oa Ghana Library Journal - Seminar on problems of book provision in West Africa - working paper on the Ghanaian case

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BUSINESS SESSION

SEMINAR ON ·PROBLEMS OF BOOK PROVISION IN WEST AFRICA

Working paper on the Ghanaian Case

by E. Oko Oddoye Acquisitions Librarian

Panel: Mr Oko Oddoye, Ghana Library Board, Mr Bejide Bankole, 'University of Lagos Library, Nigeria, 'Mr Samuel Wornor, University of

Monrovia Library. Mrs A. O. Ike, Ghana Library Board was Chairman.

Libraries 'in Ghana, and for' that matter in Africa, are comparatively new institutions. Their vital role there-fore in the educational, cultural and moral welfare of the people, has not been fully appreciated. 'The entire history of the public library service in . Britain reveals that this lack of aware-. ness of the potential contribution to the

progress of any nation is only tempo-rary; and much wiII depend upon us to change this attitude.

The library as a social institution has briefly three major functions: first, the storage and retrieval function; second, the communication function (by making books freely avail~ble to users, the library acts as a communication me-dium for .both ideas and attitudes); and third, the econoIl)ic function (by enabling use by manY.readers).' Of the three responsibilities I am concerned with the second function-'-;-the commu-nicationfunction and the problems entailed in making the book available to ensure effective commuI).ication.

The book trade in Ghana falls into . two main groups:

40

(0) J:hose published locally, and .

(b) Those published in foreign

coun-tries and imported into' the country.

. . Local Book Production

In these twq categories we', have different acquisition problems. Local publications form a very small but an important collection in our libraries. No effort is therefore spared in their acq!lisition. But the difficulties e~­ countered far exceed, ironically, those associated with foreign publication.

. Book production as we know it, has not developed in this country' to a very high standard. Typography and book design are not attractive and the quality . of paper used for a majority of

publica-tions is poor. There has been occasions when interesting books have been printed on newsprints. Materials coming out with low standard of pro-duction do not automatically attract the librarian. He is aware that these mate-rials do not stand wear and tear, and therefore create problems of storage and preservation.

Production by private printers or publishers is mainly confined ~o pam-phlets on current topics, novelletes of the romantic type, .poems .and a few serious public;:ations. Most of these are not well written and. therefore hardly attract the attention of the small literate population who can .. affo.rd. to

buy

books. Neither do' they appeal to a majo.rity

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students in quest,of:textbooks or expa-triates seeking leisure reading materials,

The low standard of production is due, In large measure, to the absence of well-trained and qualified persoimel in the book trade.

A few publishing houses have, how-ever, started producing attractive and serious books recently. . .

H~re ~ may mention recent publica-tions of the Ghana PUQlishing Corpora-tion (Publishing Division) (e.g., "Notes on 'Ordinary Level' Poetry" by J. M. Samuel) aI)d the Presbyterian ~ook

Depot and its subsidiaryfirrn-Water-. ville Publishing House, and the Ghana Universities Press.

The Gbvernment presses have better production standards than the private commercial presses. However, there is still more' room for imprbvement, especially in design.

Distribution

. Local printers/puhlishers have not yet realised the importance of effective publicity fo~ their production. This is because the trade is not well-developed as it is in the advanced countries. We still have the printer/publisher and book-seller all in one; or, the author/publisher/ bookseller. Due to the virtual absence of any' well-organised publicity; the greatest problem is to be .aware that 'a ' publication exists. There is no book trade journal announcing these local publications. Most printing or publish-ing houses do not produce cataIog~es, and those. who do, do not produce them regularly andd.istribution is n9t· syste-matic. Three pu61ishing ho.uses, Ghana Publishing Corporation, Ghana Univer-sities Press and the Presbyterian Book Depot have however, started producing catalogues of their· publications, But it, will be in the,interest ofthe whole book

trade. in this country if it becomes ,a general practice. Effective sales promo-tion and distribupromo-tion, after all, are in the best interest of the printer/publisher as well as the librarian.

. In the absence of catalogues the other alternative is to announce these in the daily newspapers. There is a. move towards this trend but the practice has not been accepted by all printers/ publishers.

