Introduction There is no gain saying the fact that the more knowledgeable an individual is the more productive he/she is. Again, the more knowledgeable individuals an organization or society has the speedier its advancement which could also lead to its greatness. Indeed, there is always a positive correlation between highly knowledgeable (educated) societies and greatness.
No wonder the rich and powerful countries in the world today are those with high levels of knowledge and education while those with lower levels of education are the poorest and weakest. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a grouping of rich European countries, emphasized in a policy document put together in Paris in 1994, the fact that the economies of the OECD are increasingly based on knowledge and information”. The document further asserted how knowledge is now recognized as the driver of productivity and economic growth.
Recognizing the values of knowledge and information, individuals, organizations and nations have, in various ways and over the centuries, taken various steps to create and expand facilities for information collection and storage: all in a bid to expand the frontiers of knowledge. Funds for this purpose are found in annual national budgets of countries while organizations worth their sorts also make yearly provisions for the facilitation of knowledge enhancement. It has been said that human kind is now in the knowledge or information age; having migrated from stages like pre-historic, agrarian, industrial and service ages.
Information is therefore key to the survival and advancement of individuals, organizations and nations today. The explosion of information gathering, storage and dissemination gadgets like computers, laptops, Ipads, blackberries, etc. , is a testimony to the need and realization for quick and easy access to information. Quick and easy access to information is vital to the development of various fields of knowledge. In order to perform or achieve set targets, essential and relevant information need to be made available to professionals, researchers, and policy makers etc.
who have urgent need for them. This is where the library comes in. A library in the strict sense of the term is a collection of materials organized for use. It is also a place or a room set apart for the keeping and use of documents which have been organized. It keeps books, journals, periodicals, magazines, etc. for the use of the community, be it a school, a college, a university, a corporate body or a neighborhood. A library can therefore be said to be a storehouse of knowledge. A well stocked library is an asset to the school, college, university or the society.
Apart from the primary function of helping in the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge, libraries help to develop reading habits. They mould character and help in personal development. An ordinary man may find it difficult to purchase a book or subscribe to a magazine. The library helps them. It offers them a variety of books under one roof at nominal fee or many a time for free. One can even borrow a book(s) for use. Notwithstanding these benefits of the libraries, public libraries in particular have borne the brunt of the effects of global recession since the 1980s.
State and local authorities’ allocations of resources to the libraries have seen consistent decline in almost every jurisdiction and Ghana is no exception. Among the earliest writers on this have been Colin Harris and Brian Clifford, who in an introduction to their work titled “Public Libraries-re-appraisal and re-structuring” published in 1985, wrote “Without doubt the two most important influences upon the recent development of the library services have been … and the severe financial restraints resulting from the current economic recession”.
Paucity of resource allocations to public libraries have resulted in the inability of library managers to expand their scope of activities, stock the shelves with new volumes of literary materials and recruit or retain qualified staff. It is the recognition of the importance of libraries to the society that led to the establishment of Ghana Library Authority, a body to co-ordinate and oversee library activities in the country. The authority, formerly Ghana Library Board, was established in the 1950s in the quest to enhance information availability and usage. Alemna A. A.
(2000), documented how the colonial administration in Ghana had long before independence demonstrated the importance of information services within government departments by establishing government department libraries such as those of Food and Agriculture (1890), Supreme Court (1909), Geological Survey Department (1925), Lands Department (1925), Meteorological Services Department (1937), Ministry of Information (1944) and Statistical Service of Ghana (1948). Expansion in literacy and library usage became evident after the establishment of the Ghana Library Authority and especially after independence.
“The Accelerated Development Plan” as it was called and sustained efforts to educate the masses through adults’ literacy programmes in order to produce literate population to boost economic growth. Alemna, again in the same article records how these efforts resulted in remarkable literacy growth of 9% to 20% within a decade. Objectives of the essay This essay is an attempt at reviewing the activities of the Ghana Library Authority, the nation’s main body charged with facilitating the provision and supervision of library facilities to enhance literacy and research.
