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Liberia needs a Library Board

By Nathan N. Mulbah  

It is often said that food and exercise is to the body what reading is to the mind. A widely read individual is certainly a prepared figure ready to meet the challenges of life head-on. The concept of reading substantively is introduced to all students at an early stage in their academic sojourn. Literacy and numeracy are twin virtues that must be encoraged at all time by all right-thinking and well-meaning individuals keen on developing the human community.

Sadly, many of educational institutions, ranging from, nursery, primary and secondary to tertiary, do not have the necessary intellectual garages (libraries and laboratories) with the requisite materials and books that will help to broaden the horizon and sharpen the intelligent quotient of  many sons and daughters of Liberia.

Even universities here do not have first- rate standardized libraries and laboratories. This lack of libraries and laboratories, has to a large extent, affected the development of the full potential of students and robbed them of the opportunities to be able to compete with their counterparts from other countries.

Towards this end, this article seeks to highlight the necessity and compelling need for the establishment of a National Library Board that will superintend the construction and maintenance libraries throughout the country. Reading is an essential component in the intellectual and human resource development of any nation from time in memorial. It was Dr. Seuss who said: “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you will go.”

Hence, the need for well-equipped libraries at all schools and universities as well as every big towns and cities cannot be overemphasized. There must also be serious attempts at establishing libraries in all ministries and agencies of government at both national and provincial levels. To accomplish this fate, there is a need for the establishment of a substantive National Library Board that will essentially evolve programs which will ensure that libraries are constructed throughout the length and breadth of Liberia.

The conspicuous lack of these intellectual growth facilities across the country is an embarrassment to true academicians as it is to conscious Liberian society. The problem is colossal but yet surmountable if the right mechanism are put in vogue.

The Problem
A cursory inspection of schools and universities operating in the country will reveal the lacked of libraries and laboratories. As a matter of fact, we do not have a National Library even in Monrovia least to talk about libraries in the provincial capitals of our political sub-divisions.

The so-called libraries in our primary and secondary institutions are nothing to write home about. Most of what is paraded as libraries often passed as mere under-equipped reading room. Worst still, libraries at our tertiary institutions are not up to the task and do not, in most instances, represent a university library any way.

Moreover, besides the central university library, there are no departmental libraries. There is something about departmental library that we have not come to grasp in this country.  A good departmental library has on shelve the relevant course books and materials that have got all the trappings of making students and researchers deeply conversant with the subject they are studying back to back.

It is an open secret that even where only central library exist, the materials on the shelve are, in most instances, archaic and outdated. Periodicals and encyclopedia are as well dust laden and reminiscent of 16th Century academic material. Most of the books found in those libraries cannot help the student specific needs. There are just not great books that one can leaf through and be real satisfied. It is an established fact that good books instill in students the love to read. And love for reading begins with books and ends with it. But we must cultivate the culture of reading by ensuring that we construct state own national libraries and one in every big towns and cities across Liberia.

In fact, in this 21st Century where information technology has become a catch phrase with on-line libraries, tweeting, face book utilization and general cyber and internet appreciation becoming cardinal to academic pursuit the world over.
Towards this end, I cannot agree the more with Darren Wilkins writing in the Daily Observer Science and Technology column, when he called on lawmakers to use some of their “HUGE” benefits and allotments to build Library Media Center in their Electoral Districts.

But if I can push it further, Yours Truly will posit that, we need to establish a National Library Board.

Admittedly though, there is a slow spiraling of private community libraries in some communities across the country. This is certainly a laudable venture, but capacity, materials and funding remain serious challenges. But we are certain that with the creation of a National Library Board, we can make significant inroad in building a huge human resource pool across the country.

Configuration of National Library Board
It pains me to hear every now and then Liberians making reference to development unfolding in other countries especially Ghana but failed to learn from those experiences. But for good reason we need to keep making reference to the Ghanaian experience. In Ghana for example, there is a National Library Board. That board is responsible essentially to establish libraries across that country and develop the mode of operation and maintenance.

After the configuration of the National Library Board, the board will firstly ensure establishment of a National Library in Monrovia and promote the culture of reading amongst students, scholars, and the public and then move on to the leeward counties. Remember, favorite reads organized in one place is an impetus to intellectual advancement.

When former American President George W. Bush visited Liberia in 2008, he consciously gave us US1 Million dollar worth of books. If we had national libraries around the country, we would have safely distributed said reading materials with ease.
The gift by Mr. Bush, in my mind, was intended to make us take reading seriously. It is good to talk at Haitayee shops and palava huts at the various universities but reading rigorously for long hours will certainly enrich our intellectuality. So let’s get reading folks.

We must encourage our students and the public to develop the culture of reading. For reading is to the mind what eating and exercise is to the body. In other to eloquently dialect on issues in a more responsible and appreciable manner we must read. Our intellectual landscape is now bubbling with many half way people and quacks who relied heavily on hearsay instead of reading but choose to present themselves as fine intellectual species.

Arguably folks, the establishment of a National Library Board is a national priority that must be taken seriously and put on our development agenda come what may.  Sadly, this year’s fiscal budget does not address the issue of libraries construction in any community. May we reflect on this suggestion and see the need to establish a National Library Board.


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