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1.1            Background to the Study

The Chambers Universal Learners Dictionary define a library as a building or room containing a collection of books or some other collection, for example, gramophone records.

Shair (1963) also defines a library as an organization of one or more trained people who use carefully selected or organized books, periodicals and other similar materials as a means of giving to those who may appropriately use it to the fullest extent of their need or desires the information, enrichment or delight which is to be heard from the written word.

The library can be defined as an institution that is mostly concerned with the methods, skills, and system for acquisition, storage, preservation and dissemination of recorded and non-recorded materials. The library is generally grouped into six (6) which are national, academic, school, private, special and public libraries.

The public library is a library which carters for the informational needs of everybody in the society. It is not restricted to anybody or a particular group of people. The implication of the word ‘PUBLIC’ is that the library is expected to serve everybody in the community in which it is situated; hence it is also called “The People’s University”.

According to Gates (1976), the public library can be defined as a library authorized by state law, supported from general public funds or special taxes voted for the purpose and administered for the benefits of the citizens of the country, town, city or region which maintains it on the basis of equal access to all. Ikokoh (2003) defines public library as a library provided wholly or partly from public funds and the use of which is not restricted to any class or person in the community, but is freely available to all.

The public library primarily exists to serve the entire members of its locality referred to as the general public. Nuhu (1994) observed that the public library has the same universal objective of serving the general public towards the educational upliftment and awareness of rural and urban persons, to enhance and develop their potentialities. The public library has the traditional role of acquiring books and audio-visual materials, and making them available to patrons regardless to citizenship, age, educational level, economic and social status or any qualification or condition. It must therefore be a depository of a variety of books and other informative materials and provide needed services for the members of the immediate community it serves. The public library has proved to be of the best means of providing books and non-books materials and making them available and accessible for its diverse users.

Public libraries are now acknowledged to be an indispensable part of community wide range of reading materials for all ages and centres for community information services. The public library that provides services to the general public, is also responsible for serving special categories of the public, such as children, members of the armed forces, hospital, patients, prisoners, workers and employees. In other words, it is a library established by the state to provide wide service and supervised by either a ministry or a library board.

The public library first started in the early 19th Century in Europe and America. In England for instance, industrial cities like Manchester, Russia and Detroit in the United States had public libraries so as to meet the informational needs of the industries. Boman (1989) in addition said that the growth of education and printing encouraged the use of books. For that reasons, the first public library Act in England was promulgated in 1850. It empowered that any town council with a population of 10, 000 (later 5, 000) people was entitled to one public library.

Emmanuel (2006) asserts that public libraries in Nigeria were modeled after the Bristish. They started about fifty years before independence with the establishment of libraries in Lagos. The Modern public library movement in Nigeria can be said to have started from the foundation in 1910 and 1920 with the Tom Jones Library in Lagos. He further added that the Tom Jones Library had acquired the character of a public subscription library in which the public can subscribe to membership and get books for a particular period of time. The Lagos Library which was established in 1932 was also on public subscription.

Baba (2007) also added that the Lagos book club established its rules of operation at a general meeting on 3rd June, 1932 with Sir Allan Burns, the Chief Secretary of Nigeria being largely responsible for the establishment of the Lagos book club. He was also one of the foundation members of that library. He prepared a forward to the rule that will guide the use of the library at that time. He further said that the genesis of the present day public library services in Nigeria, is traceable to reading rooms which were established by British Colonial administration between 1938-1945. The functions of the reading rooms were merely to disseminate information that were tailored to solicit the support of the British inhabitant. The reading rooms were very instrumental in propagating the British Interest during the Second World War. These reading rooms were spread in many crannies of Nigerian and acted as catalyst of the colonial masters.

After the collapse of the reading rooms, it was decided that each region should have its own independent library services. This was one of the resolutions of the Ibadan seminar on the development of public library in Africa which was held in 1953. This seminar was organized jointly by the Nigerian Government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The resolution further recommended that the regional libraries be run by library boards beginning with Eastern Nigeria.

1.2            Statement of the Problem

The role of libraries cannot be overemphasized in a developing country like Nigeria. The public library especially is an agency for continuing education for the young and the old. The improved social status of an individual or the community obviously depends largely upon knowledge and hence reading is one of the most important means for the acquisition of knowledge. To this end, therefore, the public library is the only ‘free’ agency that provides a variety of reading services for every individual no matter his status, educational background and age.

A close examination of the public libraries in Kaduna State has revealed that the services provided to the users are poor and inadequate, most of the collections found in these libraries are outdated and inadequate. In other words, they are not actually serving the entire information needs of the people. Access to information post to be a big problem. Therefore, one tends to ponder if these inadequacies are due to lack of sufficient funds to purchase current materials for its vast users, or poor services due to insufficient staff, or because of the reading habit of the users etc.

These questions and more are intended to be answered by oral interviews of staff and patrons of the public libraries in Kaduna state through the use of questionnaire, observation and personal experience. The answer given could be useful in the improvement of public library services in Kaduna State and could also serve as a contribution to knowledge.

1.3            Research Questions

The study seeks to provide answers to the following questions.

§     Who are the users of the public libraries in Kaduna State?

§     Why do they use these libraries?

§     What are the services rendered in the Public libraries in Kaduna State?

§     Are the services adequate for the information needs of users?

1.4            Objectives of the Study

The main objectives of the study is:

§     To appraise the use of the public library.

§     To apprise the services in the public libraries in Kaduna State.

§     The study is also to examine the impact of these library services on the educational and political development of the people of the state.

1.5            Significance of the Study

The research work has been designed to establish the effectiveness and efficiency of the public library services in Kaduna State. It will also reveal the justification for the establishment of these libraries.

The recommendations made in this work will be helpful to the state government in improving the services of the public libraries in the state.

1.6            Scope and Limitations

The study covered the public libraries supretended by Kaduna State Library Board. Their services were also appraised.

The limitations encountered during this research work included funding and time constraints. Due to lack of funds, I was unable to cover the situations in other state public libraries.

The time given for this study was short to get data from users of all the public libraries in the state.

1.7            Definition of Terms

Public Libraries: These are libraries established by the state and local governments for the entire members of their communities.

Library Services: These are services offered by the libraries to their patrons, for example, reference services, current awareness services, circulation services etc.

Library Board: It is an autonomous statutory body that is responsible for the overseeing of public libraries in a state.

Impact: This is a strong effect or impression on users of the libraries.

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