Newsletter No 7 (June 1994)

ISSN 0966-999X No 7 June 1994



1.ADBOS CONFERENCE 1994, Tallinn. Report by COSEELIS observer Janet Zmroczek

I attended the conference in my capacity as Curator responsible for the British Library Humanities and Social Sciences Latvian and Lithuanian Collections and also as the COSEELIS observer. On my return it was decided that I should also take over responsibility for the Estonian collections from Chris Thomas, so in future please address any Estonian questions to me.

The proceedings were held in the conference hall of the impressive new National Library building, opened in 1993, and were attended by about 100 delegates of whom approximately 50% were ABDOS members from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The remaining 50% consisted of delegations from Estonia, Lativa and Lithuania, as well as individuals from Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Russia, Belarus, the Netherlands and the USA. Hence, in addition to the programme, which of course concentrated on Baltic library and book-related issues and Germany’s historical influence, it was also possible to make useful contacts with other library specialists from, or working with, Eastern and Central Europe.

The first part of the programme covered three densely-packed days. Topics included general introductions to library services in the three Baltic States, historic collections of German-language material in the Baltics, the book trade, Baltica collections abroad, automation in Baltic libraries and education for librarianship.

Whilst it is unwise to generalise to too great a degree, all three countries seem to be making great progress in modernising their library systems despite the common funding problems. Estonia appears to have benefited most from generous grants, donations of material and equipment and training visits to libraries abroad offered by West European governments and libraries, especially those of Germany. Austria, Scandinavia and the USA. (At the National Library of Estonia donations and gifts account for 70% of current acquisitions). The apparent absence of any large-scale British government or commercial involvement in these development activities is discomforting.

The problem of attracting high calibre staff to library work, which is still low paid and traditionally low in status, is common in the Baltic as in the rest of East Central Europe. Professor Kaunas Head of the Bibliography Department is Vilnius University, noted that the majority of good graduates from his department found uses for their developing automation skills outside the library and information services field. The department is especially lacking in good teaching materials. A programme of cooperation with the British Library Association is being planned which may help matters.

On a more optimistic note, the staff we met at the National Library and on visits to other libraries in Tallinn and to Tartu University Library seemed dynamic and highly motivated. At the National Library Ursula Roosmaa (E-Mail: is now responsible for English-language acquisitions including exchanges with the UK libraries. Her English is excellent and she is willing to annotate lists of exchange offers for partners abroad. In Tallin we visited two other libraries: the Estonian Academy of Sciences Library (the librarian responsible for UK exchanges is Maret Klaus. fax 010-372-454049), which houses a major Baltic collection and is responsible for compilation of the Estonian Retrospective National Bibliography and Tallinn Technical University Library. This library is struggling with a very limited acquisitions budget to require Western scientific periodicals to replace Russian titles which are no longer considered to be relevant. If anyone is able to assist in any way to exchange publications with this library they should contact the Director Konrad Kikas, at Ehitajate tee 5, EE0026 Tallinn, Estonia (Fax: 010-3722-537351/E-mail:

At Tartu we visited the University Library, the exhibition of its early collections and the exhibition on the history of the University, which was established in 1632 by the Swedes. The Head of the Exchange Department at the University Library is Marika Karo (Struve pst.1. EE-202 400 Tartu) who also have excellent English and is very approachable.

Currently all three Baltic States seem anxious to develop exchanges rather than to scrap them. Exchanges are still one of the main methods of acquiring Western material and given the willingness of the librarians involved to accommodate exchange partners’ special needs and requests and the absence of private bookdealers offering a wide range of titles at competitive prices to clients abroad, I intend to continue with exchanges for the time being. Some Western acquisitions librarians are, however, moving towards a system of regular book-buying trips, which they view as more economical.

As far as bibliographic control is concerned with three Baltic States are experiencing the same problems as other countries in Central and Eastern Europe who are similarly faced with an explosion in the number of publishers who do not deposit their output with the relevant authorities. Also, copyright piracy is rife.

Books are rapidly becoming too expensive for the average person to buy with a monthly salary barley adequate to buy foot and pay for essential living expenses. Thus libraries are an essential source of reading material for a large part of the population. For example, the National Library and Tartu University Library reading rooms are packed daily with readers who cannot afford to buy even relatively cheap newspapers and with school and university students who cannot buy even basic textbooks for their studies.

