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60th IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 21-27, 1994

Library Services for Social Development:
Some Considerations

Sueli Angelica do Amaral
Assistant Professor,
Information Science and Documentation Department,
University of Brasilia, Brazil


Shows the importance of information in the development of society. Comments on the situation of library services in the information sector, considered as the Quaternary Sector. Considers aspects relating to the information society, the economics and politics of information, specifically the situation and the context of library services in Brazil. Stresses the importance of librarian action for so cial development.


Information and development of society

Information is an indispensable factor for promoting the development of society. It is a component of fundamental importance in the generation of knowledge which, in turn, makes the satisfaction of the various demands of the population possible in an efficient way. Computerization, according to Miranda (1985) is transforming the concept of power relationships within the modern state, changing the structure of capitalism and refining the nature of imperialism. It is imposing a new social order to the extent that it attempts to control and condition human behavior and inter-relationship and to promote and direct human activities, by programming and monitoring the performance of avaiable resources, especially human resources.

The political profile of information is, for this reason, becoming more and more intense. Countries can be classified according to the quality and quantity of the information in their possession. Based on this premise, the countries that are "rich in information"would have the power not only over the technology for processing information, but even its very generation. In this context, information transfer can cause several problems, such as artificial demand for superfluous goods and may even transform itself into a powerful weapon, becoming an important element in the blockading or boycotting of a particular country.

In this way in today's world, information acquires the status of merchandise, and can be sold according to the laws of supply and demand that govern the commercialization of any product.

In fact, all the countries of the world are preoccupied with the political economics of information, both the advanced countries as well as the developing countries. However, the advanced countries consider information as an indispensable input for technological and economic development, looking on it as a negotiable product that moves about in international markets, and recognizing that a countr y incapable of providing necessary information to this citizens and industries will lose a large part of this autonomy, being at the mercy of information being offered by outsiders.

The information industry in advanced countries is the sector that employs the most people, while the computer industry is providing the technological support necessary to the expansion and consolidation of the information industry. It is also necessary to emphasize the convergence of the computer and communications fields, with microeletronics as their common basis. This provides the citizen with various services that were totally unimaginable in other times.

According to Dordick (1984), the new technologies have profoundly affect government, business, industry and consumers. As the information industry becomes avaiable worldwide, national policies regarding computerization and communications have become intertwined with international politics. Telecommunications have risen to a high place all over the world occupying an important position on nationa l political agendas. In the author's view, this occured because many nations have concluded that they cannot compete in information industry development without good telecommunications technology. Besides this fact, Dordick emphasizes the convergence of computer and telecommunications technology, that has made the growth of the information industry beyond international frontiers possible.

Library services context

Regarding the use of new technologies in library services in Third World countries, this will depend on the level of the development of the infrastructure in each country and their relationship to social, economic and political factors.

In order to minimize harmful manipulation practices of power domination, the expansion of library services must be looked upon in such a way as to make the democratization of scientific and technological advances possible, distributing them in a more efficient and equitable manner, thus allowing progress by society in search of the common welfare. When society evolves, a transformation occurs, bringing about a change of focus in relation to the production and economic development factors. The basis of this transformation is that the information sector, where it is part of library services, is knowledge intensive and not labor intensive. The change of value added knowledge or of the technological segment is progressively more important and incorporated into the product, causing the industrial transformation of the raw material by the value added (Botelho et al., 1994).

Competitiveness, leadership, innovation capabilities, technological packages, technological transfer are the ingredients of this new phase. In this context, a serious problem arises for underdeveloped countries and importers of technological packages. With the opening up of the world economy and the advent of common markets, the need for technological information grows, since there is the factor of production quality to consider, and this receives the connotation of a factor for development. The political, economic and social questio ns involved are not easily solved in this impasse of technological dependence that affects the production of the less favored nations.

Fundamental changes have been observed in the last ten years, such as the separating of production economics from industrial economics and production from employment. The movement of capital has been transformed into the essence of the world economy. Manual laborers are beginning to be replaced by machines and knowledge products. Industries that had been primarily labor intensive are becoming kno wledge intensive. The emergence of the symbolic economics of capital movement, exchange rates and credit flow are today the driving forces of world economy, instead of the flow of goods and services. This invisible electronic concept comes to trillions of dollars annually (Botelho et al., 1994).

