Open Journal Systems

Cooperation for Brazilian Libraries Through a National Program for Bibliographic Information Cooperation for Brazilian Libraries Through a National Program for Bibliographic Information

 Abstract — Inglés

The author begins by briefly assessing the current book situation in Brazil, whose thriving publishing industry exports many volumes and whose government provides inadequate financial support and poor distribution channels. The picture is rather bleak. But Barroso realizes that Brazil’s problem is not a question of books so much as a question of information. For her, the fundamental issue centers around the fact that Brazil, unlike Venezuela and Mexico, has no national plan for developing library and information services.

Barroso goes on to propose that Brazil formulate such a plan and establish a national library network, linked by computers, to improve basic collections, enhance access to specialized materials through interlibrary loan, and expand the number library users—even in remote areas—through the use of book boxes and bookmobiles. Although a National Library Council would serve as a forum for policy discussions and would possess ultimate authority, Barroso outlines a key role for the National Library as the overall coordinating heart of the network, responsible for maintaining the national union catalog. Lower levels of organization would involve state libraries to carry out policy decisions and provide technical assistance, and municipal libraries to receive and distribute information.

Barroso sees computer and telecommunications technology as an essential part of the national library network. This technology will permit better organized, more economical library services, such as the maintenance of a national union catalog, planned acquisitions, and cooperative cataloging. Eager to embark on this new bibliographic venture, Barroso has already prepared an agenda that includes the creation of new libraries and improvement of existing ones; staff training and development; standardization of library procedures; and developing collections to serve the information needs of all Brazilians.

 Abstract — Español

Cooperación de las bibliotecas brasileñas a través de un plan nacional de información bibliográfica
La autora inicia con una pequeña evaluación de la situación actual del libro en Brasil, cuya industria editorial próspera exporta muchos volúmenes y cuyo gobierno le proporciona apoyo financiero inadecuado y pobres canales de distribución. El cuadro es algo sombrio. Pero Maria Alice Barroso se da cuenta que en Brasil el problema no es la cuestión de los libros tanto como en el hecho de que Brasil, a diferencia de Venezuela y México, no tiene plan nacional para el desarrollo de bibliotecas y servicios de información.

La sutora va mas allá proponiendo que Brasil formule tal plan y que establezca una red nacional de bibliotecas, ligada por computadoras, para mejorar las colecciones básicas, mejorar los servicios de materiales especializados a través de préstamo interbibliotecario y expandir el número de usuarios de bibliotecas—aún en las áreas más remotas—a través del uso de cajas de libros y bibliotecas móviles. Aunque un consejo nacional bibliotecario puede servir como un foro para la discusión de políticas y que posee autoridad última, Barroso delínia una papel clave para la Biblioteca Nacional como el corazón coordinador de la red, responsable por el mantenimiento del catálogo colectivo nacional. Niveles más bajos de organización involucrarían a las bibliotecas estatales para que lleven a cabo una política de toma de decisiones y para proporcionar asistencia técnica y, al nivel local, las bibliotecas municipales para recibir y distribuir la información. Maria Alice Barroso considera las computadoras y la tecnología de telecomunicación como una parte esencial de la red nacional de bibliotecas. Esta tecnología permitirá mejor organización, y tener servicios bibliotecarios mas económicos, tales como el mantenimiento de un catálogo colectivo nacional, adquisiciones planeadas y catalogación cooperativa. Deseosa de embarcarse en esta nueva ventura bibliográfica, Barroso ha preparado una agenda que incluye la creación de nuevas bibliotecas y la mejora de las existentes; la capacitación y el desarrollo del personal; la normalizatión de los procedimientos bibliotecarios y la creación de fondos bibliográficos para satisfacer las necesidades de información de todos los brasileños.

It cannot be said that the present situation of the book—or superficially of reading—in Brazil is a good one, even though the nation’s publishing industry is the largest in South America. Our presses print books in Spanish and export them to our neighbors, and this is good for Brazil’s balance of payments. Publishing receives government incentives through tax exemptions. Yet there are only about 500 bookstores in the country. And public libraries in the interior do not have adequate book supplies. There is no national planning for libraries of the kind that has already taken place in Venezuela and Mexico.