Of potential interest to UK libraries is a major cooperative publishing project, the Bibliotheca Baltica series, initiated by the IMTEC (International Movement Towards Education) Foundation’s East-West program. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Boards, which bring together publishers, academics, national libraries and ministries of culture and education, are to publish over 300 titles in this series which aims to make basic, historically important material on the Baltic States available to the public both in the Baltic region and abroad in high editions at reasonable cost. The ABDOS delegates from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were all anxious to publicise the series and saw it as an opportunity for libraries to acquire modern editions of important titles.

Most titles will include summaries in a more widely know language such as English or German. Prices will range from US$5-30. It is possible to subscribe to the whole series, to all titles from one country, to particular subjects (history, geography, language, arts, literature, natural history) or to buy individual titles. These titles will not be available by exchange, but a copy of the 1993-4 catalogue will soon be available from the sole UK distributors: Lavis Marketing, 73 Lime Walk, Headington, Oxford OX3 7AD. Phone: 0865-67575, Fax: 0965-750079. If anyone is interested in acquiring items from the series they should contact Jim Lavis at the above address. He informs me that there are, not unexpectedly, some ‘teething troubles’ with such a major cooperative scheme, but that he has been impressed by the quality of the two volumes he ash so far seen.

Also of interest to COSEELIS members was a talk given by Aaron Trehub, Editor or ABSEES, on online access to ABSEES. For anyone who is not already aware of this fact, ABSEES is now available via the Internet. Contract Aaron (email: for details.

ABDOS 95 will be held in Leipzig and ABDOS 96 in Bucharest. I certainly think it is worthwhile for COSEELIS to send an observer whenever possible in order to maintain contact with ABDOS and to take advantage of the opportunity to meet other colleagues in the Slavonic and East European and Information Services field. For the past two years COSEELIS has been able to make a grant of £100 towards the observer’s travel expenses.

If anyone would like more detailed information about anything mentioned above, then please feel free to contact me.

Janet Zmroczek, Slavonic and East European Collections, British Library, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG (Phone: 071-323-7586; Fax 071-323-7554, email: Janet.Zmroczek@BL.UK).

Other useful names and addresses:

Exhange librarian at the National Library of Latvia:
Anita Dektere, Anglikanu iela 5, Riga 1816 LV

Head of International Exchange Service, National Library of Belarus:
Elena Sivakova, Chyrvonaarmiekjskaja, 9, 220636 Minsk, Belarus (Fax: 0172-275463)

Head of the Bibliography Dept, Vilnius University and Chair of the Lithuanian Librarians Association:
Professor Domas Kaunas, V Pietario 7-6, LT-2635 Vilnius

Director of the Centre of Bibliography, National Library of Lithuania:
Dr Regina Varniene, Gedimino pr.51, LT-2635 Vilnius
(Fax: 010-370-2-627129)


Central University Library: Since the 1989 revolution, when the library building was seriously damaged by fire, the International Exchange and administrative staff have been housed in a small building in Str. Transailvanei. I met the Director Dr Ion Stocia, who is one of the few Romanian exchange partners to have made frequent visits to the British Library; he is very keen to maintain good working relations with us. He is aware of the poor quality of book contents and production and of the discrepancy in the balance of exchanges caused by the fluctuating exchange rate. He proposed a revised exchange rate to bring Romanian book prices closer to those of British publications (200 lei = £1); this seemed reasonable at the time, but book prices rose even during my short stay in the country. Such an arrangement could prove to be of little advantage to use and would need to be constantly reviewed. Mihaela Georgescu, head of International Exchanges, offered to fulfil our request for missing parts, missing pages and unsupplied orders; she also supplies lists of offerings, which are more likely to be supplied than things we request. The library requires payment in US dollars.

My second meeting with Mrs Georgescu, revealed the difficulties that Romanian libraries are facing during the present period of transition: rising postage prices, lack of reliable distributors, short print runs. (There is a growing local demand for good quality professional and imaginative literature). My offer to pay the postage costs was received with great relief: the postage on one kg of books is currently 4,000 lei.
Tel 132757

National Library of Romania. My letter announcing my visit remained unanswered. Carmen Banciu, head of International Exchanges, and her colleague Alexandra Zugrauv have left the library and have not been replaced; this seemed to account for the very sporadic supply of material in recent months. I met carmina Popovici, responsible for American exchanges, who was clearly bewilders by the extra workload she now has to handle. She was understandably unable to answer my questions bout missing periodical parts and discontinued titles. She was unaware to answer my questions about missing periodical parts and discontinued tittles. She was unaware of the BL’s having to cancel HMSO publications sent to the National Library on exchange, and of the possibility of them being renewed with financial help from the British Council. We agreed that the BL would continue ordering renewed with financial help from the British Council. We agreed that the BL would continue ordering from Universul Cartii, a monthly listing of recent publications, as the fortnightly national bibliography is at least a year behind schedule. The new exchange rate of 200 lei = £1 was accepted by Mrs Banciu and by Mrs G Clinca, the deputy director. Both expressed concern about the unprofessional service they were receiving from their distributor Amoc Press (a company run by a group of redundant engineers unable to find a more suitable alternative to their previous jobs). Mrs Popovici stuck me as an experienced member of staff with overwhelming responsibilities who needs both time and help in order to conduct the BL exchanges successfully.

