What Caribbean Librarians Want From Caribbean Publishers
Abstract: In this article, the Caribbean library market is defined
as the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries
(ACURIL). The market includes academic, school, special, national and public libraries
serving a linguistically (Dutch, English, French and Spanish) and culturally diverse
population of over 40 million people. Each library has a unique profile based on
differing levels of funding, information technology/Internet access, professional
personnel, and collection development and purchasing distinctions. Common to all
the libraries is the difficulty in selecting and purchasing Caribbean-focused materials
authored or published by Caribbean people. In order to overcome this difficulty,
Caribbean librarians request that publishers provide reviews, synopses, and bibliographies
of Caribbean-related materials, publish works that will fill designated gaps in a
collection, and stimulate writing on Caribbean biographies and achievements. In a
broader sense, Caribbean librarians request that publishers develop better editorial
and bibliographic standards, promote legal deposit activity, create awareness of
monetary devaluations, customs, and foreign exchange issues, offer marketing and
promotional support for individual libraries, and provide prompt and efficient customer
service to all Caribbean libraries. Publishers and Caribbean librarians seek to work
together to create a mutually beneficial relationship and ultimately better serve
the large population of library patrons.
This article provides an overview of Caribbean
Libraries, discusses some issues of selection and purchasing as well as
bibliographic requirements of interest to publishers and, finally,
makes some recommendations for collaboration between publishers and
librarians. Specific country and language issues will be highlighted
The Caribbean can be defined in various ways. The
one used in this article is that of the Association of Caribbean
University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL), which
includes those countries in the Caribbean basin, mainland countries
including the Guianas, and the States of United States of America,
which border on the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. In ACURIL, the
countries number over forty. ACURIL's membership reflects about 110
institutional members, 10 association members and 80 personal members.
This is different to the Caribbean Publisher's Network (CAPNET)'s,
which includes mainly those countries in the Caribbean Basin.
Libraries in this area represent a
population of over 40 million people. Unique to the area are the
multi-lingual (Dutch, English, French, and Spanish) and multi-cultural
aspects of a people who have a rich and diverse history and development.
The Caribbean Library Market reflects the types of
libraries that exist everywhere—academic, school, special, national and
public libraries. Each type of library has specific acquisition and
collection characteristics, which reflect their purchasing ability and
In the Caribbean, academic libraries
tend to have better funding than other types of libraries. Purchases
are often made in bulk from international publishers and agents. There
are normally acquisition departments, usually, with at least one
professional librarian. The larger well-funded academic libraries will
be automated and have Internet access for both users and for library
administration. Purchases are made based on the curriculum and
recommendations from faculty and librarians employed at that
University. The subject areas taught are an indication of the type of
material needed by the institution.
School libraries in the Caribbean
tend to have the lowest funding. Their needs are for a specific age
range and level. Though with a specific curriculum, school libraries
need a wide variety of books and periodicals. However, they often
cannot afford these purchases because of low or minimal funding. Some
secondary school libraries may have a professional librarian, but more
often than not a library assistant or teacher-librarian would manage
the school library at either the primary or secondary level. Use of
information technology is often not very high in these libraries at
this time. Even if Internet access is offered to users, library
automation or use of the Internet for library administration is to a
large extent non-existent.
Special libraries buy to satisfy
their niche clientele. These libraries have collections in a specific
subject area like law, business, health, economics, government, etc.
These libraries have varying levels of funding and can be a good market
for publishers who cater to their needs. Often their requirement for
very specific information related to the Caribbean is not met due to a
dearth of local publications. Special libraries usually have at least
one qualified professional. The level of implementation of information
technology can vary widely, often depending on funding, and its use
varies with the level of expertise of the library staff.
National and public libraries
also have varied levels of funding. Usually, a technical services area
with at least one professional librarian manages central purchasing for
several branch libraries. This often calls for multiple copies of
materials, so that to be cost effective, libraries may have to seek
international publishers. The application of information technology
varies widely from country to country, based on funding and the level
of training of library staff. Internet access may be available but
library automation is not always implemented. Directors of public
libraries in countries with small economies sometimes have to share a
computer with staff and may check e-mail once a week or so.