The primary, secondary and tertiary sectors are labor intensive. The quaternary sector is knowledge intensive. This economic sector may be defined as the sector which includes the information or knowledge industries (Botelho, 1993). Information cannot be considered solely as an economic good, since it is not limited to being a raw domestic product. It may be looked upon from the point of view of Masuda (1992) as a gross national welfare product, with all of its characteristics relating to production, dissemination, development, computerization and power. It must be studied as an essential factor that will permit the "leap forward", a veritable transformation of society. The concept of information evolved in step with the evolution of the concept of the collective consciousness of a society. It is in this sense that the providing of library services should be considered, although this important dimension is not always understood.

According to Cunha & Robredo (1993), in the majority of the developing countries and especially in Latin America, the library has been lacking in its function of guarding knowledge and also of disseminating this potential wealth. Our libraries are basically elitist institutions, satisfied with taking care of a small part of the population. At the same time, libraries and library services are litt le appreciated by government administrations, being reduced to a low professional status. We are trapped then, in a dangerous and difficult vicius circle, that must be broken out of so that this profession may be exercised to the full. There are some exceptions, but the causes of the deficiencies in most libraries are quite varied, from human resources problems to environmental factors such as political instability, lack of administrative continuity and an economic model based on dependence.

It is clear that library services have not received the same attention as other sectors. This is because, although included in the government's plans, the objectives proposed are not completely achieved, mostly due to the lack of funding, staff personnel and an information infrastruture to support this activity.

Brazilian situation

In Brazil, the information industry is in its initial stage of development. The country is unevenly developed, with large farming and livestock areas existing side by side with highly developed and industrialized regions. Therefore, in order to diminish scientific and technological dependence, it is necessary to show more concern with the developement of the information infrastructure.

However, development of an information infrastructure will depend both on physical and human resources. Subramanyan (1983) reinforces this when he mentions the need for more attention to education, research and industry, in addition to an efficient and flexible organizational structure that is adapted to the country's goals and priorities. In Subramanyan's opinion such an approach will allow the information infrastructure to be adequately developed, since it recognizes information as a factor of real importance for national progress. This reinforces the statement regarding the need for an information policy that does not consist only of specific directives for the information sector, while neglecting to consider the overall vision for the country.

According to Litto (1985) one of the myths that has taken hold to Brazilian society is "the idea that new technologies are solutions for all our past inadequacies". He points out the lack of preparation on the part of our society for the proper use of these advances as powerful means for storing, disseminating and retrieval of information, due to the lack of a suitable information infrastructure. Litto (1985) emphasizes that well functioning information systems exist, that are considered as being reliable by their users. In addition to this, he observes that even some scientists and researchers have difficulty when it comes to their organizing information. This situation reflects the instruction model used in primary and secondary education, where the emphasis is placed on the education of good and well balanced future citizens, without any concern for a humanistic education nor with the development of logical reasoning. Students are not acquainted with the outline as a working tool, nor with the way to structure their ideas or store information, nor do they know how to ask suitable questions.

The non-existence of school libraries, the fact that research is not required of the students and the lack of reading habits are some of the factors that contribute to students arriving at the level of higher education unprepared to use scientific information. Generally, it is only during graduate studies that the Brazilian student learns some research techniques. Based on the foregoing, it is ne cessary to think about adopting means to prepare future generations for using new technologies, with the primary fact being a restructuring of the teaching being done in Brazilian schools.

Botelho & Araujo (1987), when discussing this issue, consider ease of access to services, institutional and human resources as basic elements for the configuration of an information infrastructure. Considering the level of development of the information industry in Brazil, the issue of regulating activities connected with information generation and dissemination is very complex. Government regula tions referring to basic questions such as the righ to privacy regarding information on individuals and legal entities, access to public and private data bases, rectifying incorrect information, are still to be passed.

Brazilian companies including information suppliers, producers and distributors, which are reduced in number, need mechanisms that will promote their development and work in this field. So that this make happen, some means have been suggested in the document "The public and private sectors in the provision of the information services, input for a national sectorial policy", published by Brazilian Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (IBICT) in 1986. Among the steps to be taken the more important ones include: (a) the guarantee that information provided by individuals not be used for purposes other than those originally proposed; (b) all information of a public character must be avaiable and its access facilitated for the final user; (c) government investment in the deve lopment of a national network for public access to data bases; (d) incentive for using data bases and/or information services (IBICT, 1986).