Some small printers/publishers trY to' promote and distribute their own publi-cations. Apart from the fact that it is ineffective, in most cases they are un-aware of potential buyers, and there-fore fail- to reach a wider market. It is surprising that some of the interesting. publications are found not in the well-established bookshops, but among the ware of hawkers and in way-side small

shops. '

There is urgent or it is highly desira-ble for some kind of organisation to handle the publicity side of publishing in this country. And it seems to me the appropriate' body should be the publish-ers forming an association to undertake this work. Attt'(mpts are being made to bring the few publishers together but response has been on the whole very disappointing. This body if formed can bring about a change in the quality and standard ,of book production and will help to make distribution effective.

Bookshops

Publishers,booksellers and librarians all "live in one trade." The success of one depends to some extent on' the success of the other. Because of this inter-rehitionship or "inter-dependence, we as librarians are very riuich concerned about the state of the bookshOps in this country. Good bookshops are essential for any community, and this

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Gape5Ci.:o..astJahdi I<iumasi~~nd which:ilre well.;oiganiseqlcaiid lwhichlSfdisplay ::>lrl v~ietY!dfip'ublication.sb i N eX;.t cdines';thel privately:6wned ,oriesllike Sjmpson's; andi Moxo'n'& 5Paperbacks? '(btReceritlyO'lt!1~, large 1 Department nStores rha ~ei entered:! the trade ~nd)theYIdisp'layjb60ks'mainlyJ ofu genera:lginterest?i!dIlb,e fof.mer! ~elhd e&tablishedlbookshops:like Presby.teri~D1 and) ther.-Me'thQoist iBqokgB'epots.r:are'u 16sing{their:u pride: iofgplace,s duecito:jthe:l exchange)ii:oritrolr aridoiinport IrestIiic~2

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aval au e In e uOO Suops.'.· a so, increases the pressUl'~(.~dri "tll.e!~ J5~"lic libraries'/tol holdnsp 1DlanYJ.copies.:.df a title/ilJ.;stQ.ck.rrnriJ 2blBlmn12 rroJJJ;Jb01q 2i 51:JriJ ,15'f5'1I0H ,Ze2Z!;I'lq [EiJ15SilJfI0J

,1r:EoCi~esta~li~h 1W~lborgap.is~,(brrboO:k-2 shops manned by w~ll;:t~aiu:eg/£w.el,1~~ educated booksellers in this country is therefore an urgent need, ,Assjs~ntsl should be trained too, The present apprentic¢ship) m¢th9.~,s:~ij)J ~n;q~ s~!isf<iC­ tQFY:;'ximhis~callsL(QI';~pe~ s_~tting~1)p~Qfl~'{ trai!)irrg s.cherneiJ(bY4

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It is the duty of booksellers to stock ~~.Ip:jdTbeJ~.ntIsb)?\lblisJ~et.~~§s_QC~atlop.q

at least the important local public,:atiohs;R lDJ9.oJ).jU,n,<:;t19n wlj:b.rJIWIt:an~lshr.G~uP''C"IJ1

but this is not so. At the momeat the ha~2lb!:~:q c1]l!}nipg1~t!<;;bMh9Jitogo.1)rs_e1iq

Ghatia,P,ublishing .G:orp'oration{P.tiblish- fQr5jR;v_t<r~J!S :J:b.Q.oJ~~U~rs. n b Q!lJiJ JQ~h i ing, E>ivision») tis ve'iy~activeJprodilcirig 's6: £ p\l:bJjsh~r~hpr~:qt.~!'~1

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andn:SalesJ IDiv.isi9D>;1 ~but~fstirprisihglyw Aoc3: fJ£i'l:;ty:d3~:nq~rll bill; 22:,»Q 2~iljz

thish isi nQtr~so'!)(Asl:at result/ewe1 :buyJs 60ilce),st~rrdalld1;alldvqualitY/.areldJ]l-{J

direet'::>fromt,sth(foillublishing)t:Div.ision,))o proved 10.cal'iauthOrsl l'IilIr:1ie)willig.g;lto3J who dOjtheir ciwnrdist~i!>iItionmo? '[] t B '101 publish5Itheir:1 booksdo.cally.rl t rAtJctliell

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morqent:aU the~hodJIQca:llatfthors)pre,"i febtO'lPlJblishrtbeil,jm'aterials~oveiseaS)fiSr quality; rand~stsmdir.~"rof~prod uction and) distribuii6n ar.~.b£:31 ::Jdj ID011 212:3Up:11

:3d 01 ,(ls)!iC 2i :30"IlJ02 J2.s1 2ir!! rlguor!l Government1FtiblicatiooS'I:}m fIj'l:3fIU TO