One fact remains and it is that all Caribbean
libraries buy Caribbean material. Caribbean materials can be defined as
- books published within the Caribbean.
- books on the Caribbean regardless of their
origin. (Caribbean focus)
- literary works by Caribbean authors published
outside the region. (Caribbean authorship) [Bandara 1994]
Caribbean librarians will buy from
local bookstores, directly from local publishers as well as
international publishers—wherever they find the material available.
There are a number of issues which
affect what libraries purchase in the Caribbean. Librarians do not just
buy books; they are building and developing collections. Many Caribbean
libraries are trying to fill gaps in their collections. Thus, apart
from the collection needs of the libraries, problems with selection,
other major areas requiring further discussion are purchasing and
Some selection difficulties involve
the fact that libraries must be aware of what is published in order to
select for purchase. One major problem with selecting Caribbean library
materials is that there are few reviews and regular title listings.
Many, if not all, librarians want a review, a synopsis or even a title
list of what is published locally. Librarians need reviews to justify
publications. French Caribbean librarians claim to have money to
purchase, but cannot identify what is available around the Caribbean. A
professional approach would be to use catalogues, but it is
acknowledged that producing one is costly for publishers. It was noted
that 90% of books sent for review are rejected because of the lack of
the resources to get this done and not because of any lack of quality
in the books. (ForewordReviews.com 2001)
Librarians have made attempts to
strengthen the book industry by doing book review projects or producing
extensive bibliographies. There was a project for a Caribbean
Books in Print embarked upon in the 1990s. A Caribbean Review
of Books was published 1991-1993 (Bandara 1994). There are
national bibliographies being attempted in a few countries. However,
these are irregular and often not quite up-to-date. There are several
Caribbean Bibliographies in print and online, including Mitchell's West
Indian Bibliography, which is posted on the Internet (Mitchell 2003).
With few reviews and abstracts, an
actual physical assessment of the items is appreciated and, if
possible, some librarians buy on the spot. For special collections,
placing titles in the bookshops and notifying relevant librarians can
work. Librarians appreciate visits to publisher houses to collect
material that may not be available at the bookshops.
Another way publishers can reach customers is to
develop a selective dissemination activity similar to the ones that
libraries use for their clientele. If publishers maintained profiles of
libraries and their collections, they can service the libraries better,
and the profiles will give an idea of the subject areas, topics, even
keywords for material which specific libraries and librarians need to
build collections. Publishers may more easily come across titles that
are in the process of being published and can assist librarians in
filling gaps in their collections.
Also part of the selection process is
the question of what is published. Audience-appropriate publications
are needed. There is a need for local topics to be addressed in a
simple manner; for example, with children books, where authenticity of
illustrations and content is desired. Older readers may require large
print formats. The Dutch Caribbean librarians feel neglected, as the
scope of what is published is not always relevant to their users.
Publishers usually know when there is little
information on a subject; they can be pro-active and publish a work
knowing that there is a captive market that will purchase it.
Publishers have a role to play in stimulating writing as well. There
are insufficient materials on the Caribbean by Caribbean people. This
may be to a large extent because of a lack of self-appreciation among
Caribbean people as a result of their Colonial past—a feeling that what
they have to say is not worth documenting. Of course, Naipaul and
similar writers who are held in high esteem discount this idea, but
more books are needed that build self-esteem: more biographies, more
books that put achievements by the Caribbean people on the world stage
and show that they are comparable if not better in some areas. The mix
of cultures and genes are the basis for their "Caribbeanness" and their
achievements should be celebrated by being recorded.
Publishers need to address the issue of
out-of-print material, which is sorely needed by Caribbean libraries.
