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Commission on library will improve lives

BY: Randy Emmanuel Kommey
There is no official body mandated to see to the development of all types of libraries in Ghana
There is no official body mandated to see to the development of all types of libraries in Ghana

The 21st Century is the era of the knowledge economy in which most countries and organisations are looking for ways to possess information that enables them to improve their performance and Ghana is not an exception.

In the light of globalisation and modernisation of countries, universities and companies in the world are exposed to the challenges posted by unpredictable and complex competitive environment.

Although these countries have libraries, they fail to manage them to improve their performances across every sector.

There are public, academic, school and special libraries in Ghana. Government manages public libraries in general.

The other types are left to be managed by their respective owners.

In a way, to improve and promote consistency, it is important that the commission will set in place systems to capture precedents,

As gateways to information, knowledge and culture, libraries can play a fundamental role in Ghana.

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The resources and services libraries offer create wonderful opportunities for access to information, learning, support literacy and education, and help shape new ideas perspectives and perceptions that are central to a creative and innovative society.

There is no official body mandated to see to the development of all types of libraries in Ghana.

To be able to achieve an information and knowledge based country, there is the need to establish the National Commission on Library and Information Services (NCOLIS) which will be an advisory and regulatory body by an act that will stipulate and provide the statutory framework for library and information services.

The Ministry of Education must push for a bill on it.

Countries such as USA, UK, Canada, India, Uganda, Nepal, Liberia, Kenya, South Africa etc. have Libraries and Information Services Commissions.

The need for a commission can be inferred from Article 21 of our Constitution that:

(1) All persons shall have the right to:

(f) Information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society; also the 2030 Agenda under Goal 16.10 of the SDG’s, governments are to “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”.

Access to information is very crucial as it will accelerate national development.

Librarians are to discharge this function through the collection, organisation and dissemination of important information and train citizens to make them information literate.

Surprisingly, no one oversees the information professionals and librarians?

Only the Ghana Library Association(GLA), as a professional body, certifies and trains its members leaving many others outside its control.

There are many also who are not even professionals holding themselves up and acting as such due to the absence of an official governmental body to do so.

The GLA supports the establishment of a NCOLIS. The commission will, among other things, be a body to:

a. Set the standards of professional practices by establishing a Council for Information Professionals;

b. Provide accreditation of qualification for all information professionals;

c. Manage, plan and develop all libraries and Information Services in the country;

d. Boost public interest in Information and promote reading for knowledge, wisdom and enjoyment in the regions and districts including facilitating Mobile Library Services; Virtual Library Management; e-Resources Management; Information Management and Knowledge Management;

e. Encourage and facilitate the use of libraries by school-age children; life-long learning and e-learning;

f. Develop minimum standards and benchmark for monitoring and evaluation of different types of libraries in the country;

g. Use best practices in managing libraries and information centres in the country.

The establishment of NCOLIS will be very important to the economy of Ghana.

The main responsibility of such a commission will be to address the continuous challenge of improving access to information for all Ghanaian communities focusing on the proper libraries development, adequate funds, materials, capacity building and advocacy and employing professionals.

In today’s fast changing business environment, the only way to gain competitive advantage is by managing knowledge repositories, knowledge assets and intellectual capital.

Institutions such as the Bank of Ghana and the Volta River Authority have world–class libraries and are doing well as expected.

Since there is no legislation to monitor libraries in general, most institutions, schools and colleges do not have libraries or have poorly managed libraries.

Libraries, particularly public, national, academic, school and special or research, have a critical role to play in facilitating the right to information for all Ghanaians; and achieving the global sustainable development goals through the provision of unfettered access to information; safeguarding cultural and natural heritage; ensuring universal literacy and access to information and communication technologies.

The right or access to information is ,therefore, important because it facilitates freedom of speech.

Access to information is also important for education and improving lives of citizens.

The establishment of a commission will go a long way in speeding up the setting up of functional standard libraries with competent qualified informational professionals and librarians across the country.

The writer is a PhD Candidate with Information Science Department, University of South Africa (UNISA).