Libraries in the information society
Knowledge is the driving force of development. For the knowledge-based information society, library information systems and current research information systems are an essential infrastructure, indispensable in advanced education and research, as well as in cultural, technological and economic development. However, libraries cannot take on their role, if their work is not supported by modern information communication technology. Moreover, they are unable to function efficiently as isolated islands, so they must link with each other and provide conditions for dialogue and collaboration, which further provides the basis for the development of each country and the international community as a whole.
So far, only a few countries have succeeded in establishing a national library information system with shared cataloguing. In most cases, the establishment of such a system is made impossible not only because of the uncoordinated automation of individual libraries using different types of library software, but also because libraries fall under different ministries that fail to collaborate in the library development planning stage.
From the mere concept of the COBISS system to a regional library network
COBISS (Co-operative Online Bibliographic Systems and Services) is a model of a system representing the platform for the national library information systems in Slovenia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania and Kosovo. All these systems are interconnected into the COBISS.net regional network. An open invitation for cooperation has been offered to libraries in Croatia.
The key features of the integrated management of library catalogues and researchers’ bibliographies are:
- Rationalization and added value,
- Advanced trainings of cataloguers,
- Higher quality of bibliographic records and multi-functionality,
- Transparency of research results.
The COBISS system was designed in 1987 by the Institute of Information Science (IZUM) in Maribor, which established itself as a development actor of library information systems in the former Yugoslavia; after the social changes in the 1990s, a wider community of countries in South-East Europe accepted IZUM as such. In 2003, an Agreement was signed on the establishment of the COBISS.net network and the free exchange of bibliographic records that are created within the autonomous library information systems of the participating countries. So far, over 500,000 bibliographic records have been exchanged between the systems. At the end of 2015, there were more than 10 million bibliographic records in the seven COBIB shared databases (union catalogues); and there were more than 23 million bibliographic records in the local databases more than 780 libraries. In 2015, libraries originally created merely 25% of records, on average, and they downloaded 75% of records, which shows that a great deal of time and money was saved. At the same time, COBISS.net is also a form of cultural cooperation, which is especially appreciated in the region, as it contributes to mutual understanding and dialogue.
Goals of the COBISS.net Project
In March 2006, the directors of the National Libraries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia as well as the director of IZUM adopted "Phase 2 of the COBISS.net project" entitled "Support to Knowledge and Intercultural Dialogue", inviting libraries in the region to join. The National Library of Bulgaria joined the project in November 2006; in December 2012, based on a special agreement with IZUM, the library of the Academy of Sciences of Albania joined the project; and later on, more libraries from Albania joined. Project goals:
- To enhance the automation and inclusion of libraries of already participating countries in the national library information systems and in the COBISS.net network.
- To attract the interest of libraries in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Kosovo to the opportunity to evolve more rapidly by becoming part of the COBISS.net network.
- To harmonise cataloguing rules with international recommendations and standards.
- To set up compatible research information systems (SICRIS/E-CRIS) in the participating countries (databases on researchers, research organisations and research projects).
- To attract the interest of the competent ministries and universities of the participating countries to accept the concept of managing researchers' bibliographies within the national library systems in order to ensure the transparency of the research results.
- To increase the use of research results for the purpose of stimulating innovation processes and economic and social development in the region.
What does IZUM offer the libraries within COBISS.net?
IZUM is a non-profit organisation, a public institution with more than 110 employees, which has never pursued commercial interests either in Slovenia or abroad. For almost a quarter of a century, IZUM has been present in a wider region with its professional and innovative initiatives, and over this period it has won the trust of the public. IZUM has become an important regional centre for the development of library information systems and research information systems. That was recognised, as well, by UNCESCO which, at its General Assembly in November 2011, awarded IZUM the status of the UNESCO Regional Centre. Within the COBISS.net network, IZUM offers libraries:
- Proven organisational solutions and COBISS software support for the automation of library functions with shared cataloguing within the COBISS.net network, and access to the global catalogue WorldCat (OCLC).
- Proven methodology and software to manage researchers' bibliographies within the COBISS system, applications for setting up a national research information system (SICRIS, E-CRIS), and evaluation of research results.
- A variety of training programmes (for librarians and IT professionals), the organisation of specialised workshops and international COBISS conferences.
- Server capacities for the COBISS as well as SICRIS and E-CRIS applications and services.
- Support in acquiring financial resources for development activities (international development cooperation).
The software, developed and maintained by IZUM, supports different library functions and provides user interfaces in several languages (Slovenian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian and English).
Closer cooperation plans between IZUM and OCLC will give the libraries a better chance of efficiently meeting their needs and the needs of end users of information resources and services.
COBISS.net is an established international development cooperation project for the development of national library information systems and current research information systems. Linking between the two systems is crucial for managing researchers' bibliographies and evaluating research results. Previous collaboration has yielded positive results, and we trust that that COBISS.net is of great importance for the development of the region and for its successful integration into the EU.