World Libraries


The Acquisition, Management and Bibliographic Control of Government Publications in Nigerian University Libraries

Abstract: This paper presents the state of government publications in Nigerian university libraries. It conceptualizes and attempts a typology of government publications. The article highlights and discusses the significant roles played by government publications in research, education and in the society in general. The problems encountered in the acquisition and classification of these publications are discussed, especially the inaccessibility of government publications, inadequate production of the National Bibliography of Nigeria, the lack of funds, and lack of bibliographic control. Suggestions are offered which might enhance the acquisition and processing of government publications in the Nigerian university libraries.

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floral design Introduction

Libraries worldwide acquire varieties of publications to meet the diverse needs of their clientele. A library that cannot meet the information needs of its users is a moribund and anaemic information system because it has lost its vitality, honour and attractions. Libraries, therefore, strive hard to assuage the intellectual and informational thirst and curiosity of their users by acquiring and processing various reading materials for the use of their patrons in order to justify their continual existence and relevance. The information sources that will engage our attention in this paper are called government documents or publications.

The terms “government publications,” “government documents,” or “official publications” are often used synonymously because, as the names indicate, they are publications that emanate from government, whether at the local, state or federal level. Ogundana, et al. (2002) are very incisive and definite when they say that government publications are fundamentally information resources generated by different arms of government, including ministries, parastatals and government. Aina (1981), Katz (1982) and Edoka (2000) agree that government documents are publications that are issued or printed at government expense or published by authority of a government body. Such authority could be given by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Similarly, Odumosu (1990) opines that government publications are vital or authoritative documents issued by or on behalf of the government or its agencies. This position is also well articulated by Harrold (1992) when he says that government publications have an official, instructional, descriptive, or historical nature, and are issued by government departments.

Government publications have been classified into executive, judicial, and legislative publications appearing in the following formats: annual reports, budget speeches, white papers, in–house journals, directives, regulations, technical reports, national development plans, gazettes, circulars, estimates, monographs (reports of surveys, census, reports of commission of inquiry), periodical titles (e.g. Nigeria Handbook, Annual Abstracts of Statistics), slip publications (e.g. posters), pamphlets (e.g. know your country series), maps, hearings, published laws of the land — including publications of courts — laws, statutes, and Hansard, the main publication of the various Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. Hansard is the most authoritative source of proceedings of the House of Assembly (Marley, 1977; Aina, 1981; Sonaike, 1994; Akintunde, 1995). These publications are issued periodically by the local government, state government, and federal government and they contain the activities of government at all levels of governance. In Nigeria, most government documents are published at the local or state level by the state government printer, and at the federal level by the Federal Government Printer at Abuja. Every state government has its own government printer located in the state capital, empowered with the publication of government official documents. In some instances, governments, government departments or organs can authorize or use commercial printers or publishers to issue government documents (Edoka, 2000).

In the United States, the Government Printing Office (GPO), which was established by the U.S. Congress in 1860, is responsible for the printing, binding, marketing, and distribution of all government publications, especially those that are not of a confidential nature. The GPO also maintains necessary catalogues and a library of these publications. The GPO is the equivalent of the Federal Government Printer in Nigeria. Similarly, in Britain, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO), which was principally established in 1786 to coordinate and manage office supplies for government departments, has now become the central government publisher responsible for the production and management of a wide range of official documents in connection with museums, galleries, and the advisory function of ministries. The HMSO also generates cumulative annual catalogues and indexes of government documents which can all be useful for bibliographic purposes.

