In March 2000 the Children's Centre began library service to the Nigerian Prisons Service, Nsukka. This resulted from a visit to the prison by the University Women's Association Executive during which the need for such service became known. Most of the 280 inmates are young men awaiting trial, many of them school dropouts who come within the Centre's definition of youth. Accordingly, the Children's Centre delivered a portable library containing over 100 books and magazines as a revolving collection.
The first two years the library was operated by the Children's Centre Committee, assisted by Library and Information Science students doing their final year projects on the prison library, and by National Youth Service Corps members posted to the Children's Centre. The library was located in the chapel and opened at most two mornings a week. Significant gains were recorded during the third year, when the new head of the prison allocated a small one-room building for the library and assigned a warder to library duties full-time.
In December 2005 a new Library was started at the Awka Prison in neighboring Anambra State . The opportunity arose when the head of the Nsukka prison, ACP Theodore Ndukwu, was transferred to Awka. The library is being developed through donations by the Children's Centre, PULA and friends at Awka. These include the Awka Central Forum, Nancy Achebe, Vicky Kachi, Maureen Okpala, Virginia Dike, Julie Okpala, Eunice Nwobu, Ogo Amucheazi, Rina Okonkwo, Ngozi Dike, and others. The superintendent, ASP Theodore Ndukwu, has introduced classes in the library preparing inmates for primary and secondary school examinations.
In 2007 a study to better determine user needs was carried out at the two prisons and the findings presented by Virginia Dike and Margaret Ajogwu at the Pan African Reading for All Conference held in Ghana August 6-10, 2007.
The inmates have enthusiastically embraced the service, which relieves boredom, engages their minds, enriches their outlook, and affords opportunities for self-improvement. Analysis of circulation statistics over a two-year period revealed a wide range of reading interests. Newspapers and magazines are especially popular, including newsmagazines such as Time and similar Nigerian news weeklies, general knowledge magazines such as National Geographic , and devotional literature such as The Word Among Us , Every Day with Jesus , and Decision . Colourfully illustrated and simply written information books are another popular choice for recreational reading. Novels are popular with more able readers. Textbooks are very much in demand, as many prisoners wish to further their education. The prisoners' response is typified by the following comments:
Since I got myself in prison I have been laying down thinking how I managed to be here, but when it is time for that, I will come to bring a book to make me have something doing, so from that I start thinking of something to be in future.
The library is good to me because it made me to grow well in my study. It gives me joy whenever I come to the library to read a book.
It has alleviated by suffering at least for a while.
The library has helped me a lot in knowing what is happening outside this yard and beyond our nation Nigeria .Library is very good because it teaches us a lot of things in our life so far. So I love the library.
The Nsukka Prison Library has received additional materials from People United for Libraries in Africa (PULA), in the form of the Encyclopedia Americana, books, and recent issues of National Geographic Magazine. These were delivered on July 27, 2005 and following visits by a delegation including the Patron and President of UWA and members of the prison library sub-committee. Donations of National Geographic were also made to Awka.
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