Monday, 19 December 2011

Libraries in Ghana

Em and I head to the library at least once a week, either to the local library or the main city library. Sometimes we read a book, other times there are scheduled children's events, like Mama Africa sharing songs and tales from Africa. For me, the library has been a place to visit on and off since I was a child.

These recent, regular library visits make me think of Ghana. I have never heard of anyone going to the library in Ghana. Actually, I hardly hear of people reading at all! There is a saying that: "if you want to hide something from Ghanaians, put it in a book"

Awful saying, but somewhat true. It seems although our people love learning, reading for the enjoyment of reading is not as popular.

Earlier this year, I took part in a church-organised cleanup of the Tema Library grounds. I didn't even know I had been driving past a library almost everyday, at the end of Hospital road. The grounds were overgrown and the library building looked as though nobody had entered for years. So imagine my surprise when I googled it and found that it is actively running and there was even a relatively new wanted ad, for internet librarians!

Have you been to a library in Ghana?

Today's song: Gläns över sjö och strand by the Real Group.


Lady Jaye said...

Yes actually. In my childhood days, one was situated opposite the Osu Post office, on the other side of the street. It was a small, light, and airy place, with table and benches and books on shelves stacked against the walls. I don't remember ever taking books out though. to be fair, my HOME library and my school library (Ridge Church) were much better stocked; most o the books were in terrible condition. The interesting thing is - it was at Osu Library that i read some of the BEST Arican books for children - written by Africans from all over Africa: The Junior African Writers Series. I still remember those books and treasure the Osu library for that. Sadly, it is no more. it was because of the JAWS books at Osu Library that prompted me to go to the BIG Library by the courthouses in search of more. But the central library was horrible. Lots of space, with no books, and no interesting books, I remember thinking as a child. I left in disgust and defeat.

Lady Jaye said...

THEN (wait! the story is not over, lol) A year or so ago, I was back in Gh and decided to go scope out the Central Library again. Having gone to LCS and then the US - i FINALLY knew what libraries were truly supposed to look like, lol.

Imagine my surprise - the library had been moved from the airy and light-flled place, to this dark place at the back of the building - if three people don't direct you there you'll miss it. The space is taken up by tables and chairs in the center of the room, and the bookshelves are relegated to the wall, and the bookshelves of the CENTRAL LIBRARY carry sad-looking, tired, probably out-of-date books that nobody wanted anymore so they donated.

GET THIS - You CAN'T walk into the library and pick a book and sit to read. You have to sign in, and then sit on a bench by the wall, and wait your turn until someone leaves a chair, and then you go and sit in it. Even f you don't mind sitting on the floor (like I told the 'minders' at the library, you have to sit on the bench and wait your turn to sit in a chair)

So I pull out a few "slangs" and a supercilious attitude when it was obvious being demure and mild like a good Gh girl wouldn't help me. Finally, I walked out in a huff. 10 seconds later, the minders of the library, sent a schoolboy screaming after me. A space had miraculously appeared for the girl who'd obviously come from America. I declined, seeing as there were three other people on that bench before me. And i didn't want to wake up with pimples all over my face because one of them had cursed me because I overtook their place in line.

Sorry about such a long answer, but you asked, lol. I should prolly make this a blog post.

Maya Mame said...

Lady Jaye, don't apologise, thanks for the long answer and please do turn it into a blog post.

Are they purposely trying to deter people from going to the library or has the purpose of a library just gotten lost somewhere along the way?

As I read your comment, I suddenly remembered that a classmate of mine mentioned he used to go to the library around Makola (is that the Central Library?), so there clearly was a library culture in Ghana some decades ago.

It is such a pity it seems we are going in the opposite direction, it feels as though this would be the time to encourage reading, especially as the quality of language in Ghana is quickly deteriorating.

On another note, how was your experience of going to Ridge Church School and how did it compare to your schooling abroad? If you don't mind me asking, that is...

I'm asking because I heard so many good things about the school from everyone I know who attended it some thirty or forty years ago, it has made me curious to find out what makes it so great and whether everyone considers it that way.

Raine said...

I have, EONS ago. My dad used to take us during our squirt days on occasion but like Lady Jaye mentioned, my school had a better selection so I stuck to checking out books from there instead.

Maya Mame said...

Raine, how sad that a school library would have more resources than a state funded one!

This whole topic is begin to depress me as I have no idea where we'd start to improve matters (as is the case with so many other issues).

Lady Jaye said...

Maya: RCS was an excellent school while I was there (I was class of '03, but i left b4 that). AFter I left, we started to hear..bizarre things. Stupid made up rules about how hair could be styled, what color shoes should be, etc., just frivolous stuff. So it seems to those of us who went there that it's declined in quality. But those who currently go there seem to like it and think highly of it :) [I also get the sense in our time that it was much less elitist. Some of us walked to school. My classmate's mum who went there herself in the 70's (?) said EVERY ONE was picked up in executive cars. No one walked to school in her day - and she was saying the socioeconomic stats of the people who sent their kids to RCS had changed - tr: lowered, lol)

And back in the day, people who went to RCS used to send their kids to RCS too. Now they send their kids to GIS, Merton, SOS, etc. - all the newfangled IGCSE schools.

Re: RCS library. As we began to grow, we became less impressed with the LCS library options: books in tatters, books not being replaced, same old books, etc. And then my HOME library became better than RCS, lol. And so we (the pupils) began to exchange our own books.

THEN I went to Lincoln. AND THEN I realized what a good library is supposed to look like. I am wiling to bet you so many GHC that the LCS library is better stocked than any library around in GH today. It is more like a US public library: pure heaven for a book lover. Absolute heaven. (Except for books by African writers - I don't remember seeing any)

OK, I'll shut up now :D


Related Posts with Thumbnails