The relevance and adequacy of the Ashanti Regional Library, Kumasi, Ghana: an appraisal by users.

Author:Agyen-Gyasi, Kwaku
Position:Report
 
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Introduction

Libraries whether academic, special or public exist for their use. This is because these libraries provide users with the relevant sources of information that meet their needs. Adequate and relevant sources of information in all spheres of life are needed for the development of every nation as its availability or non-availability can dictate the wealth or poverty of the nation in question. The provision of quality information resources available at any material moment will invariably have positive impact on the patronage of the library. Any good library well-equipped with books and periodicals in all subjects is essential for the advancement of information for users to carry out relevant research and study that will propel the nation for better economic growth. The up-to-dateness of documents available in a particular library, the quantities available and their quality could influence their use. On the contrary, if the quality of information resources provided by the library leaves much to be desired, the patronage would be affected. Libraries especially public libraries assist in the provision of relevant information to the different strata of the society and thus help in achieving their developmental goals.

In order to satisfy the diverse information needs and interest of the users in the communities in which the library is located, the public library's collection must be adequate in terms of quantity, quality and currency. Public library materials are considered as relevant if it meets the needs of its users or increases the likelihood of accomplishing the goal for which it was set up to do. This is because customer service has always been a leading mission of any public library and if the management of these libraries expect better patronage from their patrons, then they are duty bound to provide materials that suit the needs of these users both qualitatively and quantitatively. Undoubtedly, if any public library wants to provide good service for its users, a rich collection is clearly the most important attraction, though not the only one.

Public libraries play a vital role in the socio-economic development of any country. They contribute to better education, healthy politics and growth in agriculture, business and industrial sectors. Public libraries promote literacy and numeracy by making reading materials available to all, thereby optimizing human development through education. They allow users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily and also have non-circulating reference collections and provide computer and Internet access to patrons. Public libraries give children access to a wider range of books more than could be provided by a school library and plays a significant part in equalizing opportunities for learning resources to be available to all irrespective of the economic status of the parents or guardians. They give the young users access to information resources after school hours and arouse their interest to read outside of the school curriculum. Also, they provide free services such as preschool story times to encourage early literacy, quiet study and work areas for students and professionals.

Unfortunately, public libraries in Ghana have been neglected for far too long and have not been placed on the government priority list as an alternative lifelong educational resource. Although Ghana is not a big country, bureaucracy and lack of understanding of the Public Library's role has pushed them to the periphery. Not only do they lack spacious library buildings but in some cases have to share their premises with other institutions. Other challenges facing public libraries in Ghana include: insufficient funding, shortage of professional staff, low reading habits among the citizenry and inadequate computers and poor internet connectivity. Also, the stocks of reading materials in these libraries are not only small, but are outdated and irrelevant to the needs of their users and thus require weeding. The ultimate consequence is wide-spread illiteracy which is the greatest handicap for development. In the view of Ghosh (2005), "public libraries in developing countries suffer from a variety of infrastructure, manpower and monetary constraints that could lure in illiterate and semi-illiterate folk, as well as being low in the priorities of policy makers and implementing bodies".

By a public library, we mean an organisation established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other forms of community organisation. There are five fundamental characteristics shared by public libraries. They are generally supported by taxes (usually local, though any level of government can and may contribute); governed by a board to serve the public interest; opened to all and every community member, entirely voluntary in that no one is ever forced to use the services provided; and they provide basic services without charge (Wikipedia, 2013).

Ghana is an emerging economy with a total population of about 24 million. The population of Ghana is growing at a rate of about 3.4%. The growth in population is accompanied by its own challenges: literacy, education, economic empowerment and environmental degradation. All sectors of the Ghanaian economy including public libraries have indispensable role to play in addressing these challenges. According to Ghosh (2004) "there should be one public library for every 3,000 people". This means with the current population of 24 million people, Ghana needs about 8000 public libraries. Although it is the vision of the Ghana Library Authority to provide access to modern public libraries within easy reach of not more than eight kilometres, this is yet to materialse owing to financial constraints.

The public libraries in Ghana have served as centres for educational support through the provision of quality reading materials such as books, periodicals and other non-book materials and also supplemented school curriculum. They do so by collecting, organising and disseminating information to their users both young and adults. In spite of the success chalked by these libraries, they are finding it difficult to attract the target clientele (i.e. the youth) to patronize their facilities. The reason is that most of the facilities that the Authority should have at its disposal in these public libraries are lacking and since most youth are now into entertainment and wants to move with the times, they will always want to entertain themselves in every environment they find themselves through the use of the internet. The purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical description of the relevance and adequacy of resources at the Ashanti Regional Library in Kumasi and to discuss the effectiveness of the system by way of service provision to its users.

Public Library System in Ghana

The Public Library Service in Ghana has a chequered history. It began in January 1950 with the enactment of the Gold Coast Library Board Ordinance (Cap118) although it was passed by the Legislative Council in December in 1949. According to Bukenya (2009), it was one of the first Library Acts which served as a model to many African countries. The Gold Coast Library Board (GCLB) was later revised by a Ghana Library Board Act 1970, Act 327 as the only institution mandated by law to establish, equip, manage and maintain public libraries in the country. Currently, Public Library Management in Ghana comes under the auspices of the Ghana Library Authority (GLA), formerly Ghana Library Board (GLB) and the Ministry of Education. It is a unitary system financed in the main by the government through the Ghana Education Service and managed by the Ghana Library Authority. The former is responsible for the supervision and funding of these libraries on behalf of the government while the latter is responsible for capacity building and the setting up and management of public libraries, at regional, district and community levels. The GLA consists of the headquarters which combines central administration with bulk book purchase and processing of documents for all the member libraries.

The Authority has a reference and lending sections located in all the ten (10) regional capitals and some districts of Ghana. The lending section allows its patrons to borrow books and take them away to read at home, read newspapers, periodicals, as well as use internet services for a small fee. The reference section on the other hand is designed mainly to serve the academia or people who are researching or looking for rare books on certain topical issues (Krampah, 2012).

The Ghana Library Board opened the Ashanti Regional Library in Kumasi in 1951 and its permanent Library building put up in 1954. It is one of the ten (10) regional libraries out of the total of sixty-one (61) public or community libraries currently in Ghana and the first regional library to be built in the country by the Ghana Library Board, (Evans, 1964: 66). The Ashanti Regional Library popularly referred to as the Ashanti Library is located within the premises of the Centre for National Culture (formerly the Ghana National Cultural Centre) in Kumasi a few metres away from the main lorry station "Kejetia" (Agyen-Gyasi and Atta-Obeng, 2010).

Objectives of the Study

The objective of the study is to ascertain users' reaction about the relevance and adequacy of the resources and facilities available at the Ashanti Regional Library in Kumasi, Ghana and how far it has impacted on the services rendered to these users. The specific objectives of the study are:

(i) To find out the type of people who use the library -i.e. whether students or workers as well as their age groups.

(ii) To assess the status of users of the library and how often they use the facilities and resources in the library.

(iii) To seek users' perception about the facilities and resources available in the library.

(iv)...

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