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Commissioning of new children/mobile library

ON February 16, 2023, the Daily Graphic published that the Vice-President of Ghana commissioned the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) Children and Mobile Library in Accra on February 15, 2023.

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Ghana Library Authority provided the land, but SSNIT paid fully for the project in dollars.

The magnificent modern library, fully computerised, is part of the Public Library System of Ghana (PLSG).

Unfortunately, many people do not know the genesis of the library.

It is, therefore, appropriate and necessary to, as a follow-up to Daily Graphic’s publication, reveal the origin of the Library.

When I visited the new Birmingham (Britain) Public Library, I was greatly inspired by its Children’s Library Section.

It was extremely modern and technologically sound.

I was equally inspired by the Singapore Children’s library.

I noticed the blend of technology, digitisation, culture and traditional librarianship, which I considered outstanding and remarkable.

I was greatly impressed with what I saw at Birmingham and Singapore. 

Mobile library system

It then occurred to me that a children and mobile library system could be established to cater for the special reading needs of children.

Such a library could still be part of the public library system, but be independent enough to have its own budget, initiate and activate or execute its own programmes.

I envisaged that the National Focal Point (NFP) of the children’s library system would be located in Accra, to which other branches or nodal points in Ghana could be linked in a networking arrangement.

But there was a snag. Would the government buy into this children’s library idea? Of course, it did not.

Remember, governments of Ghana, since the overthrow of President Nkrumah in 1966, seem to have lost interest in establishing and funding public libraries and they would, at all cost, find reasons to dismiss the new children’s library concept just as they regrettably rejected the National Library Concept. 

Parastatals/private corporate organisations

Having lost hope of any meaningful help coming from government, I turned my focus to the parastatals and private corporate organisations.

Already a private organisation, Byes and Ways Ltd. had agreed to build a branch library for the Library Authority at Frafraha, on the Accra-Dodowa road.

I thought we could explore, in fact, capitalise on this corporate goodwill.

Happily, the Byes and Ways Library was successfully completed and opened to the public in June 2022, after a long delay by the new Library Board.

The Library Board quickly approached SSNIT for help and it was not disappointed.

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SSNIT had been donating computers, library materials and books to the public library.

I consulted some senior staff, Mrs Faustina Nti and Mrs Eva Amegashie, the Corporate Affairs Manager, who advised that the Board could apply to SSNIT Management to be considered for funding.

They told me that SSNIT was about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 

Responsibility

As part of its corporate responsibility, some projects would be undertaken to commemorate the anniversary.

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The Library Board submitted a proposal to the Director-General of SSNIT, Ernest Thompson, with alacrity.

Mr Thompson, when I met him, spoke highly of the importance of public libraries to the growth and development of the child.

He fondly remembered how he himself benefited immensely from public libraries when he was a child.

He promised to submit the proposal to the Anniversary Planning Committee (APC) and asked us to wait for their response.

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We waited patiently but anxiously.

Days passed into weeks and weeks passed into months and months looked like eternity.

Then the good news dropped.

Our application for funding was accepted by SSNIT and $3.995 million was allocated to the children and mobile library project.

Commissioning

The SSNIT Board, under Prof. Joshua Alabi, quickly formed the Trust Library Board Ltd, with Kwabla King as its Chair, to execute the project and I was made a member of the Board.

The project started after the Minister for Education, Prof. Nanaa Jane Opoku-Agyeman, cut the sod for the project on July  15, 2016.

Initially, we had some land problems but President Mahama and his Chief of Staff intervened and solved them. 

Completed

Happily, the library building was completed in December 2016, but was not furnished.

There was regime change in 2017 and it took almost six years to furnish the library despite the fact that the SSNIT funds were there to be used.

One interesting reason the new government gave for delaying the furnishing was that they had to audit the project.

No matter how long it took, the library was finally commissioned on February 15, 2023, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

But I wished very much that Ernest Thompson, Prof. Alabi and the Ghana Library Authority Board that started the project were invited to witness the commissioning and be acknowledged!

Kosi Kedem,

The writer is the Former Chairman,

Ghana Library Authority Board.

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