AN EXPLORATION OF ALTERNATIVE LIBRARY SERVICES IN ENHANCING PATRONAGE IN THE DESIGN OF A MODEL PUBLIC LIBRARY
Public library as a place over the years has generated debate in literature by some interest groups in the library profession, some group`s are regarding the library as a “deserted library” no more relevant in this virtual era while others are maintaining the ground that the library is still a place to use for study, learning and research. However, the existing public libraries have seen a drastic drop in patronage over the years, these libraries were generally designed first and foremost as places to collect, accesses, and preserve print collections and thus, were comparatively static buildings.Alternative Library Services (ALS) is based on the principle that the library needs to provide a leisurely environment by serving various functions of entertainment and social activities.An exploratory research method was used to carry out the study while, questionnaires, physical observation and literature review were used as instruments of data collection,three public libraries were purposively selected as case studies; these are the Kaduna State Library Board, Kogi State Library Board and Lagos State Library Board. These case studies were chosen purposively to increase the likelihood of showing or expressing important variations of several features of the facility and can be used to illustrate an architectural style or issue. A sample of 105 respondents of library users were surveyed (35 people from each case study area) in which 4.The study identifiedthe following findings; 1) Three factors were found to be needed in providing ALS; These are Leisure Style Spaces, Human Touch/ Human Interaction Spaces and Collective Learning Spaces. 2)The available services in a library have a very significant influence on patronage. 3) The Proximity of the Library to its patrons is not as influential on users as the available services.The contribution to knowledge of this study is that it developed a framework for the design of public libraries to improve patronage. Based on these, some of the recommendations made are; 1)There need to be better consultation between the users, librarians and professionals concerned in the study and design of public libraries. 2) There is need for Architects to look beyond the traditional library spaces and to consider the changing needs and ways of keeping the library patrons. More collaborations by Architects with the host community and other stake-holders need to be encouraged to improve library usage.
The renaissance period led to the invention of printing and the broadening of literacy through distribution of knowledge and ideas and therefore signalled the emergence of libraries. A library is an agency which engages in the collection, preservation and dissemination of recorded or electronic information in the various formats most convenient to its target users (Salisuand Olalokun, 1993). IFLA (2007) defined a public library as “an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other forms of community organization”, Libraries can be differentiated from each other based on their target users, public library is different from academic, school, and special libraries because they function to serve the needs of a diverse service population including small children, students, professionals, and the elderly. In contrast, academic libraries serve colleges and University faculties and students; school libraries serve secondary school students and staffs. Public libraries are used primarily by members of the local community in which they are constructed and secondly by members of the communities and the immediate outlying areas.
Nigeria has a population of about 174.5 million people (UNDP2011) but Nigeria is said to account for 3% of the total 862 million illiterate in the world (UNESCO 2002) and its literacy rate is as low as 47% when compared with other African countries with higher literacy rate like South African(63%). Mostert (2001) posits that Africa public library systems are challenged with multi-faceted problems which can be divided into five broad categories. They include inappropriate colonial model, lack of specific needs, and lack of co-operation among related agencies, inadequate training of staff, and the absence of sustained efforts to achieve an alternative framework. Redefining existing services in a library first occurred in thepublic library services ofBritain after the post-war era in which alternative services were doubled or even quadrupled. They achieved this by incorporating non-book cultural services like lectures, film shows, gramophone recitals and poetry readings, all of which largely influenced the patronage and attracted users in the community with non-formal education.
Aguolu and Aguolu (2002) also postulated that public library services can richly complement the in-formal education institution by imparting in the participants the required socialisation, through effective participation in adult‟s education activities, by assisting adults no longer of school age or out of school in the development of attitudes. Library as a place over the years has generated debate in literature by some interest groups in the library profession, some groups are regarding the library as a “deserted library” no more relevant in this virtual era (Carlson, 2007), others are maintaining the ground that the library is still a place to use for study, learning and research. Bennet(2003), however argued that the library is the only centralized location where new and emerging information technologies can be combined with traditional knowledge resources in a user-focused, service-rich environment that supports today‟s social and educational patterns of learning, teaching, and research.
