World Libraries

New Standards for Library Education in Nigeria

Abstract: Examines the new standards laid down for library science education in Nigerian universities, concentrating on the curriculum section. The recommended curriculum is compared to the one in the IFLA Standards for Library Schools (1976) and found to be lacking in both core and specialized areas. The new Nigerian standards are designed for undergraduate programs in school librarianship, but this paper proposes modifications of it in order to accommodate other specializations, since these are the only official standards in Nigeria for library education. The adoption of the IFLA standards for library schools is proposed, along with the provision of a standardized postgraduate curriculum.


Decree No. 16 of 1985 by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria established minimum academic standards for all disciplines being taught in Nigerian universities [1]. This decree was incorporated in the National Universities Commission (NUC) Amendment Decree No. 49 of 1988, the purpose of which was:

to lay down minimum standards for all universities in the Federation and to accredit their degrees and other academic awards after obtaining prior approval therefor through the Minister from the President, Commander–in–Chief of the Armed Forces ... . [2]

In pursuance of this action, the NUC appointed panels (approved by the Honourable Minister) to produce draft proposals on minimum academic standards for all the undergraduate academic programs in all the Nigerian universities. The work of the panels resulted in the ultimate approval of minimum academic standards for all Nigerian universities in such areas as the arts and humanities, education and social sciences, science and technology, agriculture, human and veterinary medicine, etc.

Accreditation exercises are afoot to approve or disallow the continuation of any academic programs which fail to conform with the recommended minimum standards in respect of course content, physical facilities, and quantity and quality of staff. In the approved documents, the degree program leading to the award of bachelor of library science (BLS) falls within the Faculty of Education for all universities.

This paper examines the curriculum laid down for library science education in the new Nigerian standards. In doing so, it will compare the curriculum to a standard curriculum such as that recommended by the International Federation of Librarv Association and Institutions (IFLA). The paper will also focus on perceived defects of the new standard if, and as it now seems to be so, the new standards are intended to be the only ones for library science education in Nigerian universities. Suggestions will be made. based on certain assumptions, for possible modifications. A proposal will also be made for a standardized postgraduate program to remedy perceived shortfalls in the undergraduate program.

 Core Curriculum

Guy Marco defines the core curriculum as “that fundamental segment of the library school program which is pertinent to all types of libraries and which ought to be mastered by all library students.” [3] The concept of a core curriculum is universally accepted within the library profession. But what the components of the core should be has remained fluid. Perhaps we can illustrate this fluidity by using Marco’s paper under reference, although he, among others [4, 5] has discussed the core with the postgraduate program in mind.

Marco notes that as far back as the 1930s and the 1940s, the “basic subjects” included book selection, cataloguing and classification, reference, administration. history of books and libraries. and library and society. By the 1950s, concepts of communication, research, and philosophy of librarianship became part of the core, and in the 1960s, the computer also entered as a core subject. This development was, however, disrupted by a student movement “which aimed to assert the rights of individuals to have a voice in their own education ....” [6] The movement literally crushed the concept of core and paved the way for a curriculum of electives. By the 1970s. many U.S. library schools began to drop some of the basic subjects from the core. Not even an information science course was offered by all schools as a core course. The concept of a core curriculum remained firm, but the subjects of the core were no longer fixed. In the case of the United States, library educators appeared to favor the philosophy that “a professional school must harmonize its activities with the real needs of the profession it serves.”

The hallmark of professional curriculum is perhaps to be found in IFLA’s “Standards for Library Schools.” [7] The standards specify fundamental core subjects which should be mastered first by all students as well as serve as prerequisites for the study of specialized subjects. These core subjects include:

  1. The role of the library in society as a communication agent;
  2. Principles and methods of bibliography;
  3. Principles and methods of organizing library materials (cataloguing and classification);
  4. Principles and methods of reference and reader services;
  5. Principles and methods of selecting, acquiring, and using print and non–print material;
  6. Principles and methods of library management;
  7. Library history;
  8. Bibliology;
  9. Principles and techniques of conducting research in librarianship;
  10. Principles and methods of library automation;
  11. Principles and methods of documentation and information science;
  12. Principles and method of planning, constructing, arid equipping a library.

