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

IFLA section on bibliography: report of activities, 1996/97

Ross Bourne
Chair, Section on Bibliography


The aim of the Section on Bibliography is to promote bibliographic activities in both theory and practice. In its 1992-1997 Medium-Term Programme the Section expressed this aim as follows: by (a) establishing a forum for the discussion of questions concerning the principles of different types of bibliography, especially national bibliography, and by (b) setting guidelines and recommendations for the improvement of national bibliographic control and the international exchange of bibliographic information, taking into account the effect of new technologies, the state of development of different countries and of users' needs.

Amongst the goals set by the Section for 1992-1997 were (a) the improvement of national bibliographic control, (b) the improvement of bibliographic control of national and international grey literature, (c) the study of the effectiveness of bibliographic services in relationship to users' needs and (d) the promotion of bibliographic knowledge amongst both experienced and inexperienced users, including librarians. These were ambitious aims, and I would not pretend that they have all been achieved, but at successive conferences the Section has covered such topics as books-in-print catalogues, the quality of bibliographic services, the bibliographic control of minority languages, the application of CD-ROM technology to the production of national bibliographies and international standards in authority data control. The Section has undertaken surveys of new production methods and the technological gap, has contributed to work on professional terminology being compiled by the Section on Education and Training and has co-operated with other sections within the Division of Bibliographic Control and with the UBCIM Core Programme in the organisation of international seminars outside the conference week, for example in Rio and Bucharest in 1993 and in Vilnius in 1994. The Section has also taken the lead in planning for a major conference on national bibliographic services to be held in Copenhagen in 1998. However, in this report of the Section on Bibliography's activities, I want to concentrate on just two areas of work which have occupied standing committee members during the last year, a survey of relationships between national bibliographic agencies and the forthcoming Medium-Term Programme. But first, something about the composition of the Section.

There are about 90 IFLA members registered for the Section. More than half of those members, 56%, come from Europe; a further 21% are from Asia, 10% from North America and the remaining 13% from Africa, Australasia and Latin America and the Caribbean. I do not know how these figures compare with other IFLA sections, but I am not unhappy about the relatively large Asian representation, which may have something to do with the fact that during the last 20 years IFLA has met five times in Asia, a proportion not too different from that of our Asian members. The lack of African members is to be regretted, however; IFLA has met just once in Africa over that same period, but one would hope that IFLA will return there one day and a corresponding increase in African members take place.

The report of my survey of the relationships between national bibliographic agencies and the book trade was published in International Cataloguing and Bibliographic Control earlier this year. [1] To summarise the conclusions of that survey (which was based on a questionnaire distributed to 135 national bibliographic agencies around the world and which asked a number of questions on such matters as CIP, ISBNs and ISSNs, books-in-print and legal deposit), it would appear that most agencies are anxious to improve and develop those relationships, and indeed to take the lead. Relationships are most likely to flourish when there is already a tradition of co-operation, for example with standard numbering systems. The survey suggested, however, that Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) is less popular than might have been supposed, and the report recommended that the value of CIP might perhaps be re-examined. The report also suggested that more co-operation should take place in the production of Books-in-Print catalogues. However, it was clear from the survey that strong inter-sectoral relationships are the exception rather than the rule, and it is to be hoped that this Section will look a little more closely into ways in which better relationships can be fostered, possibly through the development of guidelines which could assist agencies in countries where a tradition of dialogue has yet to be established.

The new Medium-Term Programme has not been finalised at the time of writing. However, the scope of the Section's work was agreed at last year's conference, and reads thus:

The Section on Bibliography is primarily concerned with the content, arrangement, production, dissemination and preservation of bibliographic information, especially (but not exclusively) where these pertain to national bibliographic services. It is also concerned with the promotion of the importance of the discipline of bibliography to library professionals in all types of library (not just national libraries), to publishers, distributors and retailers and also to end users. While taking full account of technological possibilities, the Section is aware that such developments are not yet available in some areas of the world, and it will ensure that its solutions are not necessarily dependent on particular technologies. The Section is closely associated, where appropriate, not only with the other sections within the Division of Bibliographic Control and with the UBCIM Programme, but also with the Sections on Information Technology and of National Libraries.

The Standing Committee is currently discussing how that scoping statement should be brought to life during the four years of the new MTP. I do not want to anticipate how that discussion should go, but I would hope that existing good relations with other sections within this division and with the UBCIM Programme will continue. I would also hope that although the impact of the Internet will obviously be a major factor in this Section's work over the next four years, it will not be allowed to obscure our obligations to those parts of the world which have yet to experience this particular revolution.

The next standing committee will have two new officers. I wish them well for their terms of office, and I hope they will get as strong support as I have during my time with this Section.

1. "National bibliographic agencies and the book trade", International Cataloguing and Bibliographic Control, vol. 26 (1), January/March 1997, pp. 12-14.