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General News of Tuesday, 9 December 2003

Source: gna

Parliament deplores bad state of public libraries

Accra, Dec. 9, GNA - Parliamentarians on Tuesday deplored the present state of public libraries and called for immediate steps to improve them in order to whip up the reading habit among students.

They said public libraries had been allowed to fall into ruins and thereby making them unattractive for students to patronise them.

The members were contributing to a statement Mr Kosi Kedem, NDC-Hohoe South, made on the general deterioration of public libraries.

Mr Kedem said the public library system had been on the decline since 1966.

"What used to be the greatest public library system in Africa in the 1960s, has now deteriorated to a level of national embarrassment. The Ghana Library Board and its 62 branches are in a state of decay," he said.

"The condition of our public libraries, for that matter the Ghana Library Board is nothing but an embarrassment to Ghana. So bad is the situation that the Board could not fulfil the barest minimum condition needed to receive donor funding from the Carnegie Corporation of the United States," Mr Kedem said.

He said there was an offer now from Carnege to fund the establishment of a national Library for the country but this offer would depend on the rehabilitation of the public libraries.

He, therefore, appealed to the Government and the House to go to the rescue of the libraries.

Mr Kedem said there was only five professional staff instead of the minimum staff requirement of 62 to manage the Ghana Library Board since the majority had left because of poor conditions of service.

Mr Kedem did not spare the Balme Library at the University of Ghana and the Parliamentary Library, saying their present state was a reflection on the attitude and importance attached to libraries in general

Mrs Agnes Sonful, NPP-Amenfi West, who associated herself with the statement, said the poor handling of the English Language by students was because of the poor reading habits among the youth, who were being denied the opportunity to expand their knowledge because of the lack of properly stocked libraries.

She said students usually hid the few good books around some of these libraries when they visited the public libraries so that they could be the only ones to benefit from such books anytime they visited the libraries.

Mr Mumuni Abudu Seidu, NDC-Wa Central, said a well-managed public library system could be the solution to curbing social vices among students, who could be encouraged to read books in their leisure time.

He called for the retention of the few librarians left in the system.

Mr Joe Gidisu, NDC- North Tongu, said an efficiently run library system was necessary to support the distance learning programmes embarked upon by the education system.

Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, the Minister of the Interior, said the scant attention given to Library and Archival studies was a reflection of the poor attitude towards the running of the public library system.

He called for support for community libraries.

Mr Joseph Darko-Mensah, NPP Okaikoi North, agreed with the member and said the district assembles should be responsible for the provision of such community libraries.

Mr Francis Agbotse, NDC-Ho West, said there were organisations such as the Rotary International that for a small fee were ready to supply schools with lots of expensive books and urged schools to take advantage of the opportunity.

Mrs Ama Benyiwa-Doe, NDC-Gomoa West, praised Parent-Teacher Associations for their support in the provision of school buses and buildings but said they should also make it a point to invest in the provision of books and libraries, which were also important.

Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, said civil societies should also get involved and help by providing libraries and books.