Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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African continent is full of written culture and activities being produced and preserved by her people, not only for posterity but for academics, students and the larger bibliographic communities. That information is generated on the face of African continent on daily bases is not in doubt as printing and publishing has become the order of the day. Libraries and information centers are expected to record and make available all that is written on request. Bibliographic control has become a major determinant of book accessibility and utilization and a key factor to information search. In many countries of the world, individuals are the chief initiators of this project and because of its place in enlightened societies, nations and international bodies have tackled this problem with all seriousness it deserves. UNESCO, for instance, has taken the bull by the horn and even formed other sub-bodies such as universal availability of publications, (UAP); universal availability of information (UAI) among others, to tackle the problem of universal bibliographic control (UBC) and Africa is not left out.

According to Fourie and Burger (2007), the bibliographic control project is very important, fundamental and indispensable to countries like South Africa that the effort put forward by her is currently unmatchable by any African country. The fact that a book is recorded in the library, internet, or the information centre is enough to give hope to the needful potential user that it may be possible to access and utilize it. Informational materials like books, journals, manuscripts, theses, dissertations, magazines, newspapers and a host of others are written, printed and published. As time goes on, precise data about these materials begin to wane. Their existence are usually ignored or forgotten by many, except they are included in the bibliography- the listing of the materials But the listing must be in a particular pertain which must be systematic to accommodate essential bibliographic elements which could enable a potential user to decide to trace it when in need This calls for a pattern of effective recording and arrangement which result from systematic listing of the records of human communication. One current type of bibliography, according to World Book Encyclopedia (2002) presents a systematic description of books as well as list them, summarizing what each book is about as well as its currency, binding publisher and its value.

When each country seriously undertakes this task of ensuring that every book is captured under this scheme, it becomes a national bibliography; and the collective effort by various nations of the universe is the UBC. The efforts put up by individual countries in Africa will be the focus of this work.

The author will consider this article under the following headings:

a} Bibliographic control activities on Africa

c} Problems with the compilation of Bibliographies in Africa

d} Ways of enhancing Universal Bibliographic Control in Africa

Bibliographic control activities on Africa

Bibliographic control activities have generally developed in Africa randomly over the years. A few African countries are lucky to have gotten retrospective national bibliographies before 1940, and it was individuals who made personal effort to compile national bibliographies for these countries.

According to Musiker (2005) Mendelssohn’s South African Bibliography was published in 1910 making South Africa the first African country to have a national bibliography. This was the conceit effort made by South African Librarians towards the attainment of universal bibliographic control

According to Aje (1977:16 (3), Sierra Leone was the first West African country to have a national bibliography. It was compiled by Sir Harry Charles Luke and published in 1925. H.C. Luke was a colonial secretary for Sierra Leone and apparently had searched important libraries in London and the secretariat library in Freetown and came out with his work entitled “A Bibliography of Sierra Leone”

Another individual named Cardinell, (Aje 1977; 21(7)) concentrated on Ghana for a national retrospective bibliography, entitled “A Bibliography of the Gold Coast 1496-1931” published in 1932. Sources of his information are said to be 19th century work was pioneered by the Basel mission who set up printing and publishing enterprise in the field of religious publications. On the government side where activities commenced earlier than the Bassel Mission, Cardinell recorded that government printing press started functioning after 1875, producing government gazettes and reports. Thus, the first listing of government publication was part of the colonial report on the Gold Coast. All these were precursors of the monumental work produced by A. W. Cardinell.

A UNESCO document by Beaudiquez (1977: 99) also named Burundi as another country with retrospective national bibliography compiled by individual effort. Daniel Nyambarize, librarian at Universite du Burundi institute universitaire des sciences de L’ Education centre Recherche’s et de Documentation, pedagogique, compiled a bibliography “Le Burundi: essai d” une bibliographic 1959 – 1973. This was a list of publications, research reports and periodicals published between 1959 and 1973 and held in Burundi National Library.

The UNESCO document by Beaudiquez (1977:419) states further that Benin Republic is another country with retrospective national bibliography compiled by an individual called Guillaume Da Silva. It was published by the Institute de Recherche Applique es du Benin (IRAB). No date of publication was given by this source. Other African countries with retrospective national bibliographies by individuals include Chad (1968); Costa Rice (1958); Guinea (1964); Ivory Coast (1972-1974); Libya (1951-1971); Madagascar (1952); Morocco (1970); South Africa (1910) and Zambia (no date). These retrospective bibliographies are attempts to compile all the works published in these individual countries. A close look at this same UNESCO document (1977:419) shows that eighteen (18) other African countries, apart from the thirteen (13) mentioned here have national bibliographies compiled by depository centers. And some of these countries have legal deposit decrees backing them up from the central government. These show a great progress made in the development of Africa’s Continental Bibliography.

Another study by Samuel Kotie (1971:14), on the development of library studies, University of Ghana identified thirty two current national bibliographies for African countries by 1969. Whereas, at the time the International Conference on African Bibliography (1970:1) was held in Nairobi, Kenya from December 4-8, 1967, only nine African countries were listed as having national bibliographies in the true sense of the word. These include, Ethiopia Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Senegal, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.

Another writer on bibliography, Amosu (1968:14-18), explained the issue of the availability of bibliographies of all types on Africa subject and national bibliographies produced on Africa. She also explored methods of bibliographic control of materials on Africa, the problem of coordination for complete coverage and avoidance of serious duplication amongst other considerations. In Nigeria, the National Library of Nigeria has been charged with these responsibilities of compiling; coordinating and publishing the bibliography of all published materials on Nigeria.