Newsletter No 11 (October 1995)

ISSN 0966 999X No. 11 October 1995



INTERNATIONAL LIBRARIANS’ CONFERENCE (Krakow Przegorzaly, 3 5 August 1995)

The special librarians’ conference, which preceded the International Conference of Slavists in Warsaw was entitled: Libraries in Europe’s Post-Communist Countries: their International Context.

After some initial question as to the practicality, and even the desirability, of organsing a librarians’ conference, the Krakow conference took place at Krakow Przegorza~ at the beginning of August Thanks to the efforts of Wojciech Zalewski of Stanford University and the Polish organisers, led by Prof. Maria Kocójowa, Head of Department of Librarianship and Information Science, Jagiellonian University, the conference was a great success and the organisation faultless.

It was remarkable to look back over the last five years since the last conference in Cambridge at all that had happened in Russia and Eastern Europe. Not least remarkable was the fact that out of around 120 delegates present, half were from the region.

Amid the problems faced by our colleagues, of which we are all aware there was none the less a buoyant spirit of optimism, that with the difficulties of this transition period there are also new opportunities and new possibilities. Opportunities for example, of cooperation with colleagues in Western Europe and the USA. The conference heard reports on a number of important initiatives in this area, CERL (Consortium of European Research Libraries), the Regional Library Program of the Open Society Institute, and others. We were also reminded that cooperation is a two way process, and that our colleagues in the East have much to contribute.

Questions relating to collection development and exchanges figured large. In the new environment in which we all operate, with changing patterns of publishing and distribution. financial constraints both here and abroad there is a need to reexamine and reassess former practices and methods of acquisition and collection development On the question of exchanges, the general feeling at the conference was that exchanges have a limited existence. but could continue to benefit specialised collections. Nevertheless exchanges have been a means of forging close working links with many partners which could form the basis of new areas of cooperation.

The conference also considered the problems and challenges relating to materials in electronic format At the present stage it would be fair to say there are more questions than answers. but some efforts are being made to tackle these questions by colleagues in Eastern Europe.

Other sessions covered the ‘Status of libraries and librarianship in Central and Eastern Europe’ and integration and cooperation in library automation in the East European and international context’.

This is just the briefest overview of a conference which I feet broke real ground in consolidating relationships with colleagues in our field and laying firm foundations for future cooperation.

Graham Camfield. British Library of Political and Economic Science.


The fifth World Congress saw somewhat fewer participants than its immediate predecessor (Harrogate 1990), but the numbers attending were nevertheless impressive. Although there were noticeable absences among the announced speakers especially from the former Soviet Union, participation from Eastern Europe and the former USSR showed a striking increase in proportion. taking much further the shift in character already detectable at Harrogate. The concentration of all meetings at the traffic-free city-centre campus of Warsaw University seemed to give this congress a greater cohesion and sense of community than did the necessarily more fragmented arrangements five years previously.

The Warsaw programme for librarians and bibliographers was planned to complement the meetings at Przegorzaly in offering sessions on a wider range of themes and on more general, broader issues closely linked nevertheless to current professional and academic concerns. There was a strong focus on the present state of and prospects for library collections in Eastern Europe and the former USSR The session chaired by Michael McLaren-Turner on libraries displaced through war prompted a lively discussion of the legal and ethical problems of restitution.

‘Literature lacking in East European libraries (1945 1994)’ looked at the causes and effects of the ‘white spots’ (or black holes) in those libraries’ holdings of the postwar period. This fitted in well with ‘Books outside their native lands’, which gave us an insight into some libraries’ reappraisal of their role in presenting expatriate writing and publishing to their home readerships. Closely connected, too, was the very well-attended session entitled ‘Censorship: publishing, bibliographies, libraries’, chaired by Ray Scrivens, which featured a moving account by Valeriia Stel’makh of the Russian State Library that bore the stamp of personal experience.