One suggestion is small runs with more than one item. India, for
example, produces cheaper formats for internal distribution. There is
also a need for multimedia materials, e.g. talking books for the
Language is a very interesting aspect
of selection. The Dutch Caribbean librarians want publishers in the
English-speaking Caribbean to know that they speak and want materials
in English. They would welcome promotional material, reviews and title
listings in English. All librarians want translations into their own
language and, probably, because of the dominance of English, some
librarians in non-English-speaking territories want books in English.
There are several issues related to
purchasing. Libraries, because of their funding and traditionally
bureaucratic administration, tend to use purchase orders and not cash
payments. If publishers are to capture this market they have to
accommodate this type of purchasing. Some libraries with funding
usually want to purchase all that is published on a specific listing or
catalogue, so this should be facilitated via purchase order rather than
having to obtain them singly.
Regarding purchasing power, recent monetary
devaluations (as in the Dominican Republic) and other economic problems
besieging Caribbean countries have affected libraries. Budget cuts mean
that the more expensive science and other specialty books are priced
out of the libraries reach. Libraries want library editions for limited
budgets and discounts for purchasing multiple copies. For electronic
material, libraries want better rates. The French Caribbean librarians
want it noted that they have customs and foreign exchange problems, and
if publishers can do more to minimise this, they would be appreciative.
Publishers' use of information technology by
establishing websites or sending e-mails is useful, but many Caribbean
librarians still prefer to order by regular mail. Libraries need prompt
confirmation of orders. They need to know all the charges up front,
that is, the actual cost of acquiring the items. They expect prompt
shipping at the lowest cost, naturally. They require stable mailing and
contact information for publishers. Libraries, in turn, can provide
information by which they evaluate quotations. Such information can be
posted on websites like the "Evaluation
Criteria" page on Trinidad and Tobago's National Library and
Information System Authority (NALIS) website (National Library and
Information System Authority. 2003. Evaluation Criteria).
Bibliographic issues involve standards for format,
both physical and layout, yet many books published in the Caribbean do
not conform to any standards. There may be a title and an author but no
date, no information on the publisher or copyright. All librarians want
better editorial and bibliographic standards in publications. Some
suggestions for books are as follows:
Books must be physically suitable for library use
(good paper and binding), should be user-friendly and should include
the following information:
- Full title (A title page with basic information
- Imprint (Place of publication, publisher and
date of publication)
- Copyright information—if more than one person
is involved, that should be stated
- Publisher's address (especially important for
small publishers in the region)
- International Standard Book Number (ISBN): An
ISBN is a 10-digit code that identifies one title or edition of a title
from one specific publisher and is unique to that title or edition.
NALIS states that since 2003 it has become the ISBN agency for Trinidad
and Tobago. The ISBN is mandatory and can be obtained through a process
of registration and paying a processing fee for a block of numbers.
These fees may be waived in appropriate circumstances.
- International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): An
ISSN is an 8-digit code which identifies a serial publication, i.e. a
publication issued in successive parts, having a common title and
intended to be continued indefinitely (if applicable)
- Table of contents
- Numbered pages
- Index (if applicable)
- Series information (if applicable)
- Cataloguing in Publication (CIP)
- Software capabilities.
Books must generally conform to international
Caribbean libraries are now purchasing more print
materials that have non-book accompaniment and multimedia items, such
as music CD-ROMs etc. Standards for this type of material maybe as
- Names of the disc's artistes/author(s)
- If applicable, the instruments each artiste
plays (we frequently see "J. Jones - all instruments" in the region;
this is unacceptable)
- Universal Product Code (UPC): A unique
thirteen-digit inventory tracking number assigned to a compact disc by
the Uniform Code Council to allow tracking when sold commercially.
- Release number (usually an in-house code),
- The CD logo is mandatory, although many do not
- The title
- Time of each track
- The name of the copyright agency e.g. COTT
(Copyright Organisation Trinidad and Tobago).
Acknowledging that the relationship
between publishers and librarians should be of mutual benefit, the
following recommendations for collaboration are suggested. Publishers
could partner with libraries, especially public and school libraries,
to emphasise the importance of reading for personal and employment
Librarians should encourage publishers to support
legal deposit activity. Legal deposit is the act of depositing
published material in designated libraries or archives. Legal deposit
legislation serves a clear national public policy interest by ensuring
the acquisition, the recording, the preservation and the availability
of a nation's published heritage. (National Library of Wales 2000).
