A co-operative library sytem

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A CO-OPERATIVE LIBRARY SYSTEM
GRETHE TORFING

Danish public libraries are municipal institutions. The Municipal Council is responsible for ensuring that public library services in the area meet the demands of the Public Libraries Act. Since 1920, the state has tried to promote a uniform development of public library services by establishing standards for operations in successive Public Libraries Acts, and by refunding to the local authorities a proportion of their expenditure in this sector. The aim is that all citizens should have access to high?quality library services, regardless of where in Denmark they happen to live.

There exists, however, almost by a sort of natural law, a difference between the large library in a populous area, with its varied and specialized supply of material and services, and the small?town library with its limited stock of material, small staff, and small premises.

One way of creating a sufficient economic and practical basis for library operations in the small municipalities is collaboration between two or more authorities in the running of a joint library system, in other words a further development of the municipal reform only on a voluntary basis. About 10% of all municipal authorities now take part in a cooperative system of this kind. In addition to this we have the statutory collaboration within each county, by which local public libraries can draw on the resources of the central library, for technical processing, advice, and the supply of material.

However, local and regional cooperation is not in itself sufficient to ensure the equality between all citizens of the country for which we strive. The relevant legislation therefore supports and encourages in various ways a nation?wide co?operation between public libraries, above all in the establishment of an economic basis on which to discharge functions of joint interest to all public libraries in the country.

As from fiscal year 1937/38, the state has withheld a sum of 2% of its annual grants in a fund available for solving the joint problems of the public libraries.

This has created the economic background for the development of central services in, for instance, the technical field of librarianship. The "Public Libraries Contingencies Fund", which amounted in 1973/74 to about DKr. 3 million, has made it possible over the years to set up a number of central institutions, by fully or partially subsidizing their operations. Certain undertakings of undeniable importance to the libraries could not have been established or developed without continuous support from this fund. In other cases, it has been sufficient to cover the initial costs of new projects.

The Danish Library Association
The establishment of the Contingencies Fund was a general wish on the part of the libraries, as voiced by the Danish Library Association, created many years before the first Public Libraries Act with the task of "promoting the library system in Denmark", not only public libraries but also the research and special libraries.

The Association has undergone many changes over the years, but it is still a collective body speaking on behalf of the public libraries, as represented by members of local authority Cultural Committees, the research libraries, and library staff. For personal members, the Association is a professional association, not an actual union.

Various special committees appointed by the Association to fulfil special functions have been, and still are, of decisive importance for the development of our co?operative library system.

The dialogue that takes place within the Association between the research and the public libraries, between local authorities and library staff, is in itself a valuable stimulus, and has often provided a basis for a joint attitude to the political problems of the library system.

Such a dialogue is brought about both at the local level in the Association's county branches and nationally, by means of meetings, courses and conferences on current problems in the library sector, open to both local authority politicians and library staff.

The Association's periodical Bogens Verden (The World of Books) is a forum for professional debate, and is of importance particularly by giving the local authority politicians a knowledge of ? and thus an opportunity for understanding ? the current problems within the library sector.

The Association's Secretariat for Courses not only undertakes the planning and practical organization of its own arrangements, but also handles the courses and conferences of other central institutions.

The Association's Secretariat supports the libraries individually and collectively through its contact service?by PR exhibitions and arrangements, and by national advertizing campaigns, and through its central clearing of information material. The Secretariat also undertakes to act as agent for major exhibitions to the libraries, at the same time as it initiates and participates in the production of such exhibitions.

The central status of the Danish Library Association in the Danish library system is underlined by the fact that several members of the boards of Bibliotekscentralen (The Danish Library Bureau) and Indbindingscentralen (The Danish Library Binding Centre) represent the Association, and that it is represented also on the Library Council, the Committee for the Distribution of the Public Libraries' Contingencies Fund, the Board of the Central Storage Library, and a large number of other societies, associations and organizations of a general cultural nature, both national and international.

