Libro Futuro

“A library without a librarian it is worthless”. Mario Coffa interviews Ejla Ćurovac

Intervista in italiano

Ejla Ćurovac is a professional librarian who works at the Gazi Husrev-bey Library in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the oldest library in this part of the world founded 485 years ago. She also participates in the Emerging International Voices program, a joint program of IFLA and the Goethe Institute, where she has had the opportunity to connect with young information professionals from around the world who are involved in the advocacy of librarianship in their countries. She has participated in a large number of international workshops, seminars and conferences. Her special areas of interest are digital libraries, library activism, children’s activities in libraries, heritage institutions and the history of library science.

Ejla, to start, can you tell us about your work, what you do and what prompted you to choose this profession?

First, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful project. Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of working in the library and being surrounded by books. As I grew older my love for books increased so the decision to enroll in the study of comparative literature and librarianship was quite understandable. I also had wonderful professors during my education who emphasized my love for librarianship even more. Towards the end of my master’s degree, I was given the opportunity to volunteer as a student at the Gazi Husrev-bey Library, which I completely fell in love with. Today, I am working at the European fund of the library, processing materials in European languages, but I am also in the editorial board of the Gazi Husrev-bey Library Bulletin. I am working on numerous projects, exhibitions, etc. I am also part of the Association of Librarians of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, IFLA and Emerging international voices project.

You work at the Gazi Husrev-bey Library, an ancient and prestigious institution. Can you describe and tell us briefly?

It is very difficult to say just a few sentences about Gazi Husrev-bey library because it is extremely important and is an excellent example of a GLAM institution that has a library, archive, museum and even a gallery space under its roof. It was founded together with the high school, madrasa in 1537 at the request of Gazi Husrev-bey, the Ottoman governor in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gazi Husrev-bey Library currently holds around one hundred thousand units including over 10.000 codices of manuscripts in Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Bosnian languages, around 10 thousands individual documents in Ottoman Turkish language, approximately 21.000 printed books in Oriental languages and over 45.000 in European languages, as well as a rich collection of periodicals from the end of 19th century to the contemporary magazines that are being published in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the world. The Library also has a valuable museum collection, cartography collection and collection of photographs.

You are very active in social networks and among your professional interests you also deal with digital libraries. Regarding this pandemic period, do you think that digital has contributed to the closure of many libraries and their services? And in the future, what role can digital play in libraries? 

I think that the most important in every library is librarian. A library can exist without a building, or even without books, but without a librarian we only have a warehouse where we stack books. Digital library services can only motivate us to work harder and work in accordance with the times we are in. During the pandemic, the importance of digital libraries was seen, because people did not have the opportunity to physically visit library buildings, but they met their information needs in online conversations with librarians and information experts. Of course, nothing can replace coming to the library, touching books, but I think that in a time of information overload, libraries will become even more important and will become centers of information and media literacy. I think digital services have actually helped many libraries to survive, even though they had to be physically closed.

You are also very involved in IFLA activities and therefore you also have an international vision on the theme of libraries. What is your opinion on the current scenario (and on the future one) of libraries but above all of librarians? 

The key to any effort to plan for the future of libraries is to try to understand what that future might be like and the trends that will shape it. I think green libraries will become more important, especially because of the ongoing challenges for human health. I think they will become a new concept that, together with open access, will represent a new stage in the world of librarianship. Returning to nature also involves returning to traditional values of freedom and openness, which is really important to libraries nowadays. During the pandemic, we saw how significant the role of libraries is and how much they can contribute in the community. Libraries must adapt their work to users who need their services here and now, and therefore the librarian must be able to adapt to meet these new needs. Open access to knowledge in a ‘green’ environment is something we should move towards.

I was very impressed by your article published on the Goethe Institute page entitled “A library without a librarian it is worthless”. It is a sentence that I fully agree with. Can you explain us better? 

Thank you so much. Well, I think that the librarian must be a walking encyclopaedia, they must have knowledge of different areas of human creativity and knowledge, and they must be willing to share that knowledge with others. As I said in that article, a library can exist without a building, and even without books, but without a librarian it is worthless. This case was proved during the pandemic, especially here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Library buildings were closed but a large number of librarians around the world turned to social networks and media in order to continue their communication with people. In this way, we continued to respond to user requests, to communicate with our users, and services were transferred to the online environment. Book have been digitised and provided to the users who need them, avoiding direct contact between librarians and library users. The librarian is the center of every library and he should be creative, active, ready for lifelong learning and personal development, so that his library becomes an active place, a place to meet and socialize, and not just a warehouse for books and magazines. 

Sharing and networking are fundamental today and this project seeks to create a sharing network between library professionals. Do you agree? Do you think our profession needs this sharing in every part of the world? 

I think that the most important thing in today’s world is to be connected, and only in that way can libraries overcome the difficulties and obstacles that they encountered during the pandemic. The experience of Emerging International Voices, and now the experience with the Library World Tour has shown how important the connection between us is, and how much we can learn from each other. The online environment and social networks allow us to get in touch with colleagues from all over the world, to overcome obstacles together and design new projects for our users. Libraries are not islands and we must not allow them to become so, especially today. At this time, we need each other more than ever so that we can work together to ensure that our users are both happy and satisfied. We need to share our experiences, problems, good practices so that together we can come up with the best solutions for librarianship and information science.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future include working on new projects related to heritage institutions, and digital library services. The biggest plan is related to the IFLA congress next year in Dublin, which I am especially looking forward to, because I will have the opportunity to meet colleagues and mentors from the Emerging international voices project and to discuss and exchange ideas and experiences. Also, I will get the opportunity to meet some of the greatest experts in the field of librarianship and learn a lot of new things that really makes me happy.



Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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