They similarly welcomed my offer of help towards meeting postage costs. Mrs Clinca is planning a visit to London this summer to develop her automation skills and explore possibilities for automating the National Library. A new National Library building us under construction as it was outgrown its present premises.
Tel 122434×6

Library of the Academy of Sciences. I met Ralcua Gheorghe, who was clearly an old hand but of whom we had typically never heard before: all libraries operate according to strict hierarchical codes: letters may have been written by the person in charge of our exchanges but have to be sanctioned and signed by the director. I was impressed by Mrs Gheroghe’s professional knowledge and approach. Despite the reliable service it provides, this library is in considerable debt. Here too the exchange rate had to be modified.. Mrs Gheorghe hoped to redress the balance by filling gaps in the BL’s collections. She also promised to provide priced lists of lists of Academy publications supplied to the BL at the end of each year. On a subsequent visit I met Mr G Strempei, the Director and a respected scholar of Romanian bibliography. He seemed disenchanted with the place his country occupied in international scholarship and with the ‘patronising’ way which Romania treated her ‘wealthy exchange partners.’ He took no real interest in our exchange arrangements and his cynicism prevented any constructive discussion.
Tel 503043

National Commission for Statistics. This is an organisation with a new lease of life, which now produces valuable statistical works on Romania’s population, economy, trade and industry. It is now housed in a new and grandiose building on Bulevardul Libertatii near Ceausesuc’s former palace. I talked to Tatianan Barsanescu, who was prepared to supply publications on exchange or by purchase and who undertook to send us their informative bilingual (Romanian and English) annual catalogue. The Director, Ilie Dumitrescu, was unavailable during my visit.
Tel: 6137230 Director x 2219

Central University Library, Cluj. I met Daniela Todor of the Bibliographic Services Division and also spoke to her colleagues in International Exchange, all of whom were informed and helpful. They promised to supply catalogues of the local Dacia Publishing House. They were also prepared to visit antiquarian bookshops on our behalf on our behalf and to send us lists of available titles.
Tel 95117092 Fa 1097633

Heltai Foundation, Cluj. I also visited the offices of the Heltai Foundation at no 18 Str Clincilor. This is a large repository of Hungarian books consisting of a library and, between certain hours, and a bookshop. The Director, Dr Laszio Pillich, was not there but I hope to establish contact with him by correspondence.

Teleki-Bolyai Library, Tirgu-Mures. This is one of the oldest Hungarian libraries in Translyvania. I met Mihaly Spielmann, lecturer in librarianship and bibliography, who talked informatively on the state of Hungarian publishing in Tirgu-Mures and recommended I visit two excellent bookshops: Gauss, which specialises in learned scientific literature, and Anonymous, which concentrates on expensive art books imported from Hungary. The owner of the latter, the actress Kniga Illyes, selects her stock personally and makes the highest quality books available to the city’s Hungarian readership.

Visit to the British Council, Bucharest. In the absence of Gabriela Massaci, whom I had arranged to meet, I spoke to her assistant Mr Lupea, who informed me about the role of the British Council in Bucharest. I also spoke to the Director Claus Henning, who felt that Romania seems to have overcome the worst problems of the transitional period and that western aid had been used rationally. We discussed the proposal for possible British Council funding for the supply of HMSO publications (Parliamentary materials) to the Romanian National Library. Mr Henning acknowledged the need to support the development of good government practice in Romania and was pleased to learn of the proposal.
Tel: 6110119

Bookshops and publishers. The most highly recommended antiquarian bookshops in Pasajul Cretulescu and Lipscani offer a disappointingly poor selection of pre-1950’s imprints and a strange mixture of cast-offs from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The most prestigious bookshop and publisher is the former state-owned Humanitas Publishing House founded as a new enterprise in 1990. In 1991 it became a French Romanian Society with 95% of its capital shared among associated editors and French partners. Also in 1991 they opened their first bookshop in Bucharest; the elegantly printed retrospective catalogue 1990-1993 includes philosophy, religion, history, economics, sociology, and political science; books forbidden under the communist dictatorship make up over two thirds of the Humanitas portfolio. The bookshop, which is situated in the back yard of a smartly restored house on Calea Victoriei, is sensibly arranged and readers are welcomed by friendly and professional staff.
Tel: 3129006, 6183431

