In Sierra Leone the terms ‘official publications’, official documents’, and ‘public documents’ are synonymous with government publications. Government publications, simply put, are documents created by government and local and quasi-government bodies explaining and integrating views and polices. They represent the historical and current development authorities of government and provide data on a wide variety of subjects to include Political Science, Economics, Finance, Statistics, Labor, Industry, History, International Relations, Agriculture, Geology and Meteorology. Katz (1997) classed these publications into Academics : (1) records of government administration (2).research documents for specialists including a considerable number of statistics and data of value to science and business (3).popular sources of information. Their physical form being either a book, pamphlet, magazine, report monograph or electronic, especially CD-ROM (p.387).
Bibliographic control in many parts of the world is seemingly unsatisfactory due largely to lack of awareness of the importance of bibliographic tools in research in government publications. The United States of America, for example, was for a long time a pioneer in this field. As far back as 1895 the Printing Act of January 12 of that year (28 statute, 601-624) not only established centralized printing and distribution of federal documents but also instructed the Superintendent of Documents to provide appropriate tools for bibliographic control of the documents published. Great Britain is an outstanding exception for as far back as 1807 collections of parliamentary papers were printed. Countries such as Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Japan began separating government document bibliographies mainly in the 1920s and 1930s (Palic,1975). However a great need for the use of government publications was felt following World War 11 (1939-1945), when there was an increased interest in the authoritative information contained in such publications as posited by child’s (1942) in his introductory notes that ‘more and more the importance of government documentation is being recognized despite the refractory nature of some of these materials’
In parallel the emphasis made on the usefulness of government publications in Sierra Leone is associated with the development of printing which can be traced as far back as the founding of the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1787. Although the industry didn’t survive the French attack of 1794 the foundation stone of what later became known as the Government Printing Department was laid in 1925 when it was charged with the production of small notices for official use. Currently the Department prints all government publications and supplies stationery and office equipment of government departments. It also undertakes a fair amount of commercial printing as income generating measures.
Government publications usually have the advantage of being among the best in their subject fields often not easily available to others (Smith, 1993). In lieu of the extent and complexity of government activities there is a need for the widespread dissemination of information about these activities and for popular integration of government policy. No wonder why government publications have special value to academic library collections and their authority is permanent. In academic libraries in Sierra Leone these publications are put aside into a special collection manned by a curator as at Fourah Bay College Library. Some are kept in vertical files; others are placed in pamphlet boxes, while those like maps and surveys are given specialized storage. These publications are acquired mainly by purchase, deposit, donation, exchange and photocopying. The Government Printing Department is responsible for their publication
DIVISIONS OF GOVERNMENT AND THEIR PUBLICATIONS
The expansion of government in Sierra Leone’s post-war reconstruction era at local, national and international levels has resulted in increasing her influence on the life of the citizenry. Simultaneously with this expansion is the proliferation of official and semi official agencies, commissions and bureaus which continue to publish works such as directories, regulations, reports, bills, Acts and technical literature which many a researchers, educators, public service functionaries, welfare recipients and the unemployed can not do without reference to such publications. Since librarians serve as interface between users and government they have for long recognized the problems which such a plethora of collection can pose and have been making tremendous strides to address the issue. The essence here is to provide systematic controls to avoid the disappearance, into oblivion, of essential official publications.
In Sierra Leone government publications fall within three general classes: Executive, Legislative ands Judicial. The Executive publications include those issued by the Offices of the President and the Vice President, and various independent offices and establishments such as National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), National Revenue Authority (NRA), Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and the Office of the Ombudsman. Also included are government ministries such as the Ministries of defense; Education, Youth and Sports; Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Tourism and Cultural Affairs; Local Government and Community Development; Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security; Trade and Industry; Internal Affairs; labor and Industrial Relations; and Development and Economic Planning.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, for example, is responsible for both internal and international trade and the promotion of exports. It has powers over customs and excise, tariffs, insurance, patents, trademarks, standards, weights and measures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is responsible for Sierra Leone’s relationship with foreign and Commonwealth countries while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security is responsible for administrating government policy on agriculture, horticulture and food security. This Ministry offers practical guidance to farmers, commercial producers of horticultural crops and research.The Ministry of Internal Affairs deals with the maintenance of law and order, the Police and Fire Forces, administration of the prisons and the treatment of offenders. Other miscellaneous matters dealt with by this ministry include explosives, firearms, dangerous drugs, prisons, shops, public safety, entertainment, cremation, bylaws and good rule and formal business. The aforementioned functions and similar ones carried out by other ministries require the creation and maintenance of publications. There is also documentation of press briefings given by the varied heads of ministries and newsletters, which are channels for respective ministries there-by making them more public-relations conscious.