Friday, June 4, 2010

School work

Today we had lectures again. After all we did come to learn about libraries and librarianship. Today it was more on the modern and technical side of libraries than the history of libraries. A lot about IT and technology since the Velvet Revolution. How the information profession has changed some and what is being done in preservation and digitization here.

They are really active in digitizing old books. Since the floods of 2002 where books and even libraries were wiped out they have taken that ball and run with it. Some materials are unique, and they experienced similar problems in 2002 that Florence experienced in 1966 with the floods. Like in Italy, many cultural institutions here are built near the river. The Klementinium is mere feet away from the Vlatva and the water washed right into the library there. Since it's a Jesuit college from the 1400's there were lots of stuff that got hit. The '02 floods were the worst in the Czech lands in 500 years, so this is really new for them. But at least the technology and the experience is here to help. Unlike in Florence.

The Academy of Sciences now is working on a digital registry so that other places here will know what's been digitized already and not duplicate a work. And they are putting all their theses and dissertations in electronic form. It wasn't done before and with some plagaurism problems at university levels they want to make things available and open so that it's harder to get away with academic fraud like that.

One thing they haven't done and are still working on is total automation for libraries. Some of the university collections aren't cataloged and the access for researchers just isn't there. It's part of the Communist legacy. Access wasn't a big part of what they did.
Some places like the Municipal library of Prague is automated, but others are just working on it. Especially in the larger universities like Charles University and the National Technical University. Because they are split up into different faculties(like schools) and have specialized libraries for each area, it reminds me of the school and departmental libraries at Yale, they haven't merged together in one large central library and have everything available.

One lecturer today believes it's a legacy from the Communist era where information was the enemy. I know that in some cases in the past if you published material that was decreed harmful to the state, both the writer and the librarian(or archivist) who gave you access were legally liable and could go to jail. That's a hard legacy to overcome in only 21 years.
The Czechs are very literate and creative though. In Middle Europe no one has a higher literacy and reading rate than the Czechs. In fact they are one of the most literate people in Europe only behind Scandanavia. So they are making great strides in righting the wrongs. Librarianship is becoming a more popular and prestigious career now than in previous years which is good sign and bookstores are all over the place. One of the most popular places to be in Prague is the Municipal Library. They have amazing circulation numbers. Something like 15 books checked out per user and tens of thousands of users per year.
So good times ahead.

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