Cartea Romaneasca Publishiong House specialises mainly in modern Romanian literature, but their editorial plan for 1992-93 also includes dictionaries, encyclopaedias and translations of modern world classics
Tel 150679

Editura Coresi. I met the Director, Vasile Poenaru. The focus here is on educational material, dictionaries, school textbooks, language teaching materials and guides for the businessman; their excellent monthly catalogue contains short reviews and illustrations.

Conclusion: The visit revealed the harsh reality that our exchange partners still face working in cramped conditions in inadequate accommodation. Except for the Academy of Sciences Library, they all have to purchase the books we order at increasingly high prices. Most libraries still insist on pricing their books in lei; there is no mechanism for working out and stabilising prices in US dollars. It was most useful to make new personal contacts, discover their working practices and to understanding their problems. Despite current difficulties, our Romanian colleagues are highly professional, keen to help and helpful about the future.


For Russia and most of the rest of the ex-USSR we are now using East View as or principal supplier. After some difficulties, things seems to be working very well indeed. We are on their email new issues information services, which is quite good. We still have a large number of gaps for 1993 caused by the collapse of Collets. East view have plugged a lot of gaps – we have got used to huge parcels arriving by devious routes! – but there are still some quite major omissions.

We are getting materials from the Baltic Republics and Belarus almost entirely by exchange; we are using Liber Livonicus (Addresses: see below Ed) as advertised in COSEELIS Newsletter 5. They are very good and cheap.

The trans-Caucasian republics seems to be producing very little, but what there is we are getting on exchange (with a few items from East View). The Central Asian republics are in a similar position, but we have re-established our exchange links with Tajikistan which had collapsed for financial reasons in late 1991.

For Poland, we are using Ars Polona in Warsaw as our only agent; we got out of Earlscourt before they collapsed. Ars Polona are very good indeed for most titles, including very obscure, but are a little slow at responding to chasers for missing items. The only invoice us for what they send and only send what they invoice for, however, which is the best way to proceed.

For Romania, we are using Rodipet in Bucharest; it is still too early to give any definitive judgement, but they seem to be OK.

For Bulgaria, we are using Hemus, who used to handle the Collets order for us and so have just carried on with it. We have found it a lot easier with continuations than it used to be with Collets because we can now communicate directly by fax or letter without having to go through at least one extra person either way.

For Albania, we are relying on exchange but have decided to use Botimpex in Tirana if we need to expand our holdings due to an unforeseen rush of requests, which has not yet materialised and probably never will.

The other countries are still in a bit of a mess.

For Czech Republic, we are using Artia, but they are so tied up with exclusive rights held by Kubon and Sagner and other Western agents that we have expanded our already good exchange arrangements with various Czech libraries; we have agreed some major increased in exchanges for key titles and are adding on others as they are requested. We have found a supplier for Czech medical titles. CLS of Prague, but this is a fairly recent development so I cannot comment yet on their performance.

For Slavokia, we are using Male Centrum bookshop and Solvart agents in Bratislava as well as some expanded exchanges. The arrangements have yet to be finalised.

For Hungary, we have basically split our acquisitions between the agents Kultura and OMK and the Szechenyi Library. Most items seem to be arriving OK. For odd one-offs we are using the Hungarian Book Agents in London.

For ex-Yugoslavaia, well…… For Solvenia, we are using Markom, who are OK. For Croatia, we are using BTS, who are excellent; in one case we ordered by fax and got the first issue within three days! We also have quite a large number of direct purchases which were set up before we discovered BTS. These seem to be working very well, so we have not transferred them. For Macedonia, we are still relying on exchanges. Bosnia, forget it! For Serbia-Montenegro, we are still receiving items and news from Jugoslovenska Knjiga and from the Academy of Arts and Science.

For each country, we have gone through all the items we used to receive from Colletes and Earlscourt and have removed from the current list those which had previously ceased publication or which had not been received for over two years and for which we had had no requests during that time. This lost us over 400 Soviet titles! When we get news from any source that publication is still going on or has resumed and if the usage justifies it, we will re-instate the orders with our new suppliers. We have got fax or email links with most of them, and are thus able to sae at least two weeks time in ordering. As it is largely a buyer’s market, we can afford to pick and choose to some extent.

