Libraries, education, innovation and entrepreneurship
Community libraries(s), I think, should be a vital, indispensible and necessary hub of community development in this age of high technology. For any nation that desires its communities and villages to key into the ever-expanding universe of social change and technology in form of integrated and inclusive development, its states and universities library outreaches or independent town libraries diachronically and synchronically hold the ace, in space and time, to galvanize, crystallize and articulate the folks ontically, culturally and demographically for manpower and literary development. Library as a place or building for books for learning and listening has gone far into a wide canvas of multipurpose activities encompassing provision of educational and social solutions as well as global communications and awareness.
Books and libraries were purveyors of ideas; they not only preserve the artistic scientific and cultural anthropologies of mankind, they also consolidate and sustain them for posterity and history. From the beginning, the simplest of numbers, 1,2,3… as well as the “Ten Commandments” in the scripture were preserved in papyrus before their interface and transliterations into the Romans and English numerals and “writings”, the structure and condiment of book literate tradition. From the down of Greek, Roman and Western Civilisations Books„ book collections and libraries had undergone putative, mutative, qualitative and quantitative transformations of significant contributions to their corresponding periods in human history. In consonance or rather conterminous with book evolution, technology has moved from analogue to digitalisation and now the “in-thing” in Nigerian technology space is “digital-switch-over”; hence, the talk of digital radio, TV, and iPhones, e-books, e-libraries, e-commerce and so on. The question is how do these state of high technology service and solutions impact on the rural populace, for whom community libraries are meant? Or what is the role of community libraries in building capacities among the rural folks for the much desired innovation and entrepreneurship.
Communities facing the challenges and the necessities for rural libraries are graphically that from the African continent and the communities in the sub-Sahara African and West Africa which must hear the talking drum of innovation, entrepreneurship, growth and development for their survival in a competitive global world of financial crisis and lopsided world order. Our point of reference, analytical and synthetic impetus, and as a matter of fact is library in Anambra State where much has been accomplished, but much is yet to be done in mobilising and sensitising the rural communities, the folks and the what we call “mini-versities” around and within their rural universe and cosmology.
Community libraries or “min-versities”, as it were, should be one indispensible cutting edge blazer and catalyst in socially and pedagogically emancipating the educationally less privileged, rural youth from the shackles of career intimidation into various forms of social awareness critical to their choices for innovative and self-survival.
Opening up to self awareness and critical choices for innovative skill, acquisition should be the main stay and reason de tre of critical rural library development in villages and communities. The attention of this innovative engineering is focused on Anambra State, the home of Kenneth Dike library, a library named after a foremost historian of African continent born of Awka, Anambra State parents and the pioneer Principal of University College, Ibadan, now University of Ibadan.
State libraries exist in Nigeria apart from the National libraries, but from individual and collective experience of “white-elephant” nature of development infrastructure in Nigeria, they are either abandoned or under-utilised. But where and when these state libraries are strangulated as a result of neglect then one begin to appreciate the self development efforts of communities in building libraries to supplement the efforts of state governments.
The resurgence and consolidation of some communities’ libraries in Anambra State have ramped up and beautified the need of them as nuggets and ballast of social change and innovation. Anambra State has 47 communities, while about 55 per cent of them have community libraries and only about 10 per cent of them may be equipped with necessary books, computers and other infrastructures. The most enduring with fairly long histories are that of Nanka in Orumba L.G.A, Adazi Nnukwu in Anaocha L.G.A, Awka in Awka South L.G..A, Nnewi in Nnewi South L G.A, Onitsha in Onitsha in Onitsha South L.G.A, Abagana in Njikoka L.G.A, to mention but a few. It is regrettably observed in this sector, among rural communities are yet to brace up in terms of not only arriving at rural library status, but also in infrastructurally standardising them where they actually exist inchoatively. The mismatch between Ndigbo self-efforts in development and well equipped community libraries in the South East Zone is yawning gap and until this yawning, fever is the therapitized and healed the resilient ingenuity of this historical African genius-specie would remain subdued with the ethnic nationality’s destiny blighted in the comity of nations. Communities in Anambra State are therefore, advised to match their community development efforts with rural library establishment as inviolable partners in innovation and in promoting folks entrepreneurship.
Awogbu community library in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State is one of these “mini-versities” crying to fill the unnecessary gaps between Ndigbo community development self-efforts and library propelled technological and innovative seasame and value-chains. Incidentally, the library was commissioned on 22nd March, as constituency project in the presence of the sponsor Hon. Ben Nwankwor, member, representing Orumba North L.G.A in the House of Representatives, Igwe Mike Okechukwu, Eze Di-oranma of Awgbu, my humble self as both the chairman of the Occasion and Chairman of Awgbu stakeholders of education and eminent dignitaries’ including Professor Chukwuemeka Ike Igwe of Ndikelionwu and so on.