An attempt to determine when and how the Ghana Library Authority was born, its mandate, vision and mission as well as its structure is an important factor worth considering. Trying also to track its growth and evaluate its activities has been taken care of. In doing this, an attempt is made to examine challenges (if any) confronting the authority. Conclusion has been made by recommending some possible solutions to the identified challenges. Methodology In accomplishing my task, I relied on both primary and secondary sources to gather the necessary data or materials.
I also consulted published books, articles, journals, newspapers and any other published work of relevance which I duly acknowledged. Additionally, I sought some materials from the web which have also been acknowledged. For my primary source materials, I conducted interviews at the offices of the Ghana Library Authority and some institutions and bodies associated with it. Early History Early in 1928, some attempts were made by a few pubic spirited persons to establish a form of public library. Notable among these persons was the Anglican bishop of Accra Diocese, late Rt. Rev.
John Orfeur Anglionby. He built a small library at the bishop’s house in Accra with books donated by church people in England for reading and borrowing by members. Following the persistence of the bishop for expansion of the library, the governor took up the task which eventually led to the formation of British Council Advisory Committee towards library development which worked with the Aglionby Library Management Committee. The work of the Committees resulted in the passing of the Gold Coast Library Board Ordinance Cap 118, in December, 1949, which became operational on January 1, 1950.
The British Council handed over its Librarian, Miss E. J. A. Evans, and a stock of 27,000 books to start the public library service. This was a good compliment to the original library begun by Bishop Anglionby with the generous contribution of ? 1,000. The Ordinance was later re-enacted as Ghana Library Board Act 372, 1970. The year 1950 was a significant one in the history of public library service in the country. The Gold Coast Library Ordinance which was passed in 1949 came into operation on 1st January, 1950.
This legislation made the Gold Coast Library Board the second corporation in the country after Cocoa Marketing Board. Growth and Consolidation Following the legislative assembly election of 1953, which brought Kwame Nkrumah into government business, some radical reforms in Education were introduced. Among these was the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE). The introduction of the FCUBE in 1952 gave a big boost to the demand for library services. The Accra Central Library was opened in May 17, 1956 by the then Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah.
Unlike the situation in many other developing countries where library developments are supported considerably by foreign funding agencies, the service in Ghana has essentially been built from local resources. The British Council however played an initial role by providing assistance in the form of giving the Ghana Library Board books, staff and furniture. Assistance in minor forms also came from the United States government through the Federal Agency for Overseas Development. Since its establishment, the Ghana Library Authority has strived to live its
mandate. The Authority has managed to establish public libraries in all ten regional capitals. Apart from the ten regional libraries, there are about fifty three branch libraries across the country. Over the years the GLA’s mandate has been widened as it took charge of the specialized research library, George Padmore Research Library on African Affairs formerly the African Research Library. The GLA also established the Schools Library Department in 1961 and eleven years later (1972) established the Colleges Library Department.
It has also had Mobile Library services where Mobile vans are used to bring library services to small towns and villages. The GLA also collaborates with communities, private citizens and NGOs to bring library services to the people in smaller rural communities. Structure Ghana Library Authority is a public institution that falls under the Ministry of Education. It is headquartered on Thorpe Road, between the Ghana Commercial Bank Limited (Head Office) and the Supreme Court buildings, off the High Street, Accra. It is the central administrative organ of the entire service.
It is the central administrative organ of the entire service. It also coordinates the activities of the various departments and libraries under the Board and has regional and district offices. It has a Fourteen-member Board of Directors on whose shoulders the ultimate responsibility of the institution rests. The day to day activities are however run by the following departments/units:| | Acquisition and Cataloguing DepartmentIt is a centralized Department responsible for the selection, ordering, cataloguing, classification and distribution of books to all the 62 service points in the country.
Bindery UnitThis unit is under the Acquisitions Department and is responsible for re-binding of worn-out books and binding of back issues of some periodicals and local newspapers for preservation. Work with Children’s DepartmentThis department is responsible for the general development of all children’s libraries under the Public Library System. George Padmore Research Library on African AffairsThis is an African wing of the Ghana Library established as a memorial to George Padmore, a Pan Africanist and African Affairs
Advisor to the then President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. School and College Libraries DepartmentThe Department was established by the Ministry of Education and placed under the Ghana Library Board in 1972. It has the responsibility of ensuring an efficient library service in all second cycle institutions and the training colleges throughout the country. | Adults Lending Service Under this service, every registered reader is permitted to take away three books and so long as no other reader needs those books, the borrower is allowed to renew the loan at will.
