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Nkechi Udeze: Scholarly librarian with innovative drive

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NKECHI Udeze and books are inseparable. Books are more like oxygen to her. She is the acting Director of Anambra State Library Board. An opportunity to work as library assistant where she observed the positive effect of books on children changed the course of her career choice to read Library Science to PhD level.

She uses the platform to mould youngsters for positive impact. Under her leadership, the state library board became the first Southeast library to win Nigeria Library Association Award for 2018 as the Best Public Library for innovation and creativity, which she brought into the state library board.

She encourages hard work and believes in doing anything good that will project her establishment no matter how tasking or belittling it appears and considers other people’s ideas, as no one knows it all.

Dr. Udeze is at home with Seith Campbell’s quote, “When you truly believe in what you are doing. It shows and it pays. Winners in life are those who are excited about where they are going.”

Udeze is excited about where her career path leads. She believes and immerses herself in the library world. The library, she maintained, has not lost its relevance in  modern time, arguing that as an institution, that its benefits remain huge in societal growth and development.

In 2001, when she superintended the Onitsha Division of the state library, the Onitsha Ado Initiative asked her vision for the library. She didn’t hesitate in outlining her vision for libraries in the state.

The library to her is not only a place where people go to make use of information materials, it is not just a place where one goes to study but also a place where people congregate to rub minds on ideas; a welcoming place with beautiful edifice, with scenery that has tourist appeal that would excite people to love to take pictures for its aesthetic background.

Most importantly, she sees library as an environment that empowers economically through skill acquisition.

She casts no doubt of the library losing its relevance with the emergence of the internet. The library has stood firm from time immemorial and would withstand any information bank or source.

She compares the library with the internet thus, “Unlike the internet with its rich content the mind can be with wrong information. But library directs you straight to information. It serves you the right information that will help you.”

Dr. Udeze stressed the salient aspect of economic empowerment many people overlook in the role library plays in national development, the youth in particular. Since assuming the helms of the state library board, she has injected innovative ideas where people can acquire skills to be better off. At every forum, she urges people to look beyond the library from its traditional role to how they can empower themselves.

“The modern library has gone beyond mere reading; you also go there to acquire skills. With the help of facilitators, we train people on skill acquisition to help attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 8. SDGs 1 and 2 are hunger and poverty.

When you empower somebody, the person produces something, sells or exchanges to benefit the person. The person has already conquered poverty. The person has also conquered unemployment which SDG 8 stands for.

The library is contributing towards these laudable goals. We provide condusive environment where people can be productive. The library is no longer where you tell people not to talk; we have spaces where people can discuss.”

The assiduous librarian discourages the attitude where people only come to the library to study to pass examinations. For its huge role in national development, they don’t see the library as spurring their productive minds to action, neither where they proffer solution to the library needs.

“There are people waiting to translate audio materials into written form. Every day, we see people come with different problems. When people come to the library with their problems, they want  solution to it.

You will have to initiate ideas to help them. This particular factor makes the library a transformation centre. We also provide space where people can charge their phones and those with laptops, where they use it for research or whatever purpose they come for. Our services have been expanding every year.

In as much as the Anambra State Library advocates intellectual and entrepreneurship acquisition, it provides space for games, such as chess to help stipulate the mental faculty.

The library plans to start training people to play the game, as it has purchased some sets of chess game. And in the villages, the library board is talking to retirees to find out the games that entertain them, bring them to the library to play, even as they motivate the younger ones with their stories of their studies as students, hard work and success. The idea is that it will spur the younger ones to be serious with their studies.”

As a way of taking its activities beyond the library, Dr. Udeze and her staff visit schools, with one cardinal message to inculcate reading habit in them and teach skill acquisition.

“There are periods we get the children to talk to, it’s not when they are in the classrooms to disturb their studies. We go to schools between 7.30 and 8am and then, during the break periods.

Even now, we have included attending Parent Teachers Association (PTA) meetings but for the PTA meetings, we have to beg them, help tell their children to imbibe good reading habit. They are our future generation and if you don’t do this for them, who will.

The library board has scheduled skill acquisition programmes in secondary schools in Nawgu and Ifitedunu in Dunukofia Local Government Area of the state, and in other schools in the state. This will be dome by batch by batch.

To revise the waning reading culture in our society, Dr. Udeze declared that it could only improve if parents make it mandatory for their children to read.

“If you want them to read, you must read because children like doing what they see. You give them book with allotted time to finish reading to encourage them.

In leadership, we call it leadership by example. In my school days, we compete with number of books we have read and not the numbers of films today’s teenagers compare among themselves.

Every third Saturday of the month, the state library board, organizes Spelling B programme for secondary school students. Why are we doing this?

To bring students together to motivate them to read, because if you don’t read you, won’t increase your vocabulary and if you don’t, you will limit yourself to few words.

The Spelling B competition has prizes to be won like laptop. If you know, you want laptop and your parents cannot afford it. What you do is join in the competition.”

Dr. Udeze encourages and motivates students to make use of the library during the holidays to acquire skills that will be of help to them instead of staying at home. The library also offers community space where people congregate for various meaningful issues. The space is free, but designed to encourage people to read.

She desires to have all the libraries in the state to be hybrid and the buildings repainted to be attractive.

“At the library board, we are doing our best. Once you encourage a person to make a difference in the society, it is commendable. Our people are seeing what we are doing. But for Gov. Obiano empowering us, we won’t be rendering the innovative services we have done so far. We say thank you to him.”

The state chief librarian promises more work for the award of the Best Public Library conferred on the state library. She urged parents and guardians to encourage and motivate their children and wards to take advantage the services the library offers for a greater future.

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