Location of the national bibliographic agency

While there is agreement that national bibliographic control is the responsibility of the NBA (National Bibliographic Agency) there is no consensus on where the agency should be located. The functions of the NBA are often undertaken by the national library. However, administrative practices may vary considerably between countries with either individual activities (e.g. Cataloguing in Publication) being outsourced on a contract basis or the entire function being undertaken by a private company (e.g. Dansk Biblioteks Center in Denmark).

The National Library as National Bibliographic Agency

The IFLA Section on National Libraries defines the tasks of a national library in the following manner: "National libraries have special responsibilities, often defined in law, within a nation's library and information system. These responsibilities vary from country to country but are likely to include: the collection via legal deposit of the national imprint (both print and electronic) and its cataloguing and preservation; the provision of central services (e.g., reference, bibliography, preservation, lending) to users both directly and through other library and information centres; the preservation and promotion of the national cultural heritage; acquisition of at least a;representative collection of foreign publications; the promotion of national cultural policy; and leadership in national literacy campaigns. National libraries often serve as a national forum for international programmes and projects. They may have a close relationship with national governments, may be concerned with the development of national information policies, and may act as a conduit for the views of other sectors of the profession. Occasionally they also serve the information needs of the legislature directly."

The defining characteristics of a national library therefore make it the most appropriate choice to host the national bibliographic agency. National libraries have national responsibility, often enshrined in law. This gives them the authority to negotiate with publisher and trade representatives on legal deposit, digital rights managements and other issues of national significance. This role affords national libraries the security to plan for the long term. The national library may also be relatively well resourced to provide leadership and to manage sustainable services.

There is no consensus on whether the national bibliography should be a separate file or in the catalogue of the national library. Different solutions will be appropriate to different national circumstances. If the national bibliography is a part of the catalogue, the users should be able to search on that segment. Irrespective of the way in which national bibliographic data is organised, it is recommended that the national bibliography is presented as a separate view; distinct from any institutional or union catalogue.

Further information on how a national bibliography integrates into a wider portfolio of bibliographic services is presented elsewhere in this resource.

National Bibliographic Agencies in Other Institutions

In many countries national libraries are also institutional libraries serving a university, the public, or a legislature. Such libraries possess valuable resources in terms of collections, staff and experience which will benefit the national bibliographic agency. Assigning the functions of the national bibliographic agency to an institutional library can therefore be very effective.

The mission, users, tasks and services of the host institution will inevitably be affected by assuming responsibility for national bibliographic control. There is a risk that national functions may suffer under the pressures of maintaining services to the host institution. It is important therefore to ensure national bibliographic functions are adequately resourced. Management structures must ensure performance is monitored and a distinction is maintained between national and institutional roles with responsibilities for each aspect of the service being clearly defined.

Independent National Bibliographic Agencies

An NBA agency may be established as an independent agency, with responsibility for processing the national published output. While there are examples of highly successful independent agencies (such as Dansk Biblioteks Center), there may be a risk that an independent agency may lack the authority and resources necessary to manage an effective bibliographic service. Inevitably an independent agency will need to work closely with the institutions responsible for managing national collections. Even if the NBA is administratively independent, there are strong arguments for its physical collocation with the national library or other national collection.

Collaboration and the National Bibliographic Agency

Coming soon

Bibliography, Best practice

Last update: 2 May 2018


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