Government publications are indispensable materials for research, especially in this period, when the call for the full democratization of governments in Africa is becoming more resonant and daring, and scholars are taking more interest in democratic studies, federalism, resource sharing, legislative codes of conduct, codification of the laws of the federation, politics and government, strategic management, labour unions and press freedom under a democratically elected government. The publication and availability of these government documents in libraries become very important and significant. The citizens of any country need to be kept abreast of the government programmes for the nation. That is why Omolayole (2002) says that government publications are a mine of information on the socio–political and economic life of any nation. To be familiar with what the government of a particular country publishes is to be aware of the direction the country is taking. Such publications are very useful in the study of internal and international relations and bilateral cooperation between nations because they contain first–hand information. Such materials include the British Parliamentary Papers comprising the original Hansard — the official debates in the House of Commons — and Command Papers, House of Lords Sessional Papers 1645–1859 published by Oceana, U.S. Congressional Records. These materials promote understanding and unity among nations. Apart from these documents, there are other local but older government documents which are found among the collections of the National Library of Nigeria. Such publications include Lagos Settlement and Colony (1862–1906), Oil Rivers and Niger Coast Protectorate (1891–1900), Protectorate of Southern Nigeria (1900–1913), Northern Nigeria Protectorate (1900–1954), Egba United Government (1905–1913), Lagos Colony (1906–1954), and several others which will be invaluable tools for research students and fellows interested in studying the emergence of Nigeria as a developing nation and its heterogeneous nature, its local politics and conspicuous perception within the international enclave. It is rather unfortunate that a large part of these materials are not available in most of the university libraries in Nigeria.

Government publications also help the government to propagate, publicize, and advertise its activities and achievements with a view to canvassing for the votes and approval of the people during electioneer campaigns. Such government documents provide the people the opportunity to compare different types of people in government and their leadership and management styles. The people can therefore decide the type of government they want to have in place. Such evaluation of government activities will determine the longevity of these governments. A government, irrespective of level, that does well will attract the people’s approbation. When the government falters, it attracts disapprobation and protest. That government may eventually be terminated because the people have lost confidence in it. This is possible because the people, comprising students of politics and law, unionists, labour organisations, business men and women, politicians and civil servants, have been informed about government activities, plans and manifestos through the published government documents that reveal information about the socio–economic and industrial development of the state or nation, and welfare programmes for the deprived and indigent masses.

One of the ways by which government promotes stability, peace, and tranquillity in the nation is by publishing and publicising its policies on a regular basis. There are controversial and sensitive policies made by government or purportedly activated by government which will need some clarification or explanation or else the public might resort to violent protest, acrimony, upheaval, arson, and other forms of aberrant manifestations owing to misinformation or lack of information.

The daily newspapers cannot be relied upon to perform this onerous task because of their partisanship and sensationalism. Some of these sensitive government policies include the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) programme of the General Buhari/Idiagbon regime from 1984–1985, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, 1985–1993 and the economic policies of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government from 1999–2003. These policies and decision statements of government are best explained and articulated in government documents.

Moreover, law students and law practitioners depend extensively on judicial publications such as the Laws of the Federation, State Laws, Hansard, Law Reports, Reports of Commissions of Inquiry, Legislative or Parliamentary Papers for their information needs. These materials are excellent and authoritative legal sources of information for students, teachers and practitioners of law. Government depends on some of these documents to generate the white papers, which often lead to the enactment of laws and legislation. Also, legal counsels often cite profusely from these judicial publications to substantiate and strengthen their law cases. The need therefore, for university libraries in Nigeria to acquire these documents cannot be over–emphasized. The acquisition and availability of such publications will improve the quality of law graduates being produced in Nigerian universities; the image of the law profession will thus be enhanced.

floral design Problems of Acquisition and Management of Government Publications in Nigeria

One of the major problems confronting most Nigerian University libraries in the acquisition of government publications is the lack of physical accessibility to government documents. In other words, these government documents are inadequately produced, hence they are not available for libraries to acquire. That is why most university libraries’ collections of government documents are lean. In a recent visit to the Government Documents Section of the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile–Ife, Nigeria, it was observed that the library’s collections of government documents are very old. Even the materials that the library gave to our library on an exchange/gifts basis were old government documents. Some of them appeared to be meant for weeding. On the other hand, at least our library had some materials to start its own collection on government documents.

Similarly, at the Research and Bibliographic services section of the University of Ado–Ekiti Library where the government documents are housed, the section cannot boast of current government documents published by the Ekiti State government, not to talk about other documents published outside the state. According to Weech (1981), inaccessibility to the knowledge of what is published and who does the publishing would make it difficult to develop collections of state publications.