':-rlG?i[duq 'IIs1 13 JliiwblJfT:Jr.nsgn.s'n.s lslylO

overnment'iBu 1cabous),' are")j'v.ery, important<-J' cio'ciiments U 6ecaiise J '(the'

responsibilitieS '/ ofJ~ceritF.allsgovernnl:ent extend o:ver. imariY-t~spects[ofJthe(citizensl life, wotkiandOeisurefand~~intthe course, of51administraiivelcontro11£the'lGoverh? nient:..ag¢nCies:fcoUect;;a v~st~am0unt[ofI informa:tiotl!U ,MuchrofOlthisl data2isJofi

poteritialcvalu~ tOJ r.eseal'cn worl\ersHihr all>1ields! i ltlislinftherligbV Of.thejim.por"t~ arice1ofllheserinater.ials)th~tth'eir:acquisi~j tio~n by.>:aIMyj>es, fofnii braries) beComes~ necessaJ:y.sf!o ot 2fitnOff[ xia w gno[

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T e acqulSltlOn of government pu '11-cations in this country?'P'9,~<:i~ ,lh~~lj9Y,s, challenger to the ac~uisition librarian.

Difii'ctilfib[fartsel:l('~C~tlse()s3a(much is published but little~is,knpwn-aJ~Qut them. This is because(th~rec.~~e '!y~,iol.J~ agents handling publica1ioiJ. and distribution:

(~oo,\,C) U\'-Vo\21

Engaged ,in publication, are the following~0110l1j2:1'1 :11 0 q.au ~e5r1T

1 . ;T~'.lli(}I?G"'li'01~ry:;,p~ 1'i'..r;1'~~hJ[lt')6;;lrl'Qllo'ld e ' ana Uu IS mg (..urpora-~onso(iQnt(l?l1iiltjng IQivi~iQJ:J.)d~'r~sp9:n­ :3m02 sibl~3fo.ri:alro6stl aJl~t;b~1 iI}l,pprtant fiiBt1~gov~mIll~iit)1p,\ipliq~:tioQsn il -~2. 5;PuSli<!)Reliitions1Bepaitment.

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dg~part-10 jnW~n\~~ ~2.lY'a.:..~W.l.cRJPR5~!~on of

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"'1<>111' .ernment), orgamsatlOUJ,

andl1ns~1-oJ d Co J..J.VJ.V , .J .J ... hJI.Lo.l,v '(J..Jv ~1 J . _

al~rlGj~H~~l:1sUB.m2 ,roO'll 2::Jiqo:),. -'{.sq~P')stE!PI>%1,9Jl %FE-~ r",e~s.B9J!'~Jb1hty

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GQfPora-'{lId 0.1 Huti~,tl?(.pj§!J:ibutjpJ1 '.1J.U91 S~l~s

srlT ,2~!~lS1jmh[bno:m 5181 0025.c(b)ed?ubHc ReH\tions~E>eiJar:tment

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,enoq(v.):l the5riMihistries JOll -

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PublicI

Relatibns D~paf.Onent' 6~eIi~1i'at~puDlit? ca:ti6rife'ach shoulii~s-ell.

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tion J(Distribution5Jand IJSa'lesJ1Divisio'n)

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par Iamen, governmen gaze

es,.~par-liamentary debates and otherl'flphlmta,!f

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is ria

vailable2;f otdtlrb"se') interesiedr;l.s 2::J2uon gnirl2ilduq ni.sm SJB 2:3Iirrr ';0 Gbn.s2Uori1 ::J1B em1[( i!nilh~

o:WJHiB r.egar,d s tQ'lIo.t:he'n p.ub.licationss

from ~tb~JMinistJ!i.esn'Rpp1iqlB~ards~andg

C.Qr:R91JaHons2itrislditli¢.!ll,Up.:kpJ)~ what-t is; a:v.ailaole. :)ffibebbestjw.aYjiis) byddiI:.~cn enq:uir~, ~lJthese:,djflicul.ties,en~~.unter;";, edJ dUTstlb..e :;,cQufs.enOf tiaqqiiisiti0,liT £stem2 fr0m.th.elact··Jtha!16(iy.ernmeJWpl.lblica~~

ti6ns)aI'.ej''not1cove.red~bYJ!h.¢2Book;f

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therefore are not automatically deposi-ted with the copyright-libraries.

