Brief History

The Association of University Librarians of Nigerian Universities (AULNU), formerly Committee of University Librarians of Nigerian Universities (CULNU) was established during the 1972/73 session (Ogundipe, 2005; CULNU Constitution, 2013). Its membership originally stood at six with the first-generation universities. Its main objectives could be subsumed comfortably under the statement that it would meet regularly to exchange ideas, discuss and deal with matters of joint and common interests. It was also recognized then that bodies similar in composition and aim to CULNU existed abroad in many parts of the library world, such as the Standing Conference of University Libraries (SCONUL) in Great Britain. Ogundipe further stated that the only other committee of university groups that existed apart from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors in Nigeria was CULNU.

AULNU has, over the years, emerged as a large body of university librarians of all the existing 194 university libraries in the federal, state and private universities in Nigeria. The aims and objectives of the Association, as set out in ARTICLE III of its current Constitution, are clearly stated in Section Three of this book.

In order to achieve its lofty aims and objectives, AULNU meets twice yearly (April and November). This has been a consistent practice except where university calendars were disrupted by staff’s industrial actions, students’ unrests or accreditation exercises.

The characteristic features of these meetings have been professional discussions, seminars and workshops on standards of practice, cooperative ventures, and quality assurance. The goal is to equip members in the pursuit of their duties and career prospects.

Change of Name of the Association and Status of University Librarian

The change of name from CULNU to AULNU was decided upon in November 2015, 44 years after the establishment of CULNU in 1972. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English (2001) defines an ‘Association’ as “an official group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose”, such as Master Builders Association, Nigerian Football Association, and Nigerian Library Association. The same dictionary defines a ‘Committee’ as “a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject”, with examples including the Staff/Students’ Disciplinary Committee, Students’ Welfare Committee and Library Committee of a University.

The foregoing definitions amply justify the University Librarians of Nigerian Universities’ decision to change from CULNU to AULNU. With the effluxion of time, CULNU has evolved as an Association and no longer a Committee. Its counterpart, the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), has since changed to Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU). Even the Committees that were established after AULNU such as the Committee of Bursars of Nigerian Universities (COBNU) and the Committee of Registrars of Nigerian Universities (CORNU) are now referred to as Associations.

Bursars, Registrars, University Librarians, Vice-Chancellors and their Deputies make up the Principal Officers of the University System. The University Librarian is both an administrative and academic Principal Officer by virtue of the fact that he superintends over the academic hub of the University – the University Library. According to Ebeku (2014), University Librarians are statutory functionaries and Principal Officers of their universities, a fact which recognizes the library not only as the centre of academic excellence in the institution, but also as the heart of the university. He further stated that the Office of the University Librarian is critical to the development of education in the country.

General Achievements of AULNU

The achievements of AULNU since its inception have been significant although low-keyed and publicity-shy (Ogundipe, 2005). Generally speaking, such achievements have ranged from informal discussions of various library problems and issues through the creation of an atmosphere for official inter-library cooperation and bilateral loans among university libraries, to the design of formal programmes for training and practice of the profession. It has been presented at various times and when necessary, strongly-worded memoranda to such bodies as Udoji and Cookey Commissions on the library profession, government ministers, the civil service and Central Bank officials on the dire need for and difficulties of foreign exchange for the purchase of books and journals.

Discussions at its meetings and sessions centre on working out suitable designations for special staff such as library attendants, bindery and porter cadres, uniform library designations for all staff, policy issues such as academic status for professional librarians, criteria for appointments and promotions in the university system for librarians and regulations for the use of the library. AULNU has made a major breakthrough in the attainment of the academic status for librarians. As a result, graduate librarians are currently rated as academic staff and at par with their teaching counterparts as demonstrated by the following parity in nomenclature:

Graduate AssistantGraduate Assistant/Assistant Librarian-in-training
Assistant LecturerAssistant Librarian
Lecturer IILibrarian II
Lecturer ILibrarian I
Senior LecturerSenior Librarian
ReaderDeputy University Librarian
ProfessorUniversity Librarian

University Librarians in universities that have departments of Library and Information Science and teaching are assessed up to the level of Professors. Hence, there are many Professors as University Librarians in Nigerian universities today. The clear implication of this development is that professional librarians are now appointed and promoted according to the same criteria as their full-time teaching colleagues.

AULNU has shown considerable interest in the computerization of library services, especially at the initial efforts of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on Circulation; University of Ibadan, Ibadan on Serials Management; and Obafemi Awolowo University (then University of Ife), Ile-Ife for Nigerian Newspapers. Today, majority of university libraries in Nigeria are either fully or partially computerized while others are at various stages of digitization of their information resources. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has been of assistance in this regard as
AULNU has, through NUC, prevailed on TETFund to allow university libraries to utilize a percentage of the Library Intervention for the purchase of electronic resources.