‘The cultural heritage of the Slavic and East European book’ gave us, in addition to an informative paper on the history of Sorbian publishing, Irina Pozdeeva and Christine Thomas on early Cyrillic printing, its recording and survival. The present state of the book market in Central and Eastern Europe was addressed in a session with a strong emphasis on Poland (lanes Zmroczek and Radoslaw Cvbulski) and the Russian Federation (Konstantin Sikhorukov of the Russian Book Chamber). Current preoccupations of libraries were addressed in meetings on diminishing resources (with a contribution by Tania Konn) and on professional training and development (chaired by Gregory Walker).

Lingering personal impressions included: Warsaw itself as a reviving European capital; the exhilaration of international discussion and contact-making; our respected colleague Katia Genieva in full flow; and the well irrigated impromptu party throw by Henryk Hollender, Director of Warsaw University Library.

Many of the presentations have been offered to the editorial board of Solanus, and selected papers will be published in a double-size volume in 1996.

Grefzory Walker, Bodleian Library, Oxford.


Orbis Books, in association with the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES), announces an annual prize for Czech and Slovak studies. The prize, worth £600, is offered for a scholarly work in Czech and for Slovak studies published in English anywhere in the world. Preference will be given to the work of younger scholars who have not previously been published at book length.

Nominations may be made by the author(s), or by publishers. Librarians or other scholars. Nominations for works published in 1995 should reach the Chair of the jury (Dr. Gregory Walker) by 31st January 1996. The jury members are Professor Robert Pynsent (SSEES), Dr. Gordon Wightman (Liverpool University) and Dr. Gregory Walker (Bodleian Library). Copies of the full regulations for the award of the Prize will be supplied on request. It is expected that the winner of the 1995 prize will be announced at the BASEES annual conference in March 1996.

Chair of the Jury: Dr Gregory Walker, Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG.
Tel 01865-277066: fax: 01865-01865-277182; email:


Following correspondence between Dr. Lesley Milne of the Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Nottingham, and SSEES Library, and then discussion at the COSEELIS Committee Meeting on 21st September, the Editor of this Newsletter has offered to attempt to compile a listing, including UK library holdings, of recently established Russian periodical titles. I say ‘attempt’, since anyone who has been involved in tracking down and trying to subscribe to some of these titles during the past few years will appreciate that this is not a straightforward task. Given that the size of the problem, both from the bibliographical and from the acquisitions point of view, is vast, I am not intending to compile a comprehensive listing – rather to limit it to the subject fields covered by members of COSEELIS and by UK university departments involved in Slavonic, Central and East European Studies; the listing will therefore be limited to new journals in the humanities and social sciences. By new, I mean titles established since January 1990, including those which are already defunct

I believe that such a task needs to be approached gradually and systematically. Also, I do not wish to be overwhelmed all at once with a vast input of information. I therefore intend to commence this project with a relatively limited subject area: Russian language and literature. Choosing a containable subject area will also help me work out a system for listing and distributing the information. If it ‘works’ for this one area. I will then consider how best to included more titles in other subject fields.

I would therefore be very grateful if readers of this Newsletter would send me details of titles established since January 1990 to which they are subscribing – or have subscribed – in the field of Russian language and literature only, giving details of holdings. All titles published in the former Soviet Union should be included, as should titles in Russian published outside the area. Any useful information about distributors and problems of acquisition would also be of interest to me. Thanks for any help. I shall report on progress in the next Newsletter.

Ursula Phillips, Editor.


This major microfilm research collection, recently acquired by BLDSC (British Library Document Supply Centre), is now available for use. As most readers of this Newsletter are probably already aware, the microfilm collection is jointly produced by the Russian State Archives of the Government of the Russian Federation (Rosarkbiv) and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, in cooperation with Chadwyck Healey. The first edition of the printed (commercial) catalogue is now available from Chadwyck- Healey both in an English and in a Russian version; the catalogue is in A4 size book format and consists of 87 pages.

Over 2000 reels have been received so far in this long-term me involving several years of filming. Further reels will be acquired to complete the collection as they become available and as funds allow.

