The National Libraries of Nigeria and Norway are to sign a letter of intent concerning the digitisation of Nigerian books by the National Library of Norway. This is the first time that such an agreement has been entered between two national libraries. The agreement will be signed in Abuja on by the two respective national librarians, Professor Lanre Aina and Aslak Sira Myhre. Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, and Ambassador Jens-Petter Kjemprud will both be present at the ceremony.
Aslak Sira Myhre took the initiative in creating the agreement, which is the first of its kind.
‘Our aim is to give access to digitised books in indigenous Nigerian languages to Nigerians living in Norway through our multilingual library’ says Aslak Sira Myhre. ‘But we also hope that this project becomes a model for our cooperation with other countries, and the succession of more African languages, enabling us to contribute to create a comprehensive, African digital library,’ he follows up.
The agreement will cover literature written in the Nigerian languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Once the books are digitised, the National Library of Nigeria will receive access to all. The National Library of Norway will incorporate some of the books in its multilingual library and make them available to Norwegian readers.
‘The National Library is responsible for making books accessible to all Norwegians, even those with mother tongues other than Norwegian. At present, our multilingual library has books in 19 different languages. We have a strong desire to increase the scope of literary fiction and children’s books, and to make them available digitally. The agreement with Nigeria covers both, and is therefore an important part of this work,’ says Myhre.
Like Norway, Nigeria has well-developed legislation in place in relation to books and literature. Both countries have legal deposit schemes in place. This forms an excellent basis for the project.
‘Nigeria is a well-organised country, with a national library that has an excellent overview of literature published in the country. Although production of books in African languages is limited, Nigeria is the biggest country and biggest cultural producer in Africa. Overall, this means the country is very suitable for a pilot project of this kind,’ says Myhre.
The National Library of Norway is one of the world’s leading digitisers and works on an ongoing basis for digitise, preserve and make available the totality of Norway’s cultural heritage. During the course of 2017, the National Library of Norway will have digitised all books published in Norway. Members of the public with a Norwegian IP address are freely able to read all books published in Norway prior to 2001 via the National Library’s digital library available at nb.no.