Problems of Romanian Librarianship: Romanian Librarianship on the Verge of European Integration
Romanian librarianship is dealing with a number of difficulties including the lack of documents, financial resources and a constant reduction of trained staff, in addition to the lack of information, vague action, isolation and many others. The present situation is based as well on the fact that there has been no professional library and documentation education in Romania aimed at training specialists and professionals for the work in libraries and for other information structures. European integration may be a solution for all these problems.
Romanian society is crossing a period characterised by deep transformations which politicians call reform. It is not possible to speak only of economic reform resulting in the crossover to a market economy, the reinstatement of private ownership, and of new exchange and production structures, but one also speaks of a social reform through a process of regrouping social categories which leads to the emergence of new social classes. One also speaks of a change in mentality and of the political, economic, cultural, and informational behaviour a change in social and individual relations.
In this respect, the library also is crossing a reform process determined by the revision of its own services and activities in connection with the changing world through the mastery of indispensable professional library fields such as management, marketing, information science and user psychology. Romanian librarianship is facing hard times. Apart from the problems which are part of this era and which directly or indirectly affect library activities, Romanian librarians are dealing with a series of difficulties including the lack of documents, financial resources and a constant reduction of trained staff, in addition to the lack of information, vague action, isolation and many others.
2. Romanian Library Education
The present situation is based on the fact that for a long time there was no professional library and documentation education in Romania aimed at training specialists and professionals for the work in libraries and for other information structures. Until the 1960s this type of education existed in a system on three levels: intermediate level, upper level and higher education, which gave comparative results with those of the European level. Thus, between 1924 and 1948 The School for Archives and Palaeography was operating alongside the State Archives with a department of librarianship (with a duration of two years) which offered training for high school graduates and librarians which graduated from the high school, as well as for college students. From its foundation, one of the most famous Romanian librarians, Alexandru SadiIonescu, taught at this school. Besides its strong practical character, the school had the advantage of training librarians at an intermediate level, to complete the training of librarians already employed and to give the students of other fields the opportunity of completing their studies through knowledge in library science.
In 1948 the school was reorganised to form an Institute for Archives Studies, Bibliology and Palaeography which operated for one year, until 1949. Another form of higher education for bibliology which had existed simultaneously (from 1932) was provided by the bibliological conferences which were founded besides the departments of Romanian literary history at the universities of Bucharest and Cluj. Although it enjoyed a great reputation among the predecessors of Romanian bibliology, Ioachim Craciun and Nicolae GeorgescuTistu, this unique form of bibliological study had a problem which was yet unnoticed at the time as the flux of information in the last years: limited university (academic) education for librarians to students of linguistics and philosophy.
In 1949 the Institute for Archives, Bibliology and Paleography as well as the conferences of academic level were eliminated. In 1950, a Department of Archives Studies, within which library science was also taught, was established at the Faculty of History of the University of Bucharest and operated until 1954. In the same year, the Department of Library Science was founded at the very same university in the Faculty of Philology, a department which was later reorganized as a threesemester optional bibliology course for the students in their third and fourth years of university. So the bibliological study programme, limited to a single department, practically ceased to exist. Both its optional character as well as its short period of duration was inefficient in reality.
Between 1960 and 1990 the sphere of responsibility for training librarians in schools and universities was transferred to the Ministry of Culture. The librarians employed in most of schools had not even received minimal training in library science. The Ministry of Education organized both introductory courses as well as courses for continuous education for these librarians through the Bucharest Pedagogical Library. The courses were finished with tests.
University librarian training was generally carried out in the major university libraries that had been employing professional librarians. Public librarians were trained at a special center for continuous education provided under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, where courses at a national level were offered on a regular basis. Unfortunately, not all librarians were able to take part in these national training programmes and the situation became even more drastic due to constant fluctuation in staff.
After three decades, during which this field was ignored (in this time opportunities for librarians from all East European nations to receive training were multiple), in Romania in 1990 the higher education in librarianship field was reorganized and it was subsequently developed in the next years. A fouryear university study program and a threeyear college program have been instituted in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Bucharest, a decision taken in the final hour in order to guarantee that Romanian libraries would have a professional staff and that the gap between them and progressive library structures would not grow wider.
Designing a formative system is not easy at all. A prospective philosophy for the field, as well as specialists, teachers for the universities and a sociocultural motivation are necessary. Only the relation between all these elements is able to establish a longterm informativeformative structure. The Department of Bibliology and Information Science is a new structure that links both the previous Romanian experiences and those of other countries. The conception of the curriculum was based on the necessity to accommodate the requests of a speciality with an interdisciplinary character with a durable general culture in the modern information society. It was not accidental that the curriculum included subjects such as the history of the universal culture and civilisation, universal literature, Romanian literature, psychology, and reading theory.