To have a complete stock of all the important government pUblications it is advisable to have,a standing order. But even this procedure does not always solve the problem: We have standing order with the Distribution and Sales Division for the Bound edition of Parliamentary Debates, and another with the Public Relations Department for all their publications. I can only say the supply is very erratic. We now place orders as, they are published. (Experience from Librarian London

School of Economics). ,

Maps are obtainable from the S~rvey Department. They have a printed catalogue of their publications, and they give good service so I have no quarrel with them.

Viewing these difficulties it seems to me that these publications are being handled by too many agencies. I think it will be highly desirable and assist efficient distribution, to have if one department is solely responsible [or the distributions and sale of all government and semi-government publications, as is done by H.M.S.O. in U.K. or in U.S.A. by the Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

Foreign Publications

. Foreign pUblications form the bulk of the bookstock in this country. Thus, the main publishing houses and book-selling firms are thousands of miles away. As a result we are not able to get books on' approva1 to choose be-tween different publications on

it

subject.

It is arso difficult to decide, whether a new edition that is announced is sub-stantially 'different from the previous edition which the library already posses-ses. The task therefore with selection is Rot easy. ' A great deal of the selection

44

is done 'from publishers' catalogues, book jackets, bibliographieS, periodi-cals, proof and sample copies and from requests from the reading public, al-though this last source is likely to be of uneven merit. We have standing order arrangement with a few publish-ers like Oxford Univpublish-ersity Press.

There is delay in receiving orders and even' sometimes. supplies from book-sellers overseas, are very erratic. In Ghana, the lapse of time between order-ing and receipt used to be between six weeks to three months but with the placing of books and periodicals on Open General Licence and the introduc-tion of exchange control since 1961 the situation deteriorated. It was taking as long as six months to one year' to receive orders.

Accession figures:

1960-61 (120,948) (37,166.A)

1961-62 (53,472) 1963-64 (25,332)) 1969-70 (57,664)

These import restrictions have brought about other repercussions:

l. Processing of the import licence and letters of credit takes some time and' therefore in certain cases before our -orders are re-ceived ,overseas some of the publications had' been out· of stock or sonie out of print or reprinting.

2. It is very difficult to order single copies from small publishers because some demand prepay-ment which is not allowed tInder the exchange control restrictions. 3. Now iris virtually difficult to buy rare secondhand books. The quickest method is to use Unesco coupons but some booksellers do not -accept' these coupons.

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4. Most of the' bookshops have been put out of business and the few surviving ones have been forced to operate through overseas book-sellers, thereby lossing their trade discounts and paying more on orders.

In

1970

further austerity measures were imposed by charging ten per cent surcharge on books. Prices of books shot up and many found the whole si-tuation becoming unmanageable.

Representations were made to the Minister of Education reminding the Government of the provisions of the Unesco Agreement on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials to which Ghana is a signatory. Article 3 of the World Agreement to

A~o~ish Huty on Publications (1950)2

enJoIns member states of Unesco (are urged) to consider the present agree-ment as a minimum standard, to imple-ment its provisions in the most liberal manner and to promote, through their national legislation and practic~ and by means of international agreements the progressive elimination to trade barriers to the free flow of education, scientific and cultural JIUlterials." The outcome of' this representation was to exempt goods ordered for use by or on behalf of the Government of Ghana.

Public Boards and Corporations and other Government Diplomatic Missions, Technical Assistance scheme and Chari-table Organisations, Institutions from paying the surcharge. But the,

Commer-cial

sector was left to pay. Books were

then on Open General Licence.

The total effect of this trade barrier is that the flow of books into the coun-try has been drastically reduced and this has affected the whole literate

commu-nity. '

Coupled with this we have had the

misfortune of having the' , cedi' devalued and books are once more on Specific Import Licence. '

Solution

1. The goverriment .should be per-9uade~ to place all pUblications on Open General LiCence again. As an essential commodity. 2. The COnimercial banks should be

instructed to expedite the transfer of bills for book purchases. This will restore confidence in overseas publishers and book-sellers and will eventually speed up supplies. This should not be , difficult as the annual expenditure on the importation of publica-tions forms only a small percen-tage of the total amount used on all goods imported into this country.

3. Because of the present exchange control restrictions and the fact that the cedi is a 'soft currency Uriesco should be approached to provide a bigger allocation of international coupons to enable libraries, institutions and private students to purchase the needed publications from overseas pub-lishers and booksellers should also co-operate by accepting these coupons.