In the study entitled "STI: Brazil's entry into the international information field" by Ana Soledade Vieira for IBICT in January, 1993, she presented a diagnosis of the Brazilian scientific and technological information sector that showed the advances made, the shortcomings, the pitfalls and opportunities involved in providing for the market looking for this type of information. The document incl udes a proposal for action referring to the organic structure, planning and IBICT funding; technological infrastructure; human resources training; participation in networks; and development of the sector (Vieira, 1993).

Information policy

In John Gray's opinion, quoted by Judge (1990), there are three essential elements that merit attention from any government interested in setting a formal policy. They are the identification of the country's needs, the actions aimed at providing for these needs, and the promotion of effective use of the services provided. National information policy must combine the information industry and the information transfer business in such a way as to produce the necessary knowledge for developing national social welfare.

These are the aspects which lead us to conclude that it is necessary that the information sector be seriously considered and in its overall aspects in governmental planning and policy for any country. Such a procedure will lead to formulating specific policies for the sector, emphasizing information as an indispensable production factor for development of an industrial base in a service economy, since the growth of the information field increases the capabilities of a country to add value to its own resources. In the case of Latin America, the idea of integrating policies has been under discussion for many years. However, it has been only since March 1991 that progress has been noted with the signing of the Treaty of Assunção by the Presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay that created the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUL), setting up another economic bloc, as a reflection of the spirit of the '90s. In a market that is becoming more and more competitive, the union of neighboring countries is a factor that could increase the efficiency and complementarity of national economies. However, this will not be enough to open up national frontiers to regional integration, since it is indispensable, first of all, to bring differing national policies into harmony (Cunha & Robre do, 1993).

Thus, there cannot be any superdimensioning of commercial and legal aspects, to the detriment of institutional, cultural and social aspects. Free exchange of information must be encouraged with common technical knowledge being made avaiable in printed form as well as by means of communications networks that will link up universities (Cunha & Robredo, 1993).

It is important that information policy be set down in such a way as to permit the modern concept of information systems concerned with preserving and disseminating the national memory, with the use of new technologies, ensuring retrieval methods capable of making such information available to everybody. The traditional library planning concepts associated with administrative efficiency must be c omplemented by internal and external communication among organizations and systems, with shared decentralization done in a responsible manner (Tarapanoff, 1993).

Brazilian situation

In the case of Brazil, national information policy is practically oriented by technological information policy. This, in turn, has been characterized by a decentralized and isolated process. Scientific and technological information is not adequately spread about, and its absorption by the productive sector is therefore a slow process. In the context of the use of new technologies, the employment of data bases is today being widely accepted on the part of developing countries, that view this means as a resource for overcoming their deficiences in terms of information.

Brizida (1981), expounding on the major causes for the explosive growth of data base searches in Brazil, affirms that the policy of data base services has five objectives: concentration of information resources in the country; universalization of access to information; possibility of all human knowledge stored in data bases, both in Brazil and abroad being placed at the disposal of our people at a minimum cost; national mastery of information generation, structuring, processing, transmission and sale, with decision-making control and technical and technological capabilities for carrying on such activities remaining in Brazilian hands; and the preservation and perfecting of the national culture.

Access to information in foreign data bases must be done in a critical fashion, so that the information is adequate in terms of the stage of development and suitable for the needs in the context of each country. The indiscriminate use by developing countries of information originating in developed countries generates scientific and technological dependence, in addition to contributing to the loss of a nation's cultural identity and social and political values. In most cases, foreign companies use marketing promotional techniques, always applying them to the product itself and without providing information regarding its production engineering that contains the technology that is essential for its manufacture. Sometimes this technology is not compatible with the stage of development of the importing country, with there being cases where is "dumping" of technologies no longer in use in the exporting country. In one way or another there occurs growing dependence on the countries with advanced technologies, which also includes the inculcating of cultural values from other societies.

Regarding science and technology information policy in Brazil, to put the III Basic Plan for Scientific and Technological Development (PBDCT), 1980-1985, into practice, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) prepared a number of documents for programmed action, embracing practically all of the fields of scientific and technological knowledge. Among these document s, the "Programmed Action for Communications, Electronics and Informatics" the following lines of action were emphasized regarding data bases: control of the flow of data across national frontiers in order to promote the maintaining of local copies of relevant foreign databases; the development of the data base market by encouraging the growth of search services in data bases; instrumentalization and operationalization, in Brazil, of foreign data bases and the strengthening and perfecting of incipient national data bases (Brazil, 1984).

