Newsletter No 17 (June 1997)

ISSN 0966‑999X                                                                              No. 17 June 1997







At the last COSEELIS committee meeting, we discussed again the question of whether we should move our annual conference to the spring so as to coincide with BASEES and to have an opportunity of meeting a large number of our academic users, finding out more about their research and their needs, and making them more aware of library collections, services and problems.

The BASEES conference always takes place over a weekend (midday Saturday to midday Monday) at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (dates for 1998 are 4‑6 April).  The most feasible kind of overlap would probably be for us to have some joint sessions with them on the Monday morning with our own conference to follow.  Those who wanted to could attend part or all of the weekend BASEES programme.

Please think about this issue, and send any comments/questions/ideas to Chris Thomas and/or to the COSEELIS list.

Chris Thomas, The British Library



Members should by now have received a 1997 Conference registration form and provisional programme.  Could those wishing to attend this year’s Conference please ensure that their bookings and fees are sent before 25 July 1997.  Any queries should be addressed to Deborah Bragan‑Turner (0115 951 4584.


Hungary 1956: a Catalogue of British Library Holdings.  Compiled by Bridget Guzner and Ildiko Wollner.  Slavonic & East European Collections, 1997.

This is an easy reference guide for research students of post-war Central and Eastern Europe, the Cold War and Hungarian history.  It offers a survey of events in Hungary from the first attempts at reform in 1953, through the formation of the anti-Stalinist opposition led by Imre Nagy, the student movement leading to the armed uprising of 23 October – 4 November 1956, to the ensuing bloody repression and reprisal, and its resonance in the context of overall world politics.

The catalogue lists more than 470 titles, including periodicals and newspapers, assembled from the British Library Catalogue.  Arrangement by subject is divided into 13 sections with author and title indexes.  It assembles works on the subject published in a variety of languages.

Most books listed can be read in the St Pancras reading rooms or are available on interlibrary loan from the Document Supply Centre in Boston Spa.

The catalogue and further information are available from: Bridget Guzner or Ildiko Wollner British Library Slavonic and East European Collections

Tel.  0171‑412‑7583/ 7588 email: email:



Dr. Ramazan Vozga, head of the exchange department of the National Library of Albania, Tirana, attended a conference on Public libraries in Central and Eastern Europe held in Chelmsford in May (as Part of the Phare Programme).

With the help of COSEELIS, Mr Vozga visited the British Library Slavonic Section and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies on June 4th‑5th, where he had fruitful discussions.

Sava Peic, The British Library



The British Library Slavonic and East European Collections together with the Ministry of Culture of Macedonia, Skopje, and Foyles Bookshop have organised an exhibition of “Macedonian Books” to be held at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London, 2nd‑17th July.  This is a unique opportunity to see the latest Macedonian publications in the UK.  Everybody who is interested in this material is welcome.  After the exhibition, the material will be donated to SSEES and the British Library.

Sava Peic, The British Library



A visiting Soros fellow to the British Library, Nada Milicevic (from the National Library of Bosnia), has picked out a number of recent publications in English relating to the Bosnian Crisis which she believes would be of most use in rebuilding the collections of the National Library in Sarajevo destroyed during the war.  If anyone has any of these items in duplicate for disposal or any other relevant material, would they please contact Sava Peic (0171 412 7589,

Bennett, Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse, (1995)

Bosnia by television, (BFI, 1996)

Broken bonds: Yugoslavia’s disintegration and Balkan politics, (1995)

Crnobrnja, The Yugoslav drama, (1994)

Friedman, the Bosnian Muslims: denial of a nation, (1996)

Giovanni, The Quick and the Dead: under siege in Sarajevo, (1995)

Gow, Triumph of the lack of will: international diplomacy in the Yugoslav war, (1997)

Hall, The impossible country: a journey through the last days of Yugoslavia, (1996)

Honig/Both, Srebrenica: record of a war crime, (1996)

Magas, The destruction of Yugoslavia: tracing the breakup, (1993)

Mestrokic, Genocide after emotion, (1996)

Pinson, The Muslims of Bosnia‑Herzegovina, (1996)

Rhode, A safe area ‑ Srebrenica: Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War, (1997)

Ruff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the failure of the West, (1995)

Samary, Yugoslavia dismembered, (1995)

Woodward, Balkan tragedy: chaos and dissolution after the Cold War, (1995)



On behalf of COSEELIS, the editor would like to congratulate Janet Zmroczek who gave birth to a son, Marek, in March.



