Part 4 - Papua New Guinea Libraries
by Dr. John Evans - Wewak & Port Moresby, PNG
The book trade (259-262) is also at a formative stage, although substantial printing capacity is available. While there is a Book Council - formed in 1986 - and one of the few developments in this important area of recent years. This Council (263) has yet to make any real contribution but its objectives are ambitious, namely:-
1. To bring together bodies and individuals who have private and professional interest and concern for books.
2. to promote literacy and encourage the reading of books amongst all sections of the population in Papua New Guinea for the purposes of education, information, culture, recreation and inspiration.
3.to assist in the promotion and development of the book industry in all aspects.
4. to foster National, Provincial, Local and Community Government support for the whole book industry and to ensure its freedom from unreliable imposts and restrictions.
5. to encourage the free flow of books.
6. to cooperate and liaise with members of the national and international book world.
As there are numerous other agencies involved a Book Sector Study would be an extremely useful exercise in Papua New Guinea in order to determine the actual facts and allow for progress. A book development policy could also be an issue. There is no dearth of demand it seems a question of getting existing authors into better communication with agencies for the publication of their works. In the absence of a sufficient supply of appropriate books, libraries have developed extensive donations networks. (264-265) Currently there is no copyright in PNG. The issue of censoship is sometimes in the limelight as provisions are strict. (268-270)
Although often discussed libraries in the country have not been noticeable contributors to the literacy effort (271-278). Literacy is a very major item on the current and future national agenda. A Literacy and Awareness Programme has been launched by the government and a Literacy and Awareness Council constituted. The concerns of this are in assisting people to make sense of their lives, to maintain family, community and national solidarity, and to increase the peoples ability to participate in government and the feel part of the development process. The aims are:-
1. To increase literacy
2. To develop a management structure, patterns of operation and materials
3. to integrate local knowledge and awareness of information to increase interest in and understanding of changes
4. to promote community participation in development and government
5. to document all existing and proposed literacy and awareness activities at both the government and NGO level
6. Rationalize all existing and proposed literacy and awareness activities at both the government and NGO level for maximum efficiency.
Libraries however are not mentioned in the Literacy and Awareness Programme, due perhaps to their traditional orientation to the literate population and therefore to printed materials.
At the same time, literacy and book production programmes need to be complemented by programmes spearheaded by libraries to inculcate the reading habit. School and public libraries play an especially important role in this respect. Unless the reading habit (279) is well inculcated, the literate, especially the new literates could lapse into illiteracy. If such lapses assume significant proportions, either because of the lack of libraries, suitable reading materials or a failure to inculcate the reading habit, the Literacy and Awareness Programme will be fighting a losing battle. The effectiveness of the public library development programme in Papua New Guinea will be closely linked and to some extent dependent upon the literacy programme and the production of reading and information material in the major local languages as well as in English - this includes simplified books as well as wide ranging use of media. (280)
Current information on Papua New Guinea material is available in the Papua New Guinea National Bibliography.(281-284) The production of this has been the responsibility of the National Library Service since 1981. Before that the New Guinea Bibliography was published by the University of Papua New Guinea.
One major effect of the change over has been a reduction in geographical scope, as Irian Jaya and the Solomon Islands were included in the New Guinea Bibliography. The Papua New Guinea Bibliography now includes only items published or produced in Papua New Guinea. Frequency is now two issues a year, as a result of this reduced coverage. It is produced by the Bibliographic Services Section of the Technical Services Branch, AACR2 and DDC standards are used. A Cataloguing In Publication Service is being promoted.
All titles in the bibliography are available at the Papua New Guinea Collection at the National Library. Legal deposit provisions have only just become available.
Of a retrospective nature is the New Guinea Bibliography in 4 volumes (19 -plus an index volume (1990). This has been produced by the University of Papua New Guinea library as part of the Papua New Guinea Information network project. It is an attempt to list in subject order all the monographs, pamphlets, theses, reports, government documents, seminar papers, journals, which were published either in New Guinea or which deal with Papua New Guinean or Irian Jayan topics - material up to the end of 1983 is included. Most of material is available in the New Guinea Collection at the university. Material not held there has locations given.
There is a serials directory and guides to sources are being produced. Baker has noted some of the older bibliographies that are available. As with much else here there is every prospect for an enterprising bibliographer to improve on what is available. Sir John Yocklunn has discussed the availability and the potential of resource sharing in a number of papers. (285-289)
With regards the adaption of cataloguing standards, a series of interesting working papers has been produced. These have been written in the main by Fraiser McConnell has also been active in ensuring far better provision for Papua New Guinea within the Dewey Decimal Classification. (290-297). The same author is also responsible for an useful guide to information sources on Papua New Guinea.
Numerous problems have been identified at a recent seminar (299) with regards to information services, including library services. These may be summarized as follows:-
-A vacuum has been created by the closing of the Office of Information and Extension Services. This had been compounded by subsequent events.
-There is a lack of clear objectives for services leading to an inability to plan or identify core issues and appropriate strategies, channels and levels of communication
-There is a low priority for information and subsequent neglect and a lack of policy support.
