NBRP Reviews 2021 Reading promotion activities, makes Plans for 2022
The Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP), after a busy year marked by a series of virtual and physical events, has taken a retrospective look into 2021 with respect to reading promotion activities in the country while recounting the milestones achieved and the foundational blocks laid for the group’s activities in 2022. Commenting on this in a recent event in Lagos, Mr. Richard Mammah, NBRP President, said 2021 has been an eventful year for the Network what with the setbacks of the pandemic outbreak of 2020. “We are happy that major steps were taken this year towards the growth of the group as a pivotal body for galvanising harmony among book clubs and reading promoters in Nigeria,” he said.
NBRP was born in February 2020 after a gathering of a few book lovers sparked the need to create a broad platform for organising reading promotion and advancing the course of reading in Nigeria. Since then, the group has grown into over 50 members who are representatives of reading groups, books clubs, and reading for writing groups, library custodians and enthusiasts, and so on.
Mammah said teething issues have been experienced in getting activities of the group off the ground but there has been an overall success with major annual events adopted by the group such as the Quarterly Business Meetings, the Annual Convention and General Meeting, the Book and Copyright Day to mark the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Book and Copyright Day every April, and the National Reading Week.
An audacious but necessary initiative of the group is the vision of 774 book clubs in Nigeria, in line with having at least one major book club in every local government area in Nigeria.
2021 also saw the group implementing the National Book City Initiative, taking its inspiration from the UNESCO World Book Capital initiative, which adopts one city in the world annually to serve as hub and anchor for reading promotions activities across the given year. Localised to suit the Nigerian environment, NBRP considered the merits of consolidating book activities in one location for a whole year so as to achieve greater traction and Uyo was chosen as the first National Book Clubs City for 2021. After the group’s first annual general meeting in Uyo in September, Uyo also emerged as the National Book Clubs City for 2022 commencing from 23 April 2022 while Lagos will follow in 2023, commencing from 23 April 2023.
Meanwhile, at the Uyo AGM, the group, in collaboration of other stakeholders in attendance, drawn from the National Library of Nigeria; Nigerian Copyright Commission; Booksellers Association of Nigeria; Nigerian Publishers Association, Librarians of Nigerian Universities; media and information managers; authors; the political class; students and the broader reading public, reviewed the current state of the reading enterprise in Nigeria, the operations of the NBRP and steps to boost the reading culture through greater exploration of public libraries, book clubs, e-books and social reading, and resolved as follows:
To amplify the continued poor appreciation of the place of reading in national development and the inadequate deployment and maintenance of infrastructure in this regard; To call attention to the imperative of an all-out drive to emplace the reading enterprise at the centre of the national development process given its notable multiplier effect across all levels and strata of national growth and achievement; To emphasise the urgent need for value reorientation, and aggressive readership promotion to entrench the reading culture in all communities within the Nigerian Society; To secure endorsement for NBRP’s campaign towards the establishment of at least one well-kitted library and book club per local government in the country; To demand that a Library Bill of Rights should be passed by the legislature as an instrument to provide uncompromising support for intellectual freedom and the provision of all types of libraries for all; To request that a libraries’ advocacy group comprising book clubs, stakeholders in the book trade, schools, students, parents, journalists, non-governmental organisations, donor agencies, and so on, should be formed to lobby for the continued prioritizing of libraries on the agenda of government; To reiterate that social reading should continue to be encouraged given its impact on the proper cultivation and enhancement of sound human values, peer review, and the multiplicity of constructive ideas for individual and national development; To require that stakeholders in the book trade should continue to work at improving the book value and supply chain for greater reader impact, reading culture enhancement and national development through taking steps towards the gradual restoration of the structural elements of the holistic book chain; To hold governments at all levels accountable to their social function and proper positioning of the education and culture sector in the national development process; To advocate voluntary citizens and Community initiatives and involvement in book clubs establishment and libraries management; and To urge stakeholders in the book trade to work towards the introduction of an Integrated private sector-driven National Books Distribution Company that would help address bottlenecks in the books supply chain and lead to the lowering of costs.
Hearty commendations were also extended to His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State for his support for, and participation at the Conference and for accepting and signing up to serve as Grand Patron of Akwa Ibom Book Clubs.
A further collaborative effort was also manifested at the 23rd Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) on 18 November 2021, when a session of the publishers’ forum held. With the theme, “Getting Books to Readers across the Country and the role of Library and Resource Centres in getting Books to Readers,” stakeholders in the book sphere including writers came together for deliberations on the way forward. At the end of the session, the following resolutions were made and, signed by Jahman Anikulapo of Committee for Relevant Art, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo of Nigerian Book Fair Trust, Chief (Hon) Uchenna Cyril Anioke of Nigerian Publishers Association, Dare Oluwatuyi of Booksellers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Nkem Osuigwu of African Libraries and Information Associations and Institutions, and Richard Mammah of NBRP:
To encourage greater collaboration and networking among players in the books ecosystem as part of a drive for a more seamless books sector and to better facilitate joint advocacy in the overall interest of all players, book industry stakeholders must be fully ready to raise their voices and make their activities more visible for all to see through enhanced public awareness and sensitization; To remind government of its role in the continued nurturing and development of the book sector, beginning with the coming into effect of a National Book Policy within the shortest possible time; To encourage the attachment of functional and viable book clubs to all libraries in the country; To encourage governments across board, and particularly at the local government area level, to establish, maintain, staff and furnish at least one community library per LGA whose book stock must be renewed and updated annually; That going forward, libraries should be seen and regarded as more than ‘houses of books,’ but even more appropriately as ‘living community houses and centres of ideas and culture’ where unfettered dissemination and transmission of information is maximally encouraged and takes place; That government, as well as stakeholders in the book trade, should pay even greater regard to factors of ease of availability and affordability of books as a way of engendering improved readership patronage, and that in a practical sense, stakeholders should do more to facilitate the coming into being of at least one ‘National Books Distribution Company’ as a practical vehicle for lowering distribution and marketing costs within the next three years; That Publishers must take advantage of the Information Technology tools prevalent amongst the youths nowadays, to package their contents for readers across various formats (audio books, e-book, v-book, braille etc.) to encourage and promote reading amongst the youths; and That the respective associations in the book trade should continue with their ongoing engagements in respect of the restoration of the traditional book chain and invest more resources in order that we may be able to better guarantee the immediate and long-term sustainability of the books ecosystem in Nigeria.
NBRP also played a collaborative role in the United Nations SDG’s Book Clubs Reading list, which was announced on the occasion of the 2021 World Book and Copyright Day, by way of encouraging its members to sign up as ambassadors for the UN SDG’s Book Clubs African Chapter with a view to creating a reading atmosphere for the selected books in the list to get to the target audience.
“Majority of these activities are not one-off,” Mammah said, adding that “the numerous emergent initiatives, assignments and projects, most of which are collaborative with relevant stakeholders, will continue in 2022 as NBRP progresses to deepen its roots towards the overall objectives of getting books and reading into the daily culture of Nigerians.”