Although the choice of bibliological encyclopaedic education during the course of time created countless controversies, this is certainly more realistic than to limit oneself in narrow fields. Today a bibliology or information science specialist would never, at least in Romania, subordinate himself to any researcher, but this person can offer him/her a point of orientation for all fields of interest in the information galaxy. In the future, this will not be possible anymore, if one considers the threat of the big range of means of information. The librarian still remains an encyclopedian of structures and methods, said a Romanian bibliologist. On the other hand the librarian has his own research field in the expansive area of purchasing, organisation, storage and access to information and documents. Those who evaluate the stage of social development begin to understand the relations between information and progress and the role of information structures in the growth of cultural and civilisation level.
The specialized subjects have been given weight through length and intensity in the curriculum. Future specialists will work in a professional environment linked to tradition and modernity. They have to acquire the necessary knowledge for later work from library sciences to information management and from bibliography to automation of libraries. The curriculum requires students to learn two foreign languages of their choice throughout the duration of their studies. In order to confront the theoretical speciality techniques from theory with reality, a threeweek practice at the end of the second semester has been added into the study plan.
Although today there is much talk about library sciences and librarians, nearly all maintain their traditional meaning; in fact, libraries, simultaneously through automation, move away from the book. Despite all these facts, libraries will remain the institutions developing the most in order to be able to harmonize the spectrum of documents at a national level. The question arises: how quickly will structures develop so that the employees of the future can find an appropriate professional environment and not an illusory one? One of the main elements of education is determined by the educational environment and the type of structure in which the new specialists are prepared. In this respect, the Department of Bibliology and Information Sciences, organised as part of the Letters Faculty of the Bucharest University, is not a fortunate solution. The organisation does not possess the necessary independence and authority for adapting the plan of education according to the changes in the field of information.
The dominance of philology in the Romanian library science education, despite the fact that it reminds one of the past, is not connected with the changes in this field. Library and information sciences are interdisciplinary today. The information society needs qualified mediators for information exchange, specialists who can offer information to users and are able to analyse information according to expectations and to design networks and systems. In this respect, the orientation and programme of study for the Department of Bibliology and Information Sciences must be improved according to cultural reality from Romania.
The material conditions of the Romanian library sciences education are, as everywhere, connected with the existence of wellequipped information laboratories, specialised libraries, and adequate facilities for the educational process. Although the Department has these things, it does not fulfil the standards; for this reason the distance separating us from the western developed countries will remain. That means dangerous isolation. In all university media, in the area of librarianship structures from the western developed countries as well, a broad scientific activity has been developed. This provides the mobility of the capacities of teachers and students and promotes progress in the field. Unfortunately, our first attempts in this area have also been inferior. The professors, without experience in librarianship education, are busy mostly with the structure of the curriculum and the students without confidence in the future of the profession, have minimal expectations for the courses and the knowledge offered.
What is also decisive for the educational structure is the social motivation, the ability to be integrated into society and the status of the profession in society. In Romania, unfortunately, the library field is ignored. The library profession has no status; there is no current legislation either for libraries or other information fields. These are only two of the problems with which Romanian librarianship is being confronted; in reality, there are several.
3. Current Problems of Romanian Librarianship
Although since 1989 Romanian libraries have developed in a positive way I shall mention firstly the automation and the founding of the Department of Bibliology and Information Science, which may be one of the greatest positive changes in postrevolutionary Romanian librarianship there are still numerous reasons for concern.
Our library legislation has already become obsolete and it is insufficient for the work conditions, duties and aspirations of librarians in todays world. Despite this, we must recognise that in the last years, several new laws have arisen concerning libraries such as the Deposit Copy Law, the Copyright Law, the Archives Law and the Library Law. Without this type of law, Romanian librarians had an acute sense of professional insecurity.
Our material resources are completely insufficient. Many libraries are inappropriately housed so that many readers demands cannot be satisfied. The document collections of works published abroad in the past 50 years are insignificant and do not provide correct information for Romanian specialists. An insufficient budget deprived all fields of study of the purchase of valuable and important books and representative serials. Subscriptions to a number of major periodicals had to be interrupted for several years and many series have remained incomplete for a long period of time.
Ignoring the financial needs of the libraries also determines negative consequences for activities in automation, so that today only a few libraries in the country could be automated. There are no networks or internal links; international connections are poor; there are only very few Internet connections. In a world where information transfer has become a prerequisite to progress, these shortcomings are forcing an anachronism on Romanian libraries and are closing the door to cultural and scientific life in them.
The library status generally does not coincide with all dimensions of expression found in this professional category. However, status projects do exist and they will enjoy recognition in the future. Through them librarians will rediscover in public, school and academic libraries the option they have earned.
Due to the librarians low salaries, which most likely represent the most underappreciated category in the field of culture, a constant fluctuation in staff with various specializations has spread throughout the libraries. Also due to the lack of experienced specialists, libraries are confronted with great difficulties concerning a certain problem of highest importance library services management, and especially strategic planning.