Since Collet’s demise we have had to use exchanges to a far greater extend and to actively maintain our links with our principal exchange partners rather than just let things roll along. We have concentrated on the major libraries having first established that they could cope with larger agreements, both in terms of staff time and expense. This has also produced oddities such as transferring titles previously received on exchange from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow to Ars Polona, because the Academy was not acknowledging our letters.

As we have the inside information list of the top 10,000 titles (not including Cyrillic items unfortunately, but we do have a list of those which would have been included) and as we also have a computerised waiting list for items requested but not yet received, we can easily find out which titles to target initially. This has saved us from having to order vast lists of items without any prioritisation and has enabled us to get the items which our readers want rather than those that we think they want!

If anyone has any questions, please get in touch with me: Ron Hogg, British Library Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa.

More information about suppliers mentioned in Ron’s article and addresses may be obtained from him. Ed.

At SSEES we have been using chiefly East View and Kuban & Sagner in equal proportion. We have transferred most of our newspapers, formerly supplies by Collets, to East View. They have offered generous discounts on microfilms of the newspapers to which we hare now subscribing; we have taken advantage of this and all orders have been fulfilled. We have split journal titles between the two suppliers; to date transferred East European titles to Kubon and most of the Russian titles to East View; there have been a few hitches, but on the whole both current subscriptions and orders for outstanding back issues (not supplied by Collets) have been supplied successfully. There remain a few Russian titles, published in centres outside Moscow, with which East View still seem to be having difficulty. We transferred very few newspaper and journal titles to exchange partners – only in the very few cases where any other method was impossible. However, we have not transfered existing newspaper or journal subscriptions away from exchange partners; existing subscriptions with exchange partners and therefore continuing and in most cases material is being supplied.

For Polish newspapers and journals not already supplied on exchange we are now using MBW Lonestate Ltd., (8 Brunswick Gardens, London W5 1AP. Tel.: 081 998 2810; Fax: 081-998-8358) for for a number of current newspapers; although we have heard varying reports of their efficiency, our own experience with ordering newspapers has been good. Their prices are competitive, but they do not offer a wide range of academic titles. Meanwhile, we still maintain some longer standing journal subscriptions with exchange partners, especially with individual institutes of the Academy of Sciences (PAN), and with Orbis Books Ltd., 66 Kenway Road, London SW5 0RD. Tel: 071 370 2210.


Thanks to all those who returned the questionnaires for the first phase of this survey which covers parliamentary publications. The response was very good, though generally speaking, very few UK libraries appear to be collecting this material. I am in the process of collating this information now and will soon decide how to approach part two of the survey which covers other official serials. I hope that it will not be too onerous a task for you to complete the second round of questionnaires which are likely to be more time-consuming. I am sure that it is worth the time and effort as the completed union list will be potentially very useful for us all. In the meanwhile, please let me know if your library begins to subscribe to any new parliamentary titles which can be added to phase 1.

Janet Zmroczek, Slavonic and East European Collections, British Library


The School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library has recently acquired two collections of papers relating to Czechoslovakia. The papers of Karel Lisicky, who was in the Czechoslovak diplomatic service from 1918 to 1948, cover Czechoslovak diplomatic and foreign relations between 1918 and 1947, and include material on the League of Nations, 1934-37, the Munich Agreement and its aftermath 1938-39, and the Czechoslovak government in exile, 1939-1945. The papers of Josef Kosima, who was secretary of the Czechoslovak trades union congress and who worked for the BBC Czech service from 1939, include is memoirs of the Second World War and his typescript history of Czechoslovakia entitled Czechoslovakia: her rise and fall.


An exhibition of the British Library’s collection of russian avant-garde books (futurist and constructivist) will be on show from 23 June until the end of September in the British Library, Great Russell Street. The centrepiece of the exhibition will be an evocation of Rodchenko’s workers’ library, designed for the Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1925. In conjunction with the exhibition there will be a series of events: gallery talks, slide lectures and films. A leaflet with full details of events is available from: Public Events Office, The British Library, 41 Russell Square, London
Chris Thomas

Thanks to all those who sent me contributions by e-mail; this is the best way for me to receive information for inclusion in the Newsletter. Alternatively contributions may be sent on IBM compatible disks.
Your contributions and comments are more than welcome.

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

Editor: Ursula Phillips, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London EC1E 7HU. Tel: 071 637 4934 x 4049. Fax: 071 436 8916