Mr Bankole identified these problems as similar to Nigeria ones. However, books were placed on Category "A" import licence and were paid' on sight. This did p.ot obviate 'the difficulties posed by pro-forma, invoices' from cer-lain suppliers.

, Mr Wornor observed that library development on the sCale that we posses-sed was jus~ beginning, however these problems were, beginning to be felt. There was' also' the same degree of

relian~ on overseas suppliers, like

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Blackwell's, which created problems like delays in receiving books"so that books were ordered a year in advance. .There used to be legislation which gave Government sole monopoly over im-portation . of books, but this was lifted some months ago. Educational mate-rials were now free from tax.

There were other contributions from the floor, which can be summarized as

fqlJows.: - .

1.

Author~hip

is only

on~

of a

number of factors which contri-bute to shortage of books in West Africa.

. -2. The problems posed by publish-ing, printpublish-ing, bookselling reach greater dimensions when exami-ned more closely.

3. Other media of producing books should be explored. For example, conference proceedings,reports, research papers, symposia could be produced quickly and cheaply by xerox and other processes.

. 4. Printing materials are expensive and unless they are readily available and their costs reduced local book prices will be prohibi-tive.

5. International copyright .. agree-ments should be . reviewed at governmentallevef to enable local printing to be undertaken on a large-scale, to conserve foreign

. exchange. .

6. . National Bibliographies.' .should be more comprehensive·and. im-. proved to facilitate awareness of

material published in West

Afri-can countries: .. '.

_ 7. -.It

~hould

enhance the

e~change

and flow of We.st Afr:ican puplica:-tions, among the countries.,. _,: .'

46

.

B. Proposals for reactivating the West

African Library Association (WALA)

The meeting was opened by Mr A. N. de. Heer, the President of the Ghana Library AssoCiation. He outlined the history of the West African· Library Association until its dissolution in 1962. Developments in West Africa, and in Africa on the whole in any' areas of co-operation, pointed ·to the need for the formation of a new body which could take over the functions of WALA. He felt that its. formation would help emmensely in areas of library· educa-tion, regional co-operation in document-ation and bibliography, excha'nge of material and personnel. He was pleased at the presence of the Liberian delegate, and he felt that Liberia:s inclusion in the future grouping was beneficial and

important. ..

Summary of discussions

(i) Formatio,l!. of a federation. Pro-posed by Mr Agyei Gyane (Ghana), and supported 1:>Y Mr Bankole (Nigeria) . Mr Koranteng (Ghana). suggested that delegates could not possibly commit their countries at this stage and that the matter should be referred to the national councils. . This. view received the sup-port of all participants .. Mr. Wornor (Liberia) stated that he would pass on the idea to his· council and

Govern-ment accordingly. . .

(ii) Enla,rgement of the Association to include FraI).cophone West African Countries. The idea was mooted by Mr Kotei. (Ghana) who. attended the Conference on Documentation, Libra-ries, and Archives in Francophone West Africa, in Ivory Coast. Mr Ban-kole (Nigeria) ~tippotted this in ·view of , overtures made earlier by Mr Dadzie; Secretary General of the Francophone body.. T~is 'Yould, entail, widening the

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group to include documentalists and archivists in West Africa. This suggest-ion was fully adopted.

(iii) The question of finance was inevitably raised. The suggestion that funds should be raised from outside bodies was no.t popular. Mr Okorie (Nigeria) suggested that the question should be shelved for the moment until the decision to form the Association had been accepted by all West Africari

countries. , .

This view appeared acceptable to all.

(iv) West African .Libraries News-letter. Mr Banjo (Nigeria), who raised the issue felt that it w01,lld open the

. way for contributions from all West . African countries to be embodied in one organ. Mr Boadi (Ghana),

Me

Opare-Sem (Ghana)b~th stressed the need for

this organ. .

The suggestion was accepted and some felt that an editor should be appointed at the meeting to start work immediately ..

. The proceedings of the Conference ended with a dinner attended by all participants and invited guests.; The dinner speech was delivered by Mr Kalu Okorie (Nigeria) who was. the oldest professional qualified librarian at the Conference and .one time President of the West African LibraryAssociation.

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Figure

table Organisations, Institutions from paying the surcharge. But the, Commer-cial sector was left to pay

table Organisations,

Institutions from paying the surcharge. But the, Commer-cial sector was left to pay p.6

References

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