Contents - Previous - Next


4.4 Self-management in the information service

Co-operation between libraries on the basis of the law on associated labour and the library activity and libraries act

Vera Mudri-Skunca
Senior Librarian, Director of Zagreb Municipal Library

The subject which we have chosen for this plenary session is of exceptional importance to our work. We have already referred on other occasions and in other contexts to the need for organized co-operation between libraries. What is exceptional about our present discussion on the subject is that it is taking place in a new and distinctive climate. Previously, our discussions and debates on various problems have been greatly affected by numerous factors which lay outside our field of work; consequently the solutions adopted were similarly affected by factors which sometimes failed to give due weight to points that were essential to the successful work and development of the library service. These extraneous factors have now lessened in importance and a correspondingly greater role is now also played by the people who work in the libraries as they, together with people working in other fields, jointly plan both the development of the library network and ways of meeting the demand for books by individual and group users. Thus we are now involved as an equal and a key element in the evolution of the library network, with a consequent growth in responsibility. In this context we shall briefly describe the new social conditions in which we now work and the main social and professional tasks which we face. We shall cite specific examples with a view to illustrating the need for and the feasibility of working together when analysing and resolving a number of problems. This should by no means be interpreted as suggesting that these are our only problems nor that they are the most important or the most urgent ones. We mention them to emphasize the need to resolve them through the process of seeking agreement with one another on the basis of self-management.

I

The basic law on the management of State industrial enterprises and the larger economic associations by workers' collectives was passed in 1950. This law proclaimed the principle of direct participation by the workers in the running of industrial working organizations. Following the adoption of this law, self-management developed and was consolidated in industrial working organizations; it also gradually split over into other areas of social relations and non-industrial working organizations.

Our Republic's first Libraries Act, which contained very important provisions on library administration based on self-management principles, was adopted in 1960. Under this Act, library work was defined as work of special importance to society and this was also reflected in the besting of self-management-based decision-making powers in external representatives on library board.

The establishment of the funds for the promotion of cultural activities in 1968 changed society's attitude to library activities. However, despite such developments in social relations, the control of expenditure on the expansion of production and other activities remained largely in the hands of the State. The State also retained a very important function as intermediary between various spheres of associated labour, especially in meeting society's educational, scientific, cultural and health needs and other social functions. These were obstacles which prevented the development of these activities from keeping pace with the real needs of the working people and other citizens. The new constitution of the SFRY and the new republican constitutions, which were promulgated in 1974 after several years of intense public debate, eliminated the last vestiges of State control over national capital formation. They also based every aspect of social relations on self-management. The new constitutions established the principle that working people in all areas of society, that is those engaged in material production and those in other kinds of work, exchange their labour with one another on an equal footing in a joint endeavour to produce new material and spiritual wealth. To this end, they enter into mutual relations based on self-management and they evolve various forms of social contract with one another on the basis of self-management. The new vital relationships and the exchange of labour based on self-management, as provided for in these constitutions, received statutory form in the law on Associated Labour, passed at the end of 1976.

For us it is important to note at this point that libraries, which had formerly been financed from a variety of State and social sources, now found themselves in a situation which obliged them to establish relations with associated labour in a new way, by preparing, both directly and through self-managing communities with shared interests, adequate programmes to be dealt with by the process of agreement-seeking and by taking into account, in the course of the adoption of these programmes, the real needs of their own areas and those of associated labour.

Apart from the Law on Associated Labour and other acts and statutory instruments regulating the activity of working organizations, libraries also have an Act of their own, as well as a number of other normative instruments to regulate their functions and organization and the mutual relations between them in conformity with the Libraries Act.

The Libraries Act was passed in Croatia in 1960. It was thoroughly revised and brought textually into line with the new Constitution of 1965, while a number of minor additions and amendments were made to it in 1966. A new Library Activity and Libraries Act was passed in 1973. The Act contains, inter alia, a number of basic formulations concerning the need for libraries to pool their resources and for their joint activity, and it is this aspect which most interests us at the moment. The Act states:

'Library activity is a social activity based on the principles of self-management, whose purpose is to use books as a means of promoting the general education of the people, to satisfy the cultural needs of working and other people on a lasting basis and to promote scientific work and research, thereby influencing the development of the economy, of education, science, culture and other activities'.

