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Funding For University LIbraries in the Third World FUNDING FOR UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN THE THIRD WORLD

* This article is a modified version of a paper presented at the 1989 IFLA Conference in Paris.


Documents the downward economic spin experienced by most developing countries over the past ten years, emphasizing the problems for library funding in Africa. University libraries have all had severe budget cuts, in some cases to the point of cancelling all periodical subscriptions. The economic emergency, attributed to massive foreign debts and repayment schedules, has begun to threaten the very existence of libraries in some countries. The author proposes three measures: library resource sharing, improved approaches to funding requests from local authorities, and more effective pursuit of external assistance.

Though its topic is African, Sam Ifidon's book, Essentials of Management for African University Libraries, aptly summarizes the academic library funding situation in developing nations worldwide.

The university library derives funds through the university whose sources of financial support are government grants, private contributions and gifts, endowments, student fees, investments, and consultancy. Direct collection of funds by the library may come from sources such as photocopying proceeds, fines for overdue books, sale of duplicates and publications, and charges for loan of special items .... The main source of funds ... is government grants, which account for about 90% of the total revenue of each university.... Currently, the average rate of funding Englishspeaking African university libraries is about 5% of the total recurrent grant. [1]

It is to be expected, however, that the funding arrangements in countries where universities may be owned by private organisations and individuals as well as by the government, as in Brazil, will differ from the one described by Dr. Ifidon.

That said, we should quickly note that since Ifidon's book was published, in 1985, tremendous economic and social changes have taken place in the developing countries. To illustrate the pace of change, we may take note of certain key events, all of which fell in the Spring of 1989 as they were articulated in the media:

1) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a recent report stated that the economies of sub-Saharan African countries fared worse than expected last year-BBC News, 3 April 89

2) Today the exchange rate of the [Nigerian] naira to the U.S. dollar is N7.5 to one dollar. From January 1986 to January 1989 the percentage devaluation of the naira to the dollar is 750%- The Guardian [Nigeria], 16 April 89

3) The 28 poorest countries in Africa have asked their foreign creditors to write off their debts as some of them are facing imminent economic collapse-BBC News, 9 April 894) Staff and students of Makerere University, Uganda, went on strike today for the first time in the history of the university (founded in 1948). They were demanding a living wage as salaries for lecturers were said to average ten dollars per month. Salaries have been reduced following the continuous devaluation of the Ugandan currency BBC News, 2 May 89

5) The Argentine currency, the austral, has tumbled against the dollar in recent months. In February a 1,000-austral note was worth about 50 dollars, but today it is worth 12 dollars-National Concord [Nigeria], 3 May 89

6) The Argentine currency has been devalued by 80% since February 1989 BBC News, 15 May 89

7) "Hyperinflation, rioting and state of siege" were used to describe the situation in Argentina, where the currency was said to be undergoing a "seemingly endless slide," and inflation was growing at the rate of 2% a day BBC News, 29 and 30 May 89

8) Since 1980, when global recession set in, survival has become the preoccupation of African nations. Their collective debt then was $150 billion but now that figure has doubled. At the same time the debt service rate which was previously 7% now stands at about 35%-Nigerian Television Authority Newsweek Programme, 18 May 89

9) Venezuela suffered its first general strike in 30 years today. Earlier in February, about 300 people were killed in riots in which the strikers wanted the government to cushion the effects of its harsh economic measures which had caused prices of goods to rise as high as 200%-BBC News, 18 May 89

10) Pakistan's foreign debts amount to more that $800 million, and most of the population are living on bread lines-BBC News, 3 June 89

11) Uganda has secured a $238 million credit from the International Monetary Fund to finance three years of economic reforms-National Concord, 7 June 89

Massive foreign debts; debilitating debt repayment schedules; greatly devalued currencies; more borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; stringent and controversial economic measures that bring in their trail social and other upheavals; food riots; strikes and demonstrations aimed at bettering the standard of living; these are the items on the current agenda of the developing nations.

We shall next use the Nigerian experience to illustrate the devastating effects of the economic situation on education and libraries of the Third World. If a few more quotations may be permitted, some excerpts from a popular news magazine offer useful perspectives; the article reported responses to a survey.

"Many students in the tertiary institutions are simply trapped. They skip breakfast or lunch or both to be able to pursue their studies...." "The dearth of relevant textbooks and the high cost of the few available ones is rendering university education meaningless...." "We are now graduating students who are not reading books...." "The books in the library are not replenished because the university does not have money. It means we are teaching the students 1979 stuff in 1989." [2]

While some libraries suffered because their income was held stable while costs climbed and the naira was continually devalued in the 1980's, my own library at Jos was one that had to accept a decreasing allocation. For example our total budget in fiscal year 1985/86 was N1,036,648; in the following year it was only N766,828. One effect was the reduction in overseas journal subscriptions from about 2,000 to 300 titles. Subscriptions have been casualties throughout the country. The University College Hospital, Ibadan, ceased acquiring periodicals (and textbooks) in 1985 [3]; and the National Universities Commission reported in 1987 that some libraries had no journal issues after 1982 [4].

Elsewhere in Africa conditions are the same. One writer came to the conclusion that in Zambia there was inadequate funding and little foreign exchange for reading materials despite the bulk of material ordered from overseas [5]. In Tanzania the situation is worse still: a ban on the purchase of books from abroad has been in force there since 1979 [6], presenting a threat to the very existence of libraries [7].