If however another reader makes demand for the book, the renewal is rejected. | | | | | | | Adults’ Reference ServiceThis is a service which provides quality reference materials such as Directories, Dictionaries, Almanac, Encyclopedia, Government publications, etc for quick and in-depth reference purposes. This service also ensures that all branches stock basic textbooks, local and foreign magazines. | | | | To carry out its mandate, the Authority currently uses a total of 63 librariesTable One: Types of libraries: Type of Library| Number| Regional| 10| District| 52| Special| 1|
Total| 63| Source: Data obtained from Ghana Library Authority’s Head Office. Table One shows that there are a total of sixty three public libraries. This is made up of ten regional libraries, fifty-two district libraries and one special library. FundingThe Ghana Library Authority is a state institution and is thus funded by the governmentof Ghana as contained in the Ordinance which established it. Consequently, the bulk of financial responsibilities regarding emolument of staff as well as equipping the stock and other related matters are under the direct responsibility of the state.
The Authority also generates some revenue from its own day-to-day activities. Table 2: Funds Released From Ministry of Education Year| Amount (? )| 2002| 3,554,073,311. 80| 2003| 7,035,086,258. 00| 2004| 8,547,605,393. 84| 2005| 8,320,463,743. 00| 2006| 5,262,425,565. 38| 2007| 11,310,012,584. 08| 2008| 1,627,356. 48| NB 2002 to 2007: Old cedis 2008: Ghana CedisSource: A. Apenteng: Financing and Sustaining Public Libraries (Ghana Library Board) in Perspective, A master’s degree Dissertation presented at the Department of Information Studies.
Apart from ministerial support, the authority generates some revenue from its day-to-day activities. In 2005 for example the authority was able to generate ? 70,983,600 from its services as outlined below: ? 1. Membership dues-52,584,000. 00 2. Photocopying services-14,304,000. 00 3. Overdue fines- 873,000. 00 4. Hiring of Exhibition Halls-3,222,500. 0070,983,600. 00 This amount however is less than 1% of government’s support to the authority. Overview of activitiesThe Unesco public library Manifesto declares the public library as a local gateway to knowledge.
The Ghana Library Authority Act 327 (1970) sets out the following aims and objectives for the authority:1. To promote education through the provision of reading materials such as books, periodicals and other non-book materials; 2. To act as a center for information dissemination for the general Public;3. To promote life-long learning by making ideas and information easily accessible and responsive to the people we serve. OR To offer service that are responsive to the needs of the people we serve on the basis of equity of access irrespective of age, sex, religion or social status.
Following these objectives, the Ghana Library Authority has as its main activities: * Establishment of libraries in all regions * Equipping these libraries with books and other reading materials * Manage, organize and make accessible reading materials to the public * Ensuring that books and other reading materials are always available to usersOver the years the authority has strived to achieve its mandate, it maintains national public libraries in all regions. Beside 10 regional libraries (in all 10 regions of Ghana), 53 district and branch libraries belong to their core business.
Additionally, there is also in each case, a Mobile library, which visits smaller communities. Beyond these, there are numerous Community Libraries in smaller, rural municipalities, which partly are developed by self help initiatives of the citizens, NGOs or the communities. The activities of the Authority can better looked at through the various departments:. Acquisition and Cataloguing DepartmentIt is a centralized Department responsible for the selection, ordering, cataloguing, classification and distribution of books to all the 62 service points in the country. Cataloguing is one of the main activities of the GLA.
A library catalogue provides clear and useful information for library users. It aids resource discovery; assists users to evaluate the object without necessarily having to access the object itself; enables users to check the object availability (to the user); and also enables allocation for the object to be determined. The GLA organizes its collections according to the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme. It uses both the author and subject catalogues. The cataloguing department does classification and cataloguing of documents for all its regional and branch libraries.
