Being Nigerian means your parents tell you what to do, and expect you to do it even if you don’t want to. That is why, on a Monday Morning, I was on my way to the National Library. I had told my dad I wanted to go to City Library; a library the required a fee of N2000 per year, that morning to do some studious work.
“What is city library? Where is that? What about the National Library?” He asked.
I did not want to go to the national library because I had done my internet research earlier. I knew there was no place to charge my laptop and I needed to work with it.
“Reading is not about using your laptop. Go and check out the books. Go and experience the library. Then, you can go to the other library and compare experiences. You’re talking about the national library. It’s a very important library. You need to go there and see it for yourself. Get the experience. Spend the whole day there” He said after I had told him the results of my internet search.
So I decided to go to the library and spend two hours instead, because I knew my dad would ask me about my “experience”.
Like any other library, you are not allowed to go in with your bag. You have to drop your bag outside, so you can’t steal any book. The problem though with the National library is that you need to come with your own lock and key to lock your bag in the lockers provided. I did not have a lock and key.
The really nice librarian offered to keep my bag in her office. Then, I asked her if there was a place I could charge my laptop.
“There is no light in the library”. She said.
“Ohh, so when there is light, I can charge, right?” I asked, optimistic.
“No. There is no light at all. There will never be light. They have cut off the electricity.”
I shook my head… in my head.
The library is old, as expected, but too small for a national library. The chairs screech so badly when moved, that one will hate standing up to go look for books. There aren’t enough books, and there are very few book sections (There are so many diverse branches of knowledge and the “library” is yet to keep up). Overall, I did not like my library experience, or the guy sitting opposite me who snored really loudly.
Two hours later, I went back to the librarian to get my bag.
“How was it?” She asked
“It was fine” I said.
“At least the weather is cold, so the library is not too hot”, she replied smiling.
“Yeah”, I said. Then I laughed… in my head.
“When will you come back?”
“Probably next week” I smiled, but I knew I would never go back.
I was not disappointed that the library was what it was. I was sad.
I was sad because I realized how backwards we truly are. So many times, we get aggravated when people from other countries call us ignorant or treat us as inferior, but maybe we need to start accepting it. Maybe we need to smile and say thanks in response, or else we will remain stuck in our rut. Because maybe, with acceptance of our failure comes the willingness to do something to stop being a failure.
It’s sad that a national library does not have a source of power. What’s even sadder is that the library will continue to be ignored, because other facilities take higher priority. It’s just a library. What’s the big deal?
Well, it’s a big deal. So many times we do not have the resources to access various books to get vital information we need. A national library should provide that access, else we will continue to remain ignorant and disadvantaged. A national library should give me the comfort to read in solitude and peace. Yet, this library is a place where the loud noise emitted from the friction between the chair and the floor interrupts the silence with every slight movement.
A national library should not just be a library. A national library should be a place that can start the process of instilling the culture of reading in Nigerians. It should an institution that kills ignorance and helps breed informed people. It should positively shape our educational system, and in its very vital way contribute to the intellectual development of the country. This library does not do that.
If we have pay to get the reading experience we need, like in the case of a private library, then it will only expand the wide gap that already exists between those who can afford to and those who cant.
I was sad because I knew the National Library would only get worse and not better, because the government does not care about a library.
I was not disappointed at my “National Library” experience though, because being Nigerian means government institutions never exceed your extremely low expectations.
Which government institution has failed to exceed the low expectations you have of it? Give your responses in the comment section.