Sadly, the culture of reading and the availability of resource materials to enhance research in Liberia remain seriously amiss in a country whose government has openly acknowledged its educational system is a mess.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s appointment of Mr. Forkpa H. Kemah, a library scientist, as Director of Library and Records in 2009 was seen as a move in the right direction. It was expected to lead to a roadmap for the construction of a National Library that would improve the quality of life of the citizens by providing access to library services, materials and programs that promote education and cultural enrichment.
Prior to the civil war, Liberia boasted three national libraries in Grand Cape Mount, Maryland and Montserrado Counties; but they were all destroyed as a result of the civil carnage. According to authorities at the Center for National Documents and Records Agency (CNDRA), the three buildings need serious renovation works. The infrastructures need to be equipped with modern library material and trained personnel.
Although authorities at the CNDRA will eagerly confirm that construction works on the Montserrado County National Library building will commence soon, from the look of things, the wait for a new national library in Monrovia may take a long time.
Erected on the periphery of Ashmun and Center streets adjacent the Justice Ministry, a billboard with the inscription: “Coming soon… National Library Building” speaks plainly of project neglect. For two years now the billboard has been standing there, showcasing an ultra-modern complex that is supposed to house the National Library. The metal frames to support the billboard have thinned and corroded. Criminals are looting the construction zinc surrounding the land. Sources at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) say CNDRA should be faulted for delays in the construction works. “They have failed to submit a procurement plan. We cannot compromise our policy on procurement,” the source informed The Capitol Insider.
According to our source, the project, if implemented, would be rewarding but the blueprint must be laid out by those wanting to implement it.
The assertion from the MFDP was further corroborated by the Coordinator of the Project, Rockson D. Nimely, when he spoke to this magazine at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.
“The project will start soon but there are many paper works including presenting proposals to the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission for approval; drawing of the foundation to roof plan, and putting up a bid to hire contractor for the project. These steps need to be followed in order to get funding from the Ministry of Finance. Of course, the project is at a standstill but not abandoned,” Nimely said.
The project coordinator dispels any notion that the implementing institution has ever received money for the construction of the National Library Building. He pointed out that it was only in the 2015-2016 Draft National Budget that allotment was made to jumpstart works on the project.
Educationalists and pundits agree that construction of a modern national library will certainly enhance the wellbeing of the citizenry, as well as boost government’s development deliverables.