The reasons for library visits and other factors that influence the use of different spaces in the library are some of the areas that have been researched into.In such studies (Idiodi and Igbinosa, 2003) showed that 20% of the respondents used the library always while 48% use it occasionally. The study also showed that 302 (76.8%) of the respondents used the library as a place where they can read and study. In another study (Fadekemi and Samuel, 2009) revealed that 31 (7.9%) of the respondents used the library for research, 17 (4.3%) used the library to borrow books while 29 (7.4%) and 7 (1.8%) sleep and socialize in thelibrary respectively. The study also showed that 7 (1.8%) of the respondents used the library for entertainment and leisure. These show very low use of the library other than for serious academic work and study. Public libraries primary users are everyone since it serves the community, hence, it is referred to as the “layman‟s university” and as such should be able to accommodate everybody by providing services that can be used by people with non-formal education, such as tailors, artisans, business class, farmers, irrespective of age, social class, ethnic groups, religion and occupation.
1.2 Problem Statement
Song (2009) posits that libraries are now faced with unprecedented challenges to the extent that the survival of libraries often becomes an issue for discussion. These libraries were generally designed first and foremost as places to collect, accesses, and preserve print collections and thus, were comparatively static buildings. Planning and design of these facilities were primarily devoted to the preservation and security of materials and to the efficiency of the library collection services. Prime space was routinely reserved for processing materials, given this longstanding practice. It is no surprise that (Song 2009), believes that the traditional library we inherited today is not the library of the future since it lacks the extra services that meet the needs of the present users. To meet today‟s user needs as well as those in the future, (Bennett,2003)opines that the library must reflect the values of the communities of which it is a part, while also accommodating new services and learning technologies and improving the ways we access and use them.
Therefore, to achieve these goals, the existing services provided by the libraries need a remodelling and to embody new pedagogies to meet the emergence and integration of information technology. Although for now information technology has not replaced print media and is not expected to do so in the foreseeable future, it has nonetheless had an astonishing and quite unanticipated impact on the role of the public libraries in the community. Thus once we understand the potential of the library as a place, its role, and the value it adds to the educational development of its community by the services they render, a detailed program can be developed to explore alternatives to bridge the gap between current library services and actual user needs. Isaac (2000), highlighted the need for a radical change in the concept of public libraries, with adaptation to the real needs and circumstances within the country. He opined that they must serve all sectors of the population, urban and rural dwellers, literate and non-literate, children, adults and that the services have to be rooted in the Nigerian oral culture, playing the role of disseminating and preserving this culture.
This study contends that the public library is an ideal physical and psychological space for public interactions, and thus, there is need to rethink what the library is all about, in terms of what is needed, what will be used, what is applicable and introducing services that are attractive to the user. Therefore, this studyfocused on exploring ways in which the library services can be redefined to be able to meet the demands of the present and future users.
This study, aims at proposing alternative library services that can be used in enhancing patronage in public libraries, to attract more patrons into the libraries. The specific objectives are to;
- Study the concept of Alternative Library Services,
- Identify the current trends of library servicesin the study area,
- Determine the relationship between ALS and patronage of public libraries,
- Develop a framework that will assist designers particularly in Nigeria in the design of a public library, and
- Demonstrate the suitability of the framework through a proposed design of a model library, for Lokoja, Kogi State,
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the concept of alternative library services?
- What are the current trends of library servicesin the area ofstudy?
- What is the relationship between ALS and patronage of public libraries?
- What is the structure of the framework that will assist designers particularly in Nigeria in the design of a public library?
- How suitable is the framework developed?
Public Libraries are the local gateway to knowledge, providing a basic condition for cultural development of the individual and social groups but the existing library model in the country was inherited from the colonial masters and as such the Architectural features included in public library designs have become obsolete over these years. In the wake of efforts made to improve the patronage for people with no formal education, a theoretical issue of concern in this thesis work is one pertaining to the problem of inadequate services rendered by the library such as non-provision of non-reading services in the libraries.
Therefore, the results of this study will show practical ways on how to include the uneducated population of the public in making use of public library. Also, it will reveal the factors leading to low patronage of the libraries by the public in Nigeria cities. In-addition, the result of the study could have practical implications for public library management/Design with respect to awareness of facilities available in the library for enhanced usage and increasing patronage.
Nigeria has a large geographical land area and as such conducting a comprehensive research on all the public libraries would be unattainable; moreover, as it is known that geographical and cultural considerations do affect practice, segmenting this study could, to a large extent enhance the reliability of its findings. Therefore;
This study focused on the existing services in public libraries in selected regions of the country, thereby redefining the spaces and showing how new spaces can be used for increasing patronage of public libraries.