Exchanges.  As part of my trip, I visited a number of key exchange partners in both countries, with the aim of establishing the current situation in each library and of discussing the future of our exchange agreements.  Although circumstances vary from library to library, there are some general observations that apply to all of them.  Most library budgets have been affected adversely by cuts of varying severity, in some cases as high as 45%.  The shortage of funds has reduced substantially the purchasing power of many libraries.  As a result, all existing subscriptions and long‑standing exchange arrangements are currently being reviewed as part of a far‑reaching cost cutting exercise.  It emerged from our discussions that we share similar views on the future of exchanges and on the need for them to be cost‑effective.  There was general agreement that it is no longer possible to sustain exchanges, with their associated high, labor-intensive costs, at the same level as during the last decade or so.  It is envisaged that future co‑operation will be based on far fewer but more evenly balanced exchanges.

Publishing and the Booktrade.  The rapidly increasing number of new publishers has made bibliographic control extremely difficult.  Much of the material is produced in limited print runs and tends to become out-of-print very quickly.  There is a very obvious lack of publishers’ catalogues and other comprehensive bibliographic tools to aid the selection of new material.  ID Slovakia the central book distribution network has collapsed which means that many books are now not available country­wide but can be purchased only locally.  Publications of certain regional publishers tend to be available only within that particular region.  It is often necessary for librarians responsible for collection development to go on regular book buying trips to key regional towns to ensure a balanced coverage of the new publishing output.  A difficult and time‑consuming task! Buying books directly from bookshops is, undoubtedly, the best and most economical way of purchasing material.  I managed to locate several well‑stocked academic bookshops but none of them offer mail order facilities.  It is also common practice to buy books from bookstalls and street traders, especially in Slovakia.  Although the choice of titles is very wide, most bookshops carry only a very limited number of copies of each title.  The most popular new titles tend to sell out within days.  I frequently ended up buying the only copy available in the shop.  However, the best news is that book prices are still very reasonable in both countries.

Erika Panagakis, SSEES




The National Library.  The National library’s Acquisition Department has a new head, Dr.  Svetlana Knollova, to whom I was introduced by our usual contact, Mrs Jana Maresova, who is responsible for British exchanges.  I was keen to find out whether the NL is still in the position to continue sending to us books under the intergovernmental ‘ Memorandum’ agreement, i.e.  in exchange for books given to them by the British Council as the situation was somewhat unclear last year when I visited both the NL and the British Council.  Agreement has now been reached between the two sides.  Books will continue to be supplied by the British Council but will be incorporated into the Library’s general collections very much in the same way as Czech books received within this agreement are in the British Library.  Until now the NL has maintained a separate ‘English Library’ with its own reading room and services staffed by English speaking librarians.  With rising costs and increasing financial constraints keeping up this service has become impossible especially as it is difficult to recruit English speakers into relatively low paid professions such as librarianship when there is a high demand for them in other, better remunerated jobs.

The NL subscribes on our behalf to a large number of serials for both the RS&CD and SRIS collections.  This responsibility has now been completely handed over to what used to be the official publications exchange in Liliova Street I went to see Mrs Zdenka Mechurova, who heads this activity, to agree on some changes.  As from 1998 they will be stopping all outstanding Slovak subscriptions and we shall have to look for new suppliers of the last few titles which the NL handled until now.

The Parliamentary Library.  The Deputy Librarian, Mrs Olga Karfikova, explained to me the complexities of the current Czech parliamentary papers, lack of indexes etc.  I was relieved to hear that all existing materials, including the bulky ‘[Tisky]’ have now been scanned and are due to be mounted on the Internet next year.

