The Professional Visibility of the Nigerian Library Association: A Report of Survey Findings
Chimezie Patrick Uzuebgu
Nnamdi Emmanuel Onyekweodiri
A professional association may be a group of people in a learned occupation who are entrusted to organize or supervise the legitimate practice of the occupation. They may be institutions that regulate the activities of different professions in the teaching, research and learning community. Because most of the professional institutions are born from the academic society, they act as learned societies for the academic disciplines underlying their professions. On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster dictionary (2010) says the word ‘visibility’ is a noun which means ‘publicity’. Accordingly, the term professional visibility may mean that a profession has gained public attention and support.
However, this paper considers a professional association to be any group of learned individuals of a profession who organize and enforce a legitimate practice for her professionals. While professional visibility expresses recognition and the general state at which a profession is perceived. In addition, a librarian in this work simply means anybody that has been educated and trained in the Library and Information Science discipline and is presently practicing in the profession either in the classroom or in the Library of any type. Hence, this paper presents librarians as the professionals of the Library discipline.
Statement of the Problem
It seems people in Nigeria do not know about the Nigerian Library Association (NLA). One can regularly hear people in Nigeria make mention of other professional associations like Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), etc. without easily including Nigerian Library Association. Some of these professional bodies just like NLA, does not conduct certificate examinations as membership criteria other than the relevant university degree, practicing experience and registration requirement for its membership, yet they are well-known more than Nigerian Library Association – why?
Therefore, the objectives of this paper are:
According to Harvey and Mason (1995), a professional association is a body acting to safeguard the public interest of an organization, which represents the interest of the professional practitioners, acting to maintain their own privileged and powerful position as a controlling body. Meanwhile Wikipedia (online) defines a professional association as a non-profit organization seeking to further a particular profession, including the interest of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public’s interest at large.
There are many professional associations in Nigeria that regulate different professions. Some of these associations administer certificate examinations that qualify membership to it, while others do not. Professional associations set ethical standards and standard of professional conducts for members, which include benchmarks and best practices. (Harvey, 2004).
The Black Herald magazine (2007) posted some of the names and website addresses of professional associations in Nigeria on the web. The internet list of the bodies counted only eighty nine (89) professional bodies in Nigeria that cut across disciplines like accounting, engineering, agriculture, health, government, economics, business, environment, information and technology, et cetera. The list however, did not include Nigerian Library Association (NLA). Hence, the question to ask at this juncture is if NLA is also a professional association.
The Nigerian Library Association at a Glance
Recognizing that information is the wealth for every nation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organized a seminar on the development of public libraries of Africa held at Ibadan in 1953. The seminar resulted in the establishment of the West African Library Association (WALA) in 1954, with one of its divisions sited in Lagos, Nigeria. Thus, following the independence of Nigeria in 1960, WALA division in Nigeria was transformed to the country’s national library in 1962. However, Oyinloye (1992) records that the national library began operation in 1964.
The establishment of a national library for the country brought about the establishment of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) as a professional association, a forum for library professionals in Nigeria. The objectives of NLA include the following:
The ruling body of the association is the council, made up of elected national officers, all chairmen of state chapters and the federal capital territory, eight elected councilors and all heads of the recognized eleven special interest groups of the profession. Presently, the association is headed by Professor Lenrie. O. Aina, and has over five thousand members drawn from all types of libraries in Nigeria (Nigerian Library Association Data online).
Libraries and Librarians: The Subjects of NLA
Omekwu and Ugwuanyi (2009) define the library in two dimensions; arguing that the conventional definition views the library as a storehouse of knowledge, while the contemporary definition looks at the library as an “access point institution to global information relevant for teaching, learning and development”. Their work further state that there are seven types of libraries, determined by the varying services they provide. The various types of libraries include National, Public, Special, Private, Children, School and Academic libraries.
According to Wikipedia (2010), a librarian is an information professional trained in library and information science. Librarians work in a public, academic, school or special library. Librarians that work in the public libraries serve a broad user community. Those in the academic circle provide teaching, learning and research assistance to higher institution of learning community. Those that work in schools are basically interacting and instructing both the primary and elementary pupils, supporting their teachers with information materials. Whereas special librarians are confined to special industry were special information that supports the business of the industry is a priority. Some librarians are independent entrepreneurs working as information specialists, cataloguers, indexers and other professional, specialized capacities.
Crosby (2008) posted that librarians roles and duties include:
Relatively, Halsey, et al (2008) writes that librarians, like members of other professions, have banded together in professional associations to solve common problems and to advance the profession. These professional associations address issues such as financial support for libraries, censorship, and cooperative acquisition of library materials. They also attempt to influence legislation that affects libraries, establish policies and standards relating to libraries and librarians, and support continuing education for librarians. Almost all of these organizations publish journals or monographs relating to their particular areas of interest. Professional library associations hold conferences on a regular basis so that librarians may come together with colleagues to develop policy and share ideas.
So far, it may be concluded that the Nigerian Library Association, a forum that brings library professionals in Nigeria together, is a professional association.
The paper is descriptive; therefore the exploratory and opinion poll survey methods of research were used for data collection. The study population was drawn from institutions of higher learning and research institute in Abia State non-proportionately. The institutions include: Abia State University, Uturu; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike; National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; Abia Sate College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu; and Abia State Polytechnic, Aba.
A total number of two hundred and thirty five (235) respondents were purposively selected to represent the study population, which comprise of 200 non-librarians whose views were collected and 35 librarians –made up of the registered NLA members in Abia State - whose opinions and suggestions were also gathered. This choice, especially for the non-librarian population, is based on Nwana’s (1992) recommendation that economic implications and other control factors should be considered in sampling a very large population.
