Responsibilities of a national bibliographic agency

The national bibliographic agency (NBA) is:

"the organizational unit established within a country's library system, which undertakes responsibility for the preparation of the authoritative and comprehensive bibliographic records for each new publication issued in the country, making the records in accordance with accepted international bibliographic standards and publishing them with the shortest possible delay in a national bibliography, which appears on a regular basis" (International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA International Office for UBC, & UNESCO, 1979)

It should be stressed that there is no single "correct" administrative model for an NBA. However it is important that the agency:

  • Possesses the authority required to establish and maintain national bibliographic control
  • Is suitably resourced at a level reflecting its responsibility for national bibliographic control.

In practice, agencies undertaking the national bibliographic control function may be designated by a variety of names and organized in accordance within a range of administrative structures, e.g.:

  • A department, division or section of a national library
  • A processing centre serviced by multiple specialist national libraries
  • A national bibliographic centre (or institute)

National responsibility for application and maintenance of bibliographic standards is often assigned to the national bibliographic agency due to its expertise and authority. Workflows for assigning identifiers such as ISSN or ISBN also overlap with national bibliographic control NBAs should therefore take a lead in this area but seek cooperation with other bibliographic communities and make use of national expertise.

  • For newly established national bibliographies the priority should be to record as much as possible of the current national output before, as resources allow, moving on to record older publications. Even for established national bibliographies retrospective coverage can be a challenge. Since the extension of legal deposit lags behind the expansion of media, there will always be carriers of information that have not been collected because they were produced prior to the legal deposit legislation coming into effect.

Bibliography, Best practice

Last update: 5 December 2017


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