The curriculum spelled out here, as well as that proposed by Hans–Peter Geh [8] is crucial and will be referred to elsewhere in this paper.

 The New Nigerian Standards

The contents of the new Nigerian standards for library science education can now be examined. The standards specify that “the department of library science produces librarians who are trained for school libraries, some of whom may teach a school subject as an additional responsibility.” [9] The standards further state that “all graduates of library science will be expected to take the core courses in education.” The following degrees are obtainable at the completion of the four–year program: Bachelor of Library Science, Bachelor of Arts (Library Science), or Bachelor of Science (Library Science), with the nomenclature differing among institutions. These bachelor’s degrees are all equivalent to the third level, first stage in Unesco’s classification.

Courses are arranged under four broad categories, namely, general, core, specialization, and electives. Elective courses subdivide into the restrictive and unrestrictive. The core courses are those education courses required of all students in the Faculty of Education in any Nigerian university. The courses under specialization are also compulsory but within specific departments of the Faculty. The elective restrictive courses are taken from defined areas from which students are free to choose specific courses. Courses chosen from these elective restrictive areas determine the subject background of each student outside of the library science field. The elective unrestrictive courses are taken from any area of a student’s choice for the first two years and, in the second two years of the program, from optional courses in librarianship. The minimum credit units to be passed are also specified.

These are the courses specified as core: Introduction to the teaching profession (2 credits), History of education (2), Psychological foundations of education (2), Philosophy of education (2), Sociology of education (2), Curriculum and instruction (2), Teaching practice (6), Learning, teaching and communication (3), Methods courses (3), Research methods and data processing (3), Educational technology (2), Curriculum and instruction (2), Tests and measurements (2), and a special project (4).

The library science courses are classed as specialization: History of libraries (3), Reference and bibliography (3), Cataloguing and classification (3), Library in social and cultural context (3), Literature for children and adolescents (3), Library services to children and adolescents (3), Advanced cataloguing and classification (3), Technical services (3), Organization and administration of school libraries and media resources (3), Practicum (3), Documentation (3), Cataloguing and classification of non–book materials (3), Library and information services policy (3).

Restrictive electives are drawn from the teaching subject major field. Unrestrictive electives include options for library science courses in A–V materials, educational information sources, interlibrary cooperation, library management, reference and information services, comparative librarianship, and collection development — each of these for two credits.

 Some Comparisons

Using just a few instances, let us compare the new Nigerian standards to the IFLA standards [10] and to the proposals of Geh [11]. In both of them, subjects are arranged under two broad areas, namely, core subjects (or required courses) and specialized subjects (or simply, specialization). The core subjects, according to the IFLA standards, “should be mastered first by all students ... and should serve as prerequisites for study of specialized subjects.” [12] The Nigerian standards arrange the subjects under specialization to represent the core courses in librarianship, and under unrestrictive electives (optional courses), that correspond to the specialized subjects of IFLA's standards. When these standards and proposals are compared to the Nigerian standards, it is found that the Nigerian standards have omitted a significant number of subjects both in the core and the specialized areas. Inadequacy in the core areas, for example, has a tendency to affect the subject knowledge horizon of students and therefore limit their range of choice of subjects in the specialized areas. In Geh’s opinion, “an equivalent education without any specialization would not be justified ... in meeting today’s situation.” [13]

The IFLA standards advocate that general education (studies outside of librarianship) should be a major component of the total education of the librarian. This viewpoint is found also in the Nigerian standards as shown in the general and restrictive elective areas of the curriculum. This is further stressed by the inclusion of a core area, covering aspects of educational foundation, curriculum, methodology, etc. This overemphasis on general education, though good for the curriculum borne in mind here, affects the time devoted, and number of courses allocated, to subjects in librarianship in a program which is supposed to be skewed in favour of librarianship.

An examination of Geh’s “short description of individual courses,” which incidentally is recommended in the IFLA’s standards as a reference point, reveals a rich collection of study items within each course. This richness and depth of subject contents are obviously lacking in the short descriptions of the courses included in the curriculum of the Nigerian standards.

Finally, the IFLA standards and Geh’s proposals strongly emphasize continuing education as part of the curriculum to keep practising librarians abreast of their areas of specialization. The Nigerian standards do not include this as an aspect of the curriculum.