Bindery UnitThis unit is under the Acquisitions Department and is responsible for re-binding of worn-out books and binding of back issues of some periodicals and local newspapers for preservation. Work with Children’s DepartmentThis department is responsible for the general development of all children’s libraries under the Public Library System. George Padmore Research Library on African AffairsThis is an African wing of the Ghana Library established as a memorial to George Padmore, a Pan Africanist and African Affairs Advisor to the then President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Ghana has no national library in its technical sense. The George Padmore Research Library on African Affairs(GPRLAA) performs some functions of a national library namely;Serving as the repository of the country’s literary output and making available for use by the present and future generations, a natural collection of ideas;. Complication of the Ghana National Bibliography (GNB);and. Serving as the National Agency for ISBD. Thus, it assigns the ISBN, ISSN, and the ISMN to Ghanaian publishers. Scholars and researches both foreign and local depend on the facility for data from the following special collections;.
Letters of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah;. Noma Collection;. Bureau of African Affairs Collection;. Former Drama Studio Collection;. Local Language Publications;. Back Files of Periodicals and Newspapers, Microfilms and Microfiche Collection;. George Padmore’s Personal Collection. School and College Libraries DepartmentThe Department was established by the Ministry of Education and placed under the Ghana Library Board in 1972. It has the responsibility of ensuring an efficient library service in all second cycle institutions and the training colleges throughout the country.
Activities of this Department include: * Organizing in service training courses, seminars and workshops for school library assistants and tutor librarians; * Visiting schools periodically to inspect and ensure that staff in these libraries are performing to standards. | | Adults Lending Service | | | Under this service every registered reader is permitted to take away a maximum of three books for use at their own leisure. | | | Adults’ Reference ServiceThis is a service which provides quality reference materials such as Directories, Dictionaries, Almanac, Encyclopedia, Government publications, etc for quick and in-depth reference purposes.
This service also ensures that all branches stock basic textbooks, local and foreign magazines to allow browsing for materials. External Library ServiceThis is also known as the Mobile Van Unit and is aimed at providing not only reading materials to rural communities but also ICT facilities to enable the rural communities acquire the requisite skills and competences in ICT for life-long learning and personal development. The Regional Libraries operate Mobile Library Service to rural communities where the people have no access to local or community libraries.
This facility was a great boost to the rural communities but had to be suspended for sometime due to budgetary consent. Its revival in recent times has been a great welcome to users. An important element of this programme is that the books are also available to registered individuals, organizations and schools to take away 25 or 50 books for a fee| | | BooksIn the pursuit of their core activities the Authority continues to procure books, journals, magazines and other literary materials for its libraries. For example, between 2000 and 2010, a total of 12,286 books were acquired for the children’s libraries.
The table below illustrates efforts in this direction. Table 2 Children’s collection Period| Fiction| Non-Fiction| Total| 2000 – 2008| 5,200| 2,704| 7,904| 2009| 1,450| 2,042| 3,492| 2010| 671| 219| 890| T0TAL| 7,321| 4,965| 12,286| Addition to stock: 2000 – 2010 Source: Data obtained from Ghana Library Authority Head Office| Challenges Facing GLAInformation and Communication TechnologyInformation Communication Technology (ICT) is the fusion of computer and communications technologies for the creation, processing, dissemination and transmission of information.
The implementation of ICT facilitates change, creativity, improved services, and the non-restrictive flow of information. It is the catalyst that is moving libraries into a new dimension. Libraries services today are relying greatly on equipment and gadgets such and computers, scanners, photocopiers and internet connectivity. The Ghana Library Authority lacks a good compliment of these facilities which could aid research and make use of the libraries more pleasurable. Patronage of the libraries could see great improvement with the provision of these facilities.
Inadequate FundingAgyen Gyasi et al note that “money plays a crucial role in the administration and development of libraries because the extent and quality of service rendered depends largely on funding available to them”. Managers of public libraries such as the GLA are normally not oblivious of the needs of their facilities. Unfortunately, allocation of funds to the GLA has been so inadequate that not much can be done by way of new infrastructure as well as maintenance and repair of existing structures and equipment. The level of funds allocation has had direct impact on the general running of the Board.