The parliamentary library resides in the Baroque building of the Czech Parliament in Snemovni (Assembly) Street which has been extensively renovated and adapted to meet the needs of the

Parliament that has now returned to its original home (since 1800) after years of use by other public bodies for other purposes.  After the tour of the Library and various demonstrations I had coffee with the Library’s Director, Dr. Karel Sosna, who is considered one of the most ‘go ahead’ Czech librarians and whose determination and hard work of the past decade has built the Library into an up to date service equipped with new technology.  I was greatly honored to be asked to sign the Library’s visitors’ book which holds signatures of such historically important personages as T.G.  Masaryk, Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel.  The book was quietly hidden away all throughout the Communist era only to be brought out in 1990.  My visit was concluded with the chance to watch from the Visitors’ Gallery a lime of the day’s Parliamentary siring.

The Library of The Czech Academy of Sciences.  There has been yet another change in staffing and I was introduced to the new librarian responsible for British exchanges, Mrs Jarmila Kostkanova.  The British Library seems to be one of the last exchanges that the Academy Library maintains owing to constant reduction in financial resources and it looks likely that to help to ease matters we shall have to look at reducing some of the serial titles we receive from them.  We have already stopped asking for the Academy’s monographs.  When I spoke to the Library’s Director, Dr. Ivana Kadlecova, she sounded rather disheartened about the Library’ s prospects in the present climate of cuts in the public sector.

I made a point of calling on Dr. Anezka Badurova and her staff at the Early and Rare Books Section with some queries on pre‑1800 books and also met with the doyenne of early Czech books Dr. Miriam Bohatcova who is always a delight to talk to.  Via Dr.  Bohatcova I was able to collect a run of the elusive Cesko ‑ luzicky vestnik published by Czech specialists on Lusatian Sorbs.

The Library of the Jewish Museum, Prague.  The head of the Library, Mrs Alena Jelinkova, came to England in 1996 to see the Libtech Exhibition and was amongst the Czech librarians who then made it to London for a tour of the St.  Pancras building and subsequently asked to see the Bloomsbury Reading Room.  I promised then to come and see her when in Prague.

We receive the Jewish Museum’s publications on exchange from another source so the purpose of my visit was mainly to get acquainted with the Library for referral reasons.  I received a very warm welcome and was told I was their first visitor from abroad.  I could tell they were pleased that someone from afar is beginning to show interest in their services and collections that had lain dormant for half a century.  I caught the staff in the midst of a move to newly acquired and renovated premises.  They have just appointed their first computer‑oriented librarian and are about to start computerised cataloguing using the Aleph system.  At the time of my visit this young lady was just finishing a move of uncatalogued library stock stored in the disused and crumbling Spanish Synagogue where h had been housed in dust and grime for decades following its removal from various Jewish collections by the Germans during the occupation in WW2.  Mrs Jelinkova and her small team of enthusiastic staff have done an enormous amount of work in the past few years to organise existing collections into a usable library after decades of neglect.  This pressure of work, often physically demanding, has meant that there has not been time to record and publish their experiences and although the Jewish Museum itself has stepped up the promotion of its collections since the change of political climate in 1989 the Library still seems somewhat of a Cinderella or rather a Sleeping Beauty only just awakening from its fifty years of sleep.  They also feel a little isolated among Czech libraries as their position is unique.  I urged Mrs Jelinkova to seek funds to visit similar institutions abroad to gain more experience and promised to investigate whom she could visit in Britain.

The Central Agricultural and Forestry Library (CAFL).  This is one of the largest agricultural libraries in the world, founded in 1926 and now part of the Institute of Agricultural and Food Information (IAFI) which was formed in 1993 by a merger of two existing institutes.  Both continue to reside in their respective locations and our contacts are in the Prague district of Vinohrady in a distinctive Cubist building.  I had a meeting with the Director of the Library, Dr. Ivo Hoch, who introduced me to the current English language exchange librarian.  The main aim of my visit was to stress the importance of sending invoices or lists of prices as we cannot operate a title for title exchange systems and without prices find it impossible to credit our partners fairly.  This seems to be one of the most difficult things to impress through correspondence upon quite a few our exchange partners but personal visits and suggested system of numbered pro‑forma invoices for monographs and subscription statements for serials usually work (at least until the next change of exchange staff).  CAFL is keen on maintaining exchanges and although the exchange with them started as a SRIS agreement we now receive from them several titles in the humanities.