Some of the Specific Achievements of AULNU

Cooperative Acquisition Scheme

As part of its inter-library cooperation efforts, CULNU in 1975 worked out an arrangement for the cooperative acquisition of African government documents. The rationale for the agreement, according to Edoka (2000) was to ensure that government publications of all African countries are available in one university library or the other in Nigeria. The materials also covered items published by intracontinental organizations such as Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU), Economic Commission for African (BCA) and Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS). The plan provided for each university library to acquire the publications of at least one of these.

Under the arrangement, each of the six older university libraries (Ibadan, Nsukka, Ile-Ife, Lagos, Zaria and Benin-City) would acquire comprehensively the government publications of specific African countries, and promptly process such documents and be prepared to lend them as may be required. This project, although listed here as an achievement, hardly saw the light of the day. Its success was limited by problems of collection development such as communication, monetary system, lack of information about what is available and unsatisfactory methods of distribution. Even if the publications were easily available, there would have been financial problems. According to Ifidon (1999), most African universities have too many academic programmes for the subvention they receive from the government.

Nigerian Periodicals Index (NPI)

At its meeting held on 15th June, 1984 at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, CULNU set up a Sub-Committee to examine the possibility or otherwise of a proposal to embark on the compilation of a Nigerian Periodicals Index (NPI). The Sub-Committee comprised the University Librarians of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Bayero University, Kano, Federal University of Technology (now Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University), Bauchi and the University of Jos, Jos. The decision to embark on the NPI was taken at its meeting held on 19th October, 1984 in Lagos. The mandate of the members of CULNU was to undertake the indexing of selected journals published in Nigeria on a shared cooperative basis. The Volume 1, Number 1 of the Nigerian Periodicals Index, 1986 was published two years later.

The objective of the Index was to serve as a bibliographic guide to the more important Nigerian journals and their contents. Thirteen libraries of twelve universities (including two from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria) participated in producing the maiden edition. The coordination was done by the late University Librarian of the University of Jos who also served as the Editor of the Index-Mr. Earth Nwafor. According to him, “the NPI aims to cover as many scholarly and academic Nigerian journals in as many disciplines as possible”. The Volume 1 No. 1 of the Index provided intellectual and bibliographic access to the contents of 125 issues of 62 journal titles covering the period 1972-1985.

In a review in the New Nigerian Newspaper of December 12, 1987, C.C. Aguolu stated inter alia: “A milestone in the promotion of scholarship and research in Nigeria has been reached by the Committee in its publication of this vital research tool Nigerian Periodical Index (NPI)”. It is a veritable instrument of accessing humanistic, social science, scientific and technical information recorded in Nigerian academic journals bearing publication dates 1972-1985, but mostly 1980-1985.

Nigerian University Libraries Consortium (NULIB Consults Nigeria Ltd)

Another milestone reached by AULNU in 2004 was the establishment of a consortium known as NULIB Consults Nigeria Limited. Starting in the early 1980s and stretching well into the 1990s, Nigerian universities and their libraries suffered a crippling deficiency in research and teaching information resources. With the assistance of, and guidance from various international organizations, especially the Electronic Information for Libraries Network (elfl.net), Nigerian university libraries formed themselves into a consortium in 2004. The primary aim of the Consortium, according to Doris O. Bozimo (2008), the first Chairman of NULIB “is to bargain collectively and aggressively for drastically reduced unit costs for the universities’ access to digital information resources that are fast becoming the major medium for the publication of scholarly research”.

To start with, NULIB was granted one-year free access by various international organizations, which expired in 2005. Thereafter, it successfully negotiated highly discounted costs and mobilized contributions by the university libraries to pay for a two-year extension (January, 2005-December, 2006) of access to some 8,000 full-text electronic journals in the EBSCOHOST database. More information on this is available in Section Six of this book.

Some Challenges of AULNU and Possible Solutions

AULNU, like every other organization, especially in the Nigerian state, has not been without challenges. The most recent is the obnoxious policy of Reversion of a University Librarian to his former position that he occupied before becoming a Principal Officer after serving out his tenure. What this means is that if a University Librarian is not ripe for retirement at the end of his tenure as Principal Officer, he reverts to his former position either as a Deputy University Librarian or Senior Librarian, as the case may be. This is a directive that has been handed down to University Governing Councils by NUC and which the various Councils hurriedly implemented without any delay.

Related to the above policy is the constant revision of the tenure of Principal Officers of the universities. Up to 1993, University Librarians retired from their position, when they reached retirement age. However, in 1993, The Federal Military Government of Nigeria passed a Decree to the effect that a Bursar or Librarian “shall hold office for a period of five years from the effective date of his appointment and on such terms and conditions as may be specified in his letter of appointment (AND) may be re-appointed for a further period of five years and no more” (Decree II, 1993). The latest is that University Librarians, like Vice- Chancellors, Bursars and Registrars now have a single term of five years.