These comparisons notwithstanding, it still appears as if everything is in order with the new Nigerian standards. There was no obligation to include all the courses recommended by the IFLA in the core and the specialized areas.

The standards are in compliance with the principle that says: “The core curriculum is a good idea, but the contents should not be constant.” But can the library environment in Nigeria afford the luxury of that principle? If U.S. library schools relegate cataloguing and classification to the category of an elective course because the work involved has become routine and mechanical there, can a Nigerian library school do the same when in practice librarians are still required to do original cataloguing and classification of books and non–book materials in their libraries here? Can the new Nigerian standards afford to ignore the teaching of the organization and management of academic libraries, special libraries, and public libraries when these libraries are the major employment agencies for librarians in Nigeria? Perhaps what is good for the advanced countries may not be feasible for the developing ones. And it does no harm if the new Nigerian standards can adopt a recommended curriculum such as IFLA’s, provided it reflects the professional needs of the country.


The mission of the new Nigerian standards is explicit: to train teacher–librarians. The standards, therefore, specify a curriculum in one specialized area — school librarianship. This one specialized area is now being accredited in all library schools in Nigerian universities, even though school libraries are virtually nonexistent in Nigeria. The curricular contents of this specialized program are still amenable to modification. If we assume that no other program at the undergraduate level is going to be approved for the library schools in Nigerian universities except this one specialized program, we may suggest possible adjustments in the program — rather than propose new programs. The following adjustments are possible:

  1. The courses in educational technology, organization of media resources, cataloguing and classification of non–book materials, and librarianship of A/ V materials tend to teach the same thing. In a program covering many subject fields, curricular items need to be weighed in order to avoid an overemphasis on just one area. Besides, media librarianship is not yet a strong point in the Nigerian library environment. However, all these courses can be captured in a single integrated course like, for instance, media librarianship.
  2. Documentation, though a core course in the IFLA standards and Geh’s proposals, can be placed as an optional rather than as a compulsory course. It is an advanced form of library and information work and may not serve any immediate professional needs in a school library setting.
  3. Information sources in education need not be an optional course in a program that is based in the Faculty of Education and tailored towards producing teacher-librarians. It should instead be a specialization course.
  4. Collection development is a vital aspect of library and information work. Because of its nature, it is more ideal to place it as a compulsory course rather than an optional one for all students.
  5. Library and information services policy can at best be an optional course or deleted altogether from the program. It may be difficult to teach the course effectively, since other types of libraries and information centres are not sufficiently mentioned in the program.
  6. Teaching practice specifies for students in the second and third years of the program “a minimum of six weeks supervised exposure to classroom teaching in field experience to demonstrate the degree of proficiency in applying some of the basic theories of instruction.” [14] All these courses are compulsory. In the case of the third year, for instance, it may be difficult to run the two field experience courses without putting undue stress on the rest of the courses prescribed for that year. It may be a lot easier to separate the field experience courses, the one for the second year and the other for the third year, and to be undertaken during the long vacation.
  7. A foreign language course is always ideal in library and information work. This can be introduced into the program either as optional or compulsory courses in the first two years of the program.

Further modifications would be aimed at expanding the new Nigerian standards in order to accommodate the interests of students in specializations outside school librarianship. The modifications will almost run concurrent with the intention of the National Association of Library and Information Science Educators (NALISE), which is promoting “a program whose objective is to prepare professionally qualified personnel for our national, public, university, research, special libraries, and other related documentation and information centres.” [15] The following specifications are proposed:

  1. The core (i.e., educational) courses should remain compulsory for all students who take to the teacher–librarian track, but should become optional for students who do not want to major in school librarianship.
  2. Teaching practice should remain a compulsory course for all students majoring as teacher-librarians. All other students who intend to qualify as full professional librarians should take a practicum in library science.
  3. The course in research methods should be taught as an integrated one in preparation for the final year essay or project. This essay should not reside in the core area, which suggests it has to be on an educationrelated topic. Students who opt for school librarianship should write on an education-related topic, while the rest of the students should be required to write on library– or information–related topics.
  4. Literature for children and adolescents and library services to children and adolescents as courses need not be compulsory for all students. They can be compulsory for teacher–librarians but optional for students aiming for other professional areas.
  5. A range of optional courses based on type of library, and special fields, to follow Geh’s example, needs to be included to accommodate all shades of interest [16]. The optional courses should be spread throughout the four years of the program. For each year a specific number of such courses should be included from which students of all categories should be required to select a certain minimum. The following optional courses are typical for inclusion:
  • Information sources in education.
  • Information sources in arts and humanities.
  • Information sources in the social sciences.
  • Information sources in science and technology. (Students may be required to produce a bibliography at the end of the course.)
  • Organization and administration of academic libraries, national libraries, special libraries and information centres, public libraries, documentation centres, etc.
  • Serials librarianship.
  • Government documents and publications.
  • Publishing and book trades.
  • Manuscripts and archival management.

There is a further problem, namely, how such a program and its graduates impact upon postgraduate programs and upon the labour market.

According to Agumanu, library administrators indicate “consistent shortcomings” in the products of the existing programs, i.e., the bachelor of library science (BLS) graduates [17]. She cites Ita, who describes the existing BLS program as “no more than making a virtue out of necessity” and its products as “rather weak and less imaginative... . They approach their professional duties with little confidence.” [18] Ita continues: “these deficiencies ... are not inherent in these individuals, but (are) the direct consequences of the weak educational base upon which their professional training has been grafted.” [19]

To be sure, such deficiencies also appear to manifest themselves in the postgraduate programs and their students. Of the master of library science (MLS) products, Adimorah (cited by Agumanu) remarks that “the present MLS holders ... show that they lack depth in their studies.” [20] And, for those who aspire for the Ph.D. degree, Nzotta, a library educator (also cited by Agumanu), adds that “it takes many of them several years after the minimum stipulated time to complete the program.” [21] Based on these complaints, one conclusion is therefore tempting: if products of a supposedly superior program impact poorly both upon the labour market and upon postgraduate programs, the odds are that the products of an inferior program are likely to rate worse in the same areas. So, where does the remedy lie?

 Suggested Remedies

Deficiencies in the new Nigerian standards and the likely poor impact of the standards upon postgraduate programs and the labour market can be resolved with at least two remedies which are suggested here.

First, the National Association of Library arid Information Science Educators (NALISE) and the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) should press for the adoption of the 1976 IFLA standards for library schools in Nigerian library schools at the university level. This will terminate controversies in respect of the curriculum. It should be recalled that the NALISE had earlier written a protest letter to the Executive Secretary of NUC demanding the approval of a parallel professional program in addition to the new standards [22]. It will be easier for the government to adopt the IFLA standards than for it to embark upon the provision of an alternative program as NALISE appears to suggest. Besides, the adoption of the IFLA standards will enhance the image of library science education in Nigeria by placing it on a high pedestal as it will assume a universal character.

The second remedy is more elaborate than the first and works towards the proposition of a postgraduate curriculum that will be approved by the government, through the NUC, and made binding on all library schools that offer postgraduate programs. Such an approved standard postgraduate curriculum will eliminate the inherent deficiencies in the educational program at the undergraduate level, seek to extend the period it takes to qualify for the award of a postgraduate degree, and adapt the program to respond to changing, professional needs.

To achieve this objective the NALISE and the NLA should covene a national conference which will address the following issues:

  • An analysis of library science curricula in Nigerian library schools, including the new standards. This will be aimed at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of all existing curricula.
  • An analysis of professional needs. This will survey the library and information science environment in Nigeria to determine the professional and educational needs of librarians and information workers.
  • An analysis of the emerging employment market for librarians and information workers in the country. This will determine the employment opportunities for librarians and information workers as well as explore what employers expect of them.

The conference would give a clear picture of what needs to be taught in the library schools in order to harmonize theory wiith practice. Participants at the conference should include library science educators and employers of librarians, along with officials from government ministries where information handling is a major activity, managers of semi–government institutions whose daily duties include the handling, processing. and transfer of information and data, managers from the private sector in which information handling is a major responsibility, and representatives from the Computer Association of Nigeria. This range of participants would give an accurate picture of what the employer requires of graduate librarians. Employer requirements should then determine for the educator the type of curriculum that will meet actual needs.

