IAALD 10th World Congress Dakar, Senegal, 24 to 28 January 2000 Challenges facing the agricultural information community in the third millennium PROGRESS OF A DECADE OF THE U.S./CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN AGRICULTURAL LIBRARY ROUNDTABLES. A SLOVENIAN PERSPECTIVE TOMAZ BARTOL Slovenian National AGRIS Centre, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana Jamnikarjeva 101, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia Abstract: We present 7 consecutive U.S./Central and Eastern European (CEE) Agricultural Library Roundtables (RT) held in USA (1991), Hungary (1992), Poland (1993), Slovakia (1994), Czech Republic (1995), USA (1997) and Russia (1999). RT topics included information (I) transfer, networking agricultural I, electronic data processing, Internet, linking people and resources, stabilization and development of human resources within the agricultural libraries. Intra-CEE and international cooperation, exchange, and technological advancement was boosted due to the RT events. Major agriculture-related CEE and international I institutions are presented with respect to the RT. Consecutive development in Slovenia (SI) - a member as of the 2nd RT - is shown including an all-SI internet-based shared online bibliography and catalog (COBISS), AGRIS/WAICENT activities, and AgroWeb SI. Keywords: diffusion of information / international cooperation / information needs / information processing / information systems / libraries and information centers / central and eastern Europe / Slovenia / 1 INTRODUCTION In our paper we present some forms of international cooperation between the agricultural library and information institutions of the countries of central and eastern Europe (CEE), and some other non-CEE institutions. This cooperation was launched with the aim of improving library and information services in the respective CEE countries (16). During the five-year period of 1989-1993 immense changes in the political and economic systems occurred in most CEE countries. This enabled independent forms of international cooperation. This period saw independence of Baltic states and forming of a lose association of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Yugoslavia began to break-up in 1991 and by 1992 it disintegrated into five independent nations. Finally, in 1993 Czechoslovakia also split into two new entities. All these events seriously impacted library and information systems. As early as 1991 an idea was launched by the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NAL, USDA) in Beltsville, Maryland, to aid the agricultural libraries in the new CEE democracies so the concept of the U.S./Central European Agricultural Library Roundtable (in further text Roundtable) was born. The Roundtable membership scope of the core central European countries was soon expanded by participation of eastern European countries (in further text both as CEE). Other major agricultural-information associations and institutions, such as United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN), and the FAO and IAALD later joined the Roundtable-related events as active participants and sponsors. Some other institutions, such as CAB International, also frequently participated.
2 THE HISTORY OF THE ROUNDTABLES 2.1 BELTSVILLE, 1991 The 1st Roundtable was held at the NAL in Beltsville, Maryland, USA, in November 12-20 of 1991 (16). The theme was Information Transfer in a Global Economy: Forging New Connections. The idea of international cooperation in a form of roundtables was born at the NAL following intense political and economic evolution in CEE. The following countries were invited to participate: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The purpose was to begin to address how best to forge and strengthen organizational linkages and to enhance cooperation between the U.S. agricultural libraries and agricultural institutions in CEE to ensure fluid and cost-effective access to information. Electronic technologies had by then created many new possibilities for international networked transfer of information, which, however, remained largely inaccessible in the majority of CEE countries. The objective was therefore to verify what information infrastructure was available within each participating CEE country and to identify centers of expertise, and then to consequently promote the use and sharing of new technologies, and also to explore possibilities for collaboration in order to provide information centers with a greater capacity to deliver value-added services to end-users. Objectives also included exploration of new possibilities of transfer of programs and technologies. Important differences among respective countries were immediately evident. In some other countries specialized agriculture-related national electronic databases were already being generated. An advanced online system at that time was in existence in Yugoslavia a country that was at that very moment in a process of disintegration. The system was (and is still) maintained by the computer center IZUM in Maribor, Slovenia. In some other countries, however, computer infrastructure was still almost non existent. 