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National Library of Nigeria, ZODML unveil ‘Green Library’ partnership to the media

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  • April 17, 2024
  • 9 min read
National Library of Nigeria, ZODML unveil ‘Green Library’ partnership to the media

* ‘Green Library will inculcate awareness of environmental sustainability in children’

* ‘We don’t have people advocating for libraries, especially for children’

By Anote Ajeluorou

AS your step into what was originally the lobby of the former National Library of Nigeria (NLN), now its Lagos branch since the relocation of federal capital from Lagos to Abuja, what you encounter is a mini-forest of sorts, with green, creeping vines zigzagging the white ceiling and green plants in huge pots towering towards the ceiling. Newly cut logs of woods in various shapes and heights dot the place and serve as seats to recreate a mini-forest while shelves with various children’s books adorn the walls. Opposite the entrance is the ‘homework and e-library’ room for young adults in senior secondary classes. Two internet-enabled tablets are installed to enable users easy access to online educational resource materials.

Welcome to the ‘Green Library’ of the National Library of Nigeria, Lagos branch, an innovative collaboration with a Lagos-based private library operator, Zacchaeus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Library (ZODML)!

The Green Library initiative is an indictment of the lack of foresight of the founding fathers of the nation’s national archive and memory, which has been a model for all libraries across the country, including state libraries, not to have thought to provide a dedicated library space for children to explore and indulge their young imagination! Remedying that lapse over 60 years after seems such a welcome development that the other 31 branches of the national library and state-owned libraries should immediately begin to redress the lapse and replicate the Lagos initiative, so as to provide for the intellectual and knowledge yearnings of Nigeria’s children. As has been severally pointed out: catching them young is the only panacea for a people’s healthy reading culture, even unto adulthood! Leaving such a yawning gap among children after so many years has been inimical to development, innovation and creativity, be it in science or the arts.

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Deputy Director, National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Mrs. Obianuju Onuorah (left); founder of ZODML, Mrs. Ijeoma Esiri (2nd right) and Deputy Director, NLN, Dr. Deborah Eddy-Ugorji (right) receiving books from writer/CEO of Walnut Publishing Company, Mrs. Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor (2nd left) after unveiling ‘Green Library’ to the media… in Lagos PHOTO: MIRACLE CHIAZOR-ENENMOR

While conducting journalists round the small but cute and inviting facility on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at the National Library premises in Yaba, Lagos, the CEO of ZODML, Mrs. Ijeoma Esiri explained the reason for the initiative.

According to her, “We decided that while we’re creating a library and make it a knowledge place for children, we will also make it a ‘Green Library’, where we can focus and talk about the environment, and begin to groom young ones to understand the environment. We need to start at a very early age to make them understand the problem of the environment. How can we sustain our planet? What things do we need to do? What do we need to do to make this happen? How do we stem the degradation of our planet?

“We’re going to have a lot of books here that talks about our world, and we will try to get some books about other countries, so that children can be at this library and go to Paris, go to New York, and go to Bangkok from the books that they will see and read here. So, while they will be reading about Adamu, Nike, Uche and Eloho, they will also read about other parts of the world.”

Esiri was clear about the kinds of books they will put in the shelves of the ‘Green Library’, when she noted, “First and foremost, we’re looking for books by Nigerian authors and those in the diaspora as well. And then we’re looking for books by African authors and black authors. We’re thinking about ourselves first, about people like our children and who have culture like them; things and concepts that they relate with and understand; then we can begin to think about other areas in the world. So we want the word put out there that publishers and authors in Nigeria, Africa and black authors all over the world, to please donate their books. We will never be able to buy the books, and so we will always depend on being given books. That’s one of the things we’re looking to do.”

The mascot for the Green Library is the Turaco bird, and Esiri explained how they settled for Turaco as mascot, “The Turaco bird is the mascot for the ‘Green Library’. Turaco is a very significant bird for the environment, as it feeds on fruits only; it doesn’t eat anything else and it always swallows whole the fruits it eats. So when it flies all over the place and it defecates, it’s spreading seeds all over the place, and that’s how forests grow and vegetation is renewed. So Turaco is a bird for the environment. It’s a fun bird, very colourful. And so we adopted it for the Green Library as a mascot. And we hope that children will relate with it.”