The Ghana Library Authority is a state institution and is thus funded by the government of Ghana as contained in the Ordinance which established it. Consequently, all financial responsibilities regarding emolument of staff as well as equipping the stock and other related matters are under the direct responsibility of the state. Government’s released funds as compared to the requests made by the authority between 2003 and 2008 show clearly the inadequacy of funds made available to the authority. Table 5: Funds Request vs. Amount Released YEAR| AMOUNT REQUESTED| AMOUNT RELEASED| 2002| ?
18,176,014,488. 00| ? 3,544,073,311. 80| 2003| 33,430,450,955. 00| 7,035,086,2058. 00| 2004| 67,195,205,393. 00| 8,547,605,393. 84| 2005| 72,622,877,605. 00| 8,320,463,743. 00| 2006| 116,400,160,916. 00| 5,262,425,565. 38| 2007| 65,665,750,291. 00| 11,310,012,584. 00| 2008| 10,004,720. 93| 1,627,356. 48| | | | NB: 2002 to 2007 figures are in old Ghana Cedis. 2008 figure is in new Ghana Cedis. Source: A. Apenteng: Financing and Sustaining Public Libraries (Ghana Library Board) in Perspective, A Master’s degree Dissertation presented at the Department of Social Studies.
Table 5 above shows how governments release of funds to the Authority budgetary requirements consistently fall short of its requirements. This gives an indication of why the Authority is unable to put up new infrastructure, recruit, train and retain skilled staff etc. Available records have it that the GLA could only manage an impress of a paltry GH? 300. 00, an equivalent of about $15. 70 per month to its Regional libraries. This works to GH? 3,600. 00 or $188. 40 each year and is meant for all administrative and operational expenses including maintenance of vehicles, cost of stationery and other consumables of the regional offices.
The situation has led to the apparent neglect or disregard for certain critical actions that could make the facilities more user friendly. The main items of ‘trade’ for the libraries are their books. The total addition to the book stock of Children’s library for example between years 2000 to 2010 is 12,286. Records available at the GHLA’s office show that the total additions to the book stock in 2009 were 3,492 and 890 in 2010. This shows 75 % fall in a single year. Agyen Gyesi et al again provide us with a vivid account about the GLA’s difficulty with respect to book stock.
They used data from Kumasi Regional Library, the first of their kind, buttressed the point being made. The data indicates that the Ashanti Regional Library which begun in 1954 started with 21,000 books. This was made up of 10,500 (50%) non-fiction, 6,000 (28. 6%) fiction and 4,500 (21. 4%) children books. By November 2009 the numbers in each category had drastically declined. Table 2. Total Stock of Ashanti Regional Library Department| Number of Books| Percentage| LendingReferenceChildren| 8,9991,4804,8778| 58. 69. 831. 8| Total| 15,355| 100| Source: Public Library Service in Ghana: The Ashanti Regional Library in Perspective, K.
Agyen-Gyasi et alTable 2 above shows clearly the decline in the stock. Considering the fact that Ghana’s population was just about 5 million at the time of establishment of the library and the fact that the population has grown fivefold, it is sorry to state that the book stock should rather decline. The table also shows that 58. 6% of the total stock was in lending9. 6% in children and 31. 8%This means there is inadequate books available for use at the library. Staffing The importance of human resource in any given organization cannot be overstated.
Drucker (2000) emphasized this thus “a manager achieves results through people”. The GLA has staff Strength is about 600. Category of staff * Masters degree (and above) holders * Bachelors degree holders * Diploma holders * SSSCE/GCE holders * OthersThis may be regarded as inadequate for an institution with about 60 offices. The low salaries offered in the public sector in Ghana contribute to the poor quality and quantity of the services offered by public libraries. As in other countries, the majority of public libraries, especially in rural areas, have become places for study used by school pupils.
However, the low remuneration has been disincentive for quality service delivery. The Way ForwardIn spite of the significant role that the GLA is playing in the educational system, it is increasingly finding it difficult to attract the target youth to patronize its facilities. This is because most of the facilities like computers and the internet to attract the youth are either unavailable or insufficient. The youth of today are into entertainment and want to move with the times, they will always want to entertain themselves in every environment they find themselves including the use of the internet.
