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Libaries in Papua New Guinea [history, legislation and national services-institutions]

by Dr. John Evans
Wewak & Port Moresby, PNG

The article builds on the one provided by Leigh Baker for volume 21 of this Encyclopedia in 1977. The significant changes since then form the basis of this new contribution. Unfortunately, much of the potential of libraries in the country remains untapped and the progress reported is often "on paper" and a long way from implementation. Libraries in Papua New Guinea provide traditional services, and little in the way of active information service exists. This account, therefore, covers libraries in the main. The arrangement of the previous article has been used wherever possible for ease of cross reference.

| Office of Libraries and Archives | Legislation | National Library Service | go to Part 2 of this article | go to Part 3 of this article | go to Part 4 of this article - CONCLUSION | go to Part 5 Notes & References |


The Independent State of Papua New Guinea - it gained independence from Australia in 1978- forms the eastern part of the island of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world. It lies north of Australia and shares a land border with the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. It extends from 141 degrees E to 156 degrees E longitude and from just south of the equator to almost 12 degrees south in latitude. The large land mass with a massive interior mountain chain, is fringed with islands to the north and east. The total land area is some 462,000 square kilometers. The marine area is a further 3,120,000 square kilometers including the exclusive economic zone. (1)

Human arrival on the island may date to some 50,000 B.C., and the colonial interlude began in 1828 for the western New Guinea with the Dutch and 1884 for eastern New Guinea, divided by Britain and Germany. Currently it is a parliamentary democracy, with the British sovereign as head of state, represented by a Governor-General elected by the National Parliament. There is also a level of 19 elected provincial governments and a system of over 160 local government councils. Changes currently mooted would tend to indicate a diminution of the elected provincial system in favour of an enhanced local Government system.

The projected citizen population from the 1990 Census is 3,511,700 and a growth rate since 1980 of 2.3%. Some believe that under counting present in that figure may leave the real total for 1990 at 4.04 million, and a 2.6% growth rate. It is estimated that the population will reach 5.5 million by 2010. Throughout there will be a high proportion (40% in 1990) in the under 15 age group. This is coupled with a relatively short life expectancy (54.9 in 1990).

Few are to be found in the formal wage sector (9.7% in 1980) and the limited opportunities result in high levels of unemployment for those whose expectations have been raised by the educational system. A further 25.7% are in informal money raising activities. The vast majority of the population live, and will continue to live in the rural areas, it being noted that some 85% of the people live in the rural villages, mostly small containing 70-100 people. Many of urban centres are far from extensive as in Papua New Guinea anything above 500 persons is so denominated. Urban drift and squatter settlements are very much the norm for the larger cities. Population density is low (9 per sq. km.) and much of this scattered population is hard to reach, with physical geography presenting enormous problems and a limited road system (of some 19,000 km.). Communication to many parts is by air only to others by ship. A feature of an isolating environment is that populations have been isolated resulting in great linguistic and cultural diversity. Population density is low and only 7% of the country is used for agriculture on a regular basis. Some 70% of the land is estimated to be unsuitable for major development in the near future. Few citizens lack entitlement to land and about 97% of land is still traditionally owned and often unregistered. Mobilization of land for infrastructure and other projects is fraught with difficulty.

Communication is assisted to some extent by the use of English as the language of officialdom and the education system and by the existence of two general linguae franche, Police Motu and Pidgin English. In addition:-

"Of the nations 717 vernacular languages, approximately one third of the national population speak the 20 most populated ones. Approximately one fourth of the population speak the 10 most populated vernaculars. No less than one sixth of the nation's people speak the top five."(2)

The education system is complex and has been subject to change. The Government has an eventual goal of providing a basic education for all children up to Grade 6 via community schools. In 1984 there were 2,297 of these community schools, 56% operated by the churches and 44% by Government. With luck a child will enter Grade one at a community school,with an entry age of 7 years. Statistics indicate,however,that only some 90% of boys and 76% of girls at this age will enter the schools. In some areas where schools are only just opening parents may enrol older children first.Grade 1 may then consist of a considerable proportion of over sevens and estimates of seven year olds enrolled could drop to 60%. While some children do not enter school,another problem is a substantial drop-out rate after entry (the percentage retention rate from Grade 1 to 6 was 68% for 1984). Participation in community schooling varies by region,being far greater in the Island provinces than in the Highland areas; rates vary from urban to rural(from almost 100% down to 40%).

