Nigerian Library Association Advocacy to Establish the Librarians Registration Council of Nigeria
submitted by Dr. Victoria Okojie
The history of librarianship in Nigeria dates back to the 1900s. However, the UNESCO Seminar in Ibadan in 1953 marked the turning point for librarianship in Nigeria leading to the establishing of libraries across the West African sub-region and the formation of the West African Library Association (WALA). From the 1960s, however, more libraries were established leading to the formation of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) in 1962. Thereafter, the Association grew steadily in numbers and strength leading to the need for a regulatory body.
At this stage, librarianship was like an all-comers affair where any staff in the library was seen and addressed as a librarian. Therefore, it became necessary to formally define who is a librarian. At the same time, it was becoming fashionable for professionals to have a body to regulate the practice of their profession in Nigeria. This led to the establishment of regulatory agencies such as the Pharmacy Council; Veterinary Council of Nigeria; Nursing Council; Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria; Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria and Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria.
Consequently, the Nigerian Library Association leadership began the process to establish a regulatory body for the Library and Information Science profession. To this end, a Committee was set up in 1975 with Mr. E. B. Bankole as Chairman during the Association’s Annual Conference in Badagry, Nigeria which was presided over by Alhaji Abdullahi Haruna Ningi. Advocacy efforts continued through the years until 1995 when during the tenure of Mr. Gboyega Banjo as President of the NLA, Decree 12 of 1995 establishing the Librarians’ (Registration, etc.) Council of Nigeria, was signed into law by General Sani Abacha, then Head of State. It was a defining moment for librarians and it signaled the official recognition of the profession to be at par with other professions like the medical, legal, and engineering profession in Nigeria.
Mandate of the Council
The Mandate of the Council as spelt out in the Decree was to:
- Determine who is a librarian
- Determine what standards of knowledge and skills are required by persons seeking to become registered as librarians
- Maintain a register of librarians
- Maintain discipline within the profession.
In spite of the Decree, government did not make budgetary provision nor appoint a Chief Executive Officer to manage the agency. Therefore, advocacy, led by successive Presidents of the Association continued to lobby the government to ensure that the LRCN was made functional. Some of the strategies used were:
- Involved the National Library of Nigeria since it was the only Federal Government Parastatal in the Library and Information Sector (LIS).
- Accompanied the National Library of Nigeria during defense of budget proposals, and used the opportunity to talk about the LRCN.
- Ensured that it was put on the front burner of discourse during all LIS conferences, workshops, seminars and so on.
- Occasional articles in the news media (print and electronic) highlighting the benefits of such a regulatory body to national development.
- Advocacy visits to and lobbying of lawmakers and other policy/decision makers.
The advocacy was sustained and eventually led to the next milestone achievement which was the inauguration of the first LRCN Council (Governing Council) by the then Minister of Education, Professor Babalola Borisade in May 2002 with Dr. James Daniel as President of the NLA. The Governing Council was made of 29 members as stipulated by the Decree. They elected Dr. James Daniel as the Chairman and Dr. Victoria Okojie as Acting Registrar. However, there was no budgetary provision from government, which meant that there was no remuneration or sitting allowance for officials of the Council as required by law.
In spite of these challenges, the Governing Council functioned with the support of the Nigerian Library Association and members. It was a uniting factor for all librarians and therefore, they were willing to make the required sacrifices to ensure that the Council functioned like other professional bodies in Nigeria. Following the inauguration, and in fulfillment of its mandate, the Council set up various Committees to manage the affairs. These were the Executive Committee; Accreditation; Verification; Disciplinary and Investigation Committees. During its three-year tenure, the Council successfully determined “who is a librarian”; registered and inducted the first batch of 534 librarians in July 2005. Unfortunately, at the expiration of the tenure of the Council in 2005, Government did not re-constitute the Council, make budgetary provision nor appoint a Registrar for the Council. Therefore, librarians went back to the drawing board to continue the advocacy for government to properly set up the Librarians Registration Council of Nigeria. The advocacy efforts continued to be led by the leadership of the Association and the National Library of Nigeria.