With the advent of information and communication technology (ICT), the GLA needs to be innovative in solving the ICT deficiencies that confront the organization. The Authority needs to create a data base of all books published in Ghana online. The Ghana Library Authority appears to have also been a victim of austerity that has been visited on a number of state funded institutions as a result of general economic difficulties facing most economies. The ordinance that established the Ghana Library Authority placed it under the Ministry of Education which appears to have much responsibility for its budgetary allocations.
It is obvious that the myriad of problems facing the authority have to do with inadequate funding. Given the situation, the management or governing board of the Authority must find innovative ways in raising the needed funds to address the needs of the library from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Lobbying, advocacy and fund raising skills should be employed. Donor and partner funding should be sought and sourced through organizations, philanthropists and friends of the library. The current building housing the authority’s headquarters requires major refurbishment to befit its status.
This should involve re-painting of the whole edifice, re-furnishing, changing the lighting systems and provision of appropriate and more fixtures and fittings like book shelves furniture. Alternatively, anew purpose built library should be built which should have a larger reading and discussion areas while the site serves as the visual centre. Stocking the refurbished or renovated edifice should be a next step. Funding is another issue that should be urgently looked at. New volumes of books, journals and magazines should be procured for the library. This should be done taking into account needs for the various departments, i.
e. Children, Reference and lending. It is normally said that the greatest asset of any organization is its human resource. It is important that management takes the issue of recruitment of qualified staff very seriously. With the recent public sector pay policy-Single Spine Salary Scheme in place, it is believed that the issue of low remuneration which has affected the retention of skilled staff in public libraries would be addressed in a way. Management should also make the training of staff a priority so that the workers can perform at their best.
In this era of fusion of libraries and information technology, staff recruitment and training should take into account the needs of the authority. There is the urgent need to decentralize the activities of the Ghana Library Authority and toseparate the operations of the regional and district libraries, so that each unit could manage itsown finances. This would help these libraries to acquire the needed materials and equipmentsuch as books, furniture, and computers. The mobile library service provided by the Ghana Library Board through the Ashanti Regional Library should be expanded to reach out to people in the rural areas.
The service was discontinued in 1983. However, it was reintroduced in 2008 and currently being operated on a pilot basis in the Amansie West and the Asante Akim South Districts respectively. The Regional Librarians must team up with the Regional and the District/Municipal/Metropolitan Directorate of Education to organize educational campaigns in schools and colleges in their various catchment areas to create more patronage of the public libraries. They should also organize Library Week each year during which period the general public could visit the library. This would make them wary of the resources and challenges facing the library.
Appeal for funds could be launched during the Library Week to raise funds for the purchase of books and other equipment needed for the efficient operation of the library. ConclusionPublic libraries are established for the systematic collection, development, organization, preservation and dissemination of knowledge and information to the community. The essay shown that the Ghana Library Authority which was established before independence has to a large extent lived up to expectation. It has managed to established regional and district libraries across the country The Authority continues to provide facilities for learning and research.
Its various departments such as Adults Reference, Lending, Work on Children, Bindery and Cataloguing continue to serve the public directly or indirectly. Its reference sections continue to serve the public while it allows for space in their facilities for reading for examinations, leisure and entertainment. The public is given the chance to borrow books for private use. Mobile library Service which was suspended has resumed albeit on a pilot basis in the Ashanti region. The only special library under the Authority, the George Padmore Research Library on African Affairs has also continued to be a unique research centre on African issues.
Inadequate funding has been a bane for the Authority. Due the paucity of budgetary allocation, the authority has not been able to fully realize its goals. Its plan to expand into all corners of the country has largely remained on the drawing board. Related to this are its hiccups in the provision of mobile library service to rural areas. Currently the service is running only in the Ashanti Region. Acquisition of new volumes of books and other literary materials has been a daunting challenge to the Authority. Until the implementation of the single spine salary policy, the salaries of workers of GLA have been another challenge for the managers.
It is hoped that the new pay package be enough incentive to allow for the recruitment and retention of qualified professionals to man the libraries. GLA has not been move wish the times as far as ICT is concerned, The public libraries can boast of only few computers and almost non-existent internet connectivity. The rapid growth of population and ever expanding the number of schools, colleges and universities means an increasing need for public library services. However, it’s been found that the number of libraries and the available facilities remain static.