The challenge is that this policy does not enjoy equal implementation from all the University Governing Councils in the State universities. Up to this moment, there are still some State universities, where University Librarians’ Letters of Appointment are upheld to retirement age. The private universities are, of course, not included here because most of their University Librarians are either retirees or in acting capacity because they do not yet qualify to be substantive University Librarians. This does not make for harmony in the practice of the profession by this group.

AULNU should envisage a situation where consolidated salary is worked out for the University Librarian while the University Librarian’s position can be open to as many Deputies as are available and qualified for this post, which is currently on CONUAS 7, Step 10, as the case may be. In this vein, Balarabe’s article on “Requirements for the Appointment of University Librarians in Nigerian Universities” explained the current challenges and proffered possible solutions. In addition, Section Eight of this book specifically deals with this issue and the various efforts of AULNU so far.

Another challenge is the permissive nature of the Association. The fact that its decisions are not binding on all universities has tended to mean that any University Librarian who prefers his own judgment to that of the majority could always refuse to go along with the majority decisions. This situation also accounts for non-attendance and lukewarm participation at meetings. This challenge can be surmounted with the strong support of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities. AULNU should also make a proposal to AVCNU seeking for
their cooperation in ensuring full financial support to University Librarians for AULNU meetings, seminars, workshops and other activities.

Until recently, funding was a major problem for the Association. Time was when the annual subscription to the Association by each University was a paltry Ten thousand Naira only. However, with effect from 2011, it was increased to One hundred thousand Naira only and presently, it stands at One hundred and fifty thousand Naira only. This has impacted positively the finances of the Association and has enhanced its efficiency and effectiveness, even though its sustainability will largely depend on the active participation of many, if not all the members.

Hosting of activities seriously hampered the ability of the Association to meet as at when due, some years back. Like membership of the Association, hosting of meetings is voluntary. University Librarians have to indicate their willingness to host a meeting. Many University Librarians are usually not willing to invite AULNU to their universities for meetings because of the financial implications for their universities. This is because a host university is expected to meet certain obligations. This may include the provision of free space for the meeting, refreshments, mobility, dinner and other logistics necessary for the success of the meeting. Hopefully, as the finances of the Association improve, these expectations can be reviewed such that AULNU may bear such costs with or without the assistance of the host university.

Another important issue worth mentioning is the non-eligibility of University Librarians for Vice-Chancellorship positions whenever vacancies exist. Earlier in this section, the NUC’s reform/legislation was described to the effect that academic librarians in Nigerian universities should be appointed and promoted using the same criteria as their full-time teaching counterparts. If this reform/legislation is to be worth more than mere parity of nomenclature on paper, University Governing Councils should ensure that qualified academic librarians (especially those who have become Professors on the job) also vie for the positions of Vice-Chancellors whenever vacancies exist.

Funding is also of critical concern to AULNU. The Association would certainly have recorded more achievements, if the level of financial support for their libraries had been higher. Initially, 10% of the approved recurrent budget was reserved for library development. Special grants were usually made to university libraries in addition to the regular annual subvention. The current situation is that TETFund Intervention has virtually replaced the library’s regular annual subvention (especially in state universities), whereas it should have been an addition to the regular budget. The result is that the pace of university library development is slow, while current learning, teaching and research resources are now a rarity and Nigerian universities do not fare well in world university ranking. These are issues that need to be thoroughly and aggressively addressed with the appropriate funding bodies- NUC, States and Federal governments.

It should be stated that AULNU has come a long way as it has grown in size and influence while its activities have equally multiplied. For the future, the Association has to be vibrant and proactive so as to be able to exert its influence to reach out to the government, funding bodies, and the university system as a whole. For government, AULNU can lend a voice in advising the government to suspend the proliferation of universities and instead maintain the existing tertiary institutions in their states. Consequent upon several presentations, especially by the Dr. Idris-led Executive Committee, the ES, TETFUND recently directed Vice-Chancellors to ensure that only the University Librarians should have the final say on Library Intervention submissions to TETFUND.

This was a great milestone achievement by AULNU. To ensure strict compliance, TETFUND has come up with a submission template that requires the endorsement of the University Librarians as an important requirement for accepting the submissions. Thus, this has brought to an end the era in which the acquisition of library materials with TETFund intervention was sometimes hijacked or determined by the Director of Physical Planning as the Desk Officer for the University. The future of AULNU lies much in coordinating the activities of members, as it has started doing and in encouraging productive research into problems relating to the management of libraries and their use while becoming an influence upon library and information practice in academic libraries and beyond.

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