Retrenched Journals: Further On The World Bank Loan In Nigeria

R. Olorunsola

floral device Abstract

This paper reviews the difficulties encountered by Nigerian librarians as a result of inflation and the general poor state of the economy in the 1980s, noting that many libraries had to suspend periodical subscriptions. With the World Bank loan of 1990–1993 funds became available for renewing subscriptions, but technicalities and bureaucracy had to be overcome. At the University of Ilorin, systematic efforts were successful, so that at the end of the process there were more subscriptions than there had been before the loan.

floral device Retrenched Journals

A recent article in this journal discussed in depth the impact of the World Bank loan (1990–1993) on Nigerian university libraries [1]. It was pointed out that there were numerous obstacles in the way of fulfilling the requirements of the loan, with the undesirable effect of long delays in placement of periodical subscriptions, and often the failure to make use of available funds. The present article recounts a more successful experience with the loan, in the library of the University of Ilorin.

As a result of the inflation in serials subscription prices, and the general poor state of the Nigerian economy, the University of Ilorin library found it impossible in 1987 to maintain its serials acquisition program. It was estimated that the cost of renewing all serials would have been US$102,062, while the total acquisitions budget (books and periodicals) was only $63,798 [2], A procedure for drastic cancellations was devised. The periodical holdings were broken down into 36 subject areas, each related to an academic department, and title lists were sent to the appropriate departments for ranking. Of the 666 titles, 290 received “A” rankings, 258 received “B” rankings, 84 received “C”, and 34 received “D.” It was decided in the library to renew only those ranked at the “A” priority; in the end 287 titles were renewed and 379 were cancelled.

Some faculty complained that they had not been informed of the ranking exercise. In some cases the ranking was carried out by heads of departments or by their delegates, without full consultation of colleagues. There were negative comments from faculty to the effect that the collection had been damaged by the cancellations of titles with unique value to their work. Fortunately the federal government concluded arrangements at that time with the World Bank for credit to purchase foreign books and journals. It was planned to reinstate subscriptions that had been cancelled in all the universities. By 1990 the University of Ilorin had completed the requirements for eligibility and began to participate in the reinstatements. The cancelled titles, and some additional titles, were listed at a cost of $109,890, and backfiles needed to fill the cancellation gaps were also listed at $196,000.

At a meeting of the library staff on 6 December 1991, the university librarian noted that “it may not be possible to get journals for 1991 through the procurement agents. As a result the university library took a safety measure and placed orders for some titles using Unesco coupons.” It was also stated that the 500 titles ordered would probably not begin to arrive in the library before February 1992. By 23 September 1991, only 20 journals had begun to come in. By the end of 1993, only 44 titles had arrived, and bureaucratic procedures had so entangled the system that the remainder of the order was cancelled.

Another attempt at reinstatement was made, beginning in March 1994. Again the academic departments were consulted. Rankings were created for the titles to be reinstated, and for new titles. The result was that 287 titles were requested, at $86,952. The list was sent to the National Universities Commission, which later requested a supplementary list. The second list added 97 titles for another $19,703. So altogether 384 titles were requested in 1994, with a cost of $106,656.

As of 31 January 95, 115 titles had come to the library, covering the year 1993. Of the 115,44 were those received before the cancellation of the order, and 71 were among those requested in March 1994. These were supplied by Low Priced Books, Ltd., before that vendor’s contract was terminated. The new vendor was Blackwell’s Safari, who also supplies books for the World Bank project. Blackwell began to ship 1994 journals in March 1995, providing 263 titles. In May 1995, the agent delivered another 67 of the 1994 journals, bringing the total received to 330. The agent was unable to supply 54 of the titles. As of May 1995, no further shipments had been received in the library.

To evaluate the present situation, one can examine the difference between cancellations and reinstatements. In 1987,370 titles were cancelled; as of 1995 there have been 384 reinstatements (plus several new titles)—a blessing after all! Problems encountered in the early years of the World Bank loan seem to have been addressed successfully, at least in this institution. Nevertheless, it has been shown that academic libraries in Nigeria do not have sufficient funds from regular sources to perform effectively. With the expiration of the World Bank project, libraries may well be at the same point they were at in the mid–1980s. Unless the federal government is able to produce equivalent funding, another massive retrenchment programme appears unavoidable.

floral device References

1. Ahmed Abdu Balarabe, “Nigerian University Libraries and the World Bank Loan,” Third World Libraries 5–2 (Spring 1995): 31–45, and at

2. The situation is described fully in R. Olorunsola and E. O. Ajileye, “Periodical Retrenchment at the University of Ilorin Library,” Library Review 39–2 (1992): 42–46.

floral device About the Author

R. Olorunsola is Senior Librarian, University of Ilorin Library, Nigeria. He had been Acquisitions Librarian and Serials Librarian at Ilorin. His publications have appeared in Library Scientist, Library Review, and Acquisitions Librarian.

© 1995 R. Olorunsola.


Olorunsola, R. “Retrenched Journals: Further On The World Bank Loan In Nigeria,” World Libraries, Volume 6, Number 1 (Fall 1995).