LSJ Editors' Blog: Actor/Scholar Opens Free Library in Nigeria

17 May 2006

Actor/Scholar Opens Free Library in Nigeria

Who knew there was such a thing as an African tabloid? My ignorance was eradicated when I discovered this article about an amazing man, found at The Sun News On-line.

It's as simple as this: Raphael James saw a need, and he filled it.

James, the executive director of the Centre for Research Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD) is a researcher, psychologist, actor and an author from Abia State, Nigeria. The goal of his organization is to conduct research into areas that don't get a lot of attention, but which James believes are essential to the development of the country.

Believing what we all know -- that literacy is imperative to economic and sociological success, particularly in less-developed countries -- James started the library, located in Ejigbo in the Nigerian state of Lagos, to encourage Nigerians to "develop good reading culture."Raphael James

The CRIMMD, which is affiliated with the Bill Clinton Library in the U.S., discovered that people only read when they have a job interview or an examination to write. But encouraging a more active reading culture would help people to overcome many of the challenges that they face in life.

"We decided to set up a public library to encourage the youths to develop the habit of reading for pleasure," says James. As a result of this, plans are underway to set up more libraries in other parts of Lagos.

"We discovered that we don’t have a reading culture in Nigeria, and when you tell people to come and pay money to read nobody would come. That is why we made it free so that people would come and read," he added.

First-time users of the library fill out a registration form, after which they are able to use the library and its materials. However, the books--for the most part--are non-circulating. "We don’t allow people to borrow books to read because when people borrow books, the chances are that the books would not be returned," explains James. "For each book that leaves the library and is not returned, it will create vacant spaces hence, we prevent our books from leaving the library."

Instead, patrons are encouraged to come in and read the books during the reading hours. "People can also bring in their books to read, but they have to inform the librarian about the books they have brought, so that when they are leaving the library, they would not be harassed."

James has made public appeals for book donations. But so far, donations have been few, so the CRIMMD has had to spend precious resources to purchase books for the library. "We don’t ask people to give us money; rather, we appeal to people to donate books to the library," says James.

The library is located at 11 Adewoyin Street, off Adewale Adenuga Street, Ejigbo, Lagos State. Future projects for the CRIMMD include a reading competition, which James hopes will encourage more youths to improve their literacy skills. The CRIMMD also has a young writers initiative underway, which helps get their works published and distributed. About six young authors are currently in the program, including James' own son, six-year-old Oluebubechukwu Sharon James, whose first book, Freedom, was published earlier this year.

James hopes that the CRIMMD's free library will encourage the creation of more free libraries in his country. "I believe that if the youths are encouraged to read, they would gain more knowledge, so my advice to them is to read books--not only books recommended by schools or the West African Examination Council’s syllabus. It would increase their knowledge in treating every day’s challenges as they grow up."

Hear, hear.

Source: "Free library opens in Lagos," Damiete Braide, The Sun News On-line, November 2, 2005.


Blogger burlapwax said...

Hmmm...there are at least 34 daily and weekly print newspapers in South Africa alone, much less in all of Africa. I know you meant no offense, but my colleague Musa at Buffalo State College's library has regular reference interviews with students wherein the student refers to African education systems and other such subjects as though they are a singular subject. As a little background, Musa is a scholar on library systems and history in Mali. Needless to say, the largely desert country of Mali is as far-removed from the climate of Nigeria as could be, and he insists on students clarifying such overgeneralizations as "African culture."

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but as librarians and information professionals, we have to be careful not to overgeneralize. Africa has a huge geographic area with very different political and social structures in different countries and states.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother, Karen Hartman, works in African libraries all over the continent. She is basically a consultant/librarian who helps with technology and literacy skills. She is based in Nairobi, Kenya but covers many countries. She can be reached at kphartman(AT) if you have questions for her about African libraries.

Tracy Hartman (Library Student Journal Editorial Board member)


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