Also, at the Adekunle Ajasin University Library, Akungba — Akoko, Nigeria, the situation is not too different from other libraries. The Library that began its operations as a new library late in the year 2000 is struggling hard to acquire Ondo State government publications with a great deal of difficulty. In one of our recent acquisition trips to the Government Printer, Akure, Ondo State, we were shocked to hear that there were no government publications available for acquisition. The reason the management of the place gave was that government publications were printed on request by ministries and parastatals. The aim is to check wastage and manage the lean resources earmarked for such ventures.

Apparently, therefore, most state governments, including the federal government, complain loudly every day for lack of finance. Workers salaries are paid in arrears. Their allowances are hardly paid. There is labour unrest. There are no more capital projects. Contractors are no longer paid their entitlements. There are accusations of gross embezzlement of funds and financial impropriety levelled against the leaders, and the followers are no longer faithful, honest, and diligent in the discharge of their duties because of the craze for wealth and a lack of good leadership. In the early 1970’s and late 1980’s there used to be mass production of government publications. Owing to economic recession and mismanagement of funds, these publications are hardly issued and when they are issued, they are stingily done. One then wonders how university libraries can meet the needs of their users in this regard. The few government publications acquired at Adekunle Ajasin University Library were more or less raked from the office of the Secretary to the State Government of Ondo State. Some of them were sent directly from the office of the State Governor, and this was because of his personal interest in the university. So, acquisition trips will no longer produce government publications but instead will require personal contacts and inter–personal and socio–political relationships with the ruling government. This problem of finance and other related problems have been identified by Asamoah–Hassan (2000) as some of the challenges facing the growth of government publications in Ghanaian libraries.

Another reason why government documents are not available is because some Government Printers have been privatized, and so their publications are now for sale. Most libraries expect these publications to be given to them free of charge, as that was the usual practice. State–owned university libraries, for instance, cannot understand why they should pay for what is produced by the governments that fund the universities they established. University libraries cannot hesitate for too long to pay or not to pay for these documents as soon as they are published. Materials like gazettes, decrees, and edicts are likely to be missed forever by the library if they are not picked up as soon as they are issued, according to lfidon (1998).

The dearth or inaccessibility of government publications is also attributable to the political instability in Nigeria. There has been frequent military intervention in the politics of Nigeria. Between independence in 1960 and the year 2003, Nigeria has produced about 12 rulers within its 43 years of existence as a sovereign and independent nation. There is generally no continuity in government as each government that emerges sets up its own agenda, while it makes every effort to discredit its predecessor’s achievements. Most military governments in Nigeria have no time for publishing government documents as they spend the time to perpetuate themselves in power. The only thing they have time for is to roll out decrees on a daily basis while their civilian counterparts use government publications as propaganda to attack and assault the sensibilities of their political opponents and at the same time canvass for more votes from the people in the next political dispensation. The focus of most succeeding governments in Nigeria is not, at first, to produce government documents for educational and intellectual purposes but for political reasons. Whenever these materials are issued, libraries are not usually their targets but the politicians. That is why Akinyotu (1988) remarks that most governments are apathetic to the fact that libraries are an essential component of the school system and that reading materials and non–print materials are essential and indispensable tools to all levels of education.

Another major factor hindering the acquisition and development of government publications in Nigerian University libraries is a lack of bibliographic control of official publications. The National Library Decree Number 29 of 1990 empowers the National Library of Nigeria to be the compiler and repository of the National Bibliography of Nigeria. According to Weech (1981), the latest list of published items from the Government Printer through the Federal Ministry of Information, is dated 1978. The National Bibliography was becoming a quinquennial publication until 1991 when both the 1987 and 1988 cumulative lists were published within a short interval. The National Bibliography of Nigeria, like the British Books in Print, is very important for acquisition purposes. It helps the acquisition librarian to have necessary bibliographic information about what to acquire and can therefore to make his selections. In a situation where a necessary bibliographic tool like the National Bibliography is rarely published, the acquisition of government publications will be greatly hampered.

