libraries in Ghana        0  973 reads

Public library services

The public library movement in Ghana began around 1928. The pace was set by the Right Reverend John Aglionby, then Anglican Lord Bishop of Accra. He opened his personal library of some 6,000 volumes at the Bishop's House in Accra for members of the Parish. In 1946, the public library service began in Accra under the name of Aglionby Library in honour of the Bishop for his pioneering efforts. In 1970, the Gold Coast Library Ordinance 1949 was re-enacted under the title Ghana Library Board Act (No. 327, 1970). The Act required the Board to 'establish, equip, manage and maintain Public Libraries in Ghana'.

To carry out its functions as set out under the Act, the Board has the following broad objectives:
(i) To provide materials and other educational aids to support formal education and to facilitate and encourage informal education through self-education with a view to developing enlightened and informed citizens and also help develop the manpower needs of the country.
(ii) To act as a Centre for the dissemination of information and other information services by providing books, newspapers and periodicals necessary for such purposes.
(iii) To provide facilities for study and research.
(iv) To participate actively and fully in the national and community activities where possible by providing literature and information for such programmes.
(v) To promote and encourage the reading habit generally.

The Ghana Library Board, as presently constituted, is responsible for the running of all public libraries, including the Commercial Library Service, Research Library on African Affairs and the School and College Department.

The library service is based on the ten administrative regions of the country. Each region has a regional library. Each region has a network of branch libraries that serve the district and rural areas. The book-box service and mobile libraries are administered from and coordinated at the regional level by the regional libraries. The regional librarian is the local representative of the Board and is directly responsible to them. Thus, the regional librarian provides a combination of urban and rural services. These services cover the pockets of literate populations in the urban and rural areas. By the 1970s the Ghana Library Board had formulated its policy on rural library services. The policy was that however small and scattered the literate population in the rural areas, they have a right to library services.

Present situation

Public library services in Ghana have been very poor of late. This is due mainly to inadequate provision of resources such as finance, manpower and library materials. As a result of the poor funding, very little is coming in the form of new books. Low salaries have also affected the recruitment of new staff and the retention of older ones. Most of the public libraries, especially in the rural areas, have become reading rooms for students to read their school materials.

Community initiatives

The poor performance of the public libraries in Ghana, led the Ministry of Education to set up a Community Libraries Project in 1986 with the aim of improving the standard of education of pupils in the country.

At present, there are six community libraries in Accra. These libraries are expected to serve the various communities, not only the school children. Unfortunately, barely over ten years after they were set up, facilities and services in these libraries are deteriorating fast. The same problems faced by the public libraries - inadequate funding, materials and personnel - have caught up with the community libraries. A couple of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also made attempts to establish libraries for the public, especially school children. One of these is the Ghana Book Trust. It was established by the Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE) based in Ottawa, Canada. It has helped in establishing libraries, providing books, and training library assistants in all the regions of the country.

The future

It can be seen from this report that the public library system is not new in Ghana. Nevertheless, the development of these libraries has not been systematic and official interest appears to have been cool and casual rather than active and sustained. However, all is not lost. There is presently an Act in the Parliament of Ghana to establish the Ghana National Library Service. This Act will supersede the Ghana Library Board Act of 1970. Based on the new local government system which places much more emphasis on decentralization, the new Act empowers metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to establish their own libraries. It is expected that this Act will create an environment for the improved operation of the Board, and accelerate the development of libraries in Ghana.

Professor Anaba Alemna
Dept. of Library and Archival Studies
University of Ghana
P.O. Box 60, Legon
E-mail: or

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