Posted by: Isaac Bruce | December 1, 2011

From History Who Cares?

This weekend has already been different moving to a new home. Perhaps what will be more different is how one of the oldest research libraries (1961), George Padmore Research Library on African Affairs at Ridge in Accra which I used to visit has transformed a lot over the years. People say old books are still the best but it has not gained popularity with this institution. It was an unplanned visit to the library to see the place again after about five years. In their quest to offer a world-class library service to the Ghanaian society, I was welcomed by a deafening sound from a radio set. At same time a man responsible at the front desk strolls in from a back door to serve me.  Finally, I took my laptop with me into the library because I was surely in doubt of the security.

This reemphasized the need for a revamp of libraries in most Ghanaian communities. This experience made me think more of a campus initiative we started about a year ago; Readworm. I used to visit community libraries when I was young. I remember one of them, Osu Children’s library which is now struggling to survive. Osu is a cosmopolitan city in the middle of Accra with a lot of cultural influences with great spots and hangouts. Hence I conclude, if children at Osu cannot have the same excitement I had about 10 years ago picking up Shakespeare’s book over the weekend, then the situation must be bad.

At the George Padmore Library, the picture of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah looked down at us. The library was set up by a group of writers, cultural and social activists to be an educational resource and research centre that will allow the materials in its care to be available for use by interested individuals and groups, both in person and through the use of modern storage, retrieval and communication methods. The materials at the library are in critical condition and as a nation we are in a critical condition of losing valuable historical documents belonging Kwame Nkrumah and other prominent figures from the African community. Most of these documents cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

From my interaction with the librarian, the library is managed by the Ghana library board as its parent institution. The problem, of course, is that fixing the library system is not like adding a book shelf here or there. The solution is engaging and demanding accountability from political leaders in a community redevelopment. The answer is political engagement. But first we have to care to create and sustain a society full of libraries.

 

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