The State Inspection of Public Libraries
The Danish public library system has emerged ? and is still developing - from an interplay between local and central initiative. In this interplay between the local authorities, various organizations and the central government, the functions of the state are discharged primarily by the State Inspection of Public Libraries, which is a "directorate" under the Ministry of Culture. Its duties are as manifold as those of the public library system at large, but it will be useful to consider them under three main headings, namely the administration of legislation, advice to local authorities (the libraries), and planning plus coordination.

The bulk of Government administration in the public library sector is assigned to the State Inspection, which allocates Government grants to the libraries and handles a succession of individual decisions on the basis of the current legislation. When the system of state grants is abolished and the individual municipalities undertake a greater responsibility for the standards of public library service, the State Inspection's application of the law will be of lesser importance. On the other hand, its other activities will be of decisive importance for co?operation between the libraries, and for future development towards a uniform standard of services.

Public libraries obtain advice and guidance from the State Inspection in such fields as: the planning of the local structure of services in local and county authority areas; the decentralization of services by means of branch libraries and bookmobiles; outreach activities; co?operation with the primary schools and other teaching institutions; the organization of audiovisual collections and cultural arrangements; the planning and building of new library premises; the study of procedures and working methods in the libraries; economic studies on current operations; and the planning and implementation of transitions from manual methods to EDP.

The State Inspection advises and guides the public libraries both individually, by visits and in local negotiations, and by professional conferences, publications etc. It collects, processes and publishes information, including statistics, on the operations of Danish public libraries, and supplies corresponding information from other countries.

It also appoints committees to investigate particular questions and to chart library requirements in specific areas, and publishes the reports and recommendations of these committees. Within the institution itself, research and development work is performed with particular attention to automation of the public libraries' internal operations.

In its entire range of activities, the State Inspection co?operates with other central authorities, institutions and organizations. Such co?operation has been particularly important under the extensive preparations made for Denmark's new Public Libraries Act, and will continue in the future to be a necessary condition for its advisory and co?ordinating functions.

Inter?library lending
The statutory co?operation between libraries means that the individual library is no independent unit, but part of the country's total library system, each part of which intimately cooperates with and supports the other parts, for instance by inter?library lending.

Public library co?operation on inter?library lending is based on two fundamental principles, namely: 1) the obligation of the public library to provide books for its users that it does not itself possess, if they can be obtained from other libraries, and 2) the obligation of the public library to lend its books to other libraries when required.

A public library wishing to borrow a book from outside will turn, normally, to its central library. The 14 central libraries function as junctions within the co?operative system, and are required, out of their special central library stocks, to lend such books to other libraries in the county as the latter do not have in stock. A necessary condition for this procedure, of course, is that the collections of the local libraries should be adapted to the size of their populations, and cover the primary need there.

If the central library does not possess the book required, it will pass the request on to another library, either directly or via the National Loan Centre.

This Centre is run by the state as a joint service organization for the libraries. Its main function is to assign requests from the Danish public libraries, i.e. to place them with Danish or foreign libraries possessing the material required, above all the relevant research libraries.

For many years the research libraries have covered the bulk of the public libraries' need for specialized literature. Among the research libraries, we should mention above all the State Library of Århus which has fulfilled a special function as a "higher centre" for the public libraries. The importance of such cooperation cannot be over-emphasized, but it has long been necessary to relicve the research libraries of some of this burden, and in future the public libraries, and the central libraries in particular, should be selfsupporting to a far greater extent than hitherto.

In time the major central libraries, together with the Central Storage Library, will cover almost the entire need of the public libraries for loans of Danish literature.

The Central Storage Library for Public Libraries
The Central Storage Library comprizes the Danish public libraries' joint collection of older literature. Its purpose is "to receive and to the necessary extent store, lend and otherwise dispose over books and other material transferred from the collections of the public libraries".