Other areas of the developing world have had similar experiences. For instance in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, "the real value of financial resources for acquisition had decreased " during the mid-1970's [8]. In India we are informed that "library budgets continue to be stationary. There is hardly any hope for increases in budgetary allocations for libraries in the next decade.... Several libraries may have to fold up" [9].

To say that Third World university libraries are currently perched on a precipice would not be an exaggeration. In fact, one could go a step further to say that the necessary factors required for the declaration of a library state of emergency are in place. At the same time our publishing industries have remained crippled, as paper, ink, photographic plates, printing machines and so on are in short supply (they have to be imported), and when broken down they cannot be repaired for lack of spare parts. Thus fewer publications are being produced in our countries, and the frustration of librarians is shared by authors, publishers, and the reading public.

The question is: can these libraries be saved? My reply is a provisional Yes. Three suggestions are offered: (1) Library cooperation and resource sharing; (2) Greater persuasiveness in getting authorities to liberalize library funding; and (3) More effective pursuit of external assistance. Resource sharing, so common in the advanced countries, is still a topic of discussion rather than action in the developing countries (for example a Nigerian Library Association seminar considered the cooperation options in 1988). As for talking the authorities into increase library allocations, the idea seems little more than a pipe dream under the current economic order. Yet we should be able to elaborate a position at least, one that favors something like a 10% share of university educational expenditures, rather than the more accepted 5% (in normal times). The 5% figure was drawn from experience in the United States, and based on the patterns found there in established library situations. But Third World universities have not yet been able to establish a base line of collections and staffing that allow reasonable growth with such a small share of university budgets. As in the U.S. and in Britain, libraries without basic collections need to be funded at higher levels, in the vicinity of 10%.

Pursuit of greater external assistance seems to be a realistic strategy. Already numerous national and foundation efforts are operative in the interest of bringing books and journals to libraries of developing countries. [The reader is referred to the programs cited in this issue, in the "Further Reading" section. Ed.] Individual institutions in the industrialized nations have also donated materials to less developed regions. In this regard I wish to publicly acknowledge the significant assistance to my library through the generosity of G. G. Allen (Curtin University, Australia), Ed Walters (University of Texas at Dallas), and the late John Hudson (University of Texas at Arlington). Personal contact by me with those library directors facilitated the donations. I have discovered that American university libraries may willingly contribute excess stock if they can identify suitable recipients and if suitable transport arrangements can be made. This last point is important: if we in the recipient countries could set up a system for importing donated books, a system that causes the least time and effort to be expended by the donor, we would remove a major obstacle to greater contributions of materials. It would seem appropriate for a body such as IFLA to coordinate a global action that would create a functional system through which donated materials could be readily transferred. Just as the world community has invariably responded to natural disasters by sending aid to whatever country was afflicted, we should expect that in the present disaster-of education, of libraries-suitable aid will be forthcoming.

Now I will summarize the themes of this essay. A decade of economic privation has brought universities and university libraries of the Third World to the brink of chaos and possible extinction. Solutions must be sought through enormous advances in institutional cooperation, within the developing countries first of all, and between them and the developed nations. The excellent but limited aid programs now operating need to be greatly increased, and coordinated globally through the offices of IFLA and other international professional organizations. Without such actions of our own, and such aid from the more favored nations, we may as well begin now to prepare the obituary of the Third World university libraries.


I . Sam E. Ifidon, Essentials of Management for African University Libraries (Lagos: Libriservice, 1985), p. 105.

2. Peter Ishaka, with A. Agbor and J. Mba, "You Gotta Cry to Learn: Economic Downturn Hikes the Cost of Education in Nigeria," Newswatch [Nigeria], 15 May 89, pp. 56-57.

3. "UCH Medical Students in Dilemma," Nigerian Observer, 19 July 87, p. 1.

4. National Universities Commission, "Executive Secretary's Report on Tour ofNigerian Universities," 1987, p. 4.

5. Z. M. K. Phiri, "Book Budgets, Foreign Exchange Restrictions, and Their Impact on Collection Development in University, College, Technical and Research Libraries in Zambia: A Survey," Zambia Library Association Journal 15-2 (Dec. 1984): 30-50.

6. J. Petersen," Bibliotheker i Tanzania: kommunikation og fremskridt"[Libraries in Tanzania: communications and progress], Bibliotek 70 (1985): 700-02.

7. E. E. Kaungamno, "The Case of the Tanzania Library Service," Canadian Library Journal 4-24 (Aug. 1985): 185-87.

8. M. E. A. Andrade, "A biblioteca universitaria em Minas Gerais: analise preliminar de seu acervo, de 1975 a 1979" [University Libraries in Minas Gerais: preliminary analysis of collections, from 1975 to 1979], Revista da Escola de Biblioteconomia da UFMG 14 (1 March 85): 70-89.

9. G. Kumar and P. K. Jayawal, "Social Science Periodicals in Libraries," Library Herald 211/ 2 (April/ Sept. 1982): 1-27.

About the Author

B. U. Nwafor is University Librarian, University of Jos, Nigeria. He chairsthe IFLA Section on Regional Activities (Africa), is Secretary of the Division of Regional Activities; he is also a Corresponding Member of the IFLA Section of University Libraries and Other General Research Libraries. His publications have appeared in Biblos, College and Research Libraries, IFLA Journal, Library Journal, Nigerian Libraries and various other journals.

© 1990 B.U. Nwafor


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