Beyond the community school lie the provincial high schools,of which there were 113 in 1985. Here grades 7- 10 are taught. This sector,as have community schools has undergone great expansion since Independence. Their distribution now favours previously disadvantaged areas. Again Government and Churches are involved in providing these schools. Only one out of every three Grade 6 students enter the provincial high schools. Beyond this there is another layer,the National High School,which takes students for Grade 11 and 12. In addition other vocational colleges draw from the Grade 10 group. However the placement rate for Grade 10 is dropping alarmingly and was 46% only in 1984. Unemployed school-leavers are a common feature of society. Only 9.5% of Grade 10 leavers are selected for the National High Schools. At a tertiary level there are two Universities and many small colleges in different fields of study. The Universities draw from the Grade 12 pool of school leavers.

During 1992 the new Government has promised considerable expansion of the education system, with the aim of increasing access. The prospects of an increasing strain on the system is also inevitable.

In addition to these institutions there are also international schools operating at primary and high school level. A College of Distance Education caters for those who wish to study for grades 7-10 by correspondence. There are also University Extension Centres which provide classes towards university matriculation as well as some subjects towards degree study. Some emphasis is also placed on Non-formal education with 92 Vocational Training Centres and numerous projects of various kinds at provincial level - with very limited funding, unfortunately.

Another source has clearly set out the groups who not been reached by the education system,as follows:-

- 2/3 of adults who are illiterate
- 28% of children who do not start community school
- 54% of children who do not finish community school
- 84% who do not attend provincial high schools
- 95% who do not receive some form of higher education
- those who do not receive non-formal education
- the handicapped & impaired.

Disproportionately the unserved are rural, females, adult village dwellers, though there are other significant groups such as urban youths. (3)

Barriers to the flow of information within the country appear to be difficult physical environment, parochial sense of identity, numerous cultural patterns, vast numbers of languages often without written form, uneven social and educational development, use of a foreign language as a medium of school instruction, lack of vernacular literature, lack of professionally trained personnel in all fields.(4) To this list may be added a lack of co-ordination amongst the various agencies providing information.

The Papua New Guinea economy is strongly dualistic in nature, consisting as it does of an enclave mining sector and a large and high wage public sector in coexistence with the bulk of the population reliant on subsistence agriculture. Output growth has been slow in comparison with population growth since independence. Real GDP per capita increasing only marginally over those years. Papua New Guinea's growth has lagged behind comparable developing countries and developing countries in general. This low level of economic development is disappointing given the abundance of natural resources; the substantial growth of the mining sector, and the high level of Australian aid. Recent trouble in the mining industry, and the closure of the Bougainville copper mine in particular has caused additional problems for the economy. There is likely to be little marked improvement until 1993-95 when new mines and oil and gas fields come into operation. (5)

Libraries in Papua New Guinea

-Sources of information
The last account of Papua New Guinea libraries appeared in this encyclopedia in 1977.(6) This provides a concise history, which need not be repeated, and an overall chronological summary is given here in Table 1. Major events shown in this table are described in more detail in the text. Other comprehensive general accounts are equally outdated. (7-8) There is an increasing amount of thesis work being done.(9-16) A few slim volumes have appeared from the Administartive College when it was home to Library Studies. (17-18) but more recent overviews have been brief. (19-22) There have been numerous articles on particular aspects of library development in the country, mostly appearing in Tok Tok Bilong Haus Buk: Journal of Papua New Guinea Library Association - which has unfortunately not been published since 1988. However, the appearance of a compilation of papers presented at recent conferences does help to fill the gap.(23) The Association also has produced a bibliography (24) and directories. (25-27). The most complete statistical information is that in the 1986 directory. Another, later, directory was issued by the National Library in 1992. (28) This shows far fewer libraries as a result of the paucity of information collected.

