I would like to draw on my experience as a Nigerian scientist and librarian to highlight the critical role of libraries in boosting science in developing countries.
In Nigeria, despite the lip service paid by the government to the education sector, there has been little evidence of its support for scientific education and research. Indeed, the scientific achievements it lays claim to can largely be attributed to the self-determination and commitment of the researchers themselves.
In my view, the common limiting factor to a researcher's success is lack of access to relevant information sources. More often than not, the material available in local libraries is obsolete. The reason? Underfunding by the parent institution as a result of inadequate budgetary allocation from the sponsoring agencies (whether state or private).
But in this new millennium — characterised by an information and knowledge explosion — it is unbelievable that the Nigerian government needs to be convinced of why it should adhere to international standards set by UNESCO, namely that 26 per cent of the federal budget should be allocated to education. The need for well equipped and adequately stocked libraries and laboratories cannot be ignored if any landmark achievements are to be made in science.
Sadly, it seems that access to scientific information — and the resultant scientific discoveries — will always be hampered in developing nations, as long as the attitude of their governments remain deaf to this compelling argument.