quinta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2011

Sobre leis de Bibliotecas

A recente discussão sobre a legislação para bibliotecas publicas fez-me lembrar que tinha escrito sobre isso na minha tese em 2001. Aqui fica o extracto.

9.6. Legislation

The fact that Portugal does not have a library law was often mentioned by librarians as a hindering factor to the library being able to play their educational roles, and indeed affecting many aspects of the work of the library.
Some responses stressed the relevance that a law could have in helping libraries to gain more autonomy:
We are expected to do many things but we are not given the corresponding autonomy. This is an aspect that should be carefully looked at by librarians, and we should have legislation for the libraries.
(Librarian, small town, South of the country)
Another reason to justify the need for library legislation was the possible conflict of the roles of librarians and of elected members:
Libraries suffer from lack of autonomy. A Library Chart must be urgently defined; otherwise it may be very dangerous for us librarians, as we will be seen as competing with the elected members.
(Librarian, medium size town, North of the country)
The financing of the library was another issue considered by some respondents as likely to benefit from legislation, as illustrated in the following responses:

I think it would be important, for example, as far as the financing is concerned, that some national parameters existed, because, otherwise, we risk that some municipalities being penalised in favour of others with less sensitivity to cultural matters.
            (Councillor, medium size town, North of the country)
One response raised a set of diverse issues that justify the need for legislation for public libraries. Alongside the benefits associated with autonomy and financing, it considered that legislation could help to ease the administrative procedures by underlying the specificity of the library within the organization of the municipality. Another major issue was censorship of library materials by elected members, which, according to the respondent, a library law would make more difficult.
A different statute should be defined for the library. Presently it is considered just as any other service of the local authority. Or maybe specific rules should be defined within the local administration for the reality which is the library, even within the administrative constraints that we have mentioned. It should be defined clearly how bids should be considered, how acquisitions should be considered, how the autonomy of the management of the library should be considered, independently of some political pressures. I mean the role of the library, as a library, should be understood, for instance within the guidelines of the UNESCO Manifesto that cannot cope with specific political orientations. It happens, sadly, I believe it happens in some libraries, that they may be used by political powers to convey a certain way of seeing things and just a specific way of seeing things. I remember having heard some colleagues say that it was absolutely impossible for them to have in the library works that were not in favour of a certain political allegiance. A public library cannot be compatible with these things. This has nothing to do with what a public library should be. It is even hard for me to believe in such things, as I, myself, have never felt something like this but this is what I was told… and it is possible because, depending on the political power, it may intervene… All the entities that intervene at a cultural level, and are associated with political power, are vulnerable entities. I think that a specific statute should be established for libraries, I do not know what other solutions exist except for a library law.
(Librarian, medium size town, South of the country)

It should be underlined that this was the only response which raised the problems of censorship in Portuguese public libraries, suggesting thus that this is not a major issue in Portuguese public libraries. However, this is a topic that would need clarification and demands further research, since there is evidence of the importance of this issue in other parts of the world (Curry, 1997).
The literature provides arguments to substantiate the respondent’s perceptions about the usefulness of having legislation to serve as a framework for public libraries. Both the UNESCO Manifesto (UNESCO, 1995) and the new IFLA Guidelines (IFLA 2000) are clear in their acknowledgement of the positive outcomes of library legislation.  While the Manifesto states that the public library “must be supported by specific legislation…”, the guidelines suggest that this legislation “assures their continuance and their place in the government structure.”  According to Thomas (1997) several reasons may recommend the existence of legislation. These include preventing charges, guaranteeing a certain standard or avoiding cuts to activities and setting the conditions for state support.
Different legislative and administrative traditions in different countries may lead to different approaches to library legislation. Legislation, in itself, is not a secure panacea to solve all the problems of public libraries. Besides the evolving of society may make obsolete any piece of legislation within a few years of publication (Vittiello, 2000). However, the perceptions of the respondents to the present study result from their own experiences of working and living in a library universe that, literally, is outside the law. Their hopes for what library legislation could bring about match in many cases the positive outcomes achieved in other parts of the world.
This study suggests that the existence of legislation in Portugal could help public libraries in fulfilling their potential of supporting education. It could add to a clarification of their educational roles, it could help in guaranteeing that they are given the necessary resources in a coherent and continuous way, and it would allow a clarification of their management structures and processes. 

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