The researchers prepared two separated and structured opinionnaire for data collection. The first data instrument was administered to non-librarians. The instrument focused at gathering facts to justify the first objective of this paper, which is to find out whether NLA is visible to the non-library community of Nigeria or not. While the second data instrument was administered to librarians, whose responses are expected to provide answers to the objectives of this paper.
Data collected was analyzed using simple percentage and frequency tables.
Table 1: The Distribution of Non-Librarian Category of Respondents
Out of the two hundred and thirty five (235) data instruments distributed, two hundred and twenty five (225) where completed and returned to the researchers, representing 92% of the study population. In other words, completed and returned data instruments for non-librarians were complete (200), while that of the librarians is twenty five (25). Therefore, data analysis in this study was based on the data submission of two hundred and twenty five (225) respondents.
Non-Librarians and the Visibility of NLA
The first objective of this paper is to find out if the non-library community in Abia State is aware of the existence of Nigerian Library Association (NLA). The data collected in this regards is presented below:
Table 2: The Distribution of Non-Librarians Response, by category, on the Visibility of NLA
From the table above, it can be seen that 68.5% of the study population do not know nor have heard of NLA. This response can further be seen from the perspective of the categories that comprise the non-Librarian community of this paper. Thus, the teaching/research and the undergraduate groups in the study respond that they have not heard or known of NLA at the response rate of 74%, followed by the non-teaching/non-research group (64%) and finally the postgraduate group (62%). About 21% of the total respondents say that even though they have heard about the association they cannot remember or write the name of the association correctly. While the remaining 10.5% of the total population have not only heard of NLA but correctly wrote the association’s acronym and full name. This data is translated to mean that almost two third of the people of Abia State are not aware of NLA, while less than one third of the people know about the profession but can say nothing concerning it.
Librarians and the Visibility of NLA
In the attempt to ascertain the visibility of the Nigerian Library Association in the Nigerian community, consider the reasons why it is probably not visible outside the library community and recommend ways of enhancing the visibility of the association; the researchers sought the opinion of the librarians, which are presented in the tables below.
Table 3: Percentage Distribution of Librarians Opinion on the Visibility of NLA
19 (76%) out of the 25 Librarians declare that NLA does not have a visible image in the Nigerian community.
B (1).The Opinions of Librarians who Agree on the Non-Visibility of NLA
Tables 4 and 5 below contain the opinions of the 19 (76%) librarians who agree on the non-visibility of NLA. They gave reasons for the non-visibility of NLA and further made suggestions on how to enhance the association
Table 4: A Compilation of Librarians’ Opinions on why NLA is not visible in the Nigerian Community
NB: All data above are either stated exactly as they were given or are combinations and restatement of related opinions given by respondents.
The table above contains the various opinions of Librarians on why their professional association is not visible. Among the numerous reasons listed as to why NLA is not visible in Nigeria, four Librarians insisted that the association is very quiet in publicizing its existence and relevance to the society.
Table 5: A Compilation of Librarians Recommendations on what NLA shall do to become visible in the Nigerian Community
NB: All data above are either stated exactly as they were given or are combinations and restatement of related opinions given by respondents
The table above contains the various suggestions of Librarians on how NLA can become visible enough in the Nigerian community. While Librarians maintain that the association’s members should be very proud of the profession in the public, another four librarians suggested that the members of the association should not see themselves as inferior to other professions’ members, but rather compete favorably with them.
B (2).The Opinions of Librarians Who Do Not Agree on the Non-Visibility of NLA
Out of the 6 (24%) librarians that disagree on the non-visibility of NLA, only two among them supported their position with reasons as presented in table 6 below.
Table 6: A List of Reasons Submitted by Librarians Who Disagree With the Non-Visibility Of NLA
Nigerian Library Association is one the professional Associations in Nigeria. The visibility of the Association in Abia State and Nigeria at large is very poor. A good number of librarians in Abia State agree that the Association is not visible. This agreement may be, explains why the Black Herald magazine (2007) did not enlist the association among the list of professional associations in Nigeria.
However, two among the few Librarians who did not agree that the Association is not visible maintain that the Association is an academic body whose popularity cannot go beyond the academic community, arguing that while professional bodies like Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) may be popular because of their direct contact with the public, NLA may not because her focus is on teaching and learning. Yet, the paper observes that librarians, found in various types of Libraries, offer services to the public. For instance, apart from the direct contact of the public Libraries with the public, academic Libraries are like the bedrock for the making of members of other professional associations in Nigeria.
Thus, from all percentage distributions of both librarian and non-librarians responses on the non-visible of NLA in this paper, it is deduced that Nigerian Library Association is not visible. Moreover, taking cognizance of the varying involvement and impact of the other numerous professional Associations in Nigeria that cut across disciplines like Accounting, Management, Business, Engineering, and so forth, and how noticeable they are to the Nigerian public, this paper concludes that the Nigerian Library Association should not be an exception in the same community.
This paper recommends that NLA should find her perceptible niche in the Nigerian community. The present leadership of the Association should critically consider the suggestions of librarians in this paper towards attaining a visible and vibrant Association for Library and Information Professionals in Nigeria. For doubt of the findings in this paper, the researchers further recommend investigations on this subject matter in other States in Nigeria and the collection of suggestions and opinions of librarians in other to help build and strengthen the image of Nigerian Library Association in Nigeria.
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