Finally, after intense lobbying and advocacy, and after writing several letters and position papers to the government, the long-awaited breakthrough came when in October, 2009, the Federal Government appointed Dr. Victoria Okojie as the Acting Registrar and made a budgetary provision for the Council! This brought to a happy end the establishment of the Librarians’ Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN) as the official regulatory agency for the library and information science profession by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The LRCN is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education and is at par with the National Library of Nigeria in status. The post of the Registrar/CEO of the LRCN has the same status as that of the National Librarian.
Funding sources include government subvention; registration and induction fees; renewal of license fees; consultancies; donations and public-private partnerships.
Benefits of Establishing the LRCN
- There was an additional voice to that to the National Library of Nigeria to speak and advocate to government on issues relating to Library and Information Science.
- There was official, formal recognition of the LIS profession as an important sector that needs to be regulated just like other professions.
- Enhanced image/self-esteem of LIS professionals.
- Through the publicity of the activities of the LRCN in the mass media, people now know more about the LIS profession.
- Through the regulation of the sector, quality of service has improved and impact of the LIS services on society is better felt. There is enhanced professionalism.
- Advocacy on behalf of librarians has taken an official form. Successes have been recorded in increasing remuneration of librarians in some sectors; raising the status of librarians in some States; removal of non-librarians appointed as Directors of State Library Boards and consequent appointment of qualified librarians to be appointed into the post; and insistence to employers of labour that only qualified, LRCN certified librarians should be employed into librarianship posts.
- Brought sanity to the profession thereby enhancing professionalism. Monitoring and evaluation of LIS services and discipline amongst professionals.
- 1975: Committee set up by NLA to facilitate establishment of LRCN
- 1995: Decree 12 establishing LRCN was enacted by government
- 2002: First Governing Council of LRCN appointed by government but no budgetary provision
- 2005: End of tenure of first Governing Council
- 2009: LRCN Registrar/CEO appointed; budgetary provision made by government
The Council immediately commenced operations at the National Library of Nigeria Headquarters in Abuja with support of 10 temporary staff from the National Library of Nigeria. The Council secured and moved to its current office in January 2011. Since the appointment of the Registrar, the Council has been able to achieve the following:
- Developed a 3-year strategic plan which is reviewed annually
- Created 4 departments
- Recruited staff
- Furnished and equipped the office
- Developed a robust and interactive Website (with an active online discussion forum) and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to enhance two-way communication
- Registered and inducted 3624 librarians
- Organized 11 capacity building workshops as part of the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Programme
Published 4 books:
- Code of Ethics for Library and Information Professional in Nigeria
- School Library Manual
- Statistical Digest and Directory of Libraries in Nigeria
- List of Certified Librarians in Nigeria as at 2013
- Established a Librarians Forum, a platform for discussing issues in Library and Information Science.
Established linkages and partnership with the following:
- US Mission in Nigeria
- National Information Technology Development Agency
- The Indian High Commission in Nigeria
Other agencies with on-going discussion for partnership include:
- Ministry of Communication Technology
- Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF)
- Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited Office, Abuja.
- Philippines Embassy
- The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP)
- Accreditation of Library Schools: working in collaboration with National Universities Commission
- Created awareness of the establishment of a regulatory body for the Library and Information Sector by writing to all employers of labour in Nigeria to employ ONLY certified librarians to work as LIS professionals.
- The Council has been involved in advocacy issues such as raising the status of Directors of State Public Libraries to that of Permanent Secretary and championing the location of LIS Departments in different faculties like Social Sciences, Communication Studies, etc.
The LRCN is not exempt from the impact of the global economic recession in terms of funding. There is also need to review the Act establishing the Council. For instance, the issue of membership and composition of the Council. The consensus is that given the need to work smarter with the support of information technologies, a 29-member Governing Council is too large. Furthermore, the Council needs to deal with the challenges in the LIS sector in Nigeria such as review and harmonize the LIS curricula in order to incorporate modern trends; harmonize LIS degree nomenclature and advocate for the removal of quacks practicing librarianship.
In the near future, the Council plans to:
- Develop minimum standards for different types of libraries.
- Continue to organize capacity-building programmes for library and information professionals.
- Review LIS curricula to infuse application of modern technologies.
- Monitoring and evaluation of libraries.
- Conduct examinations for librarians before they are certified to practice.
- Develop a mentorship scheme for librarians in Nigeria.
- Develop an “internship” programme that provides experience for graduates in LIS to do a one-year on-the-job training before they can practice as stated in the Act.