Herbert Macaulay Library, Yaba, Lagos:
A Breadth of Fresh Air!
The management of information has long been regarded as the domain of librarians as experts in information searching, selecting, acquiring, organising, preserving, repackaging, disseminating and serving information, however, advances in technology provide libraries in the 21st century with fresh responsibilities to be learning and knowledge centres where people and ideas interact in both the real and virtual environment to expand learning and facilitate the creation and implementation of new knowledge.
Just as the business world is changing in the new knowledge economy amid the digital age, libraries of all types are also undergoing drastic changes. While it is true that advances in technology have thrown up awesome information services such as Google and the gradual shift to libraries without walls, modern day brick and mortar libraries in cosmopolitan smart driven cities have been positioned to offer a range of services that include e-books, cosy reading rooms, courtyards, lounges, internet services, meeting places and enterprise hubs amongst others. In this new culture of shared knowledge, libraries have turned into a generator of value.
Herbert Macaulay Library situated within Yaba area of Lagos State provides a breadth of fresh air having being transformed from a mere storehouse of books (most times outdated and stacked on dusty shelves) into a community place made up of a diverse interlocking series of spaces for study, casual reading, interaction, collaboration, IT support services, café environment, lounge, outdoor terrace and garden.
This has been made possible by the management of Guaranty Trust Bank’s (GTB) in response to the state government’s requests for adoption of libraries. The relevance of this public private partnership cannot be overemphasized. The government in its wisdom understands the need for places within communities where knowledge can be offered without obligation, where people can meet by arrangement or informally bump into neighbours or visitors from out of town. The insight of the government met with the desire of the bank to bring back the books.
Lagos as a megacity has become a magnet for local and international companies looking to do business because of its sizeable market. Also, it has the pull effect of attracting talents and very educated persons looking for decent living in a smart city environment. Cities collect skills and provide a physical platform for them to be recombined into new and productive forms. Cities are not just containers of smart people; they have the enabling infrastructure where connections take place, networks are built and innovative combinations are consummated.
As a matter of fact, cities are assuming greater importance in today’s knowledge driven, innovation economy where place based ecosystem are critical to economic growth. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute (2011), companies now seek to ask which cities and where will offer the most promising prospects for each of their businesses and how they can best position themselves to capture these market opportunities through their activities and relationships.
Lagos has been described as one of Africa’s economic and demographic powerhouses, attracting the best talents to its locale. The choice of Yaba for the library redevelopment may not be far-fetched. In an article published by Africa Strictly Business, Reuters was quoted as having described Yaba as a part of Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital; a cacophony of car horns and shouting street vendors, mingling with exhaust fumes and the occasional stench of sewage. Nevertheless, in between the run-down buildings in this seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of about 21 million people, technology start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms into the cluster. It is hoped that the location of University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology in proximity would enhance the capacity of the community to innovate.
The premise of this article is to highlight the support that intervention, such as by the GTB, brings to a community. Just few metres away from the Hebert Macaulay Library lies the Lagos Mainland Library in dilapidated building. Frankly speaking, it is an eye sore! This library when adopted by GTB or another corporate organisation can complement the services provided by Herbert Macaulay Library by carving a niche around its facility for instance, providing children library services. This would become a draw for parents looking for shared services in close quarters.
Let this article be a clarion call therefore to corporate bodies interested in developing the minds of Lagos residents to support the government by adopting this library. The Herbert Macaulay library redevelopment partnership is a clear case of government not being able to do it all alone. Government needs partners! It cannot be said enough that Lagos Mainland Library needs a puff of fresh air. Give it a life!
This article has been written by Ndudi Osakwe, an economic geographer and consultant, INFOPLUS Business Research Services, Lagos.