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Part 2 - Papua New Guinea Libraries

by Dr. John Evans - Wewak & Port Moresby, PNG

National Archives Service | Library Council of Papua New Guinea | National Library and Archives Board | Academic libraries | return to Part 1 | go to Part 3 of this article | go to Part 4 of this article - CONCLUSION | go to Part 5 Notes & References |

National Archives Service

The National Archives has been subject to a few transfers; from the Interior Ministry to the new National Library Service in 1975; from the National Library to the Department of Administrative Services in 1985 (and then back again in the same year. Currently it is more firmly linked with the National Library within the Office of Libraries and Archives and thus a brief note is provided for completeness.(68)

In 1905 the then Government Secretary of Papua saw the need for proper records management but there was no attempt to establish an Archives. Neither did German New Guinea have an Archives, nor its successor Australian New Guinea. Indeed, the records were considered to belong to the colonial power and in the 1930's, the captured German New Guinea records were sent to Australia. As it happened, this was fortunate, for in 1942 all Australian New Guinea records were destroyed by enemy action. In Papua, there was time to save most of the records, and they were sent to Australia in 1942, but much was still lost.

After the war, with the administration now centered in Port Moresby, the Government Secretary's Office resumed its records keeping role, but then a fire destroyed most of the records in 1949. At this time, the Commonwealth Archives Office in Canberra considered itself the archives for Papua New Guinea and it was certainly concerned about the fire at the Government Secretary's Office. In 1955 they sent an officer to Papua New Guinea to survey the records and make recommendations. This he did, recommending that an Archives Office be established in Port Moresby.

The first Archives Office, established in 1957, was located in the basement of the then Legislative Council, later House of Assembly building in MacGregor Street, and remained there till 1972 when the Archives became the first government building to be erected in Waigani. Within a decade, that building was full, and a new building was erected and opened in 1988. The old building is still retained as a repository and the present arrangements are that the older or most frequently used records are housed in the new building, in which there is also an attractive reading room and full archival service. Records less than 30 years old, some of which may not be retained permanently, are now housed in the old building.

The Australian Archives have agreed that the pre-war records of Papua New Guinea that they were holding should be returned after microfilming. The German New Guinea archives have been more difficult to arrange, but recently the German Archives in Bonn, offered to provide a German speaking indexer to work on the records if Australian Archives would provide a microfilm. This has been the subject of a recent international agreement between the three parties concerned. A difficult task within the country is the appraisal and transfer of public records in the various government departments. Most offices are poorly organized and without system and therefore it is difficult to identify which records should be culled for destruction or for permanent retention. There is also the endemic problem of lack of sufficient trained staff to cope with he movement of records within the departments.

Once the records arrive and become archives, much work needs to be done to gain intellectual control over them so that researchers can make use of them, or we can locate them for loan back to the department concerned. Because National Archives has had only one professional archivist at any one time, and often none, until as recently as 1986, researchers in Papua New Guinea have had to laboriously wade through lists of files under departmental accessions, to find what they want. There would be in the vicinity of 200,000 files at National Archives. Recently it has been possible to commence the professional archival technique of series description, which involves researching administrative histories, description of the contents of series, and identifying index terms relating to place, ethnic groups and people. Computerization is expected to improve on this situation.

The National Microfilm Laboratory is part of the National Archives. Its functions are to advise government departments on their microfilming needs and to carry out microfilming projects. At present there is a major project underway in the filming of all Patrol Reports(over 30,000 items) held by the National Archives assisted by the University of California, San Deigo.

Conservation is an area in which there is little progress - the new archives building not having a conservation laboratory.