'In order to achieve the aims of library activity, people working in that sphere shall co-operate, seek agreement and discuss problems with each other and also with working and other people in other spheres of associated labour and with the users of the library service; they shall also use self-management agreements and social contracts to establish and maintain direct self-management relations and shall pool resources with them in order to realize and harmonize their mutual interests and in order to agree programmes for the development and promotion of library activities'.

'In order to promote mutual co-operation and resolve questions of mutual interest, independent libraries and libraries incorporated in other bodies may form library communities or enter into other kinds of partnership.'

The Act pays particular attention to the definition and formulation of the tasks of the central services and central libraries as representing a very important form of co-operation between libraries, aimed at ensuring a high professional standard and equal level for all in the work and development of the library network both in the narrow and in the wider spheres of their activity.

'In order to carry out constant, organized and systematic work aimed at promoting library activities, a number of libraries will also provide central services for other libraries in a particular area and for a particular category of libraries'.

Central library services comprise in particular: the organized and ongoing study of questions of interest to library activities as a whole; the study of questions of mutual interest to library activities in a particular area or a particular category of libraries; improved organization and methods of work in library activities and librarianship as a profession; the preparation of expert proposals to expand the library network; expert assistance and instructions to libraries; the professional supervision of library activities; the monitoring and co-ordination of the way libraries work and promotion of mutual co-operation between them; and professional training of library staff.

On the basis of the Library Activity and Libraries Act, the Council for Libraries of the Socialist Republic of Croatia adopted a set of rules on central library services in the Socialist Republic of Croatia at a session held on 19 April 1977. These rules provide expert advice on how to organize the central services in any particular area.

At its annual meeting in 1973 the Federation of Library Associations of Yugoslavia adopted 'Minimum Yugoslav Standards for Community Libraries' and 'Minimum Yugoslav Standards for School Libraries'. These laid down minimum standards for all circumstances, while it was left to the Republics and the Provinces to set higher library standards appropriate to their own particular conditions and possibilities.

We in Croatia face the complex task of producing our own library standards on the basis of preparatory work to date and of our own conditions, with further reference to Yugoslav and international standards in addition to Unesco's manifesto on public libraries. Adoption of the standards laid down in this important normative document will help establish the necessary mutual ties between libraries within the unified library system in our Republic.

What should be clearly understood and borne in mind is the fact that in our relationships in society the lead given by those who actually work in the libraries is of decisive importance, and that whether our activities develop faster or slower depends on this lead and on the establishment of the appropriate self-management relations with associated labour. For us the Law on Associated Labour constitutes the legislative and social foundations from which we proceed in our efforts to ensure for the library services the status and treatment in associated labour which they deserve by virtue of their social importance and the way in which they meet social needs. This cannot and will not be done for us by anyone else, nor shall we ourselves be able to offer appropriate solutions, unless the library services as a whole and every library unit individually establish mutual ties through the process of self-management-based agreement-seeking, and can organize themselves into a unified library and information system. Within any particular region, or within one municipality or more, it is possible to reach agreement with associated labour on ways of exchanging labour either directly or through the self-managing communities with shared interests by offering to every user the potential services of all the libraries within or even outside its area, as long as the libraries concerned can reach agreement among themselves on how they will jointly provide the services offered. In this way the unified library network, about which we often speak and whose importance we constantly reiterate, would be created in practice, gradually and without legislative norms on a basis of real needs and at a rate dictated by those needs and on foundations afforded by self-management. Initial experiences in establishing associated labour either directly or through self-managing communities with ties with/shared interest indicate that assembly delegates representing associated labour have shown great interest in and extended their support for the library service. Consequently one may expect a considerable improvement in conditions of work in the library service in the coming period; but at the same time the library service may also be expected to shoulder considerably greater obligations in conceiving and planning its own development.

