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63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Programme and Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997

An Annotated Guide to Current National Bibliographies, 2d edition

Barbara Bell
The College of Wooster,
Ohio, USA


An Annotated Guide to Current National Bibliographies , second edition, (AGCNB) is in progress and should be completed soon. New national bibliography titles in the last ten years which were not in the first edition will be included– a few of these are China, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Zäire, and Greece (although some had substitutes described in the first edition). In the last ten years since the publication of the first edition there have been many factors affecting national bibliographies. Two factors discussed are the geo-political changes in the world and automation advances. Over 20 new titles are included in the AGCNB , second edition, because of the breakup of the former USSR; the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Ethiopia. Germany and Yemen have reunited. Namibia has become independent and has just published its first national bibliography in April 1997. Title changes have occurred because of political changes in Romania, Lithuania, and Bulgaria, for example. Automation has brought new format possibilities for national bibliographies. In particular, CD-ROM has developed in the last decade since the first edition of AGCNB . Improvements within the last ten years which stem from the International Congress on National Bibliographies recommendations can be seen in national bibliographies from countries such as Venezuela, Albania, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, and Syria. The problems of frequency of publication, effective legal deposit legislation, and timely distribution continue to plague some national bibliographies. Area specialists are forced to look for other more timely sources if a national bibliography is repeatedly delayed. Because of political and economic instability some exemplary national bibliographies are in hiatus. It is suggested that for some countries, the loaning of a staff member from a twinning library, or a fellowship from a national or international organization may be an impetus for getting a national bibliography back on track. National bibliographies help with a county's internal bibliographic control as well as help to create a network of universal bibliographic control.


I have been asked to report on the status of the second edition of An Annotated Guide to Current National Bibliographies which has been in progress since 1995. It is nearing completion. As with some projects the subject is constantly evolving. However, this book is the first to compile and analyze the world's regional national bibliographies, current national bibliographies, and any suitable substitutes together in one title, providing an analytical description and comments.

Why is a second edition needed? Since 1986, the publication date of the first edition, the world has changed in ways which have had a great effect on national bibliographies. I want to mention two out of several influences which have had particular direct effects.

During the last ten years, geo-political changes have been phenomenal! The two Germanys have reunited, and the former USSR has split into the Russian Federation and about 15 independent states. Yugoslavia has several new divisions, Czechoslovakia has divided into two parts, as has Ethiopia with the independence of Eritrea, and Yemen has reunited-- to name a few examples. All of these changes affect many things, one of the effects being the recording of publications within a country's political boundaries. Whereas, the former USSR had one official title which included representative publications from all of its geographic regions, now there are about 15 titles to locate and describe. I hesitate to say "new" titles since many were regional bibliographies which now have become distinct "national bibliographies." But as far as I can determine, no one else has recorded what is going on "bibliographically" in each of these newly independent states. Therefore, my second edition has undertaken to analyze and describe these "new" national bibliographies.

The second major influence on current national bibliographies in the last ten years has been the use of automation, electronic technology, and new bibliographic services that have become and are becoming available. Rapid change has been the norm in this area. These changes have affected how libraries present their information and contribute to bibliographic control through their national bibliography. In some countries, the term "national bibliography" has evolved to "national bibliographic services" and may no longer include a printed bibliography! In many countries, the national bibliography information is available in several formats.

Gathering new information

My methodology for the first edition was to locate and examine the national bibliographies and analytically describe these titles. My support group was the subject or area specialist in libraries I visited. For this second edition, I wanted to include additional information (such as OCLC numbers, automation, formats, etc.), update information (e.g., new legal deposit laws, new enhancements in the national bibliography), add new countries, and include future plans within a country's bibliographic world. To do this, I needed once more to examine the most current national bibliography available from each country. In addition, I sent newly drafted entries to national libraries of countries and asked that the director or the appropriate person verify that the information was accurate. In a cover letter I also asked questions to clarify specific problem areas, asked if I had cited the most recent legal deposit law, and asked what changes they planned for the national bibliography in the near future. The responses have been overwhelming and very helpful. The national libraries are grateful for interest in their national bibliography, are pleased to be included, and have provided additional bibliographic information. This approach provided them with a chance to explain, for example, that the bibliography was late for two years while the bibliography was being automated. With each national library's additional review this second edition is more comprehensive and its contents have been enhanced. Furthermore, it has verified my work at the source.

I am including many new national bibliography titles which were not in the first edition– a few of these are China, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Zaïre, and Greece (although some of these had substitutes described in the first edition). The majority of new titles to the second edition are the results from the break-up of the former USSR. These are newly described in this book since I did not include titles which covered a division or specific area within a country in the first edition. Anyone who is a specialist in Slavic Studies can appreciate the complexity of this investigation!