This tradition has been well instituted in developed countries since
the 1500's. However, it has only recently been introduced to Caribbean
countries and is extremely necessary for maintaining a record of who
the Caribbean people are and their achievements.
One innovative idea for making librarians aware of
what is published is to post a comprehensive website, such as the one
under development by CAPNET, so that librarians can visit a central
source to determine what books are being published. Of course, it will
be only as good as the publishers who support the venture. Even the
list of publishers available on CAPNET's website is extremely useful.
One librarian from Florida pointed out that they do not even know who
the publishers are in the region, far less get access to their title
Librarians should talk to publishers about what
services they believe to be important to their users. Librarians can
invite publishers to attend various library association meetings in the
region and arrange "focus groups" with groups of librarians. These
discussions are useful to librarians for learning about the issues for
publishers, as well.
Librarians could encourage publishers to join
library associations and exhibit at conferences like the annual ACURIL
conferences and those of local library associations. This gives
immediate exposure of titles to a ready market and an opportunity to
network at the same time.
Users today are interested in having access to
electronic full text publications. While this is especially true for
journal titles, it is also important for monographs. While publishers
may not want current list titles available in electronic full text
form, they may consider making older texts available. Some libraries
would be interested in working with publishers to digitise their works,
thus making older, out of print works again available. Obviously, there
are financial issues to consider. Libraries can work with publishers to
digitise their materials in cooperative projects.
Librarians support all book promotion
activities. Book launches held at libraries inform the librarians of
what is published and provides an opportunity to celebrate reading and
for networking. Providing information on writers, sponsoring writers'
and librarians' awards, planning book fairs and debates are promotional
activities, which can benefit all.
Acknowledging that reviews are
expensive, library associations e.g. national and regional library
associations may be able to assist by having training for librarians in
"How to do Reviews." If the Associations produce newsletters or
journals, they can publish reviews and the librarians would have
benefited from continuing education, having acquired a new skill as
well as have the required tools for selection purposes.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that, first
and foremost, librarians and publishers should have a symbiotic
relationship. This mutually beneficent relationship would be rewarding
for all concerned as both can help each other achieve their objectives
and should see each other as natural allies.
Bandara, Samuel. Caribbean
Books in Print [online]. 60th IFLA General Conference -
Conference Proceedings - August 21-27, 1994. (cited June 17, 2004).
Available from: http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla60/60-bans.htm.
ForewordReviews.com. 2001. "Professional
reviews help buyers make purchasing decisions... and can help you sell
books" [online]. (cited June 17, 2004). Available from: http://www.forewordreviews.com/Publisher.
International Federation of Library Associations.
2000. History of Legal Deposit [online]. (cited June 17,
2004). Available from: http://www.ifla.org/VII/s1/gnl/chap2.htm.
Mitchell, Don. 2003. Mitchell's West Indian
Bibliography: Caribbean Books and Pamphlets [online]. 6th ed.
(cited June 17, 2004). Available from: http://www.books.ai/index.html.
National Library of Wales. 2000. Legal
Deposit in the National Published Archive [online]. (cited June
17, 2004). Available from: http://www.llgc.org.uk/cla/legaldeposit.htm.
National Library and Information System Authority.
2003. Trinidad and Tobago ISBN Agency [online]. (cited June
17, 2004). Available from: http://www.nalis.gov.tt/TechServices/isbnapp.html.
National Library and Information System Authority.
2003. Evaluation Criteria [online]. (cited June 17, 2004).
Available from: http://www.nalis.gov.tt/TechServices/evaluationcrit.html.
Shamin Renwick is Multimedia and
Information Technology Librarian at the Medical Sciences Library, The
University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and
E-mail: srenwick [at] library [dot] uwi [dot] tt
© 2002 Shamin Renwick
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