When we remember that the Library Activity and Libraries Act, the Rules on Central Library Services and even the future standards are Acts which regulate relationships and tasks within the library service in principle only, without providing for any forms of sanction or means of enforcement, it will be apparent that their implementation can be ensured only through direct agreements reached between the libraries and the users of library services on the basis of the existing conditions, needs and possibilities of the areas concerned.

Proceeding from the principle that in every area users should be able to enjoy a library service through the library located in their own area, it follows that such a library will not by itself suffice for all the needs of its current and potential users. Consequently, whenever we speak of a library we should in fact be thinking of the library system as a whole in which the library concerned is but a link in a chain, giving access to the services of the whole library network. Everything that contributes to the development of this concept of libraries must of necessity also contribute to the development of every individual library, because its potential can only be enhanced through the library system. We have spoken on several occasions of the library system as the fundamental prerequisite for the successful work of individual kinds of library and individual libraries, but we have not worked hard enough to build up such a system in practice and make sure that it works.

The Law on Associated Labour and the Library Activity and Libraries Act bind all the libraries to pool their resources on a self-managing basis so that by exchanging labour they will he able to realize optimum long-term development programmes for the library system as a whole.

I I

In the light of the fundamental attitudes outlined above, a number of questions also arise which should be borne in mind in speaking about relations between libraries and their self-management-based agreement-seeking and joint

