This is a tremendous initiative. Very impressive, provides a good working environment for the growing mind. - John Macrae (EU ambassador to ECOWAS during a visit to Ibom E-Library, Uyo). Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State is not a man of many words. Obviously, an offshoot of the free education policy of the old Western Nigeria, Fashola, during his recent visit to Akwa Ibom openly declared his admiration for the educational initiatives of his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Governor Godwill Akpabio, particularly, the ultra- modern E-library complex. In his words, “The e-library project is an example of purposeful utilization of resources… Akpabio is a radical transformer”. These were obvious endorsement of Governor Akpabio for initiating and completing West Africa’s first E-library and E-learning center.
Seating on 4.5 hectares of land, Ibom e-Library whose ground breaking ceremony was performed by Governor Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday, September 25, 2007 as part of the activities marking the 20th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom remains one of the greatest legacies Akpabio will bequeath on the people . .
Akpabio’s idea of establishing the digital library is in consonance with his passion for education and the priority attention he attaches to revolutionizing the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Akwa Ibom as well as laying a foundation for the envisaged science, technology and industrial revolution in the state. The e-Library project was therefore conceived under this strategy in line with the goal of re-organizing and repositioning the education sector of the state. The completion of the project has also proved his critics wrong, as some felt it was a white elephant that would be a spectacular flop, when it was conceived in 2007. But today, the digital governor, as Akpabio is fondly called, has delivered the digital library project, not just for use by Akwa Ibom people but by the entire South South people.
There is no gainsaying that libraries play important roles in inculcating permanent literacy through reading, which stimulates imagination, adds quality to life, encourages quick learning and expands horizons. Libraries are therefore vital to education even as the economic, social and political health of the contemporary society depends on building literate citizens who can read widely and apply it practically for development. That is why Akpabio’s huge investment in the project to improve access to books and improve a reading culture among students and the public at large is not misplaced, especially at this information age where knowledge and information have acquired the materiality of capital and commodity, whose uneven accumulation dictates the wealth of societies and otherwise.
Located at the Ibrahim Babangida Avenue Uyo, the state capital, the Ibom e-Library project is a massive project, the first in Nigeria and West Africa, comprising a state-of-the-art library complex and computerized library facility with electronic books and archives, with access to leading e-Libraries in the world, in addition to a local e-Library hosted within the facility.
The project comprises Children Multimedia and Simulations, Reader’s Services and Readership Promotion, Adult Relaxation Arena, E-Learning Platform, Instructional Technology Workshop, Multimedia Language Laboratory, Video Conferencing Boardroom, and Integrated Library Management.Others are, Online Public Access Catalogue, Digitization and Reprography, Multimedia Shop, Multimedia Conference Hall, Online Patron Registration and Resources Accessibility, Wide Radius Wireless Network Coverage/Wi-Fi Lounge, Mobile E-Library Services, and E-Resources Index.
According to the principal consultant to Akwa Ibom State government on the e-Library project, Professor Felicia Etim, libraries are constantly evolving to adapt to the needs and desires of communities worldwide hence the Ibom e-Library project was initiated by Governor Godswill Akpabio to also give Library and Information practitioners the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities beyond physical and virtual space in providing information for all.
Etim, who is currently the university librarian, University of Uyo, described the e-Library as a necessary complement to free education adding that social reorientation shall drive the vision and passionate mission of the governor in implementing the project to create an effective dance floor for business, education and pleasure.
The Ibom e-learning centre proudly offers the world’s comprehensive collection of online courses and provides self study courses for almost all the professional certifications available. Courses are offered on-site and accessible online, while e-books and online training courses are available on a server where students and registered clients can access 24/7 for study. In addition, it serves as a Prometric Examination Centre, where students and other interested candidates from Akwa Ibom and nearby states can undertake their intensive training and write their online certification examinations.
The e-learning database comprises about 5,000 video training that cover a wide scope of Information Technology, while the e-learning modules subscription nugget archive server is made up of a complete archive of IT training videos present in the CBT nuggets library, with license reporting and accessible 24/7. The module consists Microsoft, Microsoft Exchange, Comp TIA, Project Management, Cisco, Programme and Databases, Microsoft Office and End-User Applications, Wireless, IT Management, Citrix and Vmware, Web Development, IT Security, Linux, and E-Learning Exam Test Engines.
Speaking, the project manager, Engr Mushtaq Ali o, said the project which sits on a vast area is the second e-Library to be constructed in Africa after that of South Africa but is the biggest in Africa and the first in West Africa. The building has five floors including the basement, a conference hall with a capacity for 250 seats, Language class with 60 computers, Smart Class with 21 computers, and the ICT Class has 350 computers, pointing out that, altogether, a total of 680 library users can be accommodated at a time inside the building, excluding staff.
The e- library project according to Aniekan Umanah, Commissioner for Information and Communications “remains one of Governor Akpabio’s wonders which will totally revolutionize education and provide a dual platform for conventional and e-learning”. The facility, Umanah added, will provide the bedrock for the evolution of an e-society and will further jumpstart the growth, expansion and export of knowledge and know-how. This is digital democracy, courtesy of Governor Akpabio.