The creation of the Central Storage Library in 1968 was primarily a move to increase efficiency. The ineffective stock of a library takes unnecessary space, and demands superfluous work. Antiquated, worn and soiled books must naturally be withdrawn and destroyed. Books withdrawn out because of insufficient use, however, are sent to the Central Storage Library, so that they can continue to be available within the libraries' own sector. When such rarely used titles are collected in a joint store from which they can be quickly borrowed, a few copies are enough to cover requirements throughout the country.

Technical co?operation
A necessary condition for technical co?operation, and thus also for rational and economic operations by the individual library, is the introduction of uniform and efficient working methods, and the use of suitable technical aids. The public libraries are therefore required by law to follow joint rules on cataloguing and classification, and to use the library system's joint central organizations.

The initiatives towards central services taken in the 30's, 40's and 50's encountered a certain inertia and conservatism among the individual public libraries, which were unwilling to alter their traditional working methods and procedures; the services offered were thus not used to the extent their instigators would have liked.

Only after a nationwide study on efficiency engineering in the early 60's was resistance overcome to the standardization necessary for any centralized solution to problems.

In 1961 the Danish Library Association appointed a Rationalization Committee which performed a number of work studies, analyses of library operations, and method studies proper. The working methods currently in use at the public libraries are based largely on proposals made in the Committee's report, published in 1964.

By means of courses, conferences and meetings, library staff were given the motivation to realize the changes proposed, and to such an extent that a succession of even more radical proposals were in fact implemented in the libraries on the initiative of staff, throughout the 60's.

The Committee's proposals relate to work in the individual library, but the report also recommends an extended interplay between the central institutions and the individual library. The main principle is the central production of as many aids as possible, and the adaption of working methods at the individual library to these central aids.

This rationalization led to an extension of operations by Bibliotekscentralen and Indbindingscentralen, whose functions are to assist Danish libraries by handling bibliographical and technical duties, including the production of publications and other printed matter, binding etc.

The Danish Library Bureau
Bibliotekscentralen acquired its present structure and name in 1963. It is an independent institution, the board of which is so composed as to meet both the interests of local government politics and professional librarianship.

It is this institution's obligation, and indeed necessary for its existence, to follow development in the libraries, and meet the new demands such development may entail. In other words, a necessary condition for its action is a living contact with the users.

New projects are undertaken, as a rule, only after an analysis of needs, and after the basic principles involved ve been established in co?operation th another central library unit, such the State Inspection of Public Libraries, and with library staff having ecial experience in the relevant field. To ensure the current exchange ideas and experience, a number advisory committees have been set meetings are also arranged with the customers, to provide orientation. The institution consists of three departments, the Bibliographical Dertment, the Publishing Department and the Department for Library Furnishings and Fittings. While the Bibliographical Department is financed largely from the Public Libraries' Contingencies Fund, the two other departments operate on an entirely business basis.

Bibliotekscentralen's supply provides the background for the procedures applied by the public libraries as regards selection of materials, purchasing, cataloguing, maintenance of public catalogues, and the preparation of material for lending.

The Institution is also responsible for editing the Danish National Bibliography (Dansk Bogfortegnelse), and for the central cataloguing of all Danish books thought to be of interest to the public and school libraries.

Corresponding to the National Bibliography, a weekly card?list is distributed, covering all books which are centrally catalogued. This list can be used to order both books and printed catalogue cards; it also includes the necessary opies for internal use in the library.

Material for guidance and purchasing, similar to the above list, is provided also in respect of gramophone records and other audio?visual material. Music records can be supplied by Bibliotekscentralen ready for library use, an arrangement made possible by the institution's agreement with a private record dealer. Other AV materials are supplied ready for library use by the individual dealers, and marking for lending etc. follows Bibliotekscentralen's catalogue system.

