Why do we need Libraries in communities?
Librarians, academicians and a few might understand and appreciate the importance of Libraries in the society. However there are so many that do not recognize that or probably they've forgotten! That's what advocacy is all about- pointing out to people, reminding those that have forgotten of the exclusive niche that libraries have in education, literacy and in promoting democratic, sustainable and progressive societies.
Libraries help build reconciliation in societies ravaged by hate and animosity. How? Misinformation breeds misunderstandings and hatred. Libraries always have information that disproves rumours and half-truths. Libraries give access to information that helps to understand and place the diversities in the world in clearer perspectives. Libraries serve as neutral gathering places in so many societies where people come from 'different sides of the track'.
Many voters in African democratic societies do not understand issues at stake in elections. They are swayed by ethnic and religious affiliations & bonds. Illiteracy and a surfeit of 'fake news' enables this situation. Libraries in communities encourage adults to learn, they have newspapers that the citizenry can read to get information instead of over-reliance on rumours. Most importantly, I believe that African Libraries need to explore avenues of holding 'citizenship education' classes in all public and community libraries across the continent. People will be taught and given access to resources that will help them understand the importance of the 'office of the citizen' in democratic settings. Young people will understand why having a voter card and using it, determines their future, the different communities will be taught why voters apathy is a silent but fast and efficient kill her of democracy. Citizens will be taught how elections are all about 'our country' first before personal gains.
Equity and equality are core issues for the female gender in Africa. Libraries in our different communities assist the girl-child, the young mother, the mature wife, the elderly women to learn, to further their education, to acquire new skills, to have access to health information, to understand the place of hygiene in child rearing amongst other important things.
These amongst so many other reasons is why I advocate -to create awareness and perhaps lead to policy changes that will reposition Libraries. Again, the Advocacy is to draw people to Libraries. Many give the excuse that we are an 'oral people' and not a reading people. That is most inconsequential. Why? Libraries are not all about books and reading. Libraries in different societies are for building communities, for helping people create a 'better life' for themselves.
I call on librarians to talk about libraries. It is our duty as librarians to always let the citizenry know what libraries stand for. I call on all Library users to promote libraries. We need Libraries to survive, to thrive and blossom in our different communities.