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Problems In Managing Government Publications In Academic Libraries In Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

In Sierra Leone the terms 'official publications', official documents', and 'public documents' are synonymous with government publications. Government publications, simply put, are documents created by government and local and quasi-government bodies explaining and integrating views and polices. They represent the historical and current development authorities of government and provide data on a wide variety of subjects to include Political Science, Economics, Finance, Statistics, Labor, Industry, History, International Relations, Agriculture, Geology and Meteorology. Katz (1997) classed these publications into: (1) records of government administration (2).research documents for specialists including a considerable number of statistics and data of value to science and business (3).popular sources of information. Their physical form being either a book, pamphlet, magazine, report monograph or electronic, especially CD-ROM (p.387).

Bibliographic control in many parts of the world is seemingly unsatisfactory due largely to lack of awareness of the importance of bibliographic tools in research in government publications. The United States of America, for example, was for a long time a pioneer in this field. As far back as 1895 the Printing Act of January 12 of that year (28 statute, 601-624) not only established centralized printing and distribution of federal documents but also instructed the Superintendent of Documents to provide appropriate tools for bibliographic control of the documents published. Great Britain is an outstanding exception for as far back as 1807 collections of parliamentary papers were printed. Countries such as Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Japan began separating government document bibliographies mainly in the 1920s and 1930s (Palic,1975). However a great need for the use of government publications was felt following World War 11 (1939-1945), when there was an increased interest in the authoritative information contained in such publications as posited by child's (1942) in his introductory notes that 'more and more the importance of government documentation is being recognized despite the refractory nature of some of these materials'

In parallel the emphasis made on the usefulness of government publications in Sierra Leone is associated with the development of printing which can be traced as far back as the founding of the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1787. Although the industry didn't survive the French attack of 1794 the foundation stone of what later became known as the Government Printing Department was laid in 1925 when it was charged with the production of small notices for official use. Currently the Department prints all government publications and supplies stationery and office equipment of government departments. It also undertakes a fair amount of commercial printing as income generating measures.

Government publications usually have the advantage of being among the best in their subject fields often not easily available to others (Smith, 1993). In lieu of the extent and complexity of government activities there is a need for the widespread dissemination of information about these activities and for popular integration of government policy. No wonder why government publications have special value to academic library collections and their authority is permanent. In academic libraries in Sierra Leone these publications are put aside into a special collection manned by a curator as at Fourah Bay College Library. Some are kept in vertical files; others are placed in pamphlet boxes, while those like maps and surveys are given specialized storage. These publications are acquired mainly by purchase, deposit, donation, exchange and photocopying. The Government Printing Department is responsible for their publication

DIVISIONS OF GOVERNMENT AND THEIR PUBLICATIONS

The expansion of government in Sierra Leone's post-war reconstruction era at local, national and international levels has resulted in increasing her influence on the life of the citizenry. Simultaneously with this expansion is the proliferation of official and semi official agencies, commissions and bureaus which continue to publish works such as directories, regulations, reports, bills, Acts and technical literature which many a researchers, educators, public service functionaries, welfare recipients and the unemployed can not do without reference to such publications. Since librarians serve as interface between users and government they have for long recognized the problems which such a plethora of collection can pose and have been making tremendous strides to address the issue. The essence here is to provide systematic controls to avoid the disappearance, into oblivion, of essential official publications.

In Sierra Leone government publications fall within three general classes: Executive, Legislative ands Judicial. The Executive publications include those issued by the Offices of the President and the Vice President, and various independent offices and establishments such as National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), National Revenue Authority (NRA), Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and the Office of the Ombudsman. Also included are government ministries such as the Ministries of defense; Education, Youth and Sports; Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Tourism and Cultural Affairs; Local Government and Community Development; Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security; Trade and Industry; Internal Affairs; labor and Industrial Relations; and Development and Economic Planning.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry, for example, is responsible for both internal and international trade and the promotion of exports. It has powers over customs and excise, tariffs, insurance, patents, trademarks, standards, weights and measures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is responsible for Sierra Leone's relationship with foreign and Commonwealth countries while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security is responsible for administrating government policy on agriculture, horticulture and food security. This Ministry offers practical guidance to farmers, commercial producers of horticultural crops and research.The Ministry of Internal Affairs deals with the maintenance of law and order, the Police and Fire Forces, administration of the prisons and the treatment of offenders. Other miscellaneous matters dealt with by this ministry include explosives, firearms, dangerous drugs, prisons, shops, public safety, entertainment, cremation, bylaws and good rule and formal business. The aforementioned functions and similar ones carried out by other ministries require the creation and maintenance of publications. There is also documentation of press briefings given by the varied heads of ministries and newsletters, which are channels for respective ministries there-by making them more public-relations conscious.

Legislative publications include the records and debates of Parliament and the reports of hearings of the varied Parliamentary Committees. Included here also are multiple policy statements in reply to parliamentary questions. The Hansard is another rich source for public matters as it provides official information and views about parliamentary debates.