The steadily growing amount of foreign literature purchased by the public libraries has created a requirement for central services also in this field. Since October 1972, Bibliotekscentralen has distributed a guide to the selection of foreign books, with 7?8,000 annotated titles, primarily in English, German and French. Selection is based on the reading of reviews in 250 newspapers and periodicals. From this material, a current selection is made of some 1,000 titles that can be presumed to be of interest to smaller libraries. These titles are catalogued centrally and books ready for library use can be ordered from Indbindingscentralen just like Danish books.

Aids produced by Bibliotekscentralen are used in all the libraries' main functions, both external and internal.

Bibliotekscentralen's catalogues and book?lists are used in direct work with the users (various joint and selective catalogues). These catalogues are edited in many cases by a committee made up of practising librarians. In others, they are edited on the basis of collaboration with individual libraries. An example of the latter category particularly worth mentioning is the catalogues in book form for the children's and school libraries, which in such departments have taken the place of card?index catalogues for users.

The bulk of the libraries' PR material, such as user?orientatingand user?inspiring?book?lists, book marks, posters, school time?tables etc., is produced by Bibliotekscentralen. As long as production was still limited in scope, this meant that the libraries acquired something of a uniform appearance, with the same posters and the same book?lists throughout the country?to the dissatisfaction, perhaps, of staff more than of users. But with the level of production reached in recent years, the choice is so great that Bibliotekscentralen's material, supplemented with material locally produced, helps to. create a living library, in which "indirect user guidance" plays an important role.

Contacts between the receiving libraries and the producers are handled by an advisory committee for children's libraries, a pedagogic com-mittee, and an advisory committee for publications for adult users.

Activities in respect of the children's and school libraries, which are handled by a consultant for children's libraries and an educational consultant, are designed to ensure that Bibhotekscentralen's supply is adapted to the needs of the libraries; the experience and knowledge of the library system gathered by the consultants are important also in the setting of priorities, and for the quality of products.

Decisive for the quality of user guidance are the bibliographies published by Bibbotekscentralen, with support from the Contingencies Fund. Apart from the Danish National Bibliography itself, there are various indexes and lists included in the national bibliographical system, special bibliographies, standard catalogues etc. To support such activities there has been created a standing joint Bibliographical Committee, which co?ordinates the bibliographical activities of both research and public libraries.

While the production of printed cards and catalogues is of ancient date, Bibliotekscentralen's activities as regards library furnishings are more recent.

The service provided by the Department for Library Furnishings and Fittings includes assistance by consultants in connection with the planning and furnishing of new library premises, and the sale of furnishings and fittings. Such advisory activity ranges from the drafting of functional plans to advice on choice of furniture, library fittings, and the arrangement of shelving.

While the Department's sales of library fittings were originally based largely on collaboration with a number of firms, and on their products, they are now founded to an increasing extent on the results of the Department's own R & D. The items produced by Bibliotekscentralen itself, steel book?cases and a standard range in wood, are now available to the libraries, with all the practical and economic advantages this offers. If a library needs individually designed fittings, then it can also obtain assistance from the Department.

The Danish Library Binding Centre
While Bibliotekscentralen provides the tools in connection with selection of materials and purchasing, central cataloguing and printed cards, catalogues etc., and supplies AV materials ready for library use, Indbindingscentralen handles the final phase of the processing system in respect of books, namely the supply of books ready for library use.

The basis for library purchases via Indbindingscentralen is provided by the weekly card-lists of current production published by Bibliotekscentralen. Quite a high proportion of the titles on these lists can be supplied via the joint binding system (2,700 titles out of some 5,500 on the lists). In the case of titles supplied through Indbindingscentralen, brief reviews are written and sent with the weekly lists. These reviews are written mostly by librarians and are available to all libraries whether or not they use Indbindingscentralen; together with the photocopies of book reviews in the daily press, for which the libraries can subscribe with Bibliotekscentralen, they provide a valuable basis for selection of books.