Finding aids (opisi) and documents (dela) from three key archives are included. These are listed below with their corresponding BLDSC Shelfmarks:

TsKhSD Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation
BLDSC Shelfmark: Opisi MFR 11040: Documents MFR 11041

RTsKhIDNI Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History. BLDSC Shelfmark: Opisi 11042; Documents MFR 11043

GARF State Archive of the Russian Federation
BLDSC Shelfrnark: Opisi MRF 11044, Documents MFR 1 lW5

All microform research collections held by BLDSC are available for consultation. A maximum of 10 consecutive reels of microfilm or 100 microfiches may be requested against one request form: the maximum loan period is 15 weeks.

Readers may order reels of the Chadwvck Healey microfimns in the Reading Room in Great Russell Street by filling out a DSC monographs order form (available at the Enquiry Desk). Apart from the appropriate BLDSC shelfmark mentioned above. it is necessary to fill in the required reel numbers as listed in the Chadwyck Healey catalogue at the Enquiry Desk (which it is hoped. will be available in the future marked up with BLDSC shelfmarks). Applications should be submitted before 2. 45 pm in order to receive the reels from Boston Spa the next day.

Chris Thomas. Oliver Hughes.

THE FUTURE OF EXCHANGES: A VIEW FROM THE UK Janet Zmroczek. Curator of Baltic and Polish Collections, British Library.

I would like to thank all COSEELIS members who responded to my survey on exchanges for their useful contributions. The paper below delivered at the International Librarians’ Conference ‘Libraries in Europe’s Post Communist Countries’ at Krakow Przegorzaly Poland in August 1995 was very well received. It was later read again at IFLA in Istanbul and has been summarised in a Japanese Slavonic and East European Studies journal. This text will also appear in the official conference proceedings and in a different version in the US journal Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory. This response demonstrates the importance attached to our views and experiences by colleagues in the Slavonic and East European librarianship field and by colleagues interested in more general collection development issues. Thanks again to everyone who provided information and shared their views with me.


When asked to contribute to this panel, I was aware of the need not only to present my own views on the role exchanges play and may continue to play in collection development activities which would, due to my specialism, be limited to Polish and Baltic material, but rather to represent as widely as possible the views of those involved in the acquisition of material from the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe across the UK library and information services community. My aim has been not only to assess the current situation and to find out about common problems which warrant discussion with our colleagues from the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe but also to begin to identify possible alternative strategies for future cooperation in a world where exchanges may become obsolete.


I used a questionnaire which was sent to the twenty nine institutional members of the UK organisation for librarians and information specialists in this field, COSEELIS (Council for Slavonic and East European Library and Information Services) in April/May 1995. The rate of return was 66%. Two thirds of the libraries collecting material in the Slavonic and East European field still use exchanges as a means of acquiring material from the area. Most institutions have exchange agreements with a range of countries in the region. The largest players, as one would expect, are the British Library Document Supply Centre (1) and Humanities and Social Sciences (ca. twenty seven countries, though exchanges with some of these, especially with the non Slavonic areas of the FSU are moribund and may not be revived), the School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library and the Bodleian. Four institutions supply their own publications only, some their own publications and duplicates, but the majority buy in monographs or subscribe to periodicals on behalf of their exchange partners as well as offering the publications of their own institutions. Largely the same applies in reverse, though several libraries commented that smaller exchange partners tended only to supply their own publications whereas larger ones are more likely to supply commercial publications and to take out serial subscriptions for their exchange Partners in the UK.

General state of exchanges

As one would expect, the general trend is for a marked decrease in the proportion of exchanges to purchases for both monographs and serials, though with clear differences between countries. The clearest trend is in the decline of exchanges with Russia and the FSU. It would seem safe to say that this is due to an increasingly efficient network of commercial suppliers coupled with the inability of exchange partners to supply much of the material they used to. especially that published outside Moscow and St Petersburg. Less clear is the situation with Poland. Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics. Some libraries prefer to continue with a fairly high level of exchanges despite the existence of commercial suppliers. Acquisitions from countries such as the Baltics, Bulgaria, Romania still appear to be predominantly exchange-based, indicating that no commercial suppliers have yet come forward with competitive services. The situation regarding publications from the former Yugoslavia is very complex and beyond the scope of the current discussion.
Exchanges are generally viewed more favorably by:

1) librarians whose responsibilities for Slavonic and East European acquisitions make up onl y a small part of their overall duties, who consequently find exchanges – and particularly selection from ready prepared lists – convenient, and who do not have the time or possibly enough knowledge to seek out alternative suppliers

2) at the opposite end of the scale, very large operations such as BLDSC who acquire cat 3700 Slavonic and East European periodical titles per annum. They commented: ‘With the political situation as it was post 1991, we decided quite deliberately to keep on with our exchanges and even to expand them if necessary. This was contrary to the received wisdom of the time. We are very glad that we did so… Most of them have soldiered through on reduced budgets and have continued to give us excellent service. There have been problems, but not as many as were caused by the bankruptcies of Collets and Earlscourt’.

In the past, exchanges were often the only way to acquire certain material from the countries concerned. Now that material from many countries is becoming available from commercial suppliers, respondents were asked to indicate whether exchanges have a future or will reliable, economic, commercial suppliers eventually replace them?

Only four respondents were of the opinion that exchanges have no future. though a large percentage of the remainder felt that they had a future only because commercial suppliers were not, and are unlikely to become in the near future, able to supply the full range of monographs and serials from all the countries they cover.

Methods of accounting

Considering constant pressure on acquisitions budgets and the growing need for justification of expenditure across the UK public sector, the next set of questions concerned accounting methods for exchanges. The overwhelming majority (eleven) used value for value accounting methods with only two respondents favouring item for item; five used a mixture of the two. The record keeping or accounting methods which keep track of exchange transactions may seem to an outsider such as an auditor, to be surprisingly ‘unscientific’ in that the majority of respondents say that they are used as a “rude only and on the whole vigorous attempts are not made to make accounts balance exactly. To anyone who has grappled with such accounting systems the reason for this approach will be quite clear. So many variables have to be taken into account and the retail price comparison of publications is still so different to that in the West that rigid accounting can cause more trouble than it is worth. Several respondents do however point out that in the case of problem exchanges where balances are extremely out of line a strict balancing exercise is required to get the exchange back onto a reasonable level. Another draws attention to the problem of attaching the correct value to items received from libraries which do not put the price on books or send invoices with them.

The relative benefits of exchanges and commercial suppliers

Where there is a choice. the key factors in assessing the relative merits of exchange versus commercial suppliers can be largely divided into three groups: cost range of material available and quality of service.

Cost of material

Opinions of respondents to the survey were fairly evenly divided on the question of whether obtaining material via exchange was cheaper than using commercial suppliers. Probably the most important factor to be considered here is the question of hidden costs. As Margaret Olsen has pointed out in two recent articles on the use of exchanges primarily by US Slavic and East European librarians(2) little hard analysis of the real costs of exchanges including staff time. accommodation etc has taken place. Although ‘raw’ prices often appear cheaper than those offered by agents exchanges are undoubtedly more labour intensive and it seems that when all the hidden costs are taken into account they are unlikely to be much cheaper in real terms.

On the other hand. several respondents mentioned that serial subscriptions tended to be cheaper on exchange and that generally periodical exchanges seem to run more smoothly than book exchanges. One respondent pointed out that due to the break up of the state monopoly periodical suppliers it sometimes can be cheaper in terms of overheads to acquire material via exchanges rather than having to deal with a large ‘number of individual editorial boards who choose not to sell via a commercial agent derived from them in the past, are we perhaps propping up a failing system? Would the gradual phasing out of exchanges where commercial suppliers are a viable alternative in the longer term assist the case of our partners to secure adequate acquisitions funding from their own governments? In any case given the commercial realities I have already outlined, I think it is already time to begin actively to look for alternatives to exchanges as a basis for future cooperation between our libraries in the area of collection development.

One obvious possibility is a shift of emphasis from exchange of material to exchange of information: both national libraries and libraries in the provinces may be in a position to provide valuable bibliographic information about new publications and about periodicals which have ceased publication. Especially in the case of lesser known languages, lists with annotations in English would be enormously helpful for librarians acquiring material in languages which they do not know well. Of course in the future there may be scope for the exchange of bibliographic records as well as information.

