International Library Co-operation and the Goethe-Institut

Christel MAHNKE 1)
Head of Library and Information Services, Goethe-Institut Tokyo

1) 7-5-56, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052. Fax: +81-3-3586-3069; E-mail: 06@tokyo.goethe.org The paper was delivered at the Karuizawa Inose Lodge on Monday August 30th, 1999. This paper also appears at http://www.goethe.de/os/tok/deibib.htm

1. Aims and Activities of the Goethe-Institut
2. Information Services
3. Library Co-operation
@3.1 Conferences
@3.2 Study Tours
@3.3 WWW Information Services and Book Exhibitions
@3.4 German Information Centres in Libraries abroad
4. Basic Rules for Library Projects
5. Worldwide Networking
6. Conclusion

International co-operation in the field of libraries and information service is a necessity and key to the future. The Goethe-Institut supports co-operation and carries out various projects in this field. This paper describes practical experiences and perspectives.


1 Aims and Activities of the Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit, independent organization promoting the German language and international cultural co-operation. The Goethe-Institut is funded by public means. These funds are channeled by means of a contract between the German Foreign Ministry and the Goethe-Institut

There are 141 Goethe-Institutes in 76 countries, which

Partnership and dialogue are basic rules of our work. All projects are planned, financed and carried out with local and German partner organizations. Over the past years, more and more projects are joint efforts of partners from different European countries, e.g. British Council, Institut Franais and EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations). This is a hint to increasing importance of networking. Co-operation aims to bring people together and let professionals know what others plan, do and experience in their field. Goethe-Institut gives information and brings people together in many countries for more than 35 years.


2 Information Services

Goethe-Institut libraries aim to meet German-related information needs of their local customers. To do this efficiently, they need to know information systems and information needs in the country they are working in. Co-operation with other libraries and local or regional networks is necessary to obtain and improve this knowledge. Goethe-Institut libraries conduct surveys and ask their customers about information needs to evaluate and improve their own services. They are small, (qualified staff one to five, books and media 12,000 - 25,000), and can not compete with local libraries in developed countries. However, they can successfully provide information services for selected target groups by the means of

Collections include reference books like encyclopedia and directories with regard to cultural, economical and political subjects. Periodicals are important to cover the latest developments. Videotapes, especially movies and documentaries about arts and geography, are very much in demand. Recently, CD-ROMs were added to collections. Newspaper volumes and dictionaries are part of reference collection, whereas multimedia CD-