The national conference should wind up with the setting up of a small ad hoc working group whose responsibility would be the preparation of a preliminary postgraduate curriculum based on the outcome of the discussions of the national conference. As small as the group may be, it should be such as to cover the interests of the library educators and the employers. A monitoring group could be appointed also, to monitor the activities of the ad hoc working group and ensure that the preliminary postgraduate curriculum is produced in time.

Finally, there must be an accreditation body. It will naturally include the association of library educators and the nation’s library association. It is the accreditation body that will determine from time to time changes in the curriculum in order to respond to changes in professional need or in the employment market. It is in this way that we can overcome the deficiencies in the undergraduate programs in Nigerian library schools.


Standards are for adequate, not ideal, programs, although, in the final analysis, they do not present an unattainable ideal. They usually describe a realistic set of conditions, which if fulfilled, often provide an adequate situation. They tend to emphasize the minima rather than the maxima. It is, therefore, believed that those who will enforce the new Nigerian standards will bear this in mind. In enforcing the standards, they need to ensure that flexibility becomes a fundamental attribute of implementation, to introduce, for example, courses consonant with new developments in information handling.

Beyond this advocacy, this paper has articulated a number of modifications or adjustments that are possible within the new Nigerian standards. Each adjustment or modification has been based upon an appropriate assumption. Noting that there are complaints from both the library educators and administrators on the performance of the products of existing programs in the country, the paper proposed two remedies, one of which would adopt the 1976 IFLA standards for library schools as the viable curriculum for Nigerian library schools, and the other which would lead to a standardized postgraduate program approved for all Nigerian library schools at the university level.


1. Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Decree 1985 (Lagos, Nigeria: Government Printers. August 1985. Decree No. 16).

2. National Universities Commission (Amendment) Decree 1988 (Lagos. Nigeria: Government Printers December 1988. Decree No. 49).

3. Guy A. Marco. “Recent Adventures of the American Core Curriculum,” UNESCO Bulletin for Libraries 32, no. 4 (1978): 279–283.

4. K. L.. Saunders. “Curriculum Development: The Core — Common Trunks or Satellites?” in Harmonization of Education and Training Programmes for Library, Information and Archival Personnel, ed. Ian N. Johnson, et al. (Vol. 1, Proceedings of an International Colloquium. London. August 9–15. 1987) (Munich: K.G. Saur, 1989): 61–88.

5. Li Weiming. “Professional Education for Library and Information Personnel in China.”International Library Review 21. no. 2 (1989): 263–275.

6. Marco. “Recent Adventures.”

7. “Standards for Library School,” IFLA Journal 2, no. 4 (1976): 209–223.

8. H. P. Geh, “Current Problems in Library Training with a Proposal for a Curriculum,” Libri 24, no. 2 (1974): 143–152.

9. Federal Republic of Nigeria. National Universities Commission, Approved Minimum Academic Standards in Education for All Nigerian Universities (Lagos, Nigeria: NUC, July 1989).

10. “Standards for Library Schools.”

11. Geh. “Current Problems.”

12. “Standards for Library Schools.”

13. Geh, “Current Problems.”

14. NUC, Approved Minimum Academic Standards, p. 62.

15. C. C. Aguolu. Letter to the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (Ref. LS/ NAL/ Vol. I) of May 23, 1990, in his capacity as protem President of NALISE.

16. Geh. “Current Problems.”

17. J. N. Agumanu, “Human Resources for Library and Information Services in 21st Century Nigeria” (Paper presented at the Annual Conference on Library Education in Nigeria at the University of Maiduguri. Nigeria, February 19–20, 1990).

18. N. O. Ita. “The BLS Degree and the Job Market in Nigeria” (Paper presented at the Third National Conference on Library Education, Owerri Nigeria, December 15–16. 1986). (Cited by Agumanu, ibid.)

19. Ibid.

20. Agumanu, “Human Resources.”

21. Ibid.

22. Aguolu. Letter to the Executive Secretary.

About the Authors

R.U. Ononogbo is Visiting Senior Lecturer, Department of Library Science, University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, Nigeria. He has had recent articles in Library Scientist and International Library Review.

Z.M. Falaiye is Senior Librarian, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria.

© 1992 Rosary College

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