2.2 BUDAPEST, 1992 The 2nd Roundtable's (Hungary. Budapest. October 4-9, 1992) theme was Possibilities for cooperation between the U.S. NAL and Central European agricultural libraries (17). By then significant changes had taken place in CEE. Baltic republics had again appeared as independent nations and the library representatives joined the Roundtable project. So did Slovenia as the first and only country from the territory of the now defunct Yugoslavia. Albania also joined. Bulgaria, however, no longer attended. The preceding Roundtable was successful in laying the foundation for stronger cooperation. NAL had been during this period able to provide limited assistance in facilitating in-country library networking or furnishing technical guidance as to library automation. The Roundtable revisited issues raised at the first Roundtable. Participating libraries presented their respective reports with regard to the progress made during the last year. CD-ROM workstations and databases developed by NAL in cooperation with other organizations were presented. Several CD-ROMs were also provided to each participant. Digitized document delivery via Internet using a packet radio link was demonstrated. Several grant proposals were also developed. The newly independent countries were encouraged to initiate activities related to national AGRIS, CARIS, and AGLINET membership (7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 22). 2.3 RADZIKOW, WARSAW, 1993
The 3rd Roundtable (Radzikow, Poland, September 21-24, 1993) adopted the name of both "Central" and "Eastern" as it was joined by libraries from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine (18). Czechoslovakia was in 1993 divided into two independent entities. The theme was Networking agricultural information: Next steps. The number of participants had by then expanded from 6 to 14. The Roundtable focused on assessing the situation with regard to linking agricultural resources through technology in CEE and exploring future possibilities for increasing connectivity. Participants again presented state-of-the-art reports. Following the Roundtable two participants from the Czech Republic and Slovakia spent two months at the NAL as Cochran fellows. This fellowship was set-up in the United States for training agriculture specialists from middle income countries and emerging democracies. Representatives from the Baltic Republics, Slovakia, and Slovenia attended AGRIS and CARIS training courses at the APU in Vienna and at the FAO. 2.4 NITRA, 1994 The 4th Roundtable's (Nitra, Slovakia, September 26-30 of 1994) theme was Providing and disseminating agriculture information by means of electronic data processing (2, 3) The Roundtable was joined by Croatia. Russia and Ukraine, however, were absent. The agenda related to the above theme was again accompanied by country reports. This year seems to represent a break-through in terms of acquiring of new information technologies by all participating libraries. Namely, some participating libraries such as those from Albania and Estonia this year installed their first computers. Some other, such as Latvia, had by now already started to use E-mail facilities. Czech Republic continued upgrading automation of handling library documents. Poland continued compilation of its SIGZ national agricultural database. Slovakia initiated the project for an integrated information system in the agricultural sector, and had set-up a modern information center ISTIA in Nitra which later played important role in international networking of CEE libraries (6, 28, 30). Slovenia reported on further development of its shared online bibliographic information system. 2.5 KARLIK, PRAGUE, 1995 The 5th Roundtable (Karlik by Prague, Czech Republic, September 11-16, 1995) focused on Internet and the international agricultural information system : Access and use (20). Russia and Ukraine participated again, Romania, however, was absent. The initiative was joined by USAIN as a sponsor. In 1994 only 4 of 15 Roundtable participant libraries were using E-mail. In 1995 there were already 12 users among 14 participants, so the chosen theme was very suitable. Major problems were related to the difficulties involving connections and communications. Following the 5th Roundtable a participant from Slovenia spent almost three months at the NAL as a Cochran fellow. In this period the founding meeting of the IAALD Central and Eastern European Chapter (29) was held on the initiative of the president of IAALD and the director of ISTIA in November 29 of 1996 in Nitra, Slovakia on the occasion of the FAO AGROINFOS ´96 workshop. 2.6 TUCSON, 1997 The 6th Roundtable's (Tucson, Arizona, USA, April 1-3, 1997) theme was The Information Frontier: Linking People and Resources in a Changing World (1, 8, 23). The Roundtable participants were this time also able to attend the USAIN/IAALD Joint Conference in April 3-5. Albania, Belarus, Estonia, Hungary, and Ukraine, however, were unable to come to Tucson. This Roundtable was also sponsored by IAALD and USAIN. Participants reported