The books supplied by Indbindingscentralen are marked with a classification mark, and the author/title appears on the spine in a manner corresponding to Bibliotekscentralen's catalogue system, thus ensuring correspondence between the catalogue and the book. They are also fitted out for lending, with loan cards, pockets etc. Depending on the nature of the original binding, the type of book, and expected use in the library, they are provided with proper binding, a plastic cover, or other reinforcement.

The rational working procedure at Indbindingscentralen is based on standardized bindings and fittings, and on fixed deadlines for ordering titles from current book production, to ensure series?production. This, in combination with advanced technical equipment, has made it possible for Indbindingscentralen to compete with private book?binders in both quality and price.

For the libraries, purchasing via Indbindingscentralen means lower prices per unit for making the books ready; this is due mainly to simplified administrative routines in the library.

Further rationalization
Expansion of the supply of the central institutions, and increasing use of the central institutions, have eased the work of individual libraries, thus promoting better service to users.

The steadily growing need for information, the increased production of books and periodicals, and the new types of material available are making ever greater demands on the libraries, and thus on the aids used in serving the public.

In spite of a rational centralization of duties, the steadily growing amounts of data involved mean that the individual library devotes a high proportion of its staff resources to internal work.

A work study performed in Danish public libraries in 1972 showed that the ratio between outgoing, user?directed activities and internal functions was the same as in 1961. Even if the rationalization introduced has made it possible for the libraries to increase their supply of services and their performance?number of loans, growth of material etc. ? without corresponding increases in staff, it has thus not meant any change in priorities.

In the realization that the libraries can only expand their services by further rationalization and greater cooperation, and that we have reached the limits of manual rationalization both in individual libraries and in the central institutions, it has been only natural to investigate the possibility of utilising EDP.

In 1971 a draft plan has been made for an integrated national automation system, known as FAUST (Folk Libraries' Automation SySTem). The system involves the establishment of a data base in which bibliographical data and stocks data on all material in the public libraries are collected via the reports of individual libraries on accessions and discards.

This data base will offer opportunities to establish various library systems. A catalogues and stocks system is to be established with products in the form of a varied supply of catalogues designed and edited according to individual requirements; at the same time, it will be possible to use the system in on?line communication.

As a natural extension to the stocks and catalogues system, there will be set up a loans control system in the individual libraries. This will offer a better knowledge of current use of material, and increase efficiency at the lending counter. Of the greatest importance, perhaps, is that on?line lending control makes possible an automatic reservation procedure, and permits the more efficient handling of orders by inter?urban loans.

Reports to the data base will be utilised in an accessions system, so that the purchasing routines of the libraries are steered from the base once the decision on selection of material has been made.

The individual libraries and their staffs have shown a great interest in using EDP, and the FAUST proposal has come into being on a background of discussions at the professional level. The local authorities have also shown an interest in the plan.

Biblioteksdata
In 1973 an agreement on co-operation was signed between Bibliotekscentralen, Indbindingscentralen and Kommunedata, which is the joint local authority EDP centre in Denmark, created to handle major, joint local authority projects in this field.

The object of this agreement, known as Bibhoteksdata, is to realise the FAUST proposal. In consequence of the agreement, Kommunedata have set up a systems and programming department for library automation, and both Bibliotekscentralen and Indbindingscentralen are busy adapting their organizations to future requirements.

The establishment of Biblioteksdata, supported as it is by central and local government, by professional bodies in the library sector, and by library staff, can, we trust, be taken as indication that co-operation has become an indispensable principle in the Danish public library system, regardless of whether the libraries are supported financially by central and local government together, or only by the local authorities, and regardless of whether such co-operation is or is not statutory. Bibhoteksdata can be taken as indication that the individual municipalities, the individual libraries and their staff are prepared to offer. some of their individuality on the altar of the common good, thus promoting the co-operation that is a necessary condition for rational operation in the libraries, and for a modern standard of services.

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