  1. It is necessary to regulate the activity of the central service by self-management-based agreement in keeping with actual conditions in the area concerned. In this way the general provisions of the Library Activity and Libraries Act in the Socialist Republic of Croatia which relate to the central service would begin to be implemented more successfully and yield the hoped-for results. Using self-management-based agreements, the central service could be organized as a service set up on the general and shared interests of all to meet their joint needs. This service would be given real tasks in accordance with the actual situation and be provided with the necessary funds with which to carry them out.
  2. It is very important to ensure the uniform functioning of the library network within a given area. It is impossible for a small library to function successfully unless it has been functionally incorporated into an appropriate wider network of libraries with the support of which it can provide its users with all the library services they need. Nearly every library still tries to meet the needs of the library users in its area on its own by relying on its own staff and library stocks, a practice which leads to uneconomical financing and a waste of trained staff. The appropriate consultation instruments and signed self-management-based agreements would clearly agree and define the library network in a specific area and the mutual relations, activity, and the rights and obligations arising therefrom for every single library.
  3. At this moment the mobile library service is perhaps the most convenient and economical way relatively speedily and successfully to meet the need for books in areas where there are no permanent libraries. inter-municipal and inter-library self-management-agreements on the purchase and use of library vans would make possible a more rational use of the funds available for the setting up of a modern mobile library service and would replace the independent and inadequate attempts made by individual municipalities or libraries to resolve the problems of those of their areas which have no
  4. The activity of school and what are known as trade union libraries and of a variety of library services for schools and working organizations is also an important area within our sphere of interest. In this area are to be found various forms of partnership, pooling and agreement-seeking mechanisms. If able to rely on a central community library, a factory of school library could by itself achieve a higher professional level and function more rationally, as well as widening the extent and range of its library services.
  5. Faculties possess departmental libraries which comprise very valuable and extensive stocks of books. These libraries as a rule employ one or two specialists. There is no reason why the specialists who work in these libraries should not form an association on the basis of agreement reached between individual groups at a faculty in order to be able to discuss and propose solutions to a series of questions of common interest to improve the functioning of libraries, ranging from ways of using the existing stocks of books and restocking and resolving technical problems to the status of librarians in such libraries and the question of broader functional links between university libraries.
  6. A large number of municipal community libraries operate within the framework of workers' and adult education centres, and this has considerably slowed down the development of these libraries as regards the building up and expansion of the library network, the size and contents of their stocks of books and the number and qualifications of the members of the staff and as regards the way they perform their work and duties as municipal records services. These libraries often lack the necessary machinery to organize and set themselves up as basic organizations of associated labour and consequently do not possess the status of legal entities which would enable them to exchange labour directly and hold self-management-based consultations with other libraries and working organizations. It is necessary in the normative instruments of their working organizations to ensure that they he given the kind of status which will enable them to establish professional, staff and similar ties with other libraries in the municipality, region or republic to weld into a unified library and information system.
  7. Information services play an exceptionally important part in every library. However, it is a fact that the smaller libraries are not in a position to draw on sources of information in various technical fields and that their services accordingly fall unavoidably short of the level of users' potential needs. This alienates such would-be users from the libraries which they perceive as inadequate information sources. The question of the use of and access to information within the widest possible library system should be resolved by means of a self-management-based agreement enabling every library unit to provide any technical information which may be needed to any users within the shortest period of time.
  8. Inter-library loans are a field of co-operation which should also be regulated between individual categories of libraries and between libraries within an area. A self-management-based agreement should define mutual rights and obligations and the mechanism of inter-library loans, because inter-library loans are a way of developing a library system in which the entire stock of books of a given smaller or wider area is available to every user through the library in his own area.
  9. Qualified library staff are of exceptional importance for the successful functioning of the library service. Despite this, we have so far not yet found a successful solution to the question of the regular training of library staff from various levels and categories of library work and duties. Instead they have been trained with more or less success by practical work, attending seminars, preparing for and sitting vocational examinations, pursuing postgraduate studies, and so forth.
    The founding of a Chair of librarianship at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb and the introduction of library specialization in reformed secondary schools in several of the Republic's centres are the fruit of decisions and approaches adopted at several assemblies and plenary sessions of the Croatian Library Association.
    The results of the newly initiated systematic training of library staff call for continuous assessment, as does the work being done to harmonize the programmers for graduate and postgraduate studies and to standardize curricula in secondary school centres with a library specialization.
    Library staff to be trained within the framework of the regular school system should be trained for an updated library service and this goal should be reflected both in the curricula and in the way teaching is organized and carried out.
    Long-term planning concerning staffing requirements, including their level and skill, must become a permanent practice in our libraries.
    Library staff need to adopt agreed joint approaches to all these questions if they are to be fit to be factors in and protagonists of self-management-based relations within a system based on the free exchange of labour.
  10. The need to modernize libraries by gradually introducing electronic and other technology can equally not be met rationally in isolation for each library, town or even region. Only by mutual agreement on the strictly rationalized purchase and use of modern, compatible equipment can the services be made available to the greatest possible number of users.
    If resources are to be used correctly, it is necessary to standardize and systematize technical tasks. This too calls for across-the-board technical activity and agreed solutions.
  11. Recent initiatives have taken place in a number of quarters to deal with the problem of the role of books in our society and to make books more accessible to working people, but librarians have been insufficiently represented at the relevant discussions and have not had enough say in decision-making. One possible result is that some of the solutions proposed will prove expensive and unsuitable while, on the other hand, libraries will not be given the opportunities or support they need to fit themselves for systematic, varied, continuous and flexible activity both in organizations of associated labour and in local communities.
    The social agreement on books should resolve the question of publishing, distribution and the use of books, while libraries must become equal participants in the system of self-management-based agreement-seeking.
  12. Society is investing considerable public money in books and libraries and yet there is no specialized body or institution systematically concerning itself with the various sociological, cultural and economic aspects of the production, distribution and use of books and with the work of libraries as the main intermediary between books and their readers. The very volume of the resources invested in books and libraries argues the need to pay long-term expert attention to some of the problems associated with them and to see that individual problems are thoroughly analysed and expertly presented to the public. Some of these questions should be singled out for consideration not later than in the next medium-term period, and self-management-based discussion should be used to set in motion the effort to resolve them or at least to ensure through agreements that the appropriate cadre and material prerequisites are available to study and evaluate them and even to solve some of their attendant aspects.
  13. The possibilities and conditions for specialized work at the National and University Library in Zagreb, the main central library of our Republic, are of great importance for the successful development of our whole library network. It would be useful to discuss the question of the concept of the future development of the National and University Library and to agree on how to deal with the urgent problem of staffing to enable this library to perform its exceptionally important, social and specialized functions as required by the Library Activity and Libraries Act as soon as practicable.

