As part of our closing ceremony for the Beyond Access Nigeria programme, we share with you, the interesting story of a visit to Nigeria, shared by Mary Grace Reich, the Programme Co-ordinator at IREX for the Beyond Access Nigeria programme.
In May 2017, we had the pleasure of hosting Mary who visited Nigeria from her base in the United States of America for her observation tour of the Beyond Access Nigeria programme ( a capacity building programme for Nigerian Librarians and their Libraries).
IREX, since 2015 have partnered with W.TEC to implement the Beyond Access Nigeria Programme in Southern Nigeria which have involved over 40 Librarians from over 25 public libraries.
The IREX – Programme Coordinator’s visit was to have, a first-hand observation of the programme’s progress by touring Lagos and Eastern Nigeria.
Her tour was indeed a pleasant one as she got to witness the new innovative services delivered by our Librarians to their Library users all the way from Lagos down to Anambra State, also she got to visit many interesting places, and also got to witness some very happy moments at W.TEC.
In this post, we share with you in her own words, her wonderful Beyond Access Nigeria story.
Special thanks to our Beyond Access Team Maryam Ibraheem Abdulsalam (W.TEC/Beyond Access Programmes Manager), Adeola Akinyemiju Aramide (W.TEC Admin/Finance Officer) for making this visit a success in conjunction with the Beyond Access – Champion Dr Nkem Osuigwe.
Enjoy the Beyond Access Nigeria story by Mary Grace Reich.
Our meeting at the Enugu State Library Board began with an amiable exchange of greetings. While it was my first time in Enugu, it was clear that Dr. Nkem Osuigwe and Adeola Akinyemiju Aramide, my colleagues in the Beyond Access program, were familiar faces and friends of the library. We visited the library to meet with Ms. Nkem Agu, the Deputy Library Director, and hear about her experience in the Beyond Access program.
Since participating in the Beyond Access program Ms. Agu has been recruiting new library users, assessing library users’ interests, and generating new services to fit their needs. She’s traveled to villages surrounding Enugu to share about the library’s modern services, recruited new users at the health clinic, and provided orientations to school students. She’s offered ICT training using the Intel Easy Steps curriculum she learned as part of Beyond Access and is connecting users to economic opportunities, such as through skills acquisition trainings on bead-making (at the users’ request) in collaboration with the branch library in Nsukka and through an upcoming partnership with a local commercial farm for users who expressed an interest in learning more about agribusiness. Ms. Agu’s has shared her Beyond Access experience with her colleagues in leading exercises to analyze their productivity and reflect on opportunities for growth at the library.
“You may have knowledge of something, but sometimes that knowledge is caged. Beyond Access empowered me to do the best with what I know. It liberated me and gave me confidence to work. It trained me to train others,” Ms. Agu summed up her Beyond Access experience.
The librarians in Lagos and Anambra expressed a similar sentiment as they shared new services and initiatives they’ve introduced at their libraries–a job search corner at the National Library of Nigeria, Yaba, a partnership with a local NGO which has offered career talks at Ikorodu Divisional Library, assisting users with computers at Ilupeju library, and using the library space for a variety of community events and trainings at Professor Kenneth Dike e-Library–to name just a few examples.
The Beyond Access program did not supply any additional resources or supplies to these libraries. The new services and initiatives are the result of the librarians’ creativity and dedication. Beyond Access only provided training which challenged librarians to reimagine the possibilities of their library and fostered relationships with W.TEC and other Beyond Access librarians to support that transformation.
My visits to the libraries provided an opportunity to hear about new services and the librarians’ experience in Beyond Access, but in my conversations I learned about the program’s impact not in just what was said, but how it was said. The energy and enthusiasm with which the librarians met Dr. Nkem and the Beyond Access team from W.TEC–Adeola and Maryam–made it clear that their role in the project has not just been as trainers and managers but more importantly as supporters and partners. This support has helped the librarians harness their enthusiasm into new services. Those services results in positive feedback and increased usership which are in turn encouraging new innovations. Ms. Nkechi, the director at Professor Kenneth Dike e-Library reflected, “If not for Beyond Access, the innovative services would not be happening in this way. The training and the ideas really helped us, or we would’ve only been opening the library to read. Now we’re adding value to people’s lives, and they’re telling their friends.”
This enthusiasm and the relationships formed will outlast the Beyond Access program, and I hope that they will continue to foster increased innovation and community impact across the Beyond Access libraries for years to come.
Many thanks to the W.TEC staff and Dr. Nkem for their leadership and dedication which has made the Beyond Access program so valuable to the libraries and their communities and for their hospitality and generosity in hosting me in Lagos, Enugu, and Awka. It was an honor to visit Nigeria and to spend time with the librarians and the Beyond Access team.