Beyond being a political and geographic entity, citizens of a nation are meant share a common sense of identity, purpose, destiny and belonging undergirded and sustained by national institutions and values. National integration is the engendering of perceptions of oneness in a nation state despite cultural, religious and social differences and diversities. It breeds a sense of common identity, nationhood, unity and patriotism in the citizens of a country. National integration fosters the development of common national values, strong confidence in the existence and future of the country and a compelling obligation and sense of duty to the nation. It also promotes inclusiveness and a sense of belonging as people identify and cohere to shared values (Makosso, 2014). Considering the different conflicts, ethnic clashes, political challenges and economic instabilities that have engulfed Nigeria since the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates into a nation in 1914, it is quite evident that the country seriously needs to explore fresh avenues in achieving national integration (Ojo, 2009).
Ethnicity, nepotism, political and economic challenges have been identified as the deeply entrenched issues which work against national integration in Nigeria (Fageyinbo, 2011). It has been suggested that to achieve national integration in Nigeria, the different ethnic, religious, social and political groups need to discuss and agree on perceived thorny national issues such as zoning of political posts, indigene-settler disagreements, resource control, youth restiveness and militancy and religious fundamentalism and intolerance (Onifade and Imnohopi, 2013). Alapiki (2005) had pointed out that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme, the Unity Schools, the Federal Character Principle, and State Creation exercises all illustrate national policies specifically made to achieve national integration. However, these measures have seemingly failed to achieve their objectives.
The inability of citizens to be gainfully employed has been fingered as a major factor to be considered in national integration as one of the ripple effects of unemployment in a society is lack of interest and cooperation in nation building. A high rate of unemployment presupposes the existence of inequalities in the country. This is exacerbated by the lack of social welfare schemes which cater for the unemployed and which most importantly serves as an indicator of social and economic rights which all members of the nation community are entitled to. This absence of a clear baseline of socio-economic rights means that the unemployed as a group of people is marginalized from partaking from the commonwealth of the country. This works greatly against national integration as nation building cannot work where poverty, lack of basic needs and marginalization thrive (Gambari, 2008).
Public libraries are well positioned to help as pertains to unemployment as well as in assisting people to acquire 21st century 'hard and soft skills'. Rooney-Browne (2009) had noted that communities expect more from libraries in the times of unemployment as people demand more 'job-related' services from their pub lic libraries. According to Richard (2009), a downward turn in economy pushes people to use public libraries as 'something like an office' where they can use computers, have Internet access and even take classes to gain more skills including digital literacy skills. Lynch (2002) had made the same observation that unemployment occasioned by a downturn in the economy seems to drive people to seek for more information on economic opportunities in public libraries. The role of public libraries in enabling people to become employed therefore needs to be critically assessed in the search for national integration in Nigeria. The Beyond Access/IREX intervention in Nigerian public libraries is focused on equipping Nigerians with skills that will enable them find jobs or become self -employed as well as become more productive in their current workplaces. This is important as most jobs in the 21st century require basic computer skills, including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email and social media operations. Most schools are not teaching these skills thus young people who are entering the workforce need to acquire these skills in order to increase their employability quotient.
This paper therefore aims to examine the Beyond Access/IREX project which took place in 2015-2017 in Nigerian public libraries. Specifically, the study aims;
--To identify the different modules that were used to teach librarians as pertains to making people employable,
--To ascertain how many services and programmes were devised based on the trainings acquired through the Beyond Access/IREX project as pertains to making people employable,
--To determine the challenges faced by the libraries as they provide services that promote employability.
Review of related literature
Nigeria as a multicultural nation is bedeviled with diverse problems that threaten its survival and continued existence as an entity. National integration appears to have become an intractable problem for Nigeria even after decades of nationhood. This has caused underdevelopment despite the huge natural resources available in the country. Many solutions have been proffered as the country seeks ways out of the predicament. Bello (2012) argues that the proper use of the 'Federal Character principle' will ensure fair and equitable representation of the different ethnic groups at the centre of power and give every group a sense of belonging and possibly quash conflicts and clashes. Falade and Falade (2013), propose the transformation of attitudes through social mobilization and the adoption and imbibing of core values of oneness and trust for the...