New Cataloguing Rules

If you are a student of cataloguing, a practicing cataloguer in your library or a teacher of cataloguing, the new acronym RDA should catch your attention. In fact, remaining abreast with the latest developments in our field is one of the obligations of any information worker. A word of caution though – it is far from being akin to our famous Road Development Authority ! What it simply means is Resource Description and Access. RDA is intended to eventually replace the second edition of the very popular Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2).

The following points are noteworthy:

–  RDA is the new standard for resource description and access designed for the digital world.
–  It provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions on resource description and access covering all types of content and media.
–  RDA is designed for use in an international context and is built on the foundations established by the AACR and the cataloguing traditions on which the latter was based.
– This project is not the work of a commercial publisher but the collaborative effort of a Joint Steering Committee under the supervision of the American Library Association, the Library of Congress, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professional, the National Library of Australia, the Canadian Library Association, and the British Library amongst others.
–  It provides a flexible and extensible framework for the description of resources produced and disseminated using both the latest state-of-the art digital technologies as well as non-digital formats.
–  Its objectives include responsiveness to user needs, cost-efficiency, flexibility and continuity.
–  The content is divided into ten sections comprising no less than thirty-seven chapters, thirteen appendices, and a glossary.
–  The full draft was published in November 2008 and may be downloaded in PDF format from:  However, this exercise may seem annoying unless one has broadband Internet connection.
–  It is hoped that our library schools and professional associations will keep an eye on RDA with a view to enable us to master the technicalities of these new cataloguing rules.

Ibrahim Ramjaun

Laptop Loaning Programme in Academic Libraries

There is evidence  to demonstrate that libraries allowing their patrons to use laptops  in the library premises has a positive impact to attract them to the libraries. In the developed countries, laptop usage has undergone a dramatic change, mainly in the academic environment. Since technology allowed the newer laptops to become lighter in weight, students are more willing to carry them to the library leading to a constant growth in the use of these devices. The fact was noted and subsequently, academic libraries like the Gleason Library at the University of Rochester, USA planned renovation projects which aimed to make the library spaces more suitable for the intensive use of new technologies. As a result, collaborative study spaces were created for both individual and group work, furniture was rearranged, a robust wired and wireless infrastructure accomodated to support the use of laptops and other digital technologies. These amenities were welcomed by laptop users mainly by students working on group-based assignments and brought a substantial growth in the number of users. In addition, it was observed that such space attracted more students to the library and it became one of the most desirable places to study.

Furthermore, in order to cater for the use of laptops which gained popularity at a faster rate throughout the country, some libraries like the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) are checking out laptops to their patrons. They have set up  ‘ Laptop check out procedures’ to answer to any programmatic and policy questions  and drawn  a ‘ Laptop check out policy and patron agreement’ form  to be duly filled by users which binds them to the effective use of the laptops without hampering or causing any damage to the materials. Government issued ID cards with current photographs along with the library cards are compulsory (for security reasons) to check out a laptop. A fine is stipulated in case of late check ins or violation of the rules in the policy. Whats more, these procedures and policies are shared equally between more libraries which want to check out laptops to its users.

The laptop use in the academic libraries in Mauritius has followed a similar trend. More students are bringing laptops into the libraries. However, they are compelled to use them in existing traditional library spaces. The amenities such as technology infrastructure, aesthetics and rearrangement of furniture have never received any serious consideration. Development of policies and strategies to accommodate tech-savvy users  are unfortunately delayed in the local library spaces. In view of the expected growth in the number of laptop users in the future ( students and academic members) it is imperative that authorities consider this revolution in the academic world of learning as a priority. Moreover, in order to market the library services and at the same time solve the ever-growing space issues, laptop check outs could be given some serious thought as an innovative incentive to attract the users. The University of Hong Kong libraries ‘Laptop Loaning Programme’ may be a model to emulate  ( The transformation of library spaces need to be ultimately included in the concept of today’ s academic libraries in the local context. Ways to reshape and rethink services for more response from the users should be furthermore considered so that the objectives of the libraries to support learning and research of students and academic members are met with much satisfaction and less drawbacks.

Lalita Chumun

1. Briden, Judi. 2008. Snapshots of laptop use in an academic library. University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, USA
2. Laptop check out programs. Available from:

Knowledge: the Key to Competitive Advantage for Learning Organisations

Changes in technology, especially information technology, has accelerated the spread of knowledge at tremendous speed, as well as exposing its quick obsolence. The increasing complexity, turbulency and uncertainty of the library environment predictably requires different and greater knowledge on the part of library service providers to satisfy the increasingly complex customer demands. There is a clear need for new solutions.

Knowledge is viewed as the key input for the development of a competitive advantage for organisations where employees’ knowledge and skills are critical factors. Without this there is no organisational success. It follows then that managerial methods, policy and styles should be constantly revamped and in tune with current development. Employees’ education and training on the other hand require due consideration to improve library and information services. In the local context, training programmes and career-building for employees seem to be very low on the agenda of top management.  Without employee training and a proper staff development plan, appropriate conditions for constant knowledge improvement, innovation and creativity in work,  organisations will not survive in a more and more competitive and turbulent environment. It is only through knowledge, knowledge-sharing and mutual experience exchange that will lead learning organisations to attain a competitive advantage.

Besides, lifelong learning of employees in the library field will contribute to the establishment of a permanently learning organisation. A learning organisation is formed when it actively promotes learning of all its members and transforms it permanently. Today successful organisations are not those that have a well-educated workforce but most often those that have coherently and systematically implemented a continuous (life-long) learning programme. The only way for the library community to survive as a learning organisation is to innovate or accept to perish. Obtaining knowledge, learning, education, all have a real effect on the quality of service when they are harmonised with the needs and objectives of a particular library. In addition, employee training and development does not imply only obtaining new knowledge, abilities and skills, but also the possibility to introduce employees to changes, encourage the change of their attitude and involve them actively in the process of decision making.