For the multitudinous primary and secondary schools students, who converged to the cite of the library including those in whose primary school compound the library is sited, it was razzmatazz gay when they gyrated to the hyp-up rythym and drums of traditional music band that awakened the sleeping community’s lame and dumb, women and men, elders and young to the news of the “mini-universe”, the “mini-versity” even as they behold the reality of one of civilisation glamour which is the library.
Hon. Ben Nwakwor summarised the import of the library as a business, learning / and communication hub where transitions can be made with all business centres, markets and institutions in other parts of the world. The Igwe in turn, thanked the Hon. Member of the Federal House of Representative for sponsoring what he described as “centre of excellence” in his community. This kind of “centre of excellence” or mini-versity” is the 21st century community developments partner and should he embraced with all official and cultural support of Ndigbo and Anambra State government, in particular.
Developments through community efforts are part and parcel of Ndigbo innovative mindset, but innovative and entrepreneurial drive has to be promoted and sustained by functional folk libraries. This is literally a yawning gap that need to be vacated in this 21st century digital technology, albeit, a necessary stage in the evolution of town unions and community initiatives in the development of the country home of Ndigbo after the ravages of the civil war (1967-1970) where marginalisation remains on ineluctable referent in the history of dynamic and progressive nations. Given two to three years of wasteful killings and asphyxiation of human and material resources in Igbo land, the immediate post-war-era of 1970s was a period of self-appraisal, self regurgitation, self-re-ingoration and self-reconstitution for Ndigbo. They in their diverse landmarks, God given talents and resilience, after three year unions, town unionism, as a response to the challenges of marginalisation that immediately confronted them.
Although, some regimes in the governments of Nigeria remembered the post-war Ndigbo with some sense of equity their survival and competitive development strides compared with other parts of the country can only be ultimately pegged on efforts through Ndigbo Town Unions or Town unionism. The history of rural road construction, electrification, building of schools and health centres, to sum it up, rural development, that is unprecedented in block Africa. Their capacity building e skills and trade also conquered the Northern and Southern Nigeria especially Lagos and Kano and the West African sub region.
This is only an entry door into the economic history of Ndigbo, but which need the be opened for the future leader of Ndigbo in urban and rural dormans whose inherited and primordial innovative ideas require rural libraries, centres of excellence and mini-versities for a complete evolution of innovative sustainable and inclusive development in South East Zone or Ndigbo ethnic nationality. This is the cultural and historical background upon which we envision community library in Anambra State, South East Zone and among Ndigbo as the catalyst of holistic economic emancipation in Nigeria, Africa and in the world.
Education is a critical element in the material, spiritual and moral development of individuals and the community, as well as an important and indispensable sector in the development of any nation, Community library as a non-governmental organization and as bipartisan and socially neutral organ of the community that offers free access to both book and e-learning -s well as computer related facilities is as hub and beehive of a wide range of literary activities. One cannot underestimate what a wide range of community library could offer in terms of literary awareness and desire for education among the village folks who are predominantly illiterate and socially disconnected from the larger world. Currently critical observations from critical sections of the nation and international community have estimated about 75% of Nigerians are illiterate which is however, more dense among the rural population who neither have the necessary skills for survival nor the knowledge and understanding of life and their environment. Apart from radio and television at some homes, library of books it manual and soft copies with internet connectivity is an arena mental recreation, learning and e-business, Community libraries promotes pen profession, book knowledge and intellectual belonging as well as stimulate the incentive for greater and global awareness through interest in literary activities.
Community libraries were not envisioned in the development targets of Ndigbo town unions at inception. Hence today despite the promotion of education where in spite of numerous secondary and primary schools built by community efforts without government’s intervention, there are no community libraries to support neither freelance learners nor pupils in schools without book infrastructure. Until recently foundations, and paltry governments’, efforts in book donations are encouraging community education development via community libraries. In this critical period of economic recession books and literary materials at the village settings would go a long way to educate indigenes and citizens on alternative means of survival as well as that man does not live by bread alone.
Nigerians have been lamenting on the abysmal debt of reading culture in the country where a graphic impression of the status of the community folk is an eye-sour. The education pyramid is not sustained by lack of reading culture and the sector has been tumbling with the status of the village setting dwarfed. Community library or mini-varsity is the answer to a recession of not only the economic infrastructure, but also to a recession of a reading culture sustained by the later. While, the wild chase for money in the urban life has blown reading culture away to the dustbin helplessness of hunger and want has reduced the village folk to a mere token of existence. As observed earlier man does not live by bread alone instead the dynamics of mental life would task the brain into thinking about possibilities and windows for making life worth living.
