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Library Philosophy and Practice 2008

ISSN 1522-0222

The Use of International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) and the Quality of Books Published in Nigeria

Uduak U. Enang, PhD
Department of Educational Technology and Library Science
Faculty of Education
University of Uyo
Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria



Publishing is indispensable in the knowledge industry. Publishers are mediators, who transmit, maintain, and support data. Publishing is important to national development because of the importance of information dissemination and preservation of culture and history. International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is a standard for descriptive cataloguing that facilitates the exchange of bibliographic records throughout the international library and information community. It also gives guidance to publishers on what elements should be present in published works (e.g., author, title, publisher.) ISBD was developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and has been incorporated into the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2). ISBD helps identify a publication's title, imprint, pagination, size, and so on, in a standard way (Gredley and Hopkinson, 1990). In 1975, the National Library of Nigeria, in collaboration with the Department of Library Studies, University of Ibadan and IFLA International office for UBC in London, organized a workshop to introduce ISBD to Nigerian librarians. Nigeria began to use ISBD in its national bibliography that same year (Aje, 1977).

The provision of ISBD developed and published by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and covering most media and bibliographic conditions have been incorporated in Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules of 1988. The significance of this was to help record the physical and in identifying the characteristics of a publication, including title, imprint and pagination, size, binding information etc (Gredley and Hopkinson, 1990).

ISBD is very important to publishers because it helps users to identify basic information easily. To library users, especially researchers, preliminary information is very important. The use of ISBD in published books helps identify that basic information. When the ISBD standard is not used, there may be a long search for information that should have taken only a few minutes (ISBD for Older Monographic Publications, 2004). It is worthwhile, therefore, to discuss the use of ISBD in Nigerian published books.

Literature Review

ISBD attempts to cover a range of bibliographic activities and includes elements common to one or more (ISBD(G) 1992). National bibliographic agencies create records for publications issued in each country, using ISBD as a guide. ISBD is used to describe complete or perfect copies of material (ISBD for Older Monographic Publications, 2004).

Other cataloguing agencies have more choice in description, although they are still bound by ISBD's prescribed order and punctuation. Factors such as name headings, subject information, uniform titles, and so on, are not included in ISBD, but may be included in cataloguing codes (Hargler, 1991).

The use of standards improves the consistency of bibliographic databases. The UBC programme facilitates sharing of bibliographic data through the development of appropriate standards such as ISBDs and UNIMARC (Feathers and Sturges, 1997). UBC is a programme of IFLA. The basis of IFLA's approach to UBC was stated as early as 1969 in the resolution of the International Meeting of Cataloguing Experts (IMCE) organized by IFLA "Committee on Cataloguing" at Copenhagen , which envisions a system for sharing information, using standard bibliographic description of each publication distributed by a national agency in the country of origin of publication.

The Problem

A continuing information explosion has driven some authors to patronize these publishers who do not meet the standards of ISBD. Some Nigerian publishes do not observe basic ISBD requirements, and the title pages of many publications are either missing or are lack basic information. Too much time is spent on trying to identify authorship. This study examines the use of ISBD and the quality of Nigerian published books.

Research Method

The ex post facto survey design was adopted for this study. The populations are all publishers and Nigerian published books in the Universities of Calabar, Uyo, and Port Harcourt Libraries. One thousand books were sampled from these three university libraries and 250 publishers were also sampled. One hypothesis was formulated to guide the study.

Data Analysis and Discussion of Findings

Data were analysed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (PPMC). The observation made from the documentary evidence from the three university libraries and the publishers guided the discussion of findings as presented in the tables shown below.

Table 1:ISBD as Correlate of Quality Book Publishing in Nigeria

International Standard Bibliographic Description
  Available % Not Available %
Author 1,000 100 0 0
Title 999 99.9 1 0.1
Place of Publication 998 99.8 2 0.2
Year of Publication 973 97.3 27 2.7
Publisher's Name 1,000 100 0 0
Copyright 700 70.0 300 30.0
ISBN 941 94.1 59 5.9
Bibliography 574 57.4 426 42.6
Index 708 70.8 292 29.2

Table 1 shows that a majority of Nigerian published books lacked some of the variables. All 1,000 (100%) of the sampled Nigerian books included the author's name on the title page, while 999 (99.9%) included a title. Nearly all (998, or 99.8%) indicated the place of publication, while 973 (97.3%) included the year. One hundred included the publisher name. Copyright has always been a problem in Nigerian publishing. Too many publishers do not know the implications of violating the copyright law. Only 700 (70.0%) of the sample included copyright information.

