Libro Futuro

Europeana, digitization and passion. Mario Coffa interviews Ines Vodopivec

Intervista in italiano

Ines Vodopivec works as Deputy Director of National and University Library of Slovenia, before she was Dean at Nova University, Head of University Library and Main editor at Journal of Library and Information Science. She was also Member of the committee for 2012 South-Eastern European Digitization Initiative, President of National Congress committee for Digitization of Cultural Heritage 2011 and Member of 2013 IIPC General Assembly committee. She received the University of Ljubljana Prešeren Award in 2005 and Crystal Plaque at Florence Conference The Magic of the Renaissance in 2018.

Ines, to start: what does it mean to be a librarian in Slovenia? What is the academic and training path to practice the profession? And finally, is there a legal recognition of the profession?

Librarians in Slovenia have most diverse jobs. Some are quite specialized according to the type of the library one is working in, or, when working in larger institutions, libraries target specific employees’ profiles to cover different fields of activities. For example, in the National and University Library we have information specialists in our Music collection who are musicologists. They are scholars of music who can provide very specific information on various music and library materials related subjects, including historical overviews. Among our employees there are also educated lawyers working on intellectual property rights in digital environment, IT-professionals developing our digital library systems and services, and many other interesting profiles. So, there are two ways of how one can become a librarian in Slovenia. The first one is to study librarianship at the Faculty of Arts, Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies. Another option is to proceed with advanced training in librarianship after completing other studies. Last but not least, according to Slovenian Librarianship Act all library employees must also complete the librarianship exam. Provisions of the Librarianship Act regulate the terms and conditions for recognition of professional qualifications in Slovenian librarianship.

The pandemic experience marked a very difficult moment for libraries but at the same time it favoured the development or increase of many digital tools and technological skills. What impact has this phenomenon had in Slovenia?

Evidently, the pandemic of corona virus had a significant impact on work processes in libraries throughout the world. Slovenia was no exception. But every challenge can also be an agent of change and an opportunity for libraries to develop and grow. In Slovenia libraries were proactive, finding new approaches and ways of how to reach their users. In public libraries services were, for example, provided on daily basis using door-to-door methods, driving library materials to users’ homes or engaging postal services. Many library developments in corona pandemics also included digital transformation. In such way, in-person services and activities were advanced to the digital remote assistance. These activities even today mostly remain online and are preformed using different digital communication channels, such as online individual/personal assistance or online learning platforms for sharing of study materials and online courses for library users. Users more and more connect to the library services only online, which means the great importance is given on electronic resources and open access. Besides, many different new applications were also developed in corona times helping libraries manage and coordinate the number of users visiting library premises per time slots or booking of study seats in reading rooms. Moreover, even delivery and presentation of library materials, specifically from special collections, merged to the digital environment. An excellent example is a comprehensive e-exhibition The art of reading in the Middle Ages published on Europeana.

Still on the subject of digital, you were a member of the committee for the South Eastern Europe Digitization Initiative and you are elected member of the Europeana Network Association. Can you briefly tell us about this huge and wonderful activities?

Digitisation in Slovenia is not a new phenomenon. Our National and university library started building Slovenian Digital Library in 2006 and cooperated in development of the common European Digital Library – Europeana – from its beginnings. I have been following Europeana’s development since 2009 and from the first digitisation projects I have worked on in our library. In the following years, from 2010 to 2013, many initiatives and digitisation events were organized in the region. One particularly important for advancement of digitisation in the Balkans was also the South Eastern Europe Digitization Initiative – SEEDI. Slovenia was the host of the initiative conference in 2012. Parallel to the international SEEDI conference, we also organized first national congress on digitisation. It was amazing to see all GLAM institutions working together already ten years ago. We explored digital humanities through IT development in the field of written cultural heritage, like for example newspaper annotations, experienced 3D modelling of archaeological excavations and browsed through the digitised collections of small insects – fleas, for instance. The Europeana Network Association is today one of the most multidisciplinary networks of highly specialised professionals in Europe and one of the main cultural promoters of cross-border cooperation. Working in such transdisciplinary group gives birth to new ideas and increases expansion and application of cross-sectional digital humanities. The National and University Library of Slovenia is already an established national aggregator and trusted partner of Europeana, which I find most important in terms of national policy planning as well as bringing standardisation to other national institutions.

Libraries and librarians are evolving adapting to new social and cultural systems. In your opinion, what will the future of libraries be in the coming years?

When thinking of our, that is libraries and librarian’s role in todays and future communities, we must first think of how our users perceive us. Do they find us useful? What added value can libraries bring to the societies? What will motivate users to come to our services instead of just using Google Search, which is maybe not the most reliable source, but still very easy to use. There are no membership fees they would need to pay for using Google Search and no special knowledge to browse on it. Of course, libraries do not want to be “just” Google, but they are now facing the population of users who grew up with it and are used to fast and easily accessible information. Having young generations in mind our efforts should be put in strategic developing of easily accessible and usable inter- or even transdisciplinary open access databases, where users can find materials interconnected on the basis of the content itself (i.e. author, time period, subject etc.), and not on the basis of the object type (i.e. book, painting, statue, archival material). That means tearing down the walls between GLAM institutions. Connecting heritage institutions on national level and providing data interoperability by fostering and enhancing the use of standardised metadata models recommended by European Commission and Europeana in different Slovenian GLAM institutions would be the start of the transformation process to a common platform, where users could reach high-quality content accessible “just a click away”. This way we could build a sustainable and reliable service supporting the country’s heritage science, open science, innovation and development and enable users to reach reliable resources “the Google way”, entering through one gate only.

This project, the Library World Tour, is based on sharing between librarians and through their story talks about libraries, creating a real network. Do you believe that this method (sharing) could be a useful tool in an age that travels on the internet and on social networks?

Absolutely! Sharing, connecting, exchanging best practice solutions and cumulating them in one virtual space is definitely one of the best methods for creation of an international network among librarians or information professionals from around the world to share ideas, experiences, skills and knowledge. And the method could also be used in other professions as well.

What would you recommend to a young student who would one day want to become a librarian? 

For students in Slovenia I would recommend being open minded and receptive to changes and innovations taking place in an international environment. Getting as much experience as possible abroad (for ex. in exchange programmes within Erasmus+) is sometimes even more important than classical studies of librarianship on the faculty. Young librarians must follow digital transformation developments with intersectoral cooperation and perceive possible advantages when development is implemented in our own systems.



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.