Five doors that libraries open
Nkem Osuigwe believes libraries are essential to the fabric of every community. As a Director of The African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AFLIA) she has spent a lifetime advocating for African libraries. Here, she tells us why.
Open doors signify new opportunities, potential and freedom to access what lies beyond the doors. But many people who are born in poorer communities face a series of slamming doors throughout their lives.
It is our belief at AFLIA that libraries can open doors for everyone. But how do public and community libraries open doors? And which doors can they open?
1. The door to success in school
Early literacy is the foundation of academic achievement, but many parents cannot introduce children to reading, phonics and vocabulary development at home because they cannot afford books either in the official school language or the mother tongue.
Libraries open the door to literacy and educational success by giving children early exposure to book-rich environments.
This helps children to become equipped to learn when they begin school, at school and most importantly, to internalise learning as part of their everyday lives.
2. The door to informal education
Children who don’t finish school lack basic literacy and life skills that will enable them operate confidently in today’s world. Across sub-Saharan African there are large numbers of out of school children, so this is an important issue. Some do not even finish primary school.
When libraries are stocked with current textbooks, curriculum support books and other reading materials, they can be learning spaces for informal education and therefore a pathway for mitigating the consequences of missing school.
They open a door to informal learning that can really be a lifeline.
3. The door to truth
Evolving technologies have enabled the rapid creation, dissemination and processing of information. This has created a deluge of misinformation and disinformation that is easily believed by those who may not have media and information literacy skills.
Well-equipped libraries staffed with confident, professional librarians and other well-trained staff can equip their communities to discern between facts and fake information. They can, in effect, open the door to truth.
They can do this through the provision of accurate and relevant information as well as by teaching their users media, information literacy and digital skills. These skills will enable users to confidently search for, use and even create information in online spaces.
4. The door to lifelong learning
When libraries have books for all sections of the community, they open the door to lifelong learning.
They can help adults who cannot go back to school develop new knowledge and skills to develop their careers as well as build reading confidence for those who may not have finished their educations. They can even support senior citizens who want to continue learning! If it has the right books and resources, anyone at any point in life can use the library to continue exercising their brain.
5. The door to innovation
We are facing never-ending changes in the world – and they are coming so fast! We need to cope with them innovatively. For that, you need an open mind.
The books and other information resources in libraries stir curiosity and introduce new ideas.
This increases readers’ ability and motivation to adapt and change in time with the world. Libraries open that door to imagining these new possibilities by helping everyone to imagine beyond the familiar.
Libraries are so much more than rooms full of books – they have the power to transform lives, and help communities develop. And that is why at AFLIA we’re determined to empower African libraries to open doors for all of their readers. We join the world this week in celebrating all that libraries can offer to readers from all walks of life, and we urge you to take action to support these vital spaces around the world.
You can find out more about our work at https://web.aflia.net.
Ahmed runs the National Library in Somaliland. He’s seen how increasing access to libraries has empowered communities and improved literacy rates.
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