In the document "Programmed Action for Scientific and Technological Information", the following directives and activities are emphasized regarding the same topic: operationalization of the means for planning, fomenting and monitoring actions related to the generation and operation of scientific and technological data bases; promotion of studies on the marketing and strategic aspects of science an d technology information services; exploitation of foreign data bases for acquiring bibliographical material, in order to facilitate access to primary documents with references in those data bases; setting up a computerized system for public access to national and international bibliographical data bases in science and technology, integrating specialized information services; encouraging the crea tion of logical supports and perfecting both these and computer resources that provide for using these data bases and increasing the generation of more national data bases in science and technology; encouraging participation by all units of National Scientific and Technological Development System (SNDCT) in the process of the generation and use of data bases; rationalization of the use of data ba ses from abroad and hosted in the country (Brazil, 1984).

The "Programmed Actions" are the only formal instruments of science and technology policy that remain valid today in terms of information policy. These documents set down the problems, indicated lines of action, analysed responsabilities and determined the competent sectors for carrying out the suggested lines of actions. The basic lines of actions of the Brazilian Institute for Scientific and Te chnological Information (IBICT) have been derived from those programmed actions. IBICT plays an important role in the execution of activities related to data base access.

The Brazilian government is certainly not convinced of the importance of library services. Notably, during the administration of President Collor, this was seen in the weakening of the public sector and especially with regard to the closing of libraries and the breaking up of important bibliographical holdings, with no concern for the consequent significant loss resulting from these barbarous act s. If the information sector lacks more government support, such a situation contributed to diminish even the image of the sector and of the professionals dedicated to it. Some measures must be taken to alleviate this crisis. Adapting the ideas of Professor Bernardo Kliksberg on "How to transform the State beyond myths and dogmas" (Kliksberg, 1992) and analyzing his proposals regarding the information sector, and in accordance with the principles elucidated by John Gray as cited by Judge (1990), some general considerations may be made.

It is necessary to make government spending productive in the information sector, profoundly changing its image and that of the librarian, encouraging in a decisive manner organizational creativity in order to rethink present models. It is necessary to frankly question the validity of the management models used and their orientation in a search for innovation, by developing management capabilitie s to handle the complexity and reconstruction of information systems that are capable of developing and transforming human talents to contribute to the collective well-being of society. Development of capabilities for implementing multi-institutional programs; establishment of effective mechanisms for evaluation; encouragement of cooperation and working in regional, national and international net works are all aspects that contribute toward overcoming moments of crisis. It is important that we be concerned with developing a micro-structure with the consolidation of existing journals, the preparation of reference works and perfecting of bibliographical control techniques in the fields that are not currently covered.

On the macro level, consideration must be given to perfecting national systems for organizing and providing scientific and technological information, especially planning information flow, placing emphasis on the creation of cooperative networks and systems, since "the system of the future will be characterized by synergetic production and shared used of the goods produced" (Botelho, 1985). Faced with this scenario, the information specialist, notably the librarian, must assume his or her part of the responsability.

Politics, library services and professional responsibility

Third World librarians need to develop a critical sense regarding information policy, principally in terms of the issue of information transfer. They cannot remain remiss or aloof, absorbing information in a passive manner. They need to develop their ideas and perceptions, with a questioning approach, since they are an active part of this process. It is necessary that these professionals work to make their participation a reality, collaborating in the elaboration and dissemination of selectivity criteria to determine which information is in keeping with the peculiar circumstances and needs of their country. They should also ensure scientific and technological progress by contributing to the solution of national problems. This does not mean that frontiers should be closed to information t ransfer, but rather means a structuring to produce an effective method for selection, that allows for sharing information and that creates effective systems and participants for its dissemination.

The myth has persisted among librarians that Library Science should be apolitical. This argument has these professionals representing themselves and Library Science in a apolitical fashion when promote the profession. The myth is contested by BIRDSALL (1988) when referring to American librarians. He states that the myth does not correspond to reality, since American Library Science reflects the A merican political culture which is based essentially on liberalism. According to him, this type of liberalism is a mixture of ideas and values that spreads across a broad spectrum of paradoxical political attitudes. Librarian ideology and institutional practice flow from these attitudes and reflect the vast spectrum that embraces the attitudes and paradoxes represented by American liberalism.