on progress in their respective libraries and countries. Some libraries that were unable to participate sent written reports. In this period the FAO SEUR (Sub-Regional Office for CEE) Webmaster Training Course was held April 20-24, 1998, in Nitra. In June of 1998 an international conference for agricultural informatics was co-organized by ISTIA in Freising, Germany. The networking initiative continued as AgroWeb CEE Workshop on 12-16 April of 1999 at the Godollo University of Agriculture in Hungary, and was organized by FAO and IAALD (27). The goal of both workshops was to facilitate setting-up and linking of FAO SEUR-sponsored agriculture-related WWW home pages of respective countries (26) under the common name AgroWeb CEE Network. These pages have already started to serve as a frame for the national WAICENT service in many a participant country (5, 12, 13, 21, 30). 2.7 MOSCOW, 1999 The 7th Roundtable (Moscow, Russia, in May 23-28, 1999) chose the theme of Stabilization and development of human resources in agricultural information system in CEE territory (24, 25). The host organizer was the Central Scientific Agricultural Library of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. This Roundtable was sponsored by USDA/NAL, USAIN, IAALD along with its Central and Eastern European Chapter, and by the FAO/SEUR. Participants from the NAL and IAALD, however, were unable to arrive due to administrative obstacles. Among the first-time attendees there were Armenia and Georgia and some former Soviet Republics from Central Asia. By the 7th Roundtable the differences in technological advancement in respective libraries became quite pronounced. Some libraries had been for some years building integrated online library information systems with library resources available via the Internet. Many other libraries, however, still possessed no personal computers. Agricultural research in some countries ceased almost completely following break-up of huge collective farms what brought about closure of many research institutions and, consequently, their respective libraries. 3 PROGRESS IN SLOVENIA IN THE SCOPE OF THE ROUNDTABLES Slovenia, internationally recognized in 1991, has been a participant as of the 2nd Roundtable in 1992. Slovenian participant was also the editor of the 7th Roundtable Proceedings (24). Library and information activities of the Central Biotechnical Library of the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana were enhanced by the participation at these meetings (4, 5). Encouraged by the then director of the NAL Slovenian participant sought contacts with the AGRIS staff at the FAO with regard to the possibilities of setting-up a national center. This was founded in 1994 and immediately became were active. National AGLINET library was founded soon after. Slovenia promptly became a participant with one of the highest per-capita numbers of yearly entries. In 1995 a participant from Slovenia spent almost three months as a Cochran fellow at the NAL. Experiences acquired at this library were then used in furthering national networking with regard to the agricultural library and information system. Intensive exchange program was set up between Slovenia and NAL thus rendering Slovenian agriculture-related publications directly accessible at this library. Most Slovenian agricultural publications have also been sent on a regular basis to the FAO's David Lubin Memorial Library in Rome, CAB International and many other institutions. Activities of the Slovenian National AGRIS Center were presented on many occasions, such as national meetings of agricultural specialists or conferences of library and information professionals. In the later case Slovenian agriculture was frequently cited as a field with an advanced information infrastructure. This was boosted even more with creating of the Slovenian AgroWeb pages in 1999. Slovenia has been, as of 1988, building its own online Cooperative
Online Bibliographic Information System and Services (COBISS) that is currently available via WWW. It is compiled on shared principles so that each item is entered only once in Slovenia, and then supplied with additional locators for other libraries that might also possess the item. All Slovenian libraries, University and special libraries alike, participate in the system that serves as a union catalogue as well as a general Slovenian national bibliography that comprises all the papers published by Slovenians or in Slovenia. All of the above national and international activities also became part of the curriculum (Information Science course) at the under- and post-graduate studies of the Agronomy, Forestry and Zootechnical Departments of the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. This course is organized by the head of the Slovenian National AGRIS Center. AGRIS center also performs certain editorial tasks for several Slovenian agricultural publications. 4 CONCLUSIONS Information services have on many instances found themselves in a position of being barely able to meet user expectations. The new technologies, especially the Internet have brought yet more uncertainty with respect to the future role of library and information institutions. The information revolution presents a challenge for advanced marked economies, let alone for the countries in transition or non-developed economies that invariably face also many other pressing problems. The Roundtable meetings, initiated with the aim of improving library and information services in the countries of Central and later also of Eastern Europe, however, produced numerous results, such as increased international document and data exchange among the participating CEE libraries, and between the participating libraries and the NAL, and later the FAO. The meetings also enhanced (and on some instances launched) the utility of national AGRIS-CARIS (WAICENT) centers, and AGLINET libraries, improved professional qualification of many library