The director general of the Gambia National Library Services Authority (GNLSA) Wednesday revealed that the Authority lacks adequate trained personnel.
Abdou Wally Mbye made the revelation while presenting the GNLSA annual activity report and audited financial statement before the Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committee (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly.
GNLSA is a semi-autonomous public institution under the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, established as an Authority in 2009 by an Act of the National Assembly known as the Gambia National Library Service Act, 2009.
Mbye informed the Committee that the objectives of the Library are to contribute to the socio-economic, cultural, educational, as well as scientific and technological development of the country by collecting, recording, preserving, and making available, the national documentary heritage and promoting awareness thereof by fostering information literacy and by facilitating access to the world's information resources.
He explained that the institution has long suffered from absence of qualified librarians.
"For instance up to 1993 it could boast of [only] five professional staff (three with Bachelor's, and one with a Master's degree complemented by two para-professionals (with the Diploma in Library Studies)," he said.
But over the years, he added, the authority has lost all but one of the above-mentioned categories of staff largely due to the quest for greener pastures.
Mbye further informed the Committee that the Authority's grounds have long been adversely affected by acute environmental problems such as erosion, flooding, and saline water intrusion. "These have resulted in the fast deterioration of our buildings exacerbated by the emergence of a flowing stream which threatens to totally submerge our new administrative building," he lamented.
Non-return of borrowed books
He said it seems a large number of readers join the library only when they become aware of the existence of books that interest them, noting that in such instances, people borrow the books in question but fail to return them in spite of several reminders.
According to DG Mbye, the GNLSA is charged with the responsibility of promoting, establishing, equipping, maintaining, and developing libraries in the urban and rural areas in The Gambia; provide relevant advice when requested to government departments, local government councils, or public bodies; and plan and coordinate the various documentation in the National Library and other information services in The Gambia among others.
"We have successfully implemented phase 1 of the GNLSA refurbishment programme. This involved the reconstruction of the Authority's perimeter wall fence facing the New Campama Estate," he told the Committee, adding that the project is worth D150, 840.00.
Mbye said there is no library school in the country, and so library staff have always received their professional training overseas. He also said that over the past years, strenuous efforts have been made to secure admission of GNLSA staff in library schools to pursue professional training.
"Fortunately, we have received offers from the president to sponsor the professional training of five GNLSA staff from library schools within the sub-region. In fact all five obtained acceptances from Kenyatta University in Kenya to pursue the first degree in library studies this year. However, the acceptance letters arrived too late to allow time for the authorities to process the applications for the scholarship packages," he explained.
He added that their appeal to the university authorities to provide them with another start seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
DG Mbye said that the GNLSA continues the struggle to promote the habit of reading amongst Gambians. He explained that the reading promotion activities included the acquisition and provision of socially-relevant and interesting reading materials, school visits, exhibitions, displays, and celebration of World Book Day.
Samba JB Tambura, the assistant compliance officer at the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), said that GNLSA was found to be mainly compliant with the Public Procurement Act during the period under review.
The Committee members and subject matter specialists then raised recommendations, questions, concerns and suggestions, which were responded to by the GNLSA officials, before finally adopting the report.