With regard to municipal libraries, it should be stated that the old program of donations from the National Book Institute (Instituto Nacional de Livro) hindered rather than helped them. These donations, based on tax deductions under the so–called Sarney law, helped publishers get rid of remainders by sending them to public libraries, but these items were hardly suited to the needs of readers/users. Municipal libraries should be better coordinated with state libraries, the latter supervising each state’s system through planned acquisitions and joint cataloging and the collection of the output of local presses. Library users should be free to peruse publishers’ catalogs in order to have free choice of what they need to read and to study. At present, one can safely state that the resources found in municipal libraries do not meet readers’ needs, because libraries do not have their own budgets for acquisitions, and the growth of collections takes place only through occasional donations. The failure of Brazilian libraries to add systematically to their holdings leads to discouragement and loss of interest on the part of those who, with little access to information, seek help in their town’s public library.

We are gambling with the future of Brazilian culture when inferior publications are issued in quantity without the balance of quality works. Publishing works of cultural value, translating books of universal appeal, creating systems of public libraries—only these things will produce better working, living, and leisure conditions for Brazilians.

Anyone who has traveled in Brazil’s interior knows that, in general, a small public library is a small room (locked) with one or two bookcases (also locked), and non–circulating books. Those in charge don’t allow circulation, because they are afraid books won’t be returned and then their successors will accuse them of being pillagers of cultural patrimony.

As Virginia Betancourt Valverde (director of the National Library of Venezuela) points out, library systems in Latin America have not yet developed upon a solid foundation. “We are the children and grandchildren,” she says, “of executive men who went to university, because others, less trained, concerned themselves with the production of goods and services which the former enjoyed. We are using foreign technology, which we have not mastered and which we often don’t even need; it was selected by a few and paid for by all.”

 A National Program for Bibliographic Information

A national program is needed to stimulate development of library and information services. We should make the National Library the coordinating body; it is already empowered to receive the deposit of all documents printed in Brazil and to publish the national bibliography. State libraries, connected to the National Library by TELEX (and eventually by computer networks) should be in turn the heads of the networks of municipal public libraries.

The state libraries should undertake a survey of the resources of the municipal libraries and should collect three copies of regional publications for legal deposit: one for the city library, one for the state library, and one to be sent to the National Library.

The National Library should maintain a national union catalog that records all bibliographical material held by libraries in the system. This will facilitate the satisfactory operation of an inter–library loan system and prevent any library from being limited to its own resources.

Our thesis is that a national program, operating through TELEX and/or a computerized network, can greatly speed up the technical processing of material as well as making information almost instantly available. In fact, the design of any system should take into account all modern means of communication, such as TELEX, FAX, and distribution of data by computer. Planned acquisition in a network or system can thus lead first to cooperative cataloging, then to a national union catalog under the National Library; thus we will have decentralized collecting, but centralized processing for cost savings.

A national program would make it possible for the user to access representative collections at various levels (children, young people, adult) of information needs; to utilize inter–library loan; and to locate technical or specialized information.

The components of the national program are the National Library, the state libraries, the municipal libraries, and the university libraries (even though they are units of the Ministry of Education, they should not be left out of the national system). The National Library will be the coordinating and supervising body for the plan. The state libraries will be giving technical assistance and making periodic diagnoses of those areas for which they are responsible. The municipal libraries will receive and distribute information locally.

The national program will help remedy, as it is implemented, the shortage of qualified staff and the lack of bookstores and of bibliographic information in the interior cities. By centralizing resources it will lead to economies of scale. In preparing the national bibliography, the National Library will provide cataloging and classification which in turn will help other libraries fulfill their missions. It will be necessary to have rigorous control and monitoring to insure that libraries are, in reality, fulfilling the roles assigned to them.

Implementation of the planned program will come after a survey of libraries. State libraries may suggest modifications and alternative actions, so that the program will respond to their communities. Library profiles should take into account at least two circumstances: the population density and the specific subject interests of the people.

The National Library Council (Conselho Nacional de Bibliotecas) will become the forum for discussion of the shortages and gaps in library service in our country. As the highest authority for the program, the Council will make recommendations, so that cooperative processing of books and journals will take place nationwide. The existence of the Council does not, however, make unnecessary a coordinating and normalizing agency. The National Library will coordinate the national library system, and will provide training, models, and minimum standards.

Finally, and important innovation will be the introduction of the concept of collection development. This includes the evaluation of present resources, strengthening of weak areas, weeding of unnecessary items, and the redistribution to other libraries of titles for which there are too many copies in one location.

What are we waiting for?

floral device About the Author

Maria Alice Barroso is former Director of the National Archives of Brazil and also of the national library of Brazil.

© 1992 Dominican University


Barroso, Maria Alice, “Cooperation for Brazilian Libraries Through a National Program for Bibliographic Information” Third World Libraries, Volume 3, Number 1 (Fall 1992).

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