Libro Futuro

Librarians in Nigeria. Access to information is a human right! Mario Coffa interviews Nkem Osuigwe

Intervista in italiano

Nkem Osuigwe Nkem E. Osuigwe is the Human Capacity Development and Training Head, African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) with headquarters in Accra, Ghana. She had been the head of a public library system in Nigeria as well as a Director in Nigerian Book Foundation. She has served the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) at the State and national levels where she has led her State Chapter to win the Best State Chapter in the country consecutively three times and she had received the first ever NLA Advocacy Award. She has also been a mentor in Cohort 1 and 2, INELI SSAf (International Network of Emerging Library Innovators, sub-Saharan Africa) as well as a Coach in AfLIA’s Leadership Academy (Cohort 1 & 2).  She is very active on Twitter as @librarian_nkem

To begin I would like you to briefly tell us what it means to be a librarian in your beautiful country, Nigeria.

Through the years, being a Librarian in Nigeria meant graduating from a Library school, being certified by the Librarian Registration Council of Nigeria and working in a any of the different Library types, or being a Library educator in a Library school or working in organisations with Libraries or have specific Library roles.

However, times are changing. Nigerian Librarians are exploring and expanding to new areas of practice.

– They are getting stronger in advocacy – finding their voices and acclaiming who they are and what they do as information specialists beyond the library walls.

– They are expanding their offerings as librarians, providing access in information on different platforms even when the library doors are closed.

– They are becoming tech-savvy as they serve in different capacities in organisations

The experience of Covid 19 has had a particular impact on libraries; a positive aspect, however, was the increase in the use of digital tools and platforms. Do you think this process could be decisive in the future for the evolution of our libraries?

Yes, to a large extent. Librarians are beginning to understand more that they can practice the profession even when library doors are closed as the COVID-19 crisis taught everyone. One of the takeaways from the COVID-19 crisis is that teaching, learning, research and almost every form of engagement can be done online. We saw the growing importance of digital skills, digital communications as well as media and information literacy. Librarians need to quickly ‘own’ this niche so that more and more people can gain skills that will assist them engage effectively and safely in online spaces.

All these have great capacity for changing what is taught in Library schools and the range of possibilities of how libraries operate and/or serve their use communities.

I was very impressed by a post you published on Facebook about the closure of the governments of Uganda and Nigeria of some social networks such as Twitter: the post read “access to information is a human right”. What can you tell us about it?

Libraries have always been about access to information for decision making, learning, research and transformation of lives. When the Internet came on board, there was fear that the resource would make libraries obsolete. However, libraries learned to ‘ride the tiger’ of the Internet for provision of services.

When the Internet is shut down in countries, it affects

–       access to information,

–       news about opportunities,

–       networking

and dismantles inclusiveness so to speak as people become excluded from information in online spaces.

Africa is made up of developing countries that need access to knowledge that would drive innovativeness and propel development. When access to the Internet is tampered with, it has the capability of undermining development efforts as community of users won’t be able to search for and get information beyond what is under their noses. This is debilitating and robs Africans of the competitive edge needed for thriving in 21st century online spaces.

Importantly too, Librarians are beginning to identify as advocates of Internet Governance as what happens to how Internet is accessed affects libraries. This is crucial for us in Africa where many communities depend on the library’s electronic devices and internet connection to send emails, read news online, search for jobs and to study.

Tell us about the wonderful course organized by AfLIA whose motto was: “Fasten your African librarians, the greater the effort the greater the glory”. A captivating and enticing title. Can you explain us better about this project?

Openness is the default setting of libraries as institutions that provide access to knowledge that can practically drive development in Africa. AfLIA has been engaging with different stakeholders in order to push the agenda of openness. The organisation has run trainings for African Librarians on Open Education Resources, Open Licensing and Open Access. AfLIA struck up a relationship with the Wikipedia Library in order to teach African Librarians skills that they will use to assist their user communities to tell their stories and open up their knowledge as inclusivity can only be built when through knowing (and if possible understanding) of differences that exist. As part of the relationship, a course ‘Wikipedia in African Libraries’ was adapted from the OCLC’s Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together. Also, the relationship gave birth to the African Librarians Week as an integral part of the one Librarian, one reference campaign to make articles in Wikipedia more reliable. The quote above was urging Librarians not to relent, but to push on in adding citations that will make Wikipedia, the open online encyclopaedia better for everyone.

Finally: Giulio would like to be a librarian one day. What would you suggest to him?

To be a librarian, you need to be willing to keep on learning. Sometimes, learning is an activity, most times, it is an attitude. Developing the attitude of learning new things is critical if one wishes to be a librarian. Why, one may ask? Using digital skills as an example, a librarian is that one professional that cannot afford to be uninformed as she/he is basically the ‘who knows’ or one that absorbs new trends/skills and breaks such down to the user community.




Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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