As part of deepening the environmentally friendly ambience of the Green Library, Esiri said the floor tiles are made of recycled tyres by an Ibadan-based company that specialises in recycling materials for a sustainable environment, noting that such synchronises with the vision of environmental sustainability theme of the children’s library that will be officially opened in a later date.

At the briefing proper, Deputy Director, National Library, Lagos branch, Mrs. Obianuju Onuorah expressed satisfaction that the vision to build an informed citizenry by creating a space for a young, reading audience that the Green Library symbolised was being fulfilled.

“This partnership is a dream come true,” Onuorah enthused,” adding, “we’ve always provided access to the general public, including children. Like our CEO Prof. Veronica Anunobi, who could not be here due to other assignments, has always said, there’s a need to have a children section in all the branches of the library. So, when ZODML came to propose to us, it was easy for us to provide space. In this partnership, the library is mainly for children. That’s why it’s called Green Library – for ages 4-17. It will benefit our community; we are located strategically. It’s so easy to locate. Apart from the children in the vicinity, others can also benefit. Our fear is how we will be able to contain the children that will come later.

“This is a new kind of library for children, as everything in it is tailored to meet children’s needs. We will introduce reading and play activities that will stimulate children’s interest. The concern of the library is green eco-system, to be eco-friendly. So, it’s not only about reading, but with eco-friendly environment; children will enjoy when they’re here. We have so many programmes that enhance reading culture, like the Reading Promotion Campaign (RPC), an annual programme organised by the NLN on readership. That’s why our CEO said we need a children’s library, so we catch them young. When a child is being taught to read from an early age, it becomes a lifelong habit. It will help them excel at university.”

Like Esiri earlier, Onuorah also appealed to corporate organisations and public-spirited individuals to also step in and help advance the course of reading culture by supporting the laudable initiative that has brought NLN and ZODML to birth the first-of-its-kind Green Library. She enjoined would-be sponsors to implement similar initiatives in remote communities, so book could be made readily available to children and adults alike in under-served communities to raise the literacy levels of the citizenry.

“I appeal to individuals and organisations to emulate this wonderful work that ZODML has done,” Onuorah said. “We have 32 branches of the National Library of Nigeria across the country. If this can be replicated in other libraries, it will help our children be the friends of books. In the Green Library, there’s a space for homework, which will save parents the trouble of buying lots of books.”

Esiri stressed the paradox of urging citizens to read while there’s largely the absence of an important facility like libraries in various communities across the country.

“Onuorah has said it all,” she conceded. “We (ZODML) are an NGO established since 2000. Our core calling is to establish libraries and connect children to reading. Its a paradox that we face. We say no reading culture in Nigeria. Correct, but there are no libraries for children to go to read. There has to be space where children go to read. So the absence of libraries exacerbates the reading culture and we don’t have people advocating for libraries, especially for children. We urge individuals and organisations to partner with National Library of Nigeria to replicate what we’re doing here today and help our children have access to books, so as to tackle this lack of reading culture or babit that we always talk about.

“I commend the National Library of Nigeria for this collaboration. It’s not everybody that thinks the way you do. For the National Library to think this way, to revive the space they have, that’s commendable. Every of the library staff was incredibly supportive; it’s been a beautiful experience.”

On why the national has remained in one spot and failed to expand its reach to other parts of a sprawling metropolis like Lagos, Onuorah explained that it was not the duty of the National Library to expand beyond one library in a state, but to provide regulatory framework for states to expand its library system to local communities. She noted that it was the duty of for state governments to ensure branches of the state library are expanded and extended to serve local communities within the states. She appealed to organisations and individuals to emulate the ZODML with the National Library, Lagos branch to partner with both the national and state libraries to replicate the innovative Green Library experience to serve various communities in the states.

A major highlight of the event was when writer and CEO of Walnut Publishing Company, Mrs. Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor, donated five titles of children’s books from her stable to the library; some she wrote, others she published. She expressed delight at the initiative, describing it as a welcome development that would assist children have easy access to books. The titles she donated to the Green Library, as part of her contribution to its rapid grow, are One Little Mosquito, Stories of Our Land, Timi and the Barber, A Father’s Pride and A Hero’s Welcome, which Chiazo-Enenmor wrote.

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