World Libraries


The Effects of the Structural Adjustment Programme on Nigerian Public Libraries

Like many developing countries, Nigeria is engaged in a structural adjustment programme (SAP): a set of economic reform measures designed to achieve recovery and growth. The availability of foreign aid is often linked to progress in a nation’s SAP. Nigeria embarked on SAP in 1986, emphasizing domestic production over expensive imports, and a lesser dependence on oil revenues. The government was also committed to reduce expenditures and to stop wasteful spending, and the country’s external debt obligations were rescheduled insofar as possible. A balanced budget was sought, and foreign capital investment was pursued. Since Nigerian public libraries are supported by government, they are facing serious financial problems in this period of national retrenchment. But the effects are not all negative.

SAP has definitely brought benefits to the national economy. Libraries have seen a number of favorable impacts:

  • Foreign exchange is facilitated;
  • Systematic collection development is encouraged;
  • Local publishers are supported;
  • Greater use of public libraries as rising costs make book purchases by individuals more difficult;
  • Use of Nigerian library schools for staff development, saving the costs of overseas training;
  • Enhanced interest among librarians in the advantages of interlibrary cooperation and lending; and,
  • Greater efforts to secure books through the generosity of such organizations as the Ranfurly Library Services and British Council.

There are also serious negative effects of SAP on public libraries:

  • Large price increases for essential services and for books and other materials (up to 400% between 1985 and 1987; a greater percentage of increase since 1987);
  • Government appropriations for public libraries have risen very slightly, or actually fallen, since SAP began; for example the subvention to Imo State Library Board experienced a real–currency decline of about 70% in appropriations between 1984 and 1992;
  • Building projects have been delayed or cancelled;
  • Maintenance of facilities is minimal;
  • Binding of newspapers and journals has been abandoned by most libraries;
  • Theft and mutilation of materials have increased, as a result of costs too high for individual purchases; and,
  • Vacant positions have been left unfilled.

To librarians — and, it appears, to the rest of the Nigerian people (except for the wealthy class) — SAP is proving to be a hardship. Inflation consumes the small salaries that most people earn. Crime, disease, strikes and lockouts, and widespread hunger are the signs of failure in SAP. At the very least, the government ought to remove the import duties on books and other library requirements, so that some flow of materials can resume. It would not involve too great a cost to increase maintenance of library facilities. Key vacancies ought to be unfrozen. Library managers also have the responsibility of finding ways to save money, by seeking supplementary ways to acquire materials.

About the Author

Jonathan C. Ogugua is Public Services Librarian, Imo State Library Board, Owerri, Nigeria.

© 1994, Jonathan C. Ogugua.

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