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63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Programme and Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997

Economic Institute Library and CERGE Library: a merge and modernization of two libraries in Prague

Stanley Kalkus
Institute of Information Studies and Librarianship,
Czech Republic


When describing the merger and transformation of two distinct economic libraries, established under different circumstances in different political surrounding we must take into consideration not only these facts but also the conditions of the society preceding this action and the state of public affairs at the time of the actual merger and transformation. It did not concern only moving books and equipment, planing of space allocation, preparing budget, but also dealing with personnel and educating them to accept the necessary changes. In that process one must also learn to recognize outside factors influencing the decision making and implementation of new and different organizational rules. There was no library with open stacks and with primary concept of service to all users in the Czech Republic at the time of the reorganization and merger.

But let us start with describing the institutions and their libraries prior to the merger. The Economic Institute -EI is being described as a new institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic established in 1992 in order to carry out high quality theoretical and empirical research. The Czech Academy of Sciences is the official successor of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, and the EI is a successor, if not official, of the Narodohospodarsky Ustav (Institute of National Economy) , of the Prognosticky Ustav ( Prognostic Institute) an institution working directly for the government, and a special information center. The library collection is usually given as 200.000 volumes for the Academy of Sciences, Institute of National Economy, about 10,000 for the Prognostic Institute. The special information center and its section of research and analytical studies was part of the academy library. There were thirty two employees working in these three units, half of them professional librarians. The new economic institute (EI) inherited the library and about 8 staff members.

CERGE - The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education was established as a western type graduate school with a research center in March 1991, after preparation work that begun in 1990, with the assistance of the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. It first shared spaces and facilities, especially the library with the Central European University in Prague (Soros Foundation). The CERGE library was integrated with the CEU library and there were some problems when the library was separated from CEU collection and transferred to the new quarters. Transferred were about 5,000 titles and a sizable periodical collection, and two librarians. Some dispute accompanied the transfer of the library, particularly its cataloging data, but also the actual separation or rather extraction of the book collection was a little problem.

The first result of the merger of the CERGE and EI library was sort of a chaos. Collections were held separately and were located in about seven separate spaces. Most employees were paid by Academy of Sciences with bonuses provided from CERGE financial resources and the two CERGE librarians were paid also from CERGE resources.

Let us return briefly to the parent organizations and their structure. CERGE was as we see completely new organization established as an independent unit of Charles University with technical assistance of the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. Financial support is provided by foundations, corporations and government organizations as well as by the government of the Czech Republic through Charles University. The EI was established a year later and since its inception working hand in hand with CERGE was financed by the Czech Academy of Science. The Academy of Sciences also provided a building to house the CERGE/EI and that is where the CERGE library was moved to be integrated with the library that belonged to the National Economy Institute of the Academy and the Prognostic Institute.

Things have changed since 1992 when the two organizations were created and merged at the top level. The merging at lower levels was a bit more painful. Practically all the EI support and administrative personnel were employees of abolished three institutions of the Academy. CERGE employees were all new and from the beginning paid at higher levels then EI employees. Most outside funding was coming from sources such as United States Agency for International Development, Austrian Government, Westinghouse Corp., Mellon Foundation, The Soros Fouindation and others, in the beginning almost exclusively through CERGE. From the library point of view this was a nightmare. There really was no such thing as a regular budget. For two first years the Austrian support was such that there were sufficient funds for purchase of books and periodical subscriptions. Even funds for salaries were sufficient and it was possible to provide bonuses to Academy employees in order to equalize their pay with that of the CERGE employees and to hire student help. But there still was this division of who works for whom in spite of the fact that the top management wanted one organization and one library. The problem was that even the top management did not know where the next grant is coming from and in size. Requests for equipment (furniture, computer hardware and software) were prepared without a definite assurance that there will be funds to procure them. There was no budget as such with the exception of salaries so one could say there was no problem with employees, nothing could be further from the truth. The top management wanted a US style open stacks library with extended and weekend hours of operation. That was utopia with the employees used to entire different, or shell we say indifferent situation. This was not unique to the CERGE/EI library but we might say it was the standard situation in most libraries in then the Czechoslovak Republic. It was a slow educational process but the positive results are beginning to show now . It must be mentioned that the first librarian hired to was an American, a capable young man who did not speak one word of Czech and was to large extent dependent on translations by his staff. In the beginning the staff was not as fluent in English as now and this presented some diffi culties. The fact that he was almost totally dependent on interpretations and also explanations of Czech labor laws and management customs placed him in a very disadvantaged position.

During this difficult initial period of merger there was another monumental task given and that was to plan and execute moving the library to new quarters within the building. To move all the library materials to for that purpose renovated space in order to have them all on one floor. That meant to empty all kinds of small storage spaces, decide what goes where and weed the rest. Weeding the collection was in itself a sizable job successfully accomplished only with help of the faculty. First the CERGE collection of about 5,000 titles of all new mostly English language publications in economics were moved on the new shelves and then the weeding of the Academy collection was started. Numbers will tell us to what it amounted to. The number of volumes given at the time of merger for the Academy and Prognostic Institute was about 210,000. At last years count the library collection consisting of the CERGE collection and items integrated into the system was given at 30,000 volumes. There are works still to be added from the old collection but at least half of the Academy collection was weeded out. Some works were not on subjects of interest to the new library being built. Many were duplicates of works on marx-leninist philosophy and party propaganda. Of these many were offered to other libraries in Czech Republic, some were saved for possible exchange purposes, and most were simply disposed off. The present day situation is more optimistic looking. There is a library budget, limited and still not completely stable but it does represent some sort of continuity. Acquisition of new books presents some problem, mainly the selection of new publications. Standard services offered by publishers and wholesalers in United States and in most western countries are beginning to be available for Czech and some West European publications but not for US publications and these comprise about 70% of all new acquisitions in economics and also of reference works. Staff is almost completely new consisting of seven professionals, one clerk and seven student aids. The library director was hired in 1994 and was able to introduce some of the planned changes, such as extended library hours in the evenings and some weekend hours for benefit of students and the faculty. Library is open to public during regular library hours and the result is manifold increase of number of users. All staff members must be able to communicate in Czech and in English since the teaching language is English. Students at CERGE come from almost all Central and East European countries, but also from Western Europe and the teaching faculty at CERGE and researchers at EI are about equally divided among the Czech and Western professionals and experts. Many more financial sources were added to those that made the creation of this institution possible. Other new improvements include the selection of ILS ORACLE and it is presently being installed. The selection process was lengthy and difficult because of language requirements, availability of service, and cost of purchasing and servicing of the system. Servicing was one big problem and so was the availability of installation of Czech language. Although ORACLE does not solve all these problems but when all the parameters were taken into consideration it seemed to be the best choice. Also and that is important, the staff seems to be comfortable with the system. New PCs were installed and CD-ROMs in the fields of economics and finances are subscribed to. In 1994 the library became a depository library of the World Bank. one of the special features of the library collection is a unique section on the economic transformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Some basic data about the Library:

Total area of the library:
over 500 sq meters (increase by 85 sq. meters during 1996)

Seating capacity:
Reading rooms over 40
Other 10

Total number of volumes:
over 40.000

Periodical subscriptions:

8 PCs, 1 CD-ROM player, 2 photocopiers, 1 microfiche reader
About 5000 records in ISIS system now being transferred into ORACLE system
Library is used daily by over 70 users, more during school year less during summers
Library has Internet address

The proposed plans for the library expect about doubling the library space in the future, increasing CD-ROM and online access to data bases, and also increasing interlibrary loan services.