On Brick and Mortar Libraries

There has been a lot of talk about the fact of “libraries” and “books” going obsolete. We read it in the magazines, on the internet, in chat groups, on Facebook. We would be forgiven for thinking that any surviving print book, any brick-and-mortar library building, for it is these that are meant when obsoletion is spoken of, are hardy survivors on their way to sure doom. But this, via globalisation, is merely a Western, first world, paradigm. And we must see it as that.

The brick-and-mortar library is very much needed in Nigeria and in the third world, will be for decades to come yet. Perhaps in the West, where the nerdy Baby Boomer grandparents of today’s kids, were the first set of computer programmers, owned the very first IBMs and Macs, perhaps in the West they can afford to speculate that the brick-and-mortar library will become obsolete. For their culture has imbibed the impact of the brick-and-mortar library and can now move on, sure and secure, to the digital. I am just the “second generation off the farm” in a third world African country, my realities are somewhat different.

Here, there can be no leap-frogging, nor can we indulge the luxury of full blown digital speculation and the reason is quite simple and practical. If the impression of the brick-and-mortar library, books and shelves and chairs, is not made on the Nigerian culture, a huge part of what is left of that will be philistine, and a mere mimesis of Western cultural preferences. The Lekki urbanite who owns an iPad and Kindle used only for watching movies and carrying around comes to mind.

People whose fathers have not read books and have had no access to brick-and-mortar libraries will not read Kindles or buy books on Amazon’s KDP store. For there is no cultural need in them to do so.

The people in the subway reading, or in the London train clutching Kindles, do so because there is innate in them a cultural need to read and cultivate their curiosity. This cultural need is the crucial ingredient, not the reading per se. And it is this cultural need, inculcated by brick-and-mortar libraries and print newspapers, that does not exist in Nigeria and the third world.

Na so we see am, na so e be.

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6 thoughts on “On Brick and Mortar Libraries”

  1. Africans are largely ignorant of that fact,the white man once said if you want to hid any agelong secret from a blackman, put it in writtings,not ipads and stuffs like that.nice piece.

  2. There is no single library in Nigeria and you captured the flaunting of these ‘new’ props rightly. What use is a library with antiquated books? We are fast asleep in the world that is dynamic and breaking new grounds everyday. It is still a valid trite that the best place to hide secrets from the Blackman is in a book! Well done.

    1. Very true, and sadly true. The joke is that e- this and that has not led to increased use of these facilities. And the reason isn’t far fetched, because the cultural need for them has not been inculcated.

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