The corporate library: building capacity to last



In his magisterial account ‘‘an inquiry into nature and the causes of wealth of nations,’’ Adam Smith (1776) the Scottish economist and philosopher, postulated that the biggest resource of an organisation and by large a country is its human resource. His assertion is as poignant today as the first day he said it. If this is so for developed countries, it is required for developing countries like Ghana. Suffice to say that even developing countries needs it more to leapfrog its development.

The library is one place where such human resource capacity can be built to last. Reading is one of the shortest ways in acquiring knowledge that has taking many hours by a researcher to put together. By reading, the reader equipped with expert knowledge to navigate complex situation by finding quick solution which otherwise would have taken longer or not even obtained.

Developing a reading culture in the organisation particularly in African developing countries will be the right way to dispel the popular notion that if you want to hide an information from the black man put it in the books because he will never read. Though this notion has been contested in many fronts, one cannot hide from the fact that the near death of libraries and local publishing in Ghana points to that fact that reading is not embedded in our culture.

If organisations in Ghana are to do well holistically, then they must be intentional about an organisational-wide reading agenda to build the capacity of their employees for peak performance. This agenda cannot be business as usual where either it becomes optional or stopped abruptly without achieving the desired aim.

If the organisational library must flourish, it requires a budget. Not to be handled as a one off event but a conscientious effort at building a library fit for purpose. It will require the involvement of top-level management to exhibit corporate leadership.

In achieving this feat nationwide, there must be a regulator policy direction as part of the standard requirement for business operations. Developing countries like Ghana must do things differently to catch-up with the developed countries faster than the current trend.

To achieve a purposeful result the following steps should be considered among other things:

  1. Setting up physical libraries

Talking about library is not merely the collection of books but providing standard setup where books are displayed and sitting places provided for readers who wants to sit in to read. Just as the leadership of organisations finds it necessary to provide shades for their cars, it is more necessary to build libraries for their organisations across the country.

Depending on the size of the organisation, either the library can be stand-alone or a room space allocated for the purpose within the corporate building. Books must be well labelled and shelved with professional librarians as staff to attend to readers.

To the extent that foremost intention of the library is to develop the capacity of staff to be well-rounded, it is imperative that most focus of the corporate library should be a wide selection of books that focuses on building capacities for the core business operations.

  1. Online library subscription  

In addition to setting up physical libraries, it is advisable to augment the hard copy books with softcopy books. This will require the organisation to subscribe to e-books, journals and online newspapers that can be made available for employees to access.

E-books will help with the limited sitting space available in the physical library. Also, those adept and habitual mobile phone users will benefit from the online library when they divert their focus from the social media addiction to a purposeful reading culture.

Organisational use of mobile phone during working hours must be enforced so as not to give an undue advantage for employees to always be on their mobile phones with the pretence that they are reading. The mobile phone is one big distraction for many in Ghana.

Another important aspect of the e-library is that it will help employees with their research both for corporate and academic works.

  1. Readers’ Club

To make the reading fun and competitive, the formation of a reader’s club is necessary. The readers’ club must be cross-departmental and all-inclusive. This means that membership in the reader’s club will not be restricted on departmental basis and that it will be open from members from different departments to mix up. On all-inclusiveness, it means that admission into the reader’s club will not be based on your position. The CEO can be in the club with the messenger.

Depending on the size of the organisation, members of the readers’ club will be in groups. Smaller groups will make an effective club.

Club members will be tasked with duration within which to finish reading a book depending on the size of the book. Just like our traditional public libraries did. When you took a book, you are given a period within which to return it.

  1. Book discussion sessions

The readers’ club activities will be dovetail into a book discussion sessions. This means that members will read with a purpose. At every session, a member of the reader’s club must be made to share what they have read. Lessons must always be drawn from what is read and how it influences their organisation.

If the organisation have an organisational-wide task for which reason reading a specific book becomes necessary, that book will be recommended and a mandatory note if required from all readers.

  1. Reading as a corporate social responsibility

In inculcating a reading culture, the policy driving the establishment of the organisational library will include a compulsory adoption of a public school for reading sessions and establishment of a library as corporate social responsibilities.

Organisations that signs unto the policy will benefit tax incentive of a sort. Governments in developing countries have to be intentional about their dimensional development. It should not always be politics as usual where some government appointees bereft of ideas are put into positions where they have no real business been put there. We have to be intentional about our development to achieve it.

Where organisations give loafs of bread and oranges as corporate social responsibility must no longer be countenanced when the country has priority areas of development particularly in the education sector specifically public basic and secondary education.

In the policy direction, every Friday can be adopted as national day for reading where organisations will spend some hours reading for pupils and students of their adopted schools.

  1. Reader’s Award

Following from the reader’s club, book discussion sessions and the reading for schools, the activities will be promoted to a reader’s award. This is to award employees who have stayed diligent to the cause. This will be peer nomination and voted award by a secret ballot.

Pupils and students from respective participating schools will be awarded for best performance. This practice will encourage higher participation culminating in both employee development and growing future minds in pupils and students as viable human resources for national development. Quality and transparent awards is a good motivation.

In conclusion, it can be argued that why not encourage individuals to build their own libraries by collecting their favourite books and ensuring to read them. Whiles this is true and doable, we are operating in a developing country where reading is not a forte and therefore to achieve it as a corporate agenda it must be done collectively, conscientiously and purpose driven. Leaving it to individuals will not achieve corporate result that is binding. This situational specific objective must be closely monitored to achieve the desired result.

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