A further series of very complex and important questions could with advantage be dealt with within the library network and they, too, should be the subject of self-management-based agreement-seeking and co-operation between libraries. Such questions are: the co-ordinated provision and centralized study of library material, the unification and rationalization of other specialized, technical and administrative duties, and so forth.

The implementation of the Law on Associated Labour and the preparation of self-management-based agreements and normative provisions in the basic organizations of associated labour call for very complex activity by all the. libraries over relatively short periods of time. Here, too, the libraries could, by co-operating, organize joint elaboration of material, exchange experience, exchange specialized papers and so forth. The implementation of the Law on Associated Labour could, then, be a topic for self-management-based discussions among libraries.

* * *

This account does not comprise the modalities of the internal self-managing organization of libraries because that is not the subject under discussion at this plenary session and also because solutions for that type of organizational question were provided in a clear form in the Law on Associated Labour. They are to be implementated in the light of actual conditions and of the principles of a unified and rational library service organized on modern lines.

Some perplexity at the moment hangs over the question of determining the minimum number of workers needed to form a basic organization of associated labour. The Law on Associated Labour fixes no number, but makes it a condition that the number of workers should be such as to enable the basic organization realize of associated labour to realize self-management-based relations within it and to participate on a self-managing basis through its delegates in various parts of the wider self-management system. The social agreement will establish, among further criteria, the minimum number of workers in a basic organization of associated labour. The majority of the Republic's libraries have relatively small staffs and this is especially true of the municipal community libraries within the framework of the workers' and adult education centres, hence the exceptional importance of this question for the further development of libraries in our country.

Since library activity is of particular social importance, the self-management-based constituting of libraries should be based on uniform socially agreed attitudes. The functional linking together of the libraries of one or more municipalities or regions would create the basic prerequisites for the creation of a unified library and information service and combine optimum results with a considerably more rational use of the resources created by libraries through a free exchange of labour.

The central services of the National and University Library and of the regional and municipal libraries should bear the main brunt of the work of preparing specialized and other kinds of groundwork on which to elaborate self-management-based agreements to deal with these and with other questions.

By developing and promoting co-operation between libraries and the basis of the Law of Associated Labour and the Library Activity and Libraries Act, and by means of self-management-based agreement-seeking and joint consultations, the associated libraries will become, through their concept of development in partnership, an important factor in the free exchange of labour and the mainstay of the Republic's unified library and information service.

DOCUMENTS

  1. Law on Associated Labour 1976, Official Gazetter of the SFRY, Issue 49/60.
  2. Libraries Act 1960, National Gazette, Issue 49/60.
  3. Library Activity and Libraries Act 1973, National Gazette, Issue 25/73.
  4. Act on Public Funds for the Promotion of Cultural Activities 1968, National Gazette, Issue 7/68.
  5. Rules on Central Library Services in the Socialist Republic of Croatia, 1977, Croatian Council for Libraries, 1977.
  6. Standards for Public Libraries, IFLA, 1972, IFLA Verlag Dokumentation, Pullach/Munich, 1973.
  7. Minimum Yugoslav Standards for Community Libraries, 1973. Published in 'The Fifth Assembly of the Federation of Library Associations of Yugoslavia', Belgrade, Federation of Library Associations of Yugoslavia, 1974, pp. 148-152.
  8. Minimum Yugoslav Standards for School Libraries, 1973. Published in 'The Fifth Assembly of the Federation of Library Associations of Yugoslavia', Belgrade, Federation of Library Associations of Yugoslavia, 1974, pp. 153-157.

Contents - Previous - Next