A brief history of the University of Benin and its Library System


The University of Benin Library system

  The University of Benin (formerly known as the Institute of Technology) was founded on Saturday 23rd November, 1970. The need to establish a university in Bendel state (formerly Midwest state) was recognised by the Government of the state in 1965 when agitation for a Higher Institute of learning in the state  became very rife.

    With the determination of the State Government to physically establish and open the Institute in 1970, some eighty contractors were employed to work round-the-clock between May and November, 1970, to reconstruct and convert the premises of Mariere College (a Teacher Training College, Benin City) into a temporary site of the Institute.

 As a result, an Administrative Block, a centrally air-conditioned Library with a capacity for 30,000 volumes was built. On November 23rd, 1970, the institute was formally opened and the first batch of 108 students drawn from all nooks and crannies of the Federation began taking courses in Science and Mathematics.

  On the 1st of July 1971 the Institute was accorded formal recognition as a full-fledged university by the National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria. In the Budget speech in April 1972, the military Gvernor of the then Midwest State (then also a visitor to the university), formally announced the change of name from the Institute of Technology to the University of Benin.

  From the above background, the University of Benin Library was established on November 23rd, 1970. The University of Benin library thereafter became known as John Harris library. John Harris was the first University Librarian after the formal change of of name from the Institute of Technology to the University of Benin.


The University of Benin Library System comprises John Harris Library (the Main Library), the new extension, Faculty libraries, and Ekenhuan campus library. The Library has over 211,000 book volumes in all the disciplines offered in the University as well as other areas of human knowledge.

   There is also a large collection of Pamphlets, Non-book materials, Microfilms, Audio-visual materials etc. The Library has back-files of 344 journal titles and presently subscribes to 172 titles.


  The John Harris library is situated at Ugbowo campus, along the main drive between students' complex and the students' halls of residence, opposite the new clinical medical student hostel. This ultra-modern library system at inception had a central air-conditioning system and was supported with package unit air-conditioners.

 There is a500kw electricity generating set which acts as a backup system to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).. There is also the University central electricity plant which generates power when the other two sources of power fail.

 John Harris Library building has three levels namely,

(a) The basement
(b) The ground floor
(c) The first floor

(a) The Basement

  The library basement office the bindery, the reprography, the supervision, the Audio-visual and the Archival sections including the staff canteen. The reprography and bindery sections are equally located at the basement. The reprographic unit, when functional, assists in the photocopying of materials to be delivered to other universities to facilitate interlibrary cooperation. The bindery section assists in the mending/repairing of torn books and journals.

   Rebinding of worn out materials resulting from frequent use by clients is done at the bindery section. The bindery has recently been saddled with the responsibility of binding all final year students' project work.

   This is considered as one way of boosting the university's internally generated revenue. So all deans of faculties in the university have been mandated to compare their final year students to send their project work for binding in the University library, with the university logo affixed to it at a token fee.

   All of these activities are carried out at the basement.

(b) The Ground Floor

    The main entrance to the Library is at the ground floor. When you enter the library there is the Checkpoint. After the Checkpoint you have the Lobby. Directly in front of the Lobby are the Catalogue Cabinets and the Circulation Desk.

The Reference Section is on your extreme right, while the defunct American Independent Study Centre, the Readers' Conveniences are on your extreme left.

  Still within the ground floor you have the University Librarian's office, which is the administrative seat of the library.

    The conference room leads to the University Librarian's office while the Senior Academic Librarians occupy the adjoining offices. The cataloging and classification unit, Serials unit, circulation and reference units as well as the general workrooms, staff offices and acquisition units are all within the ground floor.

    Activities in some of these units and conducted the way from user's view; hence such activities like cataloging, serials, acquisition, etc are commonly referred to as behind-the-scene activities.

    The ground floor strictly out of bounds to readers and visitors to the Library, houses the bindery and reprography units.

(c) The first floor 

   The first floor essentially is the students reading area. Here you have long bookshelves divided and arrange it to different subject disciplines. Books on the shelves and an open-access; that means readers, after consulting a catalogue on the ground floor are free to locate such desired books on the shelf without angels.

    It is also on the first floor that you have the special collection and textbook collection unit. The special collection unit is a research section where you find books and publications emanating from government and non-government organisations of different countries, gazettes, materials from central and commercial banks, UN, AU, UNESCO ILO, WHO, and sundry organisations, both locally and foreign.

    The textbook collection unit is organised to provide a kind of current awareness service in the sense that one or two copies of every purchase new title is deposited at the text book collection unit. Documents in this section are restricted i.e on closed access. Photocopy of materials therein are released to patrons on request on presentation of an ID card.

   On the whole, the main library is the sitting capacity of 700 readers at a time and about 60 carrels for faculty staff and research students. The carrels are available at the first floor while they are reading spaces both at the first floor and the ground floor.

    Books on the various disciplines taught in the university are shelved on open access. Reading desks are also arranged near the shelves to facilitate the use of the books. The textbooks collection unit has been reorganised to house current books. It is on closed access.

    However, access to the resources is through the normal way of consulting books on reserve, i.e use the reserve book card catalogue, copy the class mark of the desired text and presents to the library Assistant in charge, who goes in to fetch such materials.

   Multiple multiple copies of books are purchased and at least one copy is placed in this unit.


   The new library extension building stands imposingly on the left wing of the main library building and is linked by a walkway on the first floor. It has a sitting capacity for about 3,000 readers at a time. It also houses the Donald Patridge E-Learning centre, donated by the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Memorial Trust Fund. This is now called the Britain-Nigeria Trust. It is equipped with 50 computers.

  The MTN Foundation is yet another main section which provides internet services to both staff and students for research purposes. The library when fully operational will be open for twenty-four hours for reading and internet browsing. The library has been organised to cater for both undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University community.

   It is pertinent to add that computerization of the library is on-going. The computerization of the library collection which began in the year 2000, uses the Strategy Library Automation and Management (SLAM) software, developed by Global Software Technologies Limited, Benin City. SLAM 2000 series is an Oracle based database integrated library management software with provision for all aspects of library operations.
It has seven modules: Administration, Acquisition, Cataloguing and Classification, Circulation, Patron Management, Serials and OPAC.

  The special collection module is currently being developed to cater for cataloguing special documents. With SLAM, the library has successfully converted over 90% of her records. Users now have the opportunity to search the library Online through the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue).

   The OPAC module allows you to search the library using keyword search terms in the following key fields: Author, Title, Subject and Journal Title. Any field that is keyword-indexed can be searched in this module.

   With the ongoing Local Area Network, it will be possible for lecturers to access the library collection from the confine of their offices without coming to the library.


The university has embarked on the establishment of faculty libraries to bring reading materials nearer to the students. To this extent, ten faculty libraries are functional. These are:

(a) Medical Sub-Library
(b) Law Library
(c) Pharmacy Library
(d) Agricultural Library
(e) Education library
(f) Engineering Library
(g) Management Sciences Library
(f) Life Sciences Library
(g) Social Sciences Library
(h) Basic Medical Sciences library.

   These faculty libraries are located in their various faculty buildings providing reading and photocopying services. It is expected that more faculty libraries will take off during the 2008/2009 session.
 All the faculty libraries have been networked with Fifteen internet points, each for internet access.


   Ekenhuan Campus Library is mainly for Fine and Applied Arts, Theatre Arts, Mass Communication, the Institute of Education and Institute of Public Administration and Extension Services.

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