After a tremendous number of planning forms as one of the catastrophic totalitarian tendencies, this process is being neglected today, causing a certain lack of perspective and chaos in library activities. Who does not look forward does not understand the dimensions of the present anymore either, as a famous Romanian bibliologist once said.
In a library, planning is a very complicated process as it is difficult to make prognoses for such a dynamic field from which the effects can only be felt decades or centuries later. As well, the support for planning in the field of culture was not even accepted lightly. Planning library services is a relatively new thing as the famous bibliologist Carlos Victor Penna stressed not long ago. We must realize that in the present there is still no unifying, scientifically accepted methodology able to guide these activities. The scientific perspectives in the library profession have no national basis as they comprise only the activities of a few departments and that is only because no one is willing to see that libraries, with their astounding contributions to the preservation of knowledge, are one of the most important factors for development in society.
The implementation of democracy and the transition to a market economy in Romania has not been advantageous to Romanian libraries; however one can say that the current mood has had a hostile effect on this development and cultural progress. Although educated professionals have tried to emphasize the importance of libraries and their integrative role in a professional strategy, they have come up against bureaucratic obstacles, bitter irony or collective silence.
What Romanian librarianship needs today is a national vision and an understanding of the national importance of libraries. Only very few have admitted the internal inability of libraries to cooperate in order to determine culture and the transfer of information, thus fault must be found equally on the inside and on the outside. Even a macroeconomic framework doesnt work, as it was shown by the problems encountered in coordinating networks as well as in orienting and educating librarians.
An overall problem in cultural structures is the lack of professional managers. Library management is not able to set up interdisciplinary programs with clear objectives, nor to analyze correlation and expenditures, reinforce interdisciplinary fields intelligently or take on responsibility. Other elements of planning related to library sciences education, required or elective, are being ignored.
Finance, the most important part of management and planning, does not have tangible dimensions as it is far removed from the current needs of libraries. Internal elements in business management are determined by norms and indicators (indices), and with these interlinked with the quality of librarians work, the material reward of performance and the size of financial resources have no official character.
The departmental division does not promote useful solutions. Although it provides for directorates and services assigned to coordinate the libraries, no qualitative program has been developed. These bodies, which are, unfortunately, Cinderella ministries, are structurally not involved in the most important activities in the field of education and culture. Even the facilities which are essential for the development of library services will have no better perspectives if the present institutional attitude is not overcome. This leads to solutions which lack compatibility, quality and style.
Many of these problems and difficulties with which the library profession is confronted originated in the lack of specialists in this field and in the insufficient attention paid to planning. Therefore, we must act immediately:
- The adoption of a librarianship strategy which considers this planning as a fundamental element of market economy, in which the structures and objectives of information are becoming more intense and more variable so that the planning and management of library services cannot remain indifferent to social dynamics.
- The integration of library services planning into national education and research planning.
- Systemic and systematic planning of library services at a national level. Only after this occurs, aspects such as development, salary problems and material demands can be given full recognition.
- An increase in responsibility for professional library associations by unifying individual efforts for the promotion of their own field and as part of the general progress of automation.
- Removal of the conservatives still dominating library thinking.
- The development of research on a national basis in the field of library and information science.
- The creation of the national library information programme. Automation today is the only means for rationalizing library science processes.
- Breaking away from the professional isolation through initiatives and direct, mutual ties with the library organizations from neighboring and other European countries.
4. The Integration of Romanian Libraries in European and World Structures
We can overcome the present crisis in Romanian librarianship only by integrating Romania into Europe and the rest of the world. This essential integration into European and world structures cannot exclude the informational integration, and along with this the integration of libraries, since information represents first of all an element of order in modern society and secondly, the integration itself is a process which takes place on the basis of information provision. Libraries in this context must become the strongest of all supports to promote values, equality and the triumph of democratic principles.
To conclude, I would like to suggest some priorities which would allow the integration of Romanian and Eastern European libraries in the extended family of international librarianship:
- Defining a European library policy (elaboration of a White Charter of libraries);
- Perfecting library education;
- Perfecting library management.
- Creating international standards for libraries evaluation.
- Designing networks and systems with clear objectives based on universally compatible guidelines.
- Mutual action for the triumph of informational option.
- Establishing cooperation through coordinated programs.
- Creating a European code of deontology for librarians.
In the future, library science education will depend on the progress of library activities. Although the dynamics of information technology will cause rapid transformation, in the future libraries will have the same function: the active participation in the generation and development of a number of human values such as beauty, hope of an ideal, justice and knowledge.
The future of library science education will be conditioned by librarians understanding of the purpose and function of the library in the present.
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About the Author
Ionel Enache is a lecturer in the Department of Bibliology and Information Science, Faculty of Letters, at the University of Bucharest.
© 2007 Ionel Enache.