The learning organisation is also the organisation that learns and encourages people to learn in the organisation. It motivates information exchange between employees and creates staff with different knowledge. The initial concept of knowledge management indicates that power does not come from knowledge, but from the exchange and use of that knowledge. More qualitative knowledge is obtained by exchanging knowledge; and obtaining and sharing knowledge becomes the core of a learning organisation. Application of this system in the library community of Mauritius remains a managerial challenge. Library management requires positive reinventing to constantly monitor and encourage the development of new skills and knowledge and create a new type of leadership where the leaders are not all-knowing supervisors, but rather moderators and inspirators. The leaders need to recognize, attract and release knowledge which also implies a high degree of employee competence and orientation towards the participative style of management.

The prosperity of the library community is definitely dependent on the intellectual capacity of the employees and their ability to change and adjust to the dynamic environment. Renewing knowledge is crucial in the library field and not an option. Without it, it is difficult to implement the changes and adjust them to the ever changing environment, to create innovations and guarantee the success of the learning organisation.

Lalita Chumun


Vemic, J. 2007. Employee training and development and the learning organisation. Economics and Organisation, 209 (4/2).

Preservation of Library Materials in Mauritius

During the period  September  27 to October 01, 2010, Ms Claire  Dekle, Preservation Specialist and Senior Book Conservator at the Library of Congress was in Mauritius on an invitation of the US Embassy. Ms Claire delivered three lectures on the topic of preservation and conservation, organised two training sessions at the National Library and had a round table with members of the library associations. People working in the LIS field in Mauritius were exposed to the techniques of preservation and conservation as practised in the US. During the round table,  various points were raised and discussions were not limited to preservation of library materials only.  It would be good if we reflect on the various issues raised.

Preservation role of libraries: In Mauritius, all libraries are not involved in the long term preservation of library materials. To avoid any confusion, let us define the terms first. In the LIS profession, ‘preservation’ is “concerned with maintaining or restoring access to artifacts, documents and records through the study, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of decay and damage” [Wikipedia]. The term should not be confused with ‘conservation’  which “refers to the treatment and repair of individual items to slow decay or restore them to a usable state.” Keeping library collections in sound environment (including temperature, humidity, air quality, and light levels under control) helps in the preservation process and extends the life of the collection by slowing down its rate of physical deterioration. Usually preservation is intended to keep books and documents in the collection permanently. If some libraries do not pay much attention to any of these basic measures to keep their materials in good conditions, they should start doing it. However, the mission to keep materials for posterity, for eternity, at least as long as it is possible to extend the life of a document is vested with very few libraries and cultural institutions. These institutions are the National Library, the National Archives Department, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute and to some extent, the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, the Mauritius College of the Air and the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation  (for local productions).  Other libraries barely have this preservation role….preserving for posterity.

What to preserve? One of the fundamental questions in any preservation programme/ policy is to determine what materials to preserve. Small States like Mauritius cannot afford to preserve materials that are already being taken care of by big institutions in developed countries. Replication or duplication in this area is completely unjustified since sharing of digital contents is so easy in our time. Mauritius cannot compete with lets say the British Library or the Library of Congress in preserving world literature. These institutions are big players in the field. We have neither the expertise nor the technologies to embark on such preservation programme. The only viable option  would be to digitise  materials confined to Mauritius only. Indigenous literature, original works of local authors, local productions (multimedia), official records of the colonial administration and reports, historical and rare documents pertaining to Mauritius alongside the newspaper archives of the country may be subject to preservation. Anything else would be unnecessary duplication and wastage of resources. Given the size of the country, libraries may well coordinate their actions and work towards a national preservation centre to preserve the cultural heritage of the nation.

Digitisation or Microfilming? One of the technologies successfully used for quite long time for preserving print materials, more particularly newspaper archives, is without any doubt microfilming. Microfilming technologies have matured over the years and  have been accepted in the LIS world as a reliable technology for preserving print media. However, recent developments in digital technologies have open new avenues and many organisations are resorting to digitisation technologies for both long term preservation and easy dissemination of information using Web-enabled applications. Digital technologies is still evolving and no one is sure about its long term viability as technology changes very rapidly and become outdated. Better performing and more sophisticated technologies will for ever pose a challenge to libraries.  Can we for this reason scrap microfilming technologies as outdated and embrace digital technologies? The question requires deep investigation.

Preservation problem in the digital era: Preservation of digital contents (resulting from conversion of analogue media to digital media and the sheer increase of digitally born materials)  poses serious problems. Many institutions nowadays resort to “collective bargaining” by forming consortia to buy access to e-journals or e-databases. As compared to print media where buying library materials operated a transfer of ownership to the purchaser, subscribing to e-databases does not make this change of ownership possible. The materials remain the property of the e-database owner. The purchasing library in fact only acquires the right to access the materials, not the ownership. Moreover, the archived materials remain in the database of the owner. Under such circumstances, whose responsibility is it to preserve the e-documents. Current legislation is not clear on this. As long as the database is commercially exploitable and has a money value, the owner will keep it. But what about its long-term preservation,  for eternity? It is not binding on commercial enterprises to carry this preservation role. With the digital  publishing, we are running the risk of loosing for ever important chunk of human culture, thus impairing future scholarship and research.

For Mauritius, there is an urgent need to formulate a national policy to preserve for posterity both the print heritage and the digital contents related to our country.

P. Hauroo