and information officers, helped expand IAALD membership in member countries, and, with the help of very active individuals affiliated to ISTIA and FAO-SEUR in Budapest, indirectly launched creation of a WWW-based CEE agricultural network. Considering the achievements of the last decade, albeit sometimes hindered by economic stagnation in certain Roundtable countries, it can be safely concluded that the institution of the U.S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable played an important role in bringing together a variety of human and technological resources from many different countries and international organizations. It significantly contributed to a much better coping with new technological challenges, and in turn, produced excellent understanding and friendship among the actors involved. 5 NOTES AND REFERECES 1. ANDRE P. 1997 - The information frontier: linking people and resources in a changing world. 6th U.S./Central & Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable and IAALD Conference. Available:http://www.uvtip.sk/english/awc/iaald/roundtable/tucson/andre.html 2. BAJANKOVA B., TOY D. (Eds.) 1995 - Providing and disseminating agriculture information by means of electronic data processing. Proceedings of the 4th U.S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable. Nitra. ISTIA, Sep. 26-30, 1994. 3. BAJANKOVA B. 1995 - The Fourth U.S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable. Agricultural Libraries Information Notes (ALIN). 21(7/8):1-12 4. BARTOL T. 1996 - International networked collection and dissemination of Slovenian agricultural information. International Forum on Information and Documentation (IFID). 21(4):5-10
5. BARTOL T. 1997 - Present state and possible future roles of AGRIS in the European library community: the Slovenian experience. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 42(3/4):213-218 6. CHRENEKOVA M., DEMES M., SIMKO J. 1997 - The AgroWeb Club Project. ALIN. 23(3/4):33-33 7. DELIU H. 1993 - The role of the Scientific Library of Tirana Agricultural University in distributing information in Albania. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 38(3):214-215 8. DEMES M. 1997 - Sixth U.S./Central & Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable and IAALD Conference. Available: http://www.uvtip.sk/english/awc/iaald/ roundtable/tucson/demes.html 9. DOBELNIECE I. 1993 - Role of the Fundamental Library of the Latvia University of Agriculture in distributing agricultural information. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 38(3): 213-214 10. GOIA L. 1994 - The State of the University of Agricultural Sciences Library Cluj-Napoca, Romania in 1991-1992. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 39(3):267-268 11. HOCH I. 1994 - The role of the Central Agricultural and Forestry Library in Prague in distributing agricultural information. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 39(3):269-272 12. JUDY J.R., MANGSTL A., LE HUNTE-WARD F. 1997 - WAICENT, World Agricultural Centre: FAO's information gateway. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 42(3/4):136-145 13. KEZIC N., STOJANOVSKI J. 1997 - Croatian natural sciences information system: Agriculture. ALIN. 23(3/4):34-34 14. KRIEGERBERG A. 1993 - The library of the Estonian Agricultural University. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 38(3):211-213 15. NIAURIENE R. 1993 - Lithuania and the state of Agricultural information. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 38(2-3):164-166 16. PISA M. 1993 - Developing partnerships with the agricultural libraries of Central Europe. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 38(1):35-36 17. PISA M. 1993 - NAL participates in Second U.S./Central European Agricultural Library Roundtable. ALIN. 1993. 19(1/2):1-11 18. PISA M. 1994 - U.S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable initiative continues to pave the way to increased cooperation. ALIN. 20(7-9):1-2 19. RASINSKI J., PIELAK D. 1994 - The Central Agricultural Library, Warsaw, Poland: 1992 activities. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 39(4):329-329 20. SKLADALOVA J. 1996 - The Fifth .S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable. ALIN. 22(4/5):1-5 21. SKLADALOVA J., PERLIN C., HOCH I. 1997 - Progress in computerization: Activities in the Czech Republic. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 42(3/4):210-212 22. SVORENOVA A. 1994 - The role of ISTIA in the Slovak Republic. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin. 39(4):326-328 23. WRIGHT J. 1997 - Report on the Sixth U.S./Central and Eastern European Agricultural Library Roundtable. ALIN. 23(3/4):39-43 24. http://www.agroweb.bf.uni-lj.si/ 25. http://www.cnshb.ru/agroweb/roundtable/round_he.htm 26. http://www.fao.org/Regional/SEUR/DEFAULT.HTM 27. http://www.gak.hu/aw/workshop/index.html godolo 28. http://www.nitranet.sk/iaald_roundtable.htm. (vse OM) 29. http://www.uvtip.sk/english/awc/iaald/ (Iaald CEE) 30. http://www.uvtip.sk/english/awc/iaald/roundtable/ (Arizona)
About the author: Mr. Tomaz BARTOL, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Head of the Slovenian National AGRIS Centre Slovenian National AGRIS Centre Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana Jamnikarjeva 101, SI 1000 Ljubljana SLOVENIA Phone: +386 61 123 11 61 Fax: +386 61 265 782 E-mail: email@example.com