Libraries have traditionally co-operated within information networks, usually of an informal character, in order to provide the most cost-effective services to their clients. This cooperation has been based on arrangements for the exchange of publications, inter-library lending, supply of photocopies etc. Whereas the resources of information relevant to the fisheries sector are growing and diversifying at an ever increasing pace, it is unfortunately rare that the financial resources needed to acquire or access them are growing at the same rate. Maintaining an information resource in support of research and management activities has always been costly. The recent adoption of information as a commodity in a so-called information society will probably not render it less expensive.
The need for even greater co-operation between libraries, for providing access to and sharing the available resources, is essential in regions where institutions do not have a strong information base or adequate funding to obtain the wealth of information available. The main purpose of this Directory is therefore:
The organisation of libraries and information centres into more formalised networks at national, regional and even international level provides a more effective means of sharing not only the information resources but also the available expertise. Details of the fisheries information programmes and products of some international and regional organizations and networks are also included.
The dissemination of fisheries and aquaculture information is one of the primary tasks of the Fisheries Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI) of FAO. This Directory is intended to provide an overview of the status of fisheries libraries and information centres, as well as information products and services in Africa in order to enhance the following activities:
The content of the Directory and some of the terminology used are further clarified as follows:
Information Resources: This generic attribute includes external information in the form of publications (printed or digital); Publications and databases produced in Africa; Facilities for the storage, organization and retrieval of information; Information communications and technology resources; Information networks and other regional initiatives; and perhaps the most important of all - Human resources and the available skills and qualifications.
The Organizations: The decision on which organizations to include in the Directory has been arbitrary to the extent that they have been included if they have been identified as holding or producing fisheries or aquaculture information. The inclusion of only fisheries institutions and organizations would have been an easier task but would have omitted the important resources of some universities and training centres. In some countries the only significant information resources are held by the universities. In others the fisheries community depends upon them for providing access to the scientific and technical literature as well as for the expertise of their staff. Omissions are unintentional and will be corrected whenever the information is obtained.
The Data: The collection of data has been a time-consuming activity and there are still many gaps. Additional data was collected on library facilities, equipment and budgets and, although this has not been published in the Directory, it has been useful in identifying those institutions with the greatest difficulties in accessing information. The data on the library collections is not intended to be an absolute record of the number of items, but rather an indication of the volume and types of information resources available. Updated figures on the actual size of collections has not been sought if comprehensive data was available in the preliminary Directory. Future updates will be carried out, as far as possible, by the organizations themselves via the FAO Homepage.