By Olalekan Moses Olayemi.
Recession is more than just a word, it is real and calamitous when it affects a nation that is mono-economy dependent like ours. Such a nation is prone and vulnerable to sudden economic crisis that can collapse existing fiscal stable structures. There is no doubt, that all sectors of the Nigerian economy faced the veracity of the recent recession, although much attention was given to consumable goods as worst hit by the recession. It is equally important to pay attention to other areas that are being affected by this problem; hence libraries as information centers should not be exempted.
Libraries have a great role to play in national development because they serve as the gateway to knowledge; by facilitating and providing relevant and updated information resources (Print and non-print) among other roles to their clienteles. Libraries are information centers, which stand as a pivot for transformation of individual and the society at large. Like other important sectors, libraries were affected by the economic recession that plunged our economy into disarray, thus many libraries are still battling with the aftermath of the recession having been unable to meet the information needs of their clienteles.
The aftermaths of the recession has caused a serious decline in the votes for library collection development and staff training. Books and computer gadgets price have skyrocketed. Foreign exchange is not only scarce but also unstable as the naira purchasing power has been badly eroded, hence affecting the cost of subscriptions to information resources and facilities. Numbers of National dailies subscribed to are reduced; thus all these activities and rationalization discourage regular and potential library users. Because the budget of host institution has reduced significantly, there is tremendous cut in the library budget; hence acquisitions of library resources are reduced, staffs training are often neglected!
For example, the economic recession has led some organizations such as financial institutions and private companies to downsize and retrench some staff in the name of cutting cost. And guess what? Libraries are most often the target while swimming in the dilemma of having to manage the little budget made available by their parent organization. In trying to survive, the libraries are forced to cut down cost by reducing the number of resources acquired, activities embarked upon, these actions however, largely mitigate the full realization of the libraries set objectives.
Overtime, authors and publishers have been mandated by law to deposit three (3) copies of every book published at their own expenses to the National Library. This law has not been fully adhered to as many authors and publishers refused to comply accordingly. Although the cost seem small, but the cost of transporting these books to the National library still discourage authors and publishers, not to talk more of now that the prices of goods and services has skyrocketed in the face of economic recession; one can only imagine the effects. One major consequence of failing to adhere to this law is a decrease in the National library collection, which would have become a reference source and information tools/resources for potential users.
Authors who devote their time and energy towards the production of an intellectual output are not totally free from the effects of economic recession. For authors to succeed in writing a good intellectual work they will need a conducive environment and a stable mind. Imagine a car without fuel in it, so also is an author or potential author who is struggling to earn a living during a period of economic recession. Most efforts are being diverted towards earning daily income for survival rather than the commitment to add to the existing knowledge for the community.
Publishers like other investors are in business to make profit. The unstable and sudden rise of exchange rate has seriously affected the cost of importation of materials for book production, causing a surge in the price of books and reading materials. The recent school resumption did not really put a smile on the faces of parents and guardians as the cost of textbooks to be purchased for their wards has increased beyond their reach. While the booksellers are complaining of low patronage, parents and guardians are complaining of high price and publishers are complaining of high cost of production. Who is to blame?
As the outcome of economic recession persist, libraries need to be well equipped, the librarians need to be proactive and be ready to adequately utilize the available resources in meeting their users’ need. The friends, organizations and sponsors of library activities must come to her rescue. Government must put in place short and long term measures to alleviate trends of inflation and economic instability. Our collective decision today determines how our tomorrow would be. This is a time for individuals to know that tough times never last!
Olalekan Moses Olayemi, is a Librarian with Nigerian Institute of Medical Research.