In addition, some countries in other parts of the world have established independence and have begun new national bibliographies, such as Namibia with its independence in 1990. The first issue of their national bibliography was published in early 1997, and officially launched on April 16. Several countries had a title change in the national bibliography because of political changes, e.g., Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Lithuania.

In the second edition, improvements are noted as national bibliographies comply with ICNB recommendations. Some examples are that Venezuela has now added the ISSN; Albania and Bulgaria are now organized by UDC and not by 20+ subject classes, and have added enhancements such as ISSN; Bangladesh is assigning individual numbers to books rather than classifying by groups, and has improved its indexing; Iran has DDC and LC numbers listed; Syria has added a periodicals section since 1985; and Uruguay added an abbreviations list and an introduction, to name a few.

Some countries, such as Singapore, Norway, and Sweden, have new legal deposit laws which include materials in new formats.

While these new titles and developments are encouraging, there are some exemplary national bibliographies which are in hiatus or are now defunct. This is discouraging. Some countries have seen no activity in the last ten years. In corresponding with librarians in the country, most are optimistic that when times are better politically or economically, they will again be able to continue the title. One example is Fiji which had a national bibliography following ICNB recommendations. Their publications are included in the regional South Pacific Bibliography, but it is sad to see FNB in hiatus. Several countries in Africa, the Caribbean, in Latin America, and elsewhere have seen no recent bibliographic activity--e.g., Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Guyana.

As one would expect, automation has had an impact on national bibliographic services and the format of the national bibliography. It is a rare country which has not seen some changes in this area; if not in the last ten years, it may be coming in the near future. For the most part, automation has improved the quality, timeliness, and access to bibliographic information. New features enhance the national bibliography, including indexes where there were none, or MARC records in a classified listing which replaces a pre-AACR2 bibliographic format listed in an alphabetical sequence. Not all automated changes can be accommodated or accessed easily, particularly in Third World countries. It will be interesting to see if countries who have their national bibliography only available in CD-ROM format will see an increase or decrease in the use of the title. In my own research, I had a problem locating research libraries that now carry the CD-ROM version of a title which previously came in paper or microfiche. Libraries were unaware that the continuation of the paper title was in a CD-ROM format. The subscription to a national bibliography on CD-ROM usually costs a great deal more than the paper, and access is available only to those who have the equipment and technology. Libraries without CD-ROM readers do not have access to the CD-ROM information. Here the inequalities between rich and poor countries seem to be ignored.

Common problems

A number of common problems remain much the same as with the first edition. While some countries have used automation to increase the frequency and timeliness of their national bibliography, there are still countries for which the frequency of publication is not as often as the ICNB recommendations suggests or as often as the country has stated in their introduction. Legal deposit legislation may not be as effective as needed, and does not include enforcement clauses. Distribution continues to be a problem in some countries, especially distribution to other countries. Batched mailings of all issues for the year cause delays for libraries to place orders for new titles. Mailing individual issues as they are published would help in timely book ordering especially if the national bibliography is the only source of bibliographic information. Titles may go out-of-print before libraries know of its existence. I have become increasingly aware that area specialists, particularly in Latin America and in Africa, can not rely solely on national bibliographies for acquisitions. The main reason is the lack of timeliness in coverage and distribution. They have had to find publisher contacts and catalogues, and reliable, timely bibliographic sources, wherever possible, to purchase titles from developing countries before a print run is depleted. All of these problems are usually directly tied to the economy and the current political atmosphere of a country.

Concluding remarks

Throughout my research and revisions, it is clear that national bibliographies are held to be important within the country. It serves as a cooperative tool in cataloguing within libraries of that country, as an acquisitions tool, and as an historical record for libraries in and out of the country. Political and economic developments continue to have a decisive influence on a national bibliography. Legal deposit legislation has been upgraded in a number of countries to include non-print materials and enforcement clauses. Automation has had a major impact on national bibliographies. Automation not only covers the spectrum of entering information into a database but also enables manipulation of information for the spin-off of products available in other new or different formats.

Many countries have met the recommendations drawn up in 1977 for mostly printed national bibliographies. It will be interesting to see what recommendations will be forthcoming from the International Conference on National Bibliographic Services (Copenhagen, 1998) that will include recommendations for new automated products and services.

I will conclude with this thought: If a country experiencing difficulties could be provided encouragement and assistance which would be devoted to a specific task and perhaps a "loaned" staff member through a "twinned library" or a "fellowship" from an organization or association for the purpose of getting the national bibliography published and distributed in a timely fashion or to begin a national bibliography or a regional bibliography, this could provide an international impetus needed to enhance the global sharing of resources and to achieve a greater universal bibliographic control. The international library community should work toward cooperative means to realize this end.