Moreover, there are varieties of classification schemes used for the processing of government publications in the Nigerian University libraries. This diversity of classification schemes creates classification and retrieval problems for both librarians and the users of the library. The present classification scheme used by the National Library of Nigeria was adapted from the “DT” class for Africa of the Library of Congress. The University of Jos Library, Nigeria uses the adapted version of the National Library of Nigeria’s classification scheme. Similarly, the Federal University of Technology Library, Akure also uses a scheme derived from the Library of Congress classification system. The Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile–Ife has a comprehensive in–house classification scheme for its government documents. Also, the University of Lagos Library, Nigeria uses another scheme that was derived from the Library of Congress Classification system. The University of Ado–Ekiti Library and the Adekunle–Ajasin University Library, Akungba–Akoko use the same scheme used by the University of Lagos Library for processing their government publications. The schemes are currently being reviewed. It is the same trend in all other university libraries in Nigeria. The development may make the compilation of the Union list catalogue difficult and consequently hinder library cooperation.

floral design Conclusion

In order to overcome the challenges and problems confronting the acquisition, growth, development and management of government publications in Nigerian University libraries, a number of stern measures must be taken to forestall further degeneration of the debilitating situation. It is high time that succeeding governments in Nigeria began to perceive government publications as indispensable and essential research and educational materials that as a matter of necessity and compulsion must be available in university libraries. This new re–orientation and perception by government will make it allocate more funds in its annual budgetary allocation to the information sector or government press that is responsible for the production and distribution of government publications. Besides, it will also cause the government and its agencies to supervise the management of the human and material resources of the Government Press.

Also, the current legal Deposit Act in Nigeria and the National Library Decree Number 29 of 1970 should be reviewed. The federal government should enact a law that will make all Federal University Libraries in Nigeria depositories and repositories of all federal government publications while every state government should enact an edict that will make its own university library a depository and repository library of all state government publications. The acts and edicts should specify that at least four copies of government publications should be sent to these depository libraries as soon as they are published. This method will boost the collections of many libraries. Besides, it will stop the illegal business of book jobbers who specialize in selling expensive photocopies of carefully bound volumes of government publications to university libraries. These suspicious book jobbers are using the unavailability and inaccessibility of government publications as an advantage to exploit the libraries. If these depository acts and edicts are strictly enforced, the menace of the book jobbers will be curtailed.

The National Bibliography of Nigeria should be reactivated so that it can be published more regularly and be made available for acquisition by libraries. Besides, the Government Printer should imitate the HMSO in Great Britain and produce the Annual Catalogues of Nigerian Publications and consolidated indexes every five years. According to Smith (1978) the HMSO in Great Britain produces the Daily List of New Publications, Advance Information on Government Publications, List of Non–Parliamentary Publications and Catalogue Amendment lists of retrospective publications, and many other subject bibliographies which are very useful for libraries, library users and booksellers. The Government printer in Nigeria should be alive to these responsibilities and make the production of government publications adequate for bibliographic services.

Finally, the university libraries in Nigeria, under the auspices of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) and the Committee of University Librarians of Nigerian Universities (CULNU) can streamline the existing classification schemes for classifying government publications so that there can be uniformity. Consequently, information can thereby be retrieved without any difficulty. This view has been reinforced by Pemberton (1978) when he remarks that an information system is required to develop a system that will enable documents libraries to process any official document from whatever source in such a way that it can be retrieved easily. Such an arrangement will promote cooperation among university libraries in Nigeria, instead of leaving each library to develop its own classification scheme, which will be unprofessional and unwieldy.

Government publications are primary sources of information. They reveal a government’s philosophy and ideologies, and propagate the activities of government and its agencies. The information generated through these documents can hardly be found through any other information source other than government publications. These publications are indispensable sources of information for educational, economic and socio–political purposes.

floral design References

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About the Author

C.O. Ajidahun can be found at the Adekunle Ajasin University Library in Akungba Akoko Ondo State in Nigeria.

© 2006 C.O. Ajidahun

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