Even without discussing the philosophical aspect of the foregoing, when considering the Brazilian context it is possible to affirm that librarians perpetuate the myth of keeping themselves apolitical because of their reluctant or non-existent political participation. It is necessary to encourage such participation.

It is important that librarian be politically active, always attentive to the changes imposed by advances in technology, being receptive to them, and especially developing their creativity. The creative professional will succeed in adapting himself or herself to new information demands from users and from the labor market, since in the future, the one element that will not be avaiable on computer s, no matter how intelligent they are, will be creativity so essential for the survival of the information specialist. According to Schuman (1992), no machine can compete with creativity, a thirst for knowledge and the flexibility of an authentic librarian who is conscious of his or her professional responsibility to provide interpersonal interaction, to evaluate information, to communicate, to synthesize and to make judgments, the role of the librarian in the author's view is to distinguish between data and info rmation, between facts and knowledge. Libraries must be concerned not only with the "what"and "how", but with "why". Access means more than mere locating. It means linking up ideas and persons. The challenge of librarians is precisely to add something to the information offered to the user, or to provide correct answers. In addition to this, it is important to know how to help the user to correct ly phrase his or her questions.

Regarding technological advances, the political contribution of the librarian must be based on the principle that the appearance and establishing of a new technology lacks the support of society in proportion to its expectations and its level of knowledge. Along this route, the conditions for development of society itself will indicate its possibilities for absorbing new technologies and its leve l of understanding of the value of such absorption in terms of scientific and technological progress. This also provides an excellent opportunity for librarians. This is the time for broadening one's professional perspective to keep abreast of the evolution of the information market that will inevitably be taken over by specialists from other fields if librarians do not know how to fill the position with the effective competence that is required by the new times in which we live.

The librarian's profile must be characterized by specific qualities such as that of an agent for change, capable of managing information resources with the skill required by the quaternary information sector. Jean Jacques Schreiber, in his book The World Challenge affirmed that "management capability is the most creative of all the arts. It is the art of arts, since it is the art of organizing talent" (Schreiber, 1980). According to the same author, "management is the means by which social, economic, technological and political changes, all human transformations can be rationally organized and distrib uted througout the social body" (Schreiber, 1980).

The role to be played by the librarian grows in importance and responsibility grows along with it. Managing in the 21st century will be more than ever the meeting of imagination with reality. Here, creativity and dialetic are most important. Creativity leads to innovation. It is the practical application of ideas, the conversion of imagination into reality, of an inventive idea into a product. Di alectic is the capacity to dialogue. Dialogue exercises argumentation and trains the manager in negotiation. Besides developing these skills, the librarian will have to know the scenario in which the institution works, that maintains the information unit under the librarian's care. Everything must be looked at social, and cultural, economic, political, technological, demographic and legal aspects relating to the specific environment. Of equal importance is knowing the organizational culture of the insti tution. Involvement by the behavior of the people with whom he or she will be involved and will help in making decisions, thus facilitating the librarian's pro-active behavior.

Consumption of value added information, its reprocessing and repackaging are aspects that must be better taken advantage of by librarians who are responsible for the supply and provision of information services.

Besides this, the librarian must understand that the use of new information technologies is a very important factor in creating an information society, since it potentializes human capacity to produce new knowledge, expanding in an almost unimaginable way the possibilities for executing new and complex services. In this process of ongoing changes, the librarian will have to make a positive contri bution, performing his or her role so that the information society will go forward in the sense of competency prevailing as a whole with there being any further natural tendency to centralize power. Some countries will be at an advantage with new technologies, others not. Some businessmen will make a fortune, while others go bankrupt. Faced with this dilemma of our era, it is imperative that tech nologies be used in a beneficial way to solve problems and to build a better world. Decisions regarding the choice of the route to be taken will depend mainly on market policies and trends. Any choice will have to consider the understanding of the entire potentiality of the new technologies, taking the welfare of future generations into consideration. It is indispensable, however, that the object ives of this process be concerned with human values, with the purpose of the new technologies being cleary defined, allowing each individual to be aware of the responsibility of his or her role in society. Awareness of professional responsibility will be able to contribute toward achieving the common good, exchanging individuality by community and seeking a better future by means of progress realized through new technologies, and with the conscious perfecting of library services to further social development so that there will be greater opportunity humanity to share love, understanding and world p eace.

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