Table 2: The Use of ISBD and the Quality of Books Published in Nigeria
  Item Agreed (A) % Disagreed (D) %
1 The use of ISBD specification makes Nigeria published books compete with others in the books market. 167 66.8 83 33.2
2. The use of ISBD gives publishers a sense of direction in carrying out their work. 64 25.6 186 74.4
3. The use of ISBD specifies directive of book arrangement before publication 153 61.2 97 38.8
4. The use of ISBD simplifies the work done in published books 162 64.8 88 35.2
5. The use of ISBD makes Nigeria published books less unique 52 20.8 198 79.2

Table 2 reflects the responses on the usability of ISBD from Nigerian publishers. Two thirds agree that ISBD helps Nigerian books compete with others, and about the same number agree that it simplifies their work and that it helps specify directives of book arrangement before publication. Only one quarter agree that the use of ISBD gives publishers a sense of direction. Only twenty percent of respondents agreed that the use of ISBD makes Nigerian published books less unique.

Ho: The use of ISBD in books has no significant relationship to the quality of books published in Nigeria
Table 3: Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient Analysis of Usability and Quality of Books Published in Nigeria
Variables Σ x Σ y Σ x 2 Σ y 2 Σ xy r
Quality 15786.00   2.9E +07  



Use   2554.00   776204.00  

p<.05 df 7 crt =.666

As shown in table 3, the calculated r value of .735 is greater than the critical r-value of .666, hence the null hypothesis is rejected. This indicates that the use of ISBD in books has a significant relationship to quality, and that ISBD is a correlate to quality book published in Nigeria. The result suggests that books published in Nigeria cannot complete with books published overseas due to incomplete bibliographic information. The finding supports Edoka's (2000) views on the importance of using ISBD in published books. The findings confirm Szilvassy's (1993) opinion that although most of the developing countries are aware of the provision of ISBD, they are less likely to use it. Edoka (2000) stresses the importance of bibliographic data for librarians and sometimes for readers as well. When these data are used in published books the librarian can describe the work in a complete and accurate way. The results of this study indicate that most Nigerian publishers do not use ISBD in book arrangement. The results are in line with the view of Meyers, Bovensculte, and Lowry (1999) that ISBD guides authors and publishers in accurate description.

Most of the books in the study that lacked ISBD elements were those published by less expert or legitimate publishers. These findings on the absence of copyright information in Nigerian published books supports Asein's (2002) findings that Nigerian publishers are still ignorant of copyright laws.


Lack of essential elements of ISBD by Nigerian publishers creates problems for cataloguers, documentalists, and library users. It hinders the process of retrieving information. The study concludes that the use of ISBD has a significant relationship to the quality of books published by Nigerians. Authors should patronize reputable publishers who are well committed to ISBD and its proper arrangement in Nigerian published books, which will also facilitate cataloguing.


Aguolu, C. C. & Aguolu, I. E. (2002). Libraries and Information management in Nigeria.Maiduguri: Ed. Linform Services, 155-156

Asein, J.O. (2002). The Nigerian copyright act with introduction and notes.Ibadan: The Copyright Council Publication.

Edoka, B. E. (2000).Introduction to library science.Onitsha: Palma Publishing and Links Company Limited, 21-22

Feathers, J. & Sturges, P. (eds) (1997).International encyclopedia of information and library science. London: Routledge, 12, 28, 30, 429-431.

Gredley, E. & Hopkinson, A. (1990). Exchanging bibliographic data: MARC and other international formats. Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, London: Library Association Publication Limited; Chicago: American Library Association.

Hargler, R. (1991).The bibliographic record and information technology.2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association.

International Standard Bibliographic Description for Older Monographic Publications. Available athttp://www.ifl.org/VII/S13/pups/Isbd2. html. Retrieved May 23, 2004

ISBD(G): General International Standard Bibliographic Description: Annotated text (1992). Rev. ed. Retrieved from:http://www.ifla.org/VII/s13/pubs/isbdg0.htm

Meyers, B., Bovensculte, B. & Lowry, A. (1999). Tossing and turning all night: Publishers' dreams and nightmares.Against the Grain 10, 1-23

Smith, D. C. Jr. (1990). The Economics of book publishing in developing countries. In A guide to book publishing.Lagos: University Press, 113

Szlvassy, J. (1993). Bibliographic standards: An international perspective and a perspective for Laos. In A. Olden and M. Wise (ed.),Information and libraries in the developing world.London: Library Association Publishing, 90-95.



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