The National Museum Library.  I was made to feel welcome by the Library’s Director Dr.  Helga Turkova who managed to make time for me in spite of her busy schedule and asked me to sign the visitors’ book kept by the Library’s Department of Chateaux Libraries.  The book comes originally from one of the chateaux libraries in the Museum Library’s care and it was with a certain amount of pride that I was told that the present owner, to whom that particular library was returned after 1990 under the restitution law, asked the Library to keep it in recognition of the care his library received in the hands of the Museum Library’s staff.  I had a session with the Exchange Librarian, Dr. Jarmila Kucerova, discussing subscription statements.  Their acquisitions are suffering from cuts especially as they are amongst the libraries that have lost their legal deposit right and have to cover purchases of current Czech publications from their ever dwindling budget.

Libri Prohibiti.  1 had a long session in this Library clearing some of my queries on samizdats and exile publications in which this Library specialises.  The Head (and owner) Mr. Jiri Gruntorad, who runs the Library in his spare time (after working hours), was as helpful and encouraging as always.  With his help I was able to trace in their catalogue some of our WW2 desiderata.  They are keen to explore the BL catalogue for Czech exile literature and this will be possible to do in Prague via OPAC 97 an the Internet

State Technical Library.  The STL is one of our ‘scientific’ partners.  It is now headed by Dr. Jindra Andrasova whom I met for the fist time together with the exchange librarian Mrs Helena Svechova.  This is not a large exchange but the agreement has worked well over number of years and secures us several periodical titles.

The Library of the Institute of Contemporary History (AV CR).  The Institute maintains a busy publishing programme and our exchanges with its Library concentrate almost exclusively on these publications.  The exchange works well with the only problem being postage costs so we discussed various possibilities along this line.

The Military History Library of the Institute of the Army of CR We maintain this small exchange to secure little publicised works on Czech military history.  I had a meeting with Dr. Milena Krejcikova to talk about our mutual needs.  There might be available some financial support for a short research trip abroad and we discussed possible subjects and relevant collections in London.  I took with me our desiderata list of Czech WW2 publications issued in Britain hoping to trace some of the items in their collections.

The Library of the Naprstek Museum.  This is only a marginal arrangement to receive the Museum’s own publications, mostly on anthropological subjects.  We have not been receiving anything for several years and I went there to find out why.  It turned out that their publishing activities have been suspended for a while but one serial title is about to start coming out again New library head, Dr. Milena Secka, is now in post.  She showed me the Library and I heard yet another story of a move of books.

The State Research Library in Olomouc.  Apart from the Prague libraries listed above I went to Olomouc in northern Moravia to visit this exchange partner of very long standing from whom we receive all the series published by the University of Olomouc.  I needed to sort out problems with crediting the Library and was glad that the exchange librarian has finally been appointed.  Mgr.  Blanka Sedlackova welcomed the opportunity to settle all queries that worried her in her new post.  My other meeting in the SRL was with Dr.  Vaclav Pumprla the head of the Early and Rare Books Department and I heard more about the last years burglary (see COSEELIS Newsletter no.15, p.6).  Hardly any of the missing books have been recovered and what has been traced did not provide sufficient evidence to convict the culprits.  Sadly the blame for the disaster fell on the Head of the Rare Books dept., one of the outstanding Czech specialists in the field of early books.  This is extremely sad and doubly ironical as he for years campaigned for tighter security measures in Czech libraries and has done more than any of his colleagues in this aspect both with regard to collections in his care as well on a wider scale via the specialist conferences he has been organising for the past decade.

Conclusion.  On the whole, my visit confirmed that it has been wise as far as exchanges are concerned to concentrate since 1990 on serials as it is still difficult to find reliable commercial suppliers for all serials subscriptions and they tend to be very expensive.  Also, it is less time consuming for our partners to deal with periodical subscriptions than ordering individual monograph titles.  However, their budgets are dwindling and in some cases the British Library is one of the last exchanges the Czech libraries maintain in the knowledge that they could not afford to buy what they acquire from us on exchange.

Devana Pavlik, The British Library


Many of you may be aware of the new British Library service OPAC 97 which went on line in April.  The launch of this service is a significant advance, providing free access to the major British Library catalogues over the Internet.  OPAC 97 can be viewed using a Web browser (e.g.  Netscape) at:

The list of catalogues includes: BLC (material to 1975); the Current Catalogue (1975‑); the Science, Technology and Business Collections (SRIS, 1975‑); and the Document Supply Collections (DSC).