The best statistical summary that can be provided from such sources is given in Table 2. Table 3 provides a further view of the increase in the number of libraries and compares figures derived from the directories produced by the Papua New Guinea Library Association.

As can be seen from Table 1 printing in Papua New Guinea started during the early part of colonialisation by missionaries and Government.(29) A reading room for the few officials and white residents of Port Moresby "where the Times,the illustrated papers,the leading Australian papers and a few periodicals can be seen" was another early feature (30). Possibly the motivation here was to provide some alternative to drink, to which the early colonists were inordinately attached - the motive was behind similar developments in Fiji. A Library Institute Hall existed from 1914 (31) and this,interestingly enough, is now the home of the Port Moresby public library-replacing the library at Ela Beach which burnt down in 1986. The development of libraries continued with a Public Library Service provided by the Commonwealth Library Service in 1936. This underwent quite substantial development to the extent that Avafia writing in 1974 was impressed by the service and could speak of a highly centralized service of 24 country-wide branches. (2) This service was based on the Western model of public librarianship and was felt by commentators as being mainly for the expatriate community and the Papua New Guinean elite. Others had, however, attempted to provide another service which had the needs of a broader spectrum of the population in mind. The village library scheme that began in 1949 (32) reflects an early, and not unsuccessful, attempt at the kind of provision which is still the subject of much discussion today.

Tertiary institutions developed during the 1960's. These generally have a positive attitude to libraries and in most developing countries these libraries are the most significant ones. This is certainly the case in Papua New Guinea and good libraries exist to serve Goroka Teachers College, University of Papua New Guinea, Administrative College of Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea University of Technology at Lae. Training of librarians within the country also dates from the 1960's and are outlined under education for librarianship below. A further important stage is reached when the Papua New Guinea Library Association was founded. Previously the professional link was to the Library Association of Australia which had a Papua New Guinea branch.

An idea floated at meetings of Papua New Guinea Library Association and its predecessor was that of a National Library Service. This idea was taken up by Government and worked on by an Interdepartmental Committee. The recommendations of this Committee (33) were accepted by the Papua New Guinea Cabinet and a decision setting up the National Library Service was made in January 1975. This decision also set up a Library Council of Papua New Guinea which first met in November 1976. During 1975 decisions were reached by Australia to provide a National Library building as an independence gift. This was duly erected and opened in 1978. More detail on these developments is given below. 1978 saw the decentralization of public library responsibility to the provincial governments making the idea of a National Library Service as originally conceived a most difficult one in practice. Another event which may be of consequence is the creation of a Book Council of Papua New Guinea in 1986. Shortly afterwards during 1988 the provision of education for librarianship became a function of the University of Papua New Guinea, allowing long overdue improvements to be made. In 1993, long awaited legislation become available in the form of a Library and Archives Act.

In the context of library history in Papua New Guinea there have been a number of notable reports that are worth singling out for mention as important seminal documents. These were by A. Grenfell-Price (34), Bruce Roberts(35), Harold White(36-37), Harold Bonny(38), and Harold Holdsworth (39). In addition,the contribution of Peter Biskup(40) provides good ideas on what could have been. Since the interest engendered by the work on the creation of the National Library Service of Papua New Guinea (41) in the early-seventies there has been very little else done until recently to further advance the library infrastructure in the country. As a result very little has been achieved in certain sectors:-

"After over sixteen years of independence, Papua New Guinea has slowly built on the library and archives systems inherited from the Australian colonial administration. Most of the growth in libraries, however, has been random and quantitative, and in the field of tertiary and government departmental libraries, where small collections proliferate and a low level of service is provided." (42) Recently two reports have been prepared which do offer further ideas. There have been positive developments on the policy and legislative fronts. A Library Development Plan was commissioned by the Library Council of Papua New Guinea and funded by Unesco in 1990. (32-34) This placed special emphasis on the public library sector and provided major recommendations. It is thought that the implementation of the plan will begin after the National Policy on Libraries and Archives is approved. The plan emphasizes that Papua New Guinea has the major ingredients for library development but that considerable strengthening of the infrastructure is needed particularly for the public library sector. Given the very limited resources of the National Library and the inadequacies of the present public library services the major information resources of Papua New Guinea are to be found in the country's higher education institutions. Here there are collection strengths and centres of excellence but these are often not widely used or known outside the institutional user community. Another important document for the enhancement of the library infrastructure is a report commissioned by the Commission for Higher Education into libraries in the Higher Education sector. This report is entitled "Library development, resource sharing and networking among higher education institutions in Papua New Guinea". (35-36)