Where a community library is stuffed with literatures and biographies of successful men in different fields of endeavour, they would enlighten and show the uninitiated folks the way, the truth of hardwork, perseverance and excellence, teach them categorical imperative i.e. the means justifies the end and not the other way round. The libraries ideally should be abode of life and times of great men in the field of education, literary works, medicine, law, engineering, agriculture, governance, but not the class of modern nouve-riche and all weather-bird politicians of today. Beyond reading culture and literary acquaintance with the biographies of great men in the communities, the rural folks who can read or write are further exposed to the literary garment and skill with which to organize community language with or without English into narrative prose, theatre-dialogue and drama-verse of the community is living culture. Virtual arts and Nollywood have their roots in our community cultures and the people whose cultures they are have the rights, no matter their abysmal level of exposure and economic well-being, to have a sense of belonging in an innovative and entrepreneurial orientation.
The communities or villages are the cultural habitats of ingenuity, craft, skill, cosmology, and free enterprise. The hitherto latent expression of these virtues can only be developed, consolidated and sustained by community libraries. Every community has history qua histories of conceptual, manual and technical crafts, agriculture, fishing, pot, rain, broom making, smiting, soft and hard arms, amoury masquerade and so on with all the arts and aesthetics embedded in them. Yet, all these traditional and cultural material extractions can only be useful to the present generation, adapted to the environment of modern technology in an innovative way. Since, their worth cannot be diminished by any means; they could be improved upon in order to be materials worth for globalization and as alternative means of making money and revenue for either the community or for the nation.
Right now in the villages and communities in Anambra State as well as many of them in other parts of the country the youth population has become a critical one impacting negatively on the social, political and economic life of the nation. Recession and economic hardship has worsened the situation leading to many of them resigning to taking of hard drugs and armed robbery. Yet, they can be said to be educated in the use of phones, computers and sonic forms of digital technology. As millennial, therefore, the youth could impact negatively or positively for their immediate environment. But when tailored by reading and communication culture of community literary, they could impact the grassroots innovation.
Community library is a social investment that could belie the catalyzation of the ingenuity of individuals, folks and community culture. It is innovation in process when mounted, “innovation culture often speaks to breakthrough innovation, but grassroots invocation amplifies the whole innovation idea. Community libraries should be hubs for leveraging on new and old, cultural and technological ideas which amplify breakthrough. phenomenon and in turn constitute grassroots innovation. Austin Okere captures this idea in his words; “Education is the bedrock for design thinking, helping us to think in an organized way about creativity and consistently improve through continuous, iteration new and innovative ways of doing things can come from the most unexpected sources, not least the current generation of millennial. They are the sort that dares to believe that they can make the elephant dance”. Millennial today are found across cultural and geographical boundaries. This traditional, rurally settings definitely have something to contribute innovatively and transformatively to the growth and development of communities through the lever and resources of community libraries.
Indeed, millennials are the purveyor and harbingers of future global culture, Pupils in community primary and secondary schools are what Professor Joseph Nye call “tri-sector athletes” in their inchoate stages. Mike Zucherberg, founder of social networking website, facebook and the world’s fifth richest person, visited Nigeria in August, 2016, interfaced arid interrogated Tayo, 11 years old Nigerian developer who contrived a game called “spike rush” and confessed that at the same age he build his own computer and started coding games. Indeed, there are many Tayo’s and Mike Zuckerbergs at that age in rural areas but who need the E-libraries to help them develop their cultural talents in conformity with the digital technology.
“Villager” or community Millennials can lead their generation, to where they should be heading to, if educationally, literary and innovatively empowered.
Modern community libraries, like the ones currently campaigned for and propagated since Goodluck Jonathan administration through the Ministry of Housing and their sponsors from National Assembly, can transform community cultural ethos, dance, music, skills and aesthetics into tourism resources with commensurable revenue accruals. These cultural and traditional wisdom artifacts and skills can be facilitated through local content development and building capacities with community libraries deftly equipped with internet facilities. Local content creation and maximization would be useful for optimizing and integrating local skills and inventions into global cultural artifacts entrepreneurial initiatives around internet access for greater innovations. With digital community libraries, folks that have the right skills would be more empowered to build their own businesses and create jobs in a digital economy. Community libraries as hubs of business and social investments are where foreign investment portfolio, like Google and Facebook can sign up with local or community entrepreneurs who generate revenue from their local contents like music, dance, architecture, building and rain making on Youtube and leveraging on the export market as the internet facilitates them to cross geographical boundaries. We envision therefore, that community libraries totally structured in the millennial bug of digital and internet eco-system can transform a generation of community folks into a generation of entrepreneurs creating business, artistic, technical and musical models based on the web„ from content creating on Youtube to e-commerce. It is a veritable platform for promoting local contents in movies, arts, dance, music, fashion shows, education, news, entertainment and sports.
Prof. Dukor is of the Department of Philosophy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State.