The collections of primary interest to members of COSEELIS are BLC and the Current Catalogue (for the humanities and social sciences) and the SRIS catalogue (for science and technology).  The DSC “Books and reports” catalogue also includes approx.  20,000 scientific monographs in Russian.

Searching for current material (i.e. post‑1975 acquisitions) is straight forward, by Author, Title, Keyword, Subject, etc.  Items are held in Latin characters using the Library of Congress transliteration scheme.  Searching for Cyrillic material acquired before 1975 is rather more complicated and, unfortunately, somewhat limited.  All material is held in the original script and the structure of the records does ont lend itself to conversion.

BLC ‑ a guide to searching


BLC is referred to as “Older reference material (to 1975 only)” on the search form.  Select this box

For material in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, etc., the Title, Publication and Notes fields are not searchable.  These fields are held in Cyrillic (largely uncoded) and are automatically converted into LC transliteration for display purposes

Author headings can be searched.  Author (personal) headings in this catalogue are in Latin characters but in British Museum (as opposed to LC) transliteration (N.B.  see below for a note on Corporate Headings).  Thus Zamiatin should be input as Zamyatin, Tolstoi as Tolstoy, Dostoevskii as Dostoevsky, Tynianov as Tuinyanov, Tiutchev as Tyatchev, etc.

The search produces a list of brief entries ‑ to see the full entry, click on the number in the left hand column.  Below is an example of a detailed entry:

Shelfmark:                    11588.a.99.

Author:                         TYUTCHEV Fedor Ivanovich

Uniform title:               Single Works

Title:                             Stikhotvoreniis (Vstupitel’naia stat’ia, podgotovLa tekstov i primechaniia D.  Blagogo.) [With a portrait.]

Publisher:                     pp.  388.  Leningrad, 1953.  16O.

A note on Corporate headings in BLC


Unlike Author headings, Corporate headings in BLC are held in Library of Congress transliteration.  They are arranged in a hierarchical fashion, often producing long strings of elements for organisational sub‑bodies.  These are difficult, though not impossible, to search for in OPAC 97.  In the example below, the full heading is RUSSIA—Akademiia Nauk SSSR—Tithookeanskii Komitet.  Only the last element (e.g.  TiLhookeanskii Komitet) should be entered as a search term in the Organisation name field.


Author:            RUSSIA Akademiia Nauk SSSR Tikhookeanskii Komitet

Title:                Trudy Tikhookeanskogo Komiteta…. Transactions of the Pacific Committee of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR

Publisher:        Leningrad, 1930‑ .80.

An interim measure


Although this system has obvious limitations, there is at the moment no easy solution to the problem of the display format for Cyrillic characters in BLC.  It is hoped that the issue of display and retrieval of Cyrillic records will be resolved by the introduction of Unicode (which supports a host of non‑Latin scripts including, I am told, Klingon).  A number of options are being explored in the Corporate Bibliographical Programme ( which aims to develop a single catalogue database incorporating all of the major British Library Catalogues.  In the meantime, the system of searching heading fields in British Museum transliteration combined with the automatic transliteration of title/imprint information goes some way to providing access to the wealth of material in Cyrillic in the British Library collections (pre‑1975).

Oliver Hughes, The British Library




This issue of the Newsletter has been sent to several members of COSEELIS via email.  The idea was floated several months ago on the COSEELIS listserv, giving list members the option to continue receiving the print version of the Newsletter or to receive future issues as an email attachment (ASCII file).  I do not expect to encounter any serious problems with this scheme (barring the occasional teethine Problem).

From the editor’s perspective, electronic distribution would cut down admin tune (sparing him the quarterly phenomenon of adhesive‑poisoning) and reduce the cost of postage.  I realise that not all COSEELIS members have email and of those who do, not all prefer electronic versions.  The two systems will therefore be continued in parallel.

If there is anyone with an email account who would like to receive future issues in electronic format would they please contact the editor.



Contributions to this Newsletter are always needed, and input from COSEELIS members outside London is particularly welcome.  Ideas or contributions should be sent to the address below.

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

Editor: Oliver Hughes, Slavonic and East European Collections, The British Library, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, tel: (0171) 412 7589, fax: (0171) 412 7554