National institutions

Office of Libraries and Archives

While the issue of creating an Office of Libraries is raised in the Interdepartmental Report, the National Library Service has come under the Ministry of Education. Only in June 1990, did the National Executive Council (Papua New Guinea's Cabinet) approved in Decision 118/90:-
-the establishment of an Office of Libraries and Archives, headed by a Director who reports directly to a designated Minister, and
-the drafting of the National Library & Archives Bill

This new Office is intended to carry out the role of co-ordinating, directing and planning libraries and archives development in the country. Initially, the National Library and the National Archives will be the major components of the Office.

Within the Office the functions of the Director - General, as stated in the Act of 1993, are:-

-to manage, control and direct the affairs of the Office;

-to co-ordinate the planning and implementation of a national policy on libraries, archives and information services;

-to encourage and promote the publication and display of appropriate materials by the Office;

-to administer grants to promote the Office and to advise government on the allocation of priorities for projects funded by outside agencies;

-to undertake the necessary consultation and liaison to ensure that the functions of the Office are carried out effectively and efficiently;

-and such other functions as are given to him under this Act or any other law.

-and to act on behalf of the government in relation to the administration of a trust relating to library and archival materials.

The Director-General has power to approve the allocation of aid assistance to libraries and archives in order to assist national library and archival development. In addition the Director - General may set and enforce standards for libraries; and from time to time inspect the libraries.


Legislation relating to the Office has only recently passed through Parliament as the Libraries and Archives Act of 1993.(37) The legislation emphasizes the many points of contact felt by the National Library Service to exist between libraries and archives, and provides the necessary statutory powers for the operations of the National Library and National Archives. The legislation was felt to be needed (66) in order:-

-To give the National Library and National Archives a separate legal status in dealing with other departments, organizations, the public, and to establish them as legal entities'

-To define the respective roles and functions of the National Library and National Archives in serving the people of Papua New Guinea.

-To establish the machinery to plan and co-ordinate libraries and archives development in Papua New Guinea, and promote effective co-operation between such services;

-To confer necessary powers to enable the National Library to carry out its many designated functions;

-To provide the powers to enable the National Library to set and enforce standards for libraries, and permit regular inspectional visits;

-To permit the National Library to enter into agency agreements with government instrumentalities to administer their libraries, provided that adequate resources are made available by the requesting office or agency;

-To permit the National Archives to preserve records of permanent value, promote better records keeping practices, ensure proper disposal, lay down rules of access to information, and co-ordinate archives administration.

Legal deposit legislation, which has been much delayed, finds itself as a part of the Act of 1993. The National Library is the official depository for the purposes of this Part of the legislation. The Minister may, by notice in the National Gazette, declare any institution or institutions; or any library or libraries,to which the public has access, to be a depository or depositories for the purposes of this part of the legislation.

The legislation requires that:-

-A publisher carrying on business in Papua New Guinea shall, before releasing a publication for sale, lease or free distribution to the public, deposit with the National Library at his own expense and without request by the National Library, two copies of the publication in an undamaged condition.

-A person importing a new publication into Papua New Guinea which -

(a) deals wholly or substantially with Papua New Guinea subjects; and
(b) is imported in reasonable quantities for sale, lease or free distribution to the public, shall, before releasing the publication for sale, lease or free distribution to the public, deposit with the National Library at his own expense and without request by the National Library, two copies of the publication in an undamaged condition.

-A citizen who is the author of a publication published outside Papua New Guinea shall deposit with the National Library at his own expense and without request by the National Library, two copies of the publication in an undamaged condition.

-The administrative head of a government instrumentality shall, before issuing a government publication, deposit with the National Library at the expense of that government instrumentality and without request by the National Library, two copies of that government publication in an undamaged condition. These provisions do not apply to a government publication which is classified by the administrative head of the government instrumentality issuing it as secret.

-The Director-General may require an author, resident in Papua New Guinea, of an unpublished work; or a composer, resident in Papua New Guinea, of an unpublished score of musical works, which has been performed, to deliver to the National Library at the expense of the author or composer one copy of the work or score of musical works in an undamaged condition.

National Library Service

The National Library Service of Papua New Guinea was set up in 1975 and a major event of the independence celebrations in 1978 was the opening of the National Library building.(38-42) The idea of a National Library such an institution had been raised at a 1972 Conference of the Papua New Guinea Branch of the Library Association of Australia in the paper delivered by Yocklunn and credit is due to an Interdepartmental Committee for the seminal report (23) on the issue in 1974. More recent information on its activities has been provided by McConnell (43) and by the National Library's own comprehensive report for its years 1978 - 1985 (44) - figures given below are from this source. Further reviews of the origins and work of the National Library Service have recently been published, and there promises to be a growing literature. (45, 46) Issues of planning still require attention, for example. (47)

Four collections are maintained under the care of the Reader Services Branch:  reference and general, Papua New Buinea, film, serials. The reference collection shares the same reading room as the general collection which consists mainly of non-fiction plus a small literature collection. Cataloguing is by AACR2 with classification by the latest edition of Dewey. This practice began in 1981 and there are, therefore, some materials from old collections yet to be incorporated into the new catalogues. The familiar library scene of separate card catalogues and sequences of materials, old and new, is expected to remain for a new more years until osmosis is complete. The general collection was originally built up to serve the inter-library loan requirements of the outlying public libraries. However, it was under-utilized in this respect and a lending policy was adopted for the collection in 1984 leading to increased use and in changes to the selection criteria for the collection.

The Papua New Guinea [collection] is of some 25,000 items in various media. The accent is placed on the preservation of these valuable research materials through a controlled environment and no loaning of materials. The topic of the various collections of Papua New Guinea materials is an interesting one. This is no place to digress on the riches contained in these but descriptions are available. (48-52)

Most of the titles received for the Serials Collection go to the Papua New Guinea Collection as emanating from Papua New Guinea or relating to it. Out of the 800 titles received some 360 are maintained on a browsing-lending basis in an area adjacent to the Reference Collection reading room.

The library has a notable collection of films based on that of the former Office of Information. There are some 4000 films and 600 video tapes. Films of Papua New Guinea interest form a separate archival collection. The Film Unit of the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies is a welcome advisor and collaborator in this work. Cine-Vans of the Department of Information and Extension Services once visited communities. Bulk borrowings for film showings in villages were made by the Office of Information up to 1982. After then a lending programme to registered borrowers throughout the country has been operated. While a significant number of films are still despatched this is much less than the years of extension activity (eg. films despatched 1979, 13,939; 1985, 3,369). The collection is fully catalogued. The collections naturally have the relevant services provide to maximize their in-house use. There are also Inter-Library loan services provided by the National Library for the smaller libraries of the nation. The National Library of Australia has provided free computer searching for enquiries of the National Library. The National Library also maintains an union list of serials and published a second edition of this in 1981. (53-55) Exhibitions, tours of the library, film and video shows are important activities. These activities are particularly noticable during special events such as National Book Week.(56-59)

The National Library provides advisory services, via a Government Advisory Services Branch to special libraries, public libraries and schools throughout the country. As such libraries are often one-man bands operate by persons without experience advice is often needed. The Government Advisory Services Branch also deals with the administration of the three National Capital District public libraries that are still be responsibility of the National Library. The School Library Service is also housed at the National Library as a transferee of 1978. There is an integrated Technical Services Branch. Books and library materials are bought (and processed) not only for the central collections but for all provincial public libraries who choose to use the service. The National Library serves as a central agency for donations from organizations such as Asia Foundation, Canadian Organization for Development through Education and the Ranfurly Library Service. Donations form an important source of books for Papua New Guinea Libraries. Thus the ratio of purchases to donations for public libraries in 1985 was 3,476 to 4,757; for the reference/general collection it was 350 to 3,183; and for the Papua New Guinea Collection 224 to 1,203.

Prior to the existence of the National Library Service some of its national functions, the compilation of the national bibliography, maintenance of union list of serials and the development of Papua New Guinea collections were being undertaken by the Universities. While being still actively engaged in the latter the former functions have been transferred. The presumably healthy rivalry between institutions over these matter is illustrated by an exchange of letters in Australian Academic and Research Libraries.(60,61)

While the idea of a National Library Service was readily accepted and got through the Government machinery and became established quite readily,there have been some comments made about the necessity for such a Service in the literature. Baker(62) has questioned the need for a National Library and its contribution to existing library service. The remarkable difficulties of providing a rural library service, the almost complete lack of suitable reading materials, an the inadequacy of the existing government libraries are noted.He comments that,on the positive side, the whole project had created an awareness of library matters amongst government and senior public servants,and that the planned services of telephone reference and postal lending would reach out to unserved areas (though as was noted above the service has been under used). Improved service should lead to a much needed rise in the status of the profession. The National Library Service as an arm of government could press directly for development.

"... the oft proposed Statutory Deposit Act, development of improved bibliographic control, links to overseas data bases, extensions to national information services, development and implementation of national information policies and infrastructures, all of these are possible out comes of an aggressive and wide-ranging approach by the officers of the NLS."(62)

This would appear to be a formidable list for a new institution to achieve. In its own analysis (63) and report the National Library Service listed the factors that prevented it realizing all of its potential as:-

- decentralization of the provincial public libraries in 1978 and their consequent decline. While the NLS continues to provide centralized processing services and advice these services are barely taken up.

- continuing lack of statutory deposit hampers its work as a national depository.

- the NLS has been transferred between ministries, from Ministry of Education, to Ministry of Broadcasting and Information, and back to the Ministry of Education, and thus a lack of consistent ministerial direction and support has been felt.

- staffing reductions, eg. from 62 in 1980 to 53 in 1984, have occurred, awkward recruitment procedures and a shortage of qualified candidates resulting in an inability to run at full strength.

- variable funding, and problem areas within that funding (total budget has varied from K405,914 in 1979 to K695,300 - K134,900 for materials & supplies - in 1985). In 1985 that represented 1.65% of the Education budget and 0.08% of the National budget. The imbalance between funding on the higher education sector K400 available for books per university student) and the schools (K0.34 available for books per community school student) also needed correction. In addition declining purchases by provincial public libraries and government libraries place extra burdens on the limited resources of the NLS. The National Library has suffered phases of variable funding as is clear from figures given in their 7 year report (44) and the amount available to spend on the all important materials and supplies item has remained relatively constant despite significant inflation in prices of books and periodicals over the years (1980-1985).

- a lack of policy on library and information matters requiring urgent attention. (The lack of communication policy in Papua New Guinea having been already made clear by the Information Review Committee)

The Cabinet decision, (11/75) gave six functions for the National Library which are mentioned in the Baker article. This decision provided a basis for the service to operate. From these functions and prior to a longer list being provided by the legislation(66), the responsibilities of the National Library Service have been stated as being:-

- the co-ordination and rationalization of resources and services of government libraries;

-the national collection of Papua New Guinea materials, and the provision of national reference and information services (including computer database services) to assist the development process:

-advisory, information and bibliographic services to libraries of government departments and statutory bodies;

-advisory, centralized processing and bibliographic services to the community, provincial and national high schools;

-public library services in the National Capital; District (comprising of three public libraries);

-national film and video library collection to support both formal and non formal education, and assist in the dissemination of information for development;

-national bibliographic services that facilitate the retrieval and dissemination of information for development, including the Papua New Guinea National Bibliography and the National Union List of Serials;

-preservation of public records od permanent value;

-microfilming and conservation of government records and printed materials;

-ISBN agency;

- coordination of countrywide ASTINFO activities.

The functions, as stated in the legislation, of the National Library Service are:-

-to develop and maintain national collections of library materials, including a comprehensive collection of library materials relating to Papua New Guinea, its people and its resources;

-to maintain and preserve materials acquired by legal deposit;

-to make library materials in the national collections available to such persons and institutions in such manner and subject to such conditions as the Director-General may determine, with a view to making the most advantageous use of those collections in the national interest;

-to co-ordinate the bibliographical services of Papua New Guinea including -

- publication of a national bibliography to include all library materials published in Papua New Guinea; and
- compilation and maintenance of a national union catalogue to facilitate inter-library loan and the sharing of information resources in Papua New Guinea; and
- publication of selective, retrospective, and subject bibliographies as may be appropriate; and
- assistance to national and international bibliographic projects; and
- establishment of national bibliographic standards in compliance with internationally accepted standards regarding bibliographic control of materials; and
- provision of other bibliographic services as deemed appropriate;

- to promote and encourage the organization of library and information services throughout Papua New Guinea;

- to initiate and plan the development and co-ordination of national library and information services, and to enter into agreements in relation to library matters with bodies within and outside Papua New Guinea and

- to set and enforce standards for libraries in Papua New Guinea;

- to encourage the development and maintenance of literacy in Papua New Guinea;

- to promote and to conduct in-service training and short courses in the field of librarianship;

- to encourage and conduct research in librarianship and related fields;

- to provide professional advice and assistance to library staff in any government instrumentality and other organization;

- on request, to provide information services to the National Parliament, authorities, institutions, government instrumentalities and the general public;

- to administer and library run by a government instrumentality when requested by that government instrumentality so to do, provided that adequate resources are made available by that government instrumentality;

- to initiate and promote co-operation between the National Library Service and other institutions in the discharge of the functions stipulated in this section;

- to operate the International Standard Book Number agency for Papua New Guinea; and

- to carry out any other functions necessary for the development and maintenance of library and information services in papua New Guinea.

As may be seen the new legislation gives a considerable number of powers to the National Library Service. The role of the service has been praised by Wright who believes that it has played a significant role in the library scene with activities such as National Book Week (once a Papua New Guinea Library Association activity); publication of a newsletter; fund raising activities through the medium of the Friends of the National Library. (13) Whether it will be able to carry out this encyclopedic list of functions, legislation notwithstanding, could be a matter of doubt, given its lack of progress in the past and its limited resources. This concentration of powers makes the country very dependent on a very centralist agency. There were reservations expressed when the National Library was first mooted and it is doubtful if this debate has been silenced yet. The issue of the role of national libraries in other countries of the Pacific has been the subject of an interesting, if inconclusive, range of articles in a recent issue of the Fiji Library Association Journal. (65). As with many endeavours there is a sense of missed opportunities. As Timil Lyakin states:- "Australia was very wise, perhaps far wiser than any other colonizers, to give us what is now our National Library as part of her independence gift. In so doing, she has taught us how to hunt and generously given us the hunting gear. If we had been wise over the past 11 years since she offered us the hunting gear, we would by now be partly self-sufficient using the gear."(67)

Thus, even the important event of the opening of the National Library was to an extent negatived by events that took place in the same year, when important changes were made with regard responsibility for the provincial public libraries, responsibility for which were devolved to provincial authorities in support of a policy of decentralization.

© 1997-2002 Dr. John Evans, Wewak, Papua New Guinea

| Office of Libraries and Archives | Legislation | National Library Service |

Go to Part 2 - of this article - see below

Libraries - Part 2
National Archives Service continued

Library Council of Papua New Guinea

National Library and Archives Board

Academic libraries

go to Part 3 of this article | go to Part 4 of this article | go to Part 5 Notes & References |

Contact us by email John Evans, PNG

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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

Note 2 - "The first version on the site was too long for convenient (or any!) download - apologies - it is now provided in small chunks." John Evans 2002

Libraries - Part 1
Office of Libraries and Archives


National Library Service

Libraries - Part 2
National Archives Service continued

Library Council of Papua New Guinea

National Library and Archives Board

Academic libraries

Libraries - Part 3
Public & Rural Libraries

Development plan for public libraries

School libraries

Special libraries


Technology & networks

Education for librarianship


Libraries - Part 4

Book development

Bibliography in Papua New Guinea

Issues and concerns


Libraries - Part 5

Notes and References