Library Philosophy and Practice 2011
The Professional Visibility of the Nigerian Library Association: A Report of Survey Findings
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 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 library and information science and is presently practicing in the profession either in the classroom or in library of any type.
Statement of the Problem
People in Nigeria do not know about the Nigerian Library Association (NLA). One can regularly hear people in mention other professional associations, such as the 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 including NLA. Like NLA, some of these professional bodies do not conduct certificate examinations as membership criteria other than the relevant university degree, practicing experience, and registration requirement for its membership, yet they are better known than NLA. Why?
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.
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 89 professional bodies in Nigeria that cut across disciplines like accounting, engineering, agriculture, health, government, economics, business, environment, information and technology, etc. The list did not include NLA. The question to ask at this juncture is whether NLA is also a professional association.
NLA at a Glance
Recognizing that information is the wealth for every nation, 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. Following the independence of Nigeria in 1960, WALA division in Nigeria was transformed to the country’s national library in 1962. Oyinloye (1992) records that the national library began operation in 1964.
The establishment of a national library brought about the establishment of 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 more than 5,000 members drawn from all types of libraries in Nigeria (Nigerian Library Association Data online).
Libraries and Librarians
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 types of libraries include national, public, special, private, children's, school, and academic libraries.
Crosby (2008) states that librarians roles and duties include:
Halsey, et al. (2008) write 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.
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 of 235 respondents were purposively selected to represent the study population, 200 non-librarians 35 librarians who are NLA members in Abia State. 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 questionnaires 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. 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
Of the 235 questionnaires distributed, 225 were completed and returned to the researchers, a 92% return rate, including 100% of the non-librarians, and 25 of 35 librarians.
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 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%). Abouty one-fifth of respondents say that even though they have heard about the association they cannot remember or write the name of the association correctly. 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 interpreted to mean that almost two-thirds 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 NLA 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.
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.
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
NLA is one of the professional associations of Nigeria. The visibility of the association in Abia State and Nigeria is poor. A good number of librarians in Abia State agree that the association is not visible. This may be the reason that the Black Herald magazine did not include the association in its list of professional associations in Nigeria.
However, 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 NLA is not visible. Moreover, taking cognizance of the varying involvement and impact of the other numerous professional Associations in Nigeria that cut across disciplines, and how noticeable they are to the Nigerian public, this paper concludes that NLA should not be an exception.
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 NLA.
Black Herald African Magazine (September 22, 2007) List of professional institutions/associations in Nigeria. Available: http://blackherald.egoong.com/?p=230
Crosby, O. (2008). Become a librarian. Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative. Available: http://www.becomealibrarian.org.
Harvey, L. (2004) Analytic quality glossary. Quality Research International. Retrieved from: http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/
Harvey, L., & Mason, S. (1995). The role of professional bodies in higher education quality monitoring. Birmingham: QHE.
Halsey, R.S., et al. (2008) Library (institution). Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation Retrieved from: Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 [DVD]
Merriam-Webster dictionary (2010) Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Students and Home Edition. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica (soft copy)
Nigerian Library Association. Available: http://www.nla.org. Accessed in May 19, 2010.
Nwana, O.C. (1992) Introduction to educational research. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.
Omekwu, C.O., & Ugwuanyi, C.F. (2009). Introduction to use of library. In Omekwu, C.O., Okoye, M.O., & Ezeani, C.W. (Eds.). Introduction to use of the library and study skills. Nsukka; Library Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Oyinloye, M.A. (1992). The pioneers: William John Harris (1903-1980). World Libraries.2 (2) Electronic version