Another suggestion made in response to the survey was for a newsletter ‘with accounts of practical problems, procedures etc. in the area of collection development and with contributions from librarians in the West and Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union alerting each other to new developments etc.’ With the growth of networking there is scope of course for this newsletter to be in an electronic format. though it is important that colleagues without such facilities should not be excluded. Other alternatives include the direct purchase of material from exchange partners. One respondent has successfully set up such a scheme to buy material directly from the Hungarian National Library.

Concluding remarks

Overall the survey showed that a perhaps suprisingly large number of UK libraries are skill committed to exchanges. albeit for widely differing reasons. But the situation is constantly changing and while some libraries are sticking to tried and tested acquisitions sources. most would agree that, realistically speaking. the exchange system was not the product of choice but of necessity for both sides. Evidence to support this is the fact that exchanges are so little used by UK libraries to acquire material from Western European countries.

The exchange system grew up to enable the exchange of materials between countries with vastly differing economic systems. It should not be artificially perpetuated as an indefinite measure as mechanisms for purchasing material are set in place if viable alternatives can be found for both sides. It is for this reason that we should all work towards new forms of cooperation in collection development which build on the good relationships fostered by exchange agreements in the past. rather than allowing outmoded forms of cooperation to ossify and inevitably decay.

(1) For a detailed study of BLDSC acquisitions methods see: Kathleen Ladizesky and Ron Hogg ‘Some changes in the work of acquiring Slavonic scientific serial publications- a review of experiences at the British Library Document Supply Centre between 1990-1995′ International journal of information and Library’ research, Vol.6. No.3. 1994. pp. 147 158.

(2) Margaret S. Olsen ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same: East West exchanges 1960 1993’ Library resources and technical services 39 (1)1994. pp.5 21; Margaret S. Olsen ‘The end of the Cold War and its effects on Slavic and East European collections in the West’ International information and library review 27. 1995. pp.89 112.

Editor’s remarks:

It may be of interest to others that SSEES has had three experiences in the past week which highlight some of the issues raised by lanes in her report. I will be very pleased to publicise any similar – or indeed contradictory – comments in the next Newsletter. Ed.

1. An exchange partner in Kiev sent us an account for the total sum that they deem to have spent on us during the past twelve months: a grand total of $2.300. This was broken down only into total sums for periodicals books and ‘sborniki’ (a separate category!): no account was given for prices of individual items, no indication of what proportion went on postage. We rarely have any idea of their dollar prices, especially for books. before items are supplied. When we reviewed the value’ of the material sent. we estimated no more than £500-£600. This highlights how our partner’s pricing system is totally arbitrary and how we have very little control over it. Meanwhile. they are clocking up for us a pretty hefty debt and will doubtless soon be telling us we owe them x’ amount of western books. If this is called ‘offering support to our exchange partners during their current difficulties’, then it is not what we would describe as ‘cooperation.’

2. An exchange partner in Moscow persists in sending us unsolicited material even though we have repeatedly asked them not to do so. Two days ago we received yet another parcel. Several of the books were already in stock. others we would not have selected if they had not been forced on us in this way. This is another way of clocking up debt for us. This year alone unsolicited parcels from this one partner have amounted to approximately £1000 – money that could have been been spent!

3. Another exchange partner in Moscow has begun to get indignant because we are not ordering from lists they send via email of material for sale. (We thought this might be a more cost effective way of obtaining material from exchange partners than through traditional exchanges). However, it transpired that most of the material on these lists was either not of interest (because they paid no serious attention to our stated subject profile) or we had already acquired it by other means. My failure to order has resulted in their frustration at my resistance to their pressure. Yes, pressure; why on earth should they
start making us feel obliged to buy?

Finally, I am very sorry to say that until two weeks ago, we considered these three libraries to be our best exchange partners. Ed.

© COSEELIS. Views expressed in this Newsletter are not necessarily those of COSEELIS.

Editor: Ursula Phillips. School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WCIE 7HU.
Tel.: 0171-637-4934 x 4018. Fax: 0171-436-X916. email:

Please note change of internal telephone extension:4018.