Imagine having an insatiable desire to do a fun thing of your choice, like reading in public library, but cannot find a favourable environment to do it. What job do you enjoy doing? What is your favourite hobby? Think about doing that in the most uncomfortable situations.
This perhaps is the story of a 21-year old blogger in Uyo who goes to a fuel station where he can access constant power supply for the hours that he needs to work on his laptop.
“Sometimes, I spend most of my time in filling stations, when they are selling fuel to use their light. I’d just go there and charge my system. Sometimes, I do charge my phone or system in some business centres. I would pay money for it and after a while, I would go and get it”, the blogger lamented.
The 21-year old blogger is not the only person facing this challenge, as even influential youths in the state who are tech-savvy and who now have offices have had to use cafés and business premises of people who are not related to them.
A JAMB candidate at the state e-library told Life and Tour that he goes to a Government Primary School near him to read. He said he cannot go there anymore since that school has resumed.
A young, excellent graphic designer cum brand consultant frequently goes to Eni Gardens to sit and work. According to him, he has been developing himself in this field for as long as four years.
“Aside from Eni Garden being a relaxation spot, my kvetch and that of others I have come in contact with been the lack of power supply”, he stated.
The point is that an average Nigerian youth of the 21st century basically needs light, mobile data and a sophisticated device like a laptop to access the internet. A typical laptop in Nigeria sustains power for a minimum of four and a half hours after being fully charged, which is always barely enough to see a person’s work to completion.
This probably is why this CEO of VHIC Dezigns joins other tech gurus, photographers, web developers, bloggers, editors, etc at Eni Gardens to do his work. Hear him:
“We resort to Eni Gardens because we are accommodated there and also provided with WiFi to surf the internet for a token”.
Places like Eni Gardens have apparently replaced the roles of public libraries in our state. This is because these libraries are in very sad conditions. You would wonder then what really these public libraries were made for if young people still go to privately owned eateries to work.
A visit to the state library and the e-library will give you an answer. Readers at these libraries have a common thing they all complain about – the lack of electricity. Imagine sweating while reading in a facility that was supposed to make reading fun! The state library looks pathetic and one would wonder if the books there still meet the needs of the users. Right now, the e-library is where JAMB registration is being done. Candidates flood the place, making it rowdy and noisy.
It is necessary to ask if the number of libraries in Uyo is enough compared to the population of Uyo. Is it even fair to expect electricity or WiFi services from a library? What makes a library a library?
A lecturer of Library Studies at the University has said that public libraries in Akwa Ibom “are not even well or adequately funded in order to have enough information and resources that could have attracted the public to it”.
“Most of us, professionals, don’t see the e-library being used as it should be” – Dr. Eboro Umoren
According to her, a library is not just a stack of books since one cannot stack old, obsolete books in a place and call the place a library. What makes a library a functional library is that it must be where information resources can be retrieved and utilized by users or members of the public. “This means that the information must be current and must be the one that is needed by the community it is serving”, she explained.
If the library does not provide information resources to the satisfaction level of the users, then the library will not be useful. As this lecturer puts it, the library is a growing organism. As it increases, it sheds off old scales, as it were. That is, as information resources in a library increases, old materials are replaced by new and updated ones.
Dr. Eboro Umoren, an associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, University of Uyo who is also the chairperson of the Nigerian Library Association, Akwa Ibom State chapter has said that it seems the public libraries do not have enough funds which make the materials there obsolete. She also spoke on the aesthetics of a typical library. In this regard, the associate professor told Life and Tour that a library should be attractive even by its look, just like serving a plate of food to someone.
For instance, the paintings should be different in terms of colour for the adults, adolescent kids section. That of the children section should be warm and inviting, there should be a well-set section for interactions where there are many work stations, a database for users should be had since the users are many and are of diverse needs. The general atmosphere of the library should be convenient. There should air conditioners, lightings, fans, etc. But those are missing in public libraries in Uyo. The place looks poorly, grasses are sometimes left to overgrow and there are hardly any flowers.
According to Dr. Umoren, it is not totally bad to register for JAMB at the library since the place should be a hub of some sort but that should have a separate section and should not disturb the main activity of the library.
Dr. Umoren also mentioned that as a professional, the e-library is not being used as it should be. The facilities and materials there should be 80% electronic and it should be able to attend to the needs of all the people that are interested in e-learning, e-research, internet surfing, etc.
As a way to go, Dr. Umoren has suggested that professionals in Library Science should be employed to manage public libraries in the state.
The associate professor of Library Science is of the opinion that the number of libraries in Uyo city is enough. They only need to be managed better and made to serve the community more efficiently. She, however, added that Uyo as a local government area needs more libraries.