Publications from the Judiciary branch of government consist mostly of reports of government decisions by the Magistrate, Appeals and Supreme Courts. Found in this arm of government are law books, 'annual registers', state trials and rulings, the constitution, international treaties, protocols, peace accords, Acts, bills and digests of local newspapers. These publications provide the judiciary with pertinent information on multifarious legal matters. Such information is required to be factual and politically impartial.

The City and District Councils, being quasi-government institutions, provide documents classified as government publications. These include building codes, educational development, health and sanitation, regulations on waste disposal, use of firearms and fire machines. Also there are government departments which provide statistical information on a vast range of economic, industrial and social demographic data. Of central importance are Statistics Sierra Leone (formerly Central Statistics Office-CSO), responsible for national population census and home surveys; the Office of Births and Deaths which registers and produces annual statistics of births and deaths in the country; the Office of the Registrar General responsible for statutory registration of marriages, patents and trademarks; the Chamber of Commerce which specializes on business information. These offices bring together important economic and social statistics supplied by government departments. Other important government departments are the Meteorological Office, which continues to give pertinent weather information, and the National Archives, which serves as repository of all non-current government publications inclusive of national newspapers. The afore-mentioned government publications vary in size and length. Written by experts in the subject, government publications are not only authoritative but also timely published and deal with topics of current interest. Their purpose, according to Katz (1969), is to provide information and answer questions and not to provoke discussion or organizational cataloging and administration. They are useful primary reference sources.

ACADEMIC LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

Academic libraries in Sierra Leone are those in the constituent units that form the country's two universities, namely the University of Sierra Leone and the University of Njala. These libraries represent the bibliographic foundation of the nation's research interest. They participate actively in the distribution and exchange of book and non-book materials to sister institutions all over the country. Collectively these institutions serve students, faculty, scholars and researchers that are engaged in work in the sciences and humanities as well as the general public. These libraries have combined resources of over 500,000 volumes, most of which are of unique scope and quality. Included in these massive collections are government publications such as treaties, Acts, statistical tables and compilations, conventions and records of diplomatic relations, reports of government departments, committees, bureau and commissions, census schedules, proclamations and laws. The maintenance, preservation and development of these publications are responsibilities shared by academic librarians as their libraries continue to serve as national resources.

JUSTIFICATION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES

Varied reasons have been advanced for the inclusion of government publications in academic libraries in Sierra Leone. The purposes of the country's universities are teaching, service, research and interpretation and dissemination of research. Society views government as a reliable and impartial source of authoritative information that should be accessible to its citizens through its numerous publications. Since academic institutions deal with students who in turn will be future citizens these should be informed accordingly. Government's stance should be known when there is public discussion on health, international relations, education, agriculture, social security and trade, to cite a few examples. Thus the need for the development of government publications in academic libraries as such materials could speak for the government in varied activities. Further academic libraries have the objectives of preservation, conservation and service. And government publications form part of society's cultural heritage which need conservation and preservation not only for research purposes but also for posterity as tangible primary sources of information which academics can constantly refer to. Little wonder why as a measure of bibliographic control of these publications librarians continue to provide catalog's, checklists, guides, indexes, accessions lists and selected general bibliographies containing substantial information on government publications.

1991-2001 was a period of doom in Sierra Leone as it marked the civil war. Fought as a result of bad governance, nepotism and massive corruption it led to the un-wanton destruction of lives and properties. Essential government buildings0 destroyed to reckless abandon included the National Treasury, Sierra Leone Police premises, law courts and the offices of the Freetown City Council all of which housed important documents constantly consulted by researchers, government functionaries and the public. Not withstanding the country is gradually recovering with the re-establishment of local government, multi-party democracy, improved human, women and child rights, the provision of a conducive atmosphere to investment, and a new system of education (6-3-3-4), to cite but a few developments, the effective operation of which requires constant use of government publications.

The broad programs in academic institutions include many areas of life with the teaching of historical and geographic concepts; scientific studies are undertaken for improved health and food security; international relations and inter-religious understanding are fostered. Also modern community life and the philosophy of democracy, peace and conflict resolution, good governance, human rights and other ideologies are taught in order that intelligent decisions could be drawn. These designed educational programs bring enrichment and information to students in such fields as economics, government, health and sanitation, agriculture, international relations, human rights and diplomacy. In support of these varied disciplines academic libraries provide huge collections to include local materials some of which are in the form of government publications whereby students, faculty and researches could share their experiences and interests and develop satisfactory personal adjustment with regard varied government functionaries in society. By so doing students are provided the opportunity to grow in social usefulness and develop their intellectual interests and capabilities in order to become responsible members of society. This in turn could help promote nationalism. In lieu of these factors academic libraries attempt to provide liberal collections to include books, serial publications, audio-visuals and government publications.