International Librarianship in Europe (1990-2000)

VITIELLO, Giuseppe (2014) International Librarianship in Europe (1990-2000). Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2014 - Lyon - Libraries, Citizens, Societies: Confluence for Knowledge in Session 71 - Library History Special Interest Group. In: IFLA WLIC 2014, 16-22 August 2014, Lyon, France.

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Language: English (Original)
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International Librarianship in Europe (1990-2000)

The aim of this paper is to outline the objectives and the main features of two initiatives in favour of libraries, developed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the last decade of the 20th century. The EU ‘Telematics for libraries’ programme formally started in 1990 within the Third Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and was followed by a similar initiative in the Fourth FP. Libraries at that time enjoyed unprecedented attention from the European Commission. The programme was developed within what was then EU Directorate General XIII, in charge of the development of information technologies and markets in Europe. Never before had libraries in Europe received a comparable level of funding for transnational, technology-based joint projects. National bibliographies, information literacy and –practically- all library services and operations were drawn into the technological revolution. Different in nature was the project developed by the Council of Europe, mainly addressed to the so-called ‘new democracies’, i.e. former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe. As these countries were in the process of joining the Council of Europe, they needed to reform their book and library regulations. The initiative culminated in the Council of Europe-EBLIDA Guidelines on library legislations, issued by the Council of Cultural Cooperation in 2000. The two programmes were totally different in their nature, objectives and, especially, with regard to the level of funding received. It is impossible to summarize in detail the vast array of initiatives and projects funded by the European Commission from 1990 to 1998, after which libraries ceased to be sole and direct beneficiaries of EU funding. The priority of the subsequent Fifth FP was to build up a knowledge-based society: although libraries were, and still are, part of this, they were considered eligible only as partners in joint projects mainly emanating from the private sector and / or research institutions. My paper is based on official EU and Council of Europe sources, but also drawn from personal experience, as I worked for both the EU ‘Telematics for Libraries’ programme and the Council of Europe. Information on the two initiatives, disseminated on institutional websites, will be reconstructed in a narrative that takes into account the impassioned climate of that period, when the European ideal was triumphant and libraries were seen as harbingers of fundamental European values – democracy, access to knowledge and information literacy for all. I will also outline how democratic values were in conflict with the technological hype and the ‘eurocratic’ constraints, and what legacy the two projects left to libraries at the start of the new Millennium.

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