located at 39A Awudu Ekpegha Boulevard Street, Off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Some of the major features of the library include free internet access, uninterrupted power supply, a relaxation lounge fitted with soft music, a free coffee lounge, relaxation games and the right reading ambience.

Other private libraries and their locations include:

  1. Badagry Divisional Library | Marine Road, Badagry, Ojo, Lagos
  2. Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos Library | 9 McEwen Street, Yaba, Lagos
  3. Crimmd Library | 138, Ejigbo Idimu Road, Ejigbo, Oshodi Isolo, Lagos
  4. Crystal Library Solutions Ltd | 18, Tijani Ashogbon Street, Bariga, Lagos
  5. Fola Sasegbon Memorial (Law) Library | 46, Akinsoji Street, Fadeyi, Shomolu, Lagos
  • Henry Carr Public Library | Behind Conoil Petrol Station, Cement, Agege, Lagos
  • Ikorodu Divisional Library | T.O.S. Benson Road, Ikorodu, Lagos
  • Lagos Books Club (The College Library) | House 27, 5th Avenue, Festac Town, Amuwo Odofin,
  • Lagos State Library Board | 1, Oba Akinjobi Street, G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos
  • Legislative Library | Lagos State House Of Assembly Complex, Governers Road, Ikeja, Lagos
  • National Library Of Nigeria | 227, Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba.
  • Strexfree Library | Saint Finbarrs College Road, Akoka, Shomolu, Lagos.
  • Tolu Public Library | Temidire Street, Tolu School Complex, Ajegunle, Lagos.

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