-Despite a lack of interest in improved services there was also interference in services from the political masters and the need to obtain higher level approval (which was not all that easily obtained).
-Infrastructure was ineffective and inappropriate.
-There was duplication of resources and an accompanying lack of co-operation and coordination and communication amongst those providing services.
-Extension service and face to face work was either not being done or being done on an ad-hoc basis. As a result officers were talking down to people and liaison officers were not contributing fully.
-Distribution of printed materials and also of oral information was often poor so that some of what was being made available was just not being passed on.
-This was a ear oriented rather than a reading society; in addition the oral system had its own characteristics, favoured rumours and was prone to abuse.
-There was a lack of evaluation and research.
-Problems were faced with the nature of material available, propaganda, foreign and uninformative matter, a lack of timeliness, and television and video programmes that affected literacy and other development.
-Ineffective, old fashioned and inappropriate methods of information dissemination and inadequate processing of information for use and the level of jargon used.
-Within Government reports and policies were being produced but not being fully debated making it very difficult to inform people about them.
In addition the following problems had been identified at workshops within the library community (224):-
-Difficulty with level and availability of training; problems in getting access to management and communications courses.
-Large sections of the community not catered for by the present pattern of services, noticeably rural dwellers, the handicapped, blind (see 300), plantation workers and the illiterate.
-Library promotion and marketing a low key activity. As a result people were not aware of services and a good image could not be provided.
-Lack of knowledge of organization and operations within the library; no knowledge of where to buy books locally, of how to start a library, catalogue maintenance, library security and circulation problems.
-Problems with book stocks and equipment, with shortage and outdated materials; lack of catalogues and funds; equipment unsuited to conditions; irrelevance of many children's books and textbooks to the local situation.
-An overall lack of planning and a noticeable lack of cooperation or even interaction amongst libraries.
-Lack of support for libraries, from teachers, provincial governments and the respective education departments.
-Lack of assessment of failures and of user study; more consideration needed for resource sharing; need for long term objectives and the most effective use of government assistance.
The previous article on Papua New Guinea in this encyclopedia ends on this note:-
"The basic structure of a library system has been bequeathed by Australia - the challenge now remains of turning this structure to meet the needs of an independent Papua New Guinea." (301)
Intervening years have seen a growth in services, but no inherent change in direction. Discussion on role and purpose has taken place at conferences particularly (302-306), but there has yet to be a "Melanesian way" for libraries. Philosophical and theoretical attitudes have always been a weakness in the field and in such an unfamiliar situation are unlikely to develop rapidly. Similarly the direction for the profession (and its localization) and association activities is worth more discussion than it occasionally receives. (307-317)
There is considerable potential for enhancement of library services in the country and despite setbacks some development of the infrastructure is taking place. While the percentage of expenditure on libraries is not high in overall terms a substantial amount of money is devoted to library related matters in Papua New Guinea. There are numerous programmes under development by government that have an information component and these are likely to increase and should command the attention of the library community. However, as the higher education plan exercise shows, it is very likely that libraries will be ignored or bypassed. There is expected to be a major expansion of educational provision at all levels. If this expansion is to prove purposeful in terms of quality as well as quantity the opportunities for libraries is very considerable.
There are however glaring weaknesses as recent reports have indicated. There are remedies for improvement and the promulgation of the policy should be a great boost for the sector as a whole, given adequate means for the implementation of policy. Great faith in placed in legislation by the Office of Libraries and Archives. The question remains as to how highly centralized approaches, and ill resourced, approaches are to work in decentralized society. Neither will faith will not replace the need for detailed planning.(318) Nor will it improve professional attitudes and induce real leadership rather than an imposed hegemony.
Unfortunately the following observations still apply, and seem likely to apply for sometime longer until a broader base of support is developed or that a higher levels are sufficiently interested in information issues to create proper structures, with plans and resources for phased improvement.
"Attempts at initiating cooperative ventures are regarded with suspicion because the individuals concerned regard each other as potential rivals. Those with similar qualifications working in the same field regard anything achieved by anyone else as a threat to their own position in this imaginary but fierce struggle for survival. It is very rare indeed to come across anyone prepared to subordinate his own interests to some broader social goal." (319)
"[Libraries] will not change until those in positions of leadership responsibility recognize that to bring about change is their responsibility. Not until the effectiveness and the contribution of the organization is seen as the responsibility of leadership rather than the rationalization of inadequacy will change become possible."(320)
Book development | Bibliography in Papua New Guinea | Issues and concerns | Conclusions | return to Part 1 | return to Part 2 | return to Part 3
by Dr. John Evans - Wewak & Port Moresby, PNG
Contact us by email John Evans, PNGSite design www.metrotown.info and www.servicematrix.com
John Evans - 2002
Note 1 - This is a draft of an article that later appeared in Encyclopaedia of Library and Information Science, vol. 70. There are numerous differences and errors that were corrected later - so for citation you should refer to the print version. As the print version is hard to find in developing country libraries - this draft article is being made available on www.pngbuai.com by the author