Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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Library Philosophy and Practice 2011


Schuman (1995) posits that the publishers are beginning to realize that although they create books, librarians have tremendous power to influence readers. This statement may not totally apply to the situation in Nigeria. This is because the intellectual and commercial processes through which books are written, published and distributed, sold and used have become systematically and rigorously distorted by the unwholesome activities of some of the publishers, government officials and their agencies. The librarians have slim chances to influence readers through a professionally planned collection development policy in Nigeria.

The paths of the publishers and librarians hardly across in Nigeria. The opportunity for interaction between the librarians and publishers are slim at professional and business levels. This is due to greed, ignorance or sheer inertia on the part of the publishers and governments in Nigeria – federal, state and local. Book business is big business in Nigeria. Book purchase by government officials and their agencies is big business smacking of corruption and fraudulent practices. It involves heavy bulks ranging into billion of Naira (country currency) and cutting across the three levels of government in Nigeria.

This implies that books are purchased at the Federal, State and Local Government levels. The librarians at all the levels and institutions of service are not often involved in book acquisition policies, planning and strategies. Book are purchased directly from the publishers (home and abroad) by government agents and politically appointed contractors. The contractors could be cement or building materials dealers but who have some persons in government and had turned book vendors over night because of the opportunity the corrupt setting has provided. Therefore, in Nigeria book are created by the same system that ensures that books are purchased (at home and abroad) whether relevant or not, and forced up onto the shelves of the librarians who characteristically ensures that the books are passed to the users in their professional ways. The professional relationship between the librarians and the publishers in Nigeria could best be described as loose or tenuous. The Librarian, however, has the professional mandate to give library and information services. In this wise, the librarian must create and make ISBD available for use by the society. Certainly, the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is a creation of librarianship profession which duty it is to ensure that ISBD is developed, adopted or adapted by the library community for universal bibliographic control. According to IFLA (2010):

The International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is intended to serve as a principal standard to promote universal bibliographic control, that is, to make universally and promptly available, in a form that is internationally acceptable, basic bibliographic data for all published resources in all countries. The main goal of the ISBD is, and has been since the beginning to provide consistency when sharing bibliographic information.

The ISBD is the standard that determines the data elements to be recorded or transcribed in a specific sequence as the basis of the description of the resources being catalogued. In addition, it employs prescribed punctuation as a means of recognizing and displaying data elements and making them understandable independently of the language of the description.

The Nigeria National Library is saddled with the difficult task of getting the publishers to adopt the ISBD and apply it in their publishing practices. The National Library does this by organising national workshops, seminars and conferences. Also, the state branches of the National Library organise similar and complementary interactional meetings periodically in Nigeria.

The International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) phenomenon raises the issue of professional practices in the book publishing industry and librarianship. These practices are meant to bring about easy and unrestricted access to published works all over the world. The practices are further enhanced by the presence of the ever pervading force of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the consequent globalisation and trade liberalisation.

In short, ISBD epitomizes part of the professional relationship that exists between librarianship and the book publishing profession. Although the relationship has existed for centuries, recent developments in the body, direction and growth of information, knowledge and patterns of use have influenced the means and methods through which information and knowledge are processed and made available to users. Certainly, the vision and mission of IFLA in the development of ISBD is to establish a mechanism through which information and knowledge are made universally available in a stable and with sustainable methodology. This calls for a system that is universally applicable and acceptable to the librarians and publishers and to the benefit of the information and knowledge users of the book medium. Still talking about the interrelationship between these two great professions - librarianship and publishing, there is the need to highlight the fact that they have collectively contributed to the building of past and present civilizations. It is appropriate to state that the modern developments are founded and anchored on the professional collaboration between librarianship and publishing. The collaboration goes beyond the economic but into the cultural milieu. Schuman (1995) relates to this interrelationship between the librarians and the publishers as follows:

Their relationships transcend mere market place of vendor/buyer transactions. While publishers and librarians have both traditionally viewed their respective missions as "gatekeepers" of information and culture, publishers are actually the true "gatekeepers"; they decide what to publish, when to publish, whom to publish for and what to charge. Many publishing decisions have public, social, cultural, economic, educational, political impact. Librarians are actually the "gateways". Librarians support a significant portion of publishers output, they buy, organize, preserve, store, and disseminate it. Ideas are kept available, affordable, and accessible through libraries. How librarians perform these functions also has a crucial effect on the social, cultural, economic, educational, and political fabric of society. That fabric is woven when writers, researchers, and creators create new information and ideas. Synergy between a healthy publishing industry and healthy libraries is essential for a democratic society. Both librarians and publishers are vital to the public's right to know.

In the process of information creation, dissemination and utilization, the librarians, publishers and scholars are natural and mutual partners. While the scholars need access to published materials in their variety, the traditional role of the library has been to expand their access by purchasing published materials and organizing them for appropriate retrieval. The development of the ISBD forms the link that helps to explain and demonstrate the obvious commonalities of mission and professional interest that mediate mutually supportive collaboration between librarians and publishers.

Although, the librarians and publishers in the developed counties have enjoyed esteemed, effective and flexible collaboration, the situation in the developing nations of Africa is at a very low ebb. Both professions are frequently unaware of the methodologies, economic concerns and policies of the other.