Magazine article Information Outlook

Making the Transition: Bulgaria Libraries Struggle in a Post Communist World; Journey to Eastern Europe for a Look at a Library. (Inside a Bulgarian Library)

Magazine article Information Outlook

Making the Transition: Bulgaria Libraries Struggle in a Post Communist World; Journey to Eastern Europe for a Look at a Library. (Inside a Bulgarian Library)

Article excerpt

LIKE MOST EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, BULGARIA HAS STRUGGLED to find its way in the years since the fall of communism. The country's libraries have not been exempt from this transition, with much of the financial support they enjoyed under the old system drying up. Sherrie Kline Smith takes a look at how one Library in Bulgaria is handling this problem and what it is doing to fill the shelves.

I paid the driver and climbed out of the taxi. "Was this the right place?," I asked myself. In front of the long two-story building was a Cyrillic sign that would have read "Central Technical Library" in English. Though the sign had more than three words, the last one-library-reassured me that I was at the right place.

I entered the front door and found myself in a small vestibule with two large living plants on either side of double doors leading into the library. The large fern on the right looked so healthy and green that I stopped to admire and feel it to see if it was real.

I then entered the lobby area, which was barren with empty shelves and display cases. A woman sat in front of several rows of these shelves and behind a low, long counter. I wondered if the "emptiness" resulted from the summer hiatus that took place here in Sofia when many went to the Black Sea. I greeted her and asked for Valentina Slavcheva, the director of the library, with whom I had an appointment.

She picked up the phone, spoke into it, and, not a minute later, a tall woman with blond, shoulder-length hair came from the far opposite side of the lobby area and shook my hand. "Hello! I'm so glad to meet you!" Slavcheva said.

She led me back to her office. It was very large with a bank of windows across the full width of the room. On the windowsill sat 10 or more plants--at least three six-foot ficus plants, one five-to-six-foot plant I didn't recognize, and several other plants decorated the room. I was struck by how extraordinarily healthy they looked.

I first heard of Slavcheva from a colleague. When I came to Bulgaria in June, I wrote my colleagues and asked if they knew of any librarians in the country. I soon received a message from Alexandra Dimitrov, a professor at the library school of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She wrote that the previous summer she had met Slavcheva at a conference in the Crimea, "She speaks English, and is a warm, wonderful woman." With the email and phone numbers sent by Dimitrov, I contacted Slavcheva and made arrangements to visit her library and get acquainted.

"I do not speak English so good," Slavcheva explained, "so I have asked my colleague to join us to help with the language." At that moment another lady entered the room. "This is Lyudmila Velkova. She works in our acquisitions department." With preliminary introductions over and refreshments served, I asked them to tell me about the library.

Inside the Library

The Central Technical Library (CTL), established in 1964, is one of four main divisions of the National Center for Information and Documentation (NACID). Formerly called the Central Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, NACID was established in 1961. The name changed to the National Center for Information and Documentation in 1993. Engineers and economists with a good command of foreign languages (English, German, French, Russian, etc.) comprise most of the staff at NACID.

The other three divisions include General Administration, Information Products and Services (IPS), and Automation of Information Processes (AIP). The IPS staff processes and submits information about the present state and trends in the world of science and economy; prepares branch analyses; carries out marketing surveys of Bulgarian industries; provides Internet services, online information services with in-house databases, and telecommunication access to leading host centers; and maintains close contact with companies within the country and abroad. …

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