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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
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.
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.
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
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.
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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.
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