The 1993 legislation gives the functions of the National Archives and Public Records Service as:-

(a) to ensure the conservation and preservation of the existing and future public and other archival resources of Papua New Guinea; and

(b) to control the disposal of public records; and

(c) to inspect and appraise all public records (including those restricted to normal access); and

(d) to accept the deposit of public archives and be responsible for their safe custody; and

(e) to accept the custody and management of non-public archives that are considered to be of National significance; and

(f) to have responsibility for the custody, regulation and management of public records which are required so infrequently in the conduct of current business that they can be transferred to a separate storage area; and

(g) to promote better management of public records and archives in an efficient and economical manner in government instrumentalities by providing advice and assistance in a way that will facilitate their use as part of the country's informational and archival resources; and

(h) to provide advice and assistance to individuals and institutions having custody of non-public records; and

(i) to promote and facilitate the use of archival sources, including arranging for publication of significant archives and indexes or other guides to archival material; and

(j) to provide assistance and facilities for persons using the archives; and

(k) to record details regarding the structure and function, or changes thereto, of any government instrumentality; and

(l) to take measures for conservation and restoration of archives; and

(m) to make copies of archives and other records by microform or other means; and

(n) to make arrangements for the acquisition, copying or custody of archival resources of Papua New Guinea, whether the resources are held in Papua New Guinea or overseas; and

(o) to ascertain the material that constitutes the archival resources of Papua New Guinea and produce a national register or archives in Papua New Guinea; and

(p) to train and assist in training of persons for the purpose of this Act; and

(q) to plan and develop the co-ordination of activities relating to the management and preservation of public records and archives throughout Papua New Guinea; and

(r) to maintain contact with overseas experts and institutions to further the development of archives in Papua New Guinea and exchange information on holdings and research in archival administration; and

(s) to carry out other functions that are necessary for maintenance, care, custody and control of public archives in Papua New Guinea.

Library Council of Papua New Guinea

The idea of having a Library Council of Papua New Guinea was raised in a paper delivered by Yocklunn to the Seminar on Priorities in Library Service in Papua New Guinea. The paper concerned the formation of a National Library Service (42) and the Council was introduced as a device for control and co-ordination.

The idea of a National Library Service was further worked on by an Inter-Departmental Committee on this issue. This also suggested the idea of a Library Council:-

"In a developing country ,cooperation between libraries is essential to make the best use of available resources. One way of increasing cooperation is to establish a Papua New Guinea Library Council consisting of representatives of major libraries ,including the two Universities and representatives from the Papua New Guinea Library Association...

It is envisaged that the Council would report to the Minister responsible for the National Library Service. However,to ensure that cooperation is not just talk, it may be necessary for officers of the National Library Service to take the initiative by investigating the areas that would best benefit from cooperative action and submitting concrete plans for such cooperative activities. The vital need for cooperation between the Universities and the National Library has already been mentioned."

The report of this Committee recommended the setting up of this body amongst its other recommendations. These recommendations were accepted by the Government and the relevant Cabinet decision includes this as follows:-

The establishment of a Library Council of Papua New Guinea ...responsible to the Chief Minister,with the following functions:-

- to discuss matters of mutual interest;

- to promote library cooperation;

- to advise the Government on Library matters,including standards of library service; and

- to advise on professional matters relating to the establishment of a National Library Service.

The Council, despite being set up in 1975 did not meet until November 1976. The following revised list of functions was adopted in 1982:-

1. To advise the Government on library policy and related matters.
2. To plan library and related services in Papua New Guinea on a national basis.
3.To advise on standards of library provision,particularly in relation to public and school libraries
4. To facilitate library cooperation both within Papua New Guinea and on a regional/international basis
5. To promote libraries and librarianship in Papua New Guinea .
6. To promote literacy in Papua New Guinea .

At the same time the following membership was adopted:-

1. National Librarian
2. University Librarian, University of Papua New Guinea
3. University Librarian, Papua New Guinea University of Technology
4. Chief Librarian, Administrative College of Papua New Guinea
5. Principal School Libraries Adviser, National Library Service
6. Principal Public Librarian, National Library Service
7. Government Libraries Adviser, National Library Service
8. Head, Library Studies Section, Administrative College of Papua New Guinea
9. Two representatives of provincial and special libraries
10.Up to four coopted members with a special interest in the work of the Council.

This has been a Council without finance. No allocation has ever been made for its operations and maintenance. As the Secretary varied so did the institution involved in meeting various running expenses. While small sums have thus been covered there has been no provision for more substantial ventures such as research, publication, and funding for attendance for members from outside Port Moresby. The latter has certainly been a prevented balanced attendance at meetings. Much of the work of the Committee has been attempted through a system of ad-hoc Working Parties. Sometimes this has worked; sometimes these groups never reported; sometimes an irregular schedule of meetings has resulted in deferment of their reports and rendered the work useless. The following have existed:-

Advisory Committee on Library Education

continued by Working Party on Library Education

Working Party on IFLA Core Programmes

National Bibliography Committee

Bibliographic Standards Working Party

Working Party on Functions and Membership of Library Council

The issues raised at the various meetings have been outlined in two recent articles (69, 70). Articles by Baker(71),Yocklunn(72) and Shimmon (73) have also appeared on the Library Council. In addition comments have been made in a review of the communications sector in Papua New Guinea (74). These comments all well illustrate the difficulties of this body. An outline plan for an enhanced and quite elaborate Council appears in a dissertation by Rod East who obviously considered such a device useful as part of his plan for PANGIS-the Papua New Guinea Information System (75). The Library Council has not proved too popular with the National Library Service who look upon everything as devolving to it. As a result problems continue and the current policy and legislation provides for the abolition of this body and for the creation of other mechanisms. Effectively the Council has not met since 1992, and this may well be a great misfortune. In retrospect, Sir John Yocklunn, explains what was expected, before the clouds of suspicion and of territoriality overcame it:-

"To involve the non-government libraries, particularly those of the universities and the non-government colleges, I envisioned a Library Council which would be a forum for cooperation between the major libraries in the country as equal and willing partners. At the same time it was to be a real force for promoting library development, and the membership should consist largely of prominent leaders and decision makers, rather than largely of librarians. It was not my intention that the Council should have executive functions, but rather that it should be a policy

-advisory and lobbying body.

However, the role of the Library Council and the role of the National Library are still the subjects of current debate. Back then, I envisaged the relationship between these two bodies as complementary and equal, rather than as a position of dominance of one over the other. Whatever decisions are made on these questions, the way these decisions are reached is just as important. Very early in my political career in this country I learnt the paramount importance of communication, consultation, compromise and consensus."(76)

National Library and Archives Board

In the legislation it is stated that the responsible Minister may establish such a Board to advise on archives and library matters. The Board is to consist of the Director General and not more than eleven members appointed by the Minister. One of the members other than the Director-General is to be the Chairman. In addition to being able to advise the Minister on policy matters in relation to the co-ordination, planning and management of libraries, archives and information services, it can also recommend to the Minister:-

- policies in relation to the co-ordination, planning and management of libraries, archives and information services;

-a national plan for the development of libraries and archives and information services.

In practice this Board has yet to be set up. Additionally in the National Information and Communication Policy of Papua New Guinea a National Information and Communication Council is recommended.

National Library and Information Services Policy.

The National Library had made some efforts in engendering interest in a National Information Policy.(77) This has not been successful and it was reasonable to suppose that production of such a policy would be a very long drawn out process given the many parties involved and potential clashes. Australia, for instance, has abandoned such as approach after 15 or so fruitless years. However, as a result of a Library Development Seminar held in May 1991 it was decided that a Library and Information Services Policy was a possibility, and could be initially drafted within the library community itself. The very poor state of library services in most parts of the country was such that delay in policy formation was felt to be unthinkable.

The example of the Papua New Guinea Science and Technology Policy was closely followed as regard the overall structure of this policy. The policy contains a set of statements on Major Policy Objectives for information in Papua New Guinea. These are drawn from Unesco guidelines and provide a set of statements forming a mini-information policy. These will allow for the articulation of this policy with related policies in the field as they develop. The major policy objectives are followed by a detailed strategy for library and information services in Papua New Guinea. This maintains the strands of the major policy statements and has drawn on the experience shared conferences and workshops held in 1990 and 1991. The policy developed in Malaysia has been of great service in the drafting of the policy in Papua New Guinea - and its use was approved at the Library Development Seminar in May 1991.(77) The draft policy has been approved by the Library Council and has since gone through further drafting by a Working Party at the National Library Service which has entitled it a "National Archives, Library and Information Services Policy" and it is anticipated that it will be approved by Government in 1994.

On the provincial level a seminar on Provincial Information Services Seminar was held in East New Britain in November 1991 and at this a set of Provincial Information Service Guidelines were produced. These are being worked on further by a drafting committee at the provincial level and these offer the potential for a model policy which could be considered for adoption at other provinces.(79) However, problems are faced in that the provincial government system is at present being reviewed and there is little enthusiasm for new initiatives.

In the meantime, also, work has been completed by the Ministry of Communications and Information on a National Information and Communication Policy. This was approved in November 1993. (80) It is a composite in that it contains several extant policies, and has obvoiusly drawn on the that for Library and Information Services.

The goal of the National Policy for Libraries and Archives(81) to enhance the social, economic and educational development of the people of Papua New Guinea through the provision of co-ordinated and comprehensive library, archives and related information services. The policy provides statements and detailed strategies in relation to:-

-the role of information in Papua New Guinea development

-access to information resources and servcies

-the development and use of Papua New Guinea information resources

-promotion of use and awareness of information

-organization and coordination of the policy

-information technology and systems

-regional and international information participation.

The policy is to be monitored and initiated by a National Library and Archives Board. The Office of Libraries and Archives is to co-ordinate existing agencies to be responsible for the implementation of the policy and to provide secretarial service to the Board. A senior Minister will oversee the policy and assume responsibility in consultation with the Board to provide comprehensive library, archives and information services.

Academic libraries

The major tertiary institutions were set up in the 1960's. True to form elsewhere these had a positive attitude to libraries and these tertiary institution libraries became the most significant ones in Papua New Guinea. Thus good libraries exist to serve the University of Papua New Guinea campuses, the Administrative College of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea University of Technology at Lae. (82-90) Some basic facts are given in Table 4.

Currently the higher education sector in Papua New Guinea is characterized by a large number (62 are covered by the National Higher Education Plan) of small and generally inefficient institutions - an outcome of its colonial past which it has not yet been possible to rationalize. There has been much concern shown over the system and reports and recommendations for its improvement have been made - but little in the way of results have been achieved. The latest investigation has been the work behind the 1990 National Higher Education Plan (91) produced by the Commission for Higher Education of the Papua New Guinea government. There was no coverage of the role of libraries and their resources within the Higher Education Plan. However, it was felt that improvement in the library infrastructure was essential to meet the vision of the National Higher Education Plan, and a separate plan on the library sector in higher education was commissioned. (35,36)

Outside these major libraries the situation is very poor and Papua New Guinea high school libraries at their best can be considered to be generally better than the libraries of many of the post secondary institutions. The collections in most of the sub-standard institutions have become outdated owing to a lack of recent relevant purchases and stocks have been mainly been built up from gifts. Few libraries subscribe to journals and few have audio-visual materials or equipment. Library premises are small and in need of repair and with the exception of the teachers colleges many colleges did not have a full time trained librarian to run the library. Most libraries show serious signs of neglect by the college administration.

Dramatic efforts are needed to compensate for the past deficiencies and lay the foundations for networking and resource sharing. Benefits of such enhancement would be:-

-strengthened support for quality academic programmes

-identification of resources and the highlighting of collection strengths and deficiencies

-development of relevant norms for progressive and systematic improvement of resources

-creation of a database of national information resources

The creation of a centralized database of information resources will be considerable benefit to the higher education institutions and also to private and public sector agencies and that this will assist them in contributing to the development process. The following national approaches to improvement have been suggested within the report:-

-Appointment of a coordinator within Commission for Higher Education

-The National Library to play a key role in the development of libraries in government agencies, community and high schools as well as public libraries in the capital and in all provinces which compliment and support the development of libraries in higher education institutions.

-A formula for funding libraries to be developed to ensure that, even in difficult economic times, the libraries will not be stripped of minimum funding. The suggested criterion is that a minimum of 5% of the institutions operating budget should be spent for library resources. To correct the long time neglect of the many college libraries in recent years, special funding from the Government should be specifically designated for library improvement.

As a remedy for past neglect major enhancement is necessary to bring each to a minimum acceptable standard. As a particular instance the transitions of the community-school teachers colleges from a two year to a three year programme requires that the libraries of these colleges be greatly improved. Major remedial infusions of funding for additional staff and information resources should be considered a priority for a period of five years. Minimum quantitative standards and performance measures should be established and enforced. To realize economies of scale many of the small colleges with inferior programmes and library resources should be merged into larger units or incorporated with the universities or better established institutions.

Other than this it is recommended that for each teachers' college library a minimum of 300 new books and 20 audio-visual kits of relevance to the curriculum should be added to the collection each year and at least 50 journal subscriptions be maintained. For each nursing, technical and special library, the minimum requirement should be 150 books and 15 kits and 25 journal subscriptions. These materials are to be specially selected - rather than being happenstance gifts as is often the case at present - to support the curriculum and be catalogued for easy access. As most libraries had some 90% of collections in the shape of outdated collections major attention needs to be paid to acquisitions and cataloguing. Effective use of shared acquisitions and cataloguing could afford savings in manpower and cost. Vendors and the National Library could provide such service.

Further recommendations relate to provision of an A-V room and equipment and to adequacy of college library buildings, equipment and furniture. A survey of the situation is called for. Other recommendations relate to staffing and training where again enhanced provisions are set. It is suggested that the staff classification and fringe benefits should be made equitable with university libraries. Opportunities for in-service training and continuing education should be made available to college librarians.

There are also recommendations regarding improved collection of statistics and publication of directories. As an incentive for resource sharing it is suggested that libraries with net inter library lending should receive a subsidy of 5 kina( approx 5US$) per item from a special fund. The National Library and the Department of Education should promote indigenous publications in all subjects, especially for children and young adult audiences.

Instruction in library and learning skills should be a part of the regular college curriculum and available to all students, this is considered especially important for those college students who will be transmitting these skills to future generations. It is recommended that the Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education develop necessary guidelines and implementation plans for such library instruction. There should also be assistance from the Department of Education and the National Library in the development of model collections for school libraries as future teachers need to be familiar with such collections. Such model collections should also be placed in every community (or primary) school library in the country and updated annually. At the High School Level the Department of Education, the National Library and the Goroka Teachers' College should develop a model collection for all the high school libraries. Such a collection to be placed in each high school library and updated annually.

As the University of Papua New Guinea has a network of University Extension Centres which it is intended will cover all provinces eventually it was thought advisable to make some recommendations within the higher education libraries plan as to the future of the library development for these centres. Obviously the application of this recommendation will vary according to the circumstances of the individual province but it is suggested that the library in some centres should be ideally be established as a cultural centre combining the public library, the vocational centre library, and the University Centre library as one joint facility. Since the funding of all these is borne by the provincial government such a shared facility will eliminate unnecessary duplication and be more cost effective. Both the National Library and University of Papua New Guinea Library should assist in the design and establishment of these cultural centres.

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

| National Archives Service | Library Council of Papua New Guinea | National Library and Archives Board | Academic libraries | return to PART 1 | go to Part 3 of this article | go to Part 4 of this article |

GO TO - 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

Contact us by email John Evans, PNG

Site 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

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 from Part 1

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