20 No. 3 — May/Jun 2006
Fundraising in Nigerian Libraries
Samuel Olu Adeyoyin
I’m an academic librarian in Nigeria, and I’ve been interested in the issue of fundraising in Nigerian libraries and information centres. To elicit information on this topic, I administered questionnaires to randomly selected students, lecturers, and researchers from four institutions in Nigeria. In this article, I’ll share what I’ve discovered.
In Income Generation: Experiences from University Libraries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, Diana Rosenberg argued that “income generation is here to stay and that in the future, the university library will be asked to become more self-sufficient and not only be responsible for generating income but also be held accountable for it.”
In the past, libraries have faced many problems. The lack of money has often been considered the “root of all evil.” Indeed, in any discourse on the adoption of technology, the development of book collections, or the training of staff, funding has always been mentioned as one of the greatest handicaps. This was evident in the discussions at the 1996, 1998, and 2000 meetings of the Standing Conference of African, National and University Libraries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, which dwelt heavily on the subject. A call for networking and the exchange of experience and information among libraries revealed the results of successful income generation by eight university libraries in six African countries. According to Rosenberg, this brought about the realization that there’s a movement away from total reliance on government funding toward additional sources for library income. It’s akin to the fundraising that many other libraries do around the world.
The commercialization of library services is something that people have tended to shy away from. Its successful operation requires planning, cooperation from patrons, vision, justification, patrons’ satisfaction in their return on investment (ROI), and special skills and techniques that many librarians lack. Commercialization should be considered in libraries that are severely constrained in terms of resources. Other public institutions have successfully done it, and libraries can follow their lead. In his article “Funding Status of Some African Universities,” Brian Martin argued that the increased cost of managing information services and decreased funding make it necessary for library directors to become heavily involved in fundraising.
Presently, some libraries impose fines on their borrowers for overdue books, especially those from short-loan collections. But this is mainly used to deter patrons from keeping books too long, and the amounts raised are negligible. Charges for interlibrary loans and for online searches are intended partly to control demand and partly to offset the direct external costs incurred by the library for these services. Some charge the full net cost, but many set a basic flat fee, which covers searches up to a certain duration or a certain number of references retrieved. These charges have to be reviewed for their ROI.
Charging for library services usually awakens strong feelings. Simply taking up the question is a challenge. The whole idea of paying fees seems repugnant to champions of free library and information services. Nevertheless, charges are being imposed in different ways all over the world. Such charges have become part of library operations, as reported by Greenwhite Cornish in his article “An Academic Library Network for Portugal.”
My Study’s Objective and Beginning
My study aimed to investigate the idea of fundraising in some Nigerian university libraries. The introduction of university autonomy has again brought to the fore the issue of commercializing library services. I therefore set out to elicit information on the subject in order to discover the opinions of the stakeholders in our educational system. I started by reviewing the literature that was already written.
In “Interlibrary Loans: Fees for Services,” Bruce Reid critically viewed the issue of charging for library services. He balanced this by explaining some of the merits of charging, such as the ability to better control demand by filtering unnecessary requests and the improved ability to cope with price upsurges by sharing costs with customers. The unfavorable aspects include the administrative costs of handling payments and the negative impact on the library’s public relations. He observed that the latter has the capability of undermining the importance of aligning library practice with institutional policy and objectives. In addition, it can hinder effective communication with all concerned.
In “Strategy for Marketing Information Services in Botswana Special Libraries and Information Centres,” Julius Nkanga said that special libraries and information centres in Nigeria have not escaped the current downturn in the economy. The economic challenges facing the nation as a whole include the need to improve productivity, which means providing quality services. The downturn has resulted in drastically reduced budgets, reduced capital expenditure, and the isolation of information services, with little or no recognition of these problems from management.
Data Collection and Analysis
I decided to survey students, lecturers, and researchers because they are the major stakeholders in and beneficiaries of library and information services in Nigeria. They use information more than any other group and may feel the positive or negative impact of charging for library and information services more than any other group.
The sample was randomly drawn from the University of Ibadan (UI), a federally owned school; Imo State University (IMSU), a state-owned school; Igbinedion University–Okada (IUO), a private-initiative school; and the Development Policy Centre (DPC), a research institute. (See Figure 1.) I distributed 150 copies of the questionnaire to the selected respondents. Of those, 132 were completed and returned, representing an 88 percent response. I analyzed the data mainly by percentage and simple average calculation.
The survey contained 14 questions designed to elicit information on the following:
1. Whether library services should be commercialized
2. The preferred type of commercialization
3. The effect of commercialization on education
4. The quality of services being provided
5. The reason for the quality of services being provided
The findings showed that 87 respondents (or 65.9 percent) favoured the idea of commercializing library services in Nigeria. Forty-five respondents (or 34.1 percent) did not want commercialization in any form. However, Figure 2 shows that the respondents preferred partial/subsidized commercialization of library services over full commercialization.
The survey revealed that 70 percent of the respondents believe that subsidized funding will promote reading habits and make patrons take the library seriously. This finding is in line with the assertion of Paulos Morgan and Suzan Nobels in “Marketing Library and Information Services in the ’90s.” They pointed out that users of a service might actually perceive its value as being cheapened by a low price because they equate low prices with low quality. The authors suggest that a charge set well above the actual cost may sometimes be appropriate.
In addition, the findings showed that 47 percent of the respondents rated the quality of services provided in libraries as low, while only 11 percent rated them very high.
The respondents were also asked to select, to the best of their knowledge, one major factor that’s responsible for the quality of services that are being provided in libraries. As revealed in Figure 3 below, inadequate funding was identified as the biggest problem in Nigerian libraries. This finding further supports the need for partial/subsidized funding of library services in Nigeria, even as privatization of major government-owned establishments has been one of the cardinal activities of the country’s current democratic government.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The survey established that library users in Nigeria, especially the major stakeholders, favour the idea of partial/subsidized funding of library services. Since inadequate funding has been identified as the major factor responsible for the low quality of services provided to information-thirsty patrons, it’s incumbent upon library managers to map out strategies for offering quality services to the ever-growing number of patrons at a subsidized rate. External users should also be a source of income for the library. In addition, commercial firms should be encouraged to make use of library services. Another way to generate income is by pursuing an active policy of fundraising, especially by targeting commercial firms and philanthropic foundations.
Libraries can also receive substantial income from bequests, endowments, and trust funds. The prevailing economic condition and the issue of autonomy should induce libraries to review their operations, to re-examine their services and public relations, and to devise means for generating funds internally. In “Funding Nigerian University Libraries in an Autonomy,” Taofik Salisu observed that it’s feasible to price virtually every kind of information service.
Based on the study’s findings, I recommend that in assessing the potential of existing information networks to develop commercial services, people should consider the following components:
1. Develop a model business strategy for libraries.
2. Evaluate libraries against this business strategy.
3. Determine possible areas for commercialization.
4. Identify constraints to commercialization. For instance, study the existing policies at institutional and governmental levels and suggest policy adjustments that would allow more effective commercialization.