By DELE SOBOWALE

“A modern, wired university grows in Nigeria.

The American University of Nigeria provides a modern education right in the backyard of Boko Haram,, Nigeria’s homegrown terrorist group. One clue: The campus claims 55 per cent of all the internet traffic in Nigeria.” Jack Rodolico, Latitude News, August 6, 2012.

But the American University of Nigeria, AUN, leads the rest of the country and most of the world in one other way. It has developed the most modern Library in Nigeria and one of the best twenty in the world as well. For those who are skeptical about the claim, usually the people who stay at home and disclaim information they find it difficult to accept, let me provide the evidence which can be checked and verified.

Nigerians have come to accept the fact that we cannot excel in anything, especially education, particularly in the least developed zone in the nation that my declaration that AUN is the best university in Nigeria earned a rejoinder from a “sit-at-home” critic for exaggeration. However, those intimately connected with education in Nigeria and who have visited several campuses know what I am talking about. They cannot rank universities for political reasons lest their statements be misconstrued as promoting the political ambition of an individual. I am not held back by those constraints. So, I can ignore the insults of the know-nothings.

A recent report informed us that no African university is ranked among the top four hundred. Based on four criteria – infrastructure, teaching, research output and teacher/student ration, the annual report found no African university good enough to crack the top 400 spots. The cheering news is that gradually African universities are moving up among the top one thousand and one day one might make it to top 100. We need to bear in mind that the oldest African university, especially South of the Sahara, University of Orange Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1855 — almost a century after the University of Karaonien, in Fez, Morocco was founded in 859 A.D and University of Al-Ashar in Cairo, in 970A.D.

The recent upsurge in the number of universities in Nigeria presents us with a unique opportunity to establish modern universities based on e-learning thereby bypassing all the old structures which others have put in place which slow down learning. Unfortunately, in my trips and visits to Nigerian universities, one still sees a great deal of throwback to ancient methods of learning. In no place is this more obvious than in university libraries.

VANDALISATION OF BOOKS IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES

As a regular visitor to and heavy user of libraries in Nigeria, one of the most shocking discoveries is the number of books which have been deliberately vandalized by students. In fact, it is safe to state that unless a library book is not popular and in high demand, the chances are that pages have either been removed from it or it has been defaced or even deliberately misplaced.

One graduate of a Nigerian university told me about how he “borrowed” a book for a whole semester – he deliberately misplaced the Mass Communications textbook among Electrical Engineering books for the whole semester. There were two copies of the book in the library; the other had pages removed by other students before the end of the semester. Only God knows how many books in our university libraries have suffered the same fate.

Back in 1988 till 1990, when I was the General Manager of Haske Rice Mills, at Kalambina Road, Sokoto, next to Sokoto Cement, I had a lot of free time on my hands and I used part of the time to visit the USMAN DAN FODIO UNIVERSITY library to gather materials for what became the VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS. Because I was reading broadly, I had the opportunity to visit many shelves and it was remarkable how every shelf had books that belonged on another shelf or were torn or damaged – usually deliberately. I thought that was an aberration until I visited other universities. Then it became clear that the pattern was the same everywhere in Nigeria; it was only a matter of degree.

Fortunately, new Nigerian universities can save themselves a lot of money by adopting e-library setups which had earned the American University in Nigeria its place among the twenty best libraries in the world and its librarian a special mention. Since the Chinese have already taught us that one picture is worth a thousand words, permit me to show you what I call AUN’s Wonder.

What the reader is looking at is how the contents of a shelf full books is first of all

transferred to a desktop computer; then can be made available on a laptop and finally on the small GSM you see on the table. With e-library, every individual can have access to all the major libraries of the world and to books even those recently published.

The author of the AUN Wonder is the librarian Mr Amed Derirhan who has won an EXCELLENCE SERVIVE AWARD For: THE BEST UNIVERSITY DIGITAL SERVICESIN NIGERIA from the COMMITTEE OF UNIVERSITY LIBRARIANS OF NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES in 2012 as well as a Presidential Citation for Innovative International Projects from the American  Library Association in July 2013.

Anybody establishing a university library in Nigeria today will be well advised to hop on a plane to Yola to see Amed. You can only profit from the journey…

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.