A modern e-library donated by Shell to the Port Harcourt Literary Society has opened its doors to book lovers and other literary enthusiasts. The N1.03 billion library is one of the N2 billion social investment projects Shell sponsored in the Niger Delta to mark Nigeria’s centenary anniversary. The others are a hospital and sports centre in Bayelsa and Delta states respectively. Shell spent N790 million on the project that was implemented via a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port Harcourt Library Society, which contributed an additional N240 million.
“SPDC invested exclusively on this library project because of its strong conviction that it will deliver significant benefits and positively impact the lives of the people,” said Osagie Okunbor, Managing Director of The Shell Petroleum and Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) and Country Chair Shell Companies in Nigeria, at the commissioning ceremony. “We are pleased to deliver an ultra-modern public library that would rank as one of the biggest and most IT-driven in the country. The feedback we’re receiving shows that the literary scene in the Garden City has already changed.”
Nigeria’s National Librarian, Prof Lenrie Aina, told journalists that the facility, named Port Harcourt Literary Society Library, is the “first complete public library in Nigeria,” because, aside from Shell ensuring supply of power, books and cooling, every comfort of book lovers was considered in the design and construction of the library.
Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, in a speech delivered by her Senior Special Assistant, Mrs. Inegogo Fubara, thanked SPDC for supporting the state government’s desire to provide sustainable and affordable education to the people.
Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Port Harcourt Literary Society, Dr Chidi Amuta, said the library was designed to be the heart of the Port Harcourt Book Centre that was originally conceived to commemorate the recognition of Port Harcourt by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as the 2014 World Book Capital.
He added: “Oher structures awaiting donor evaluation and sponsorship include a writers’ hostel, an event centre/exhibition hall and a theatre. The Book Centre, like the Muson Centre in Lagos along which it is modelled, is conceived as a centre of culture and enlightenment.”
An elated Senator Magnus Abe said: “In everything Shell has done in the Niger Delta, today they have made a statement that will never go away. They have set us as a people as partners, in truth, because it is books that will develop the Niger Delta. So having associated themselves with books today in the lives of our children and in the lives of our youths, Shell has made an indelible contribution to the true development of this region. We will never forget you.”
The cynosure of all eyes at the event was 10-year-old Shawn Ene, who single-handedly raised over N250,000 for the donation of children’s books under the special support programme of Shell Nigeria staff’s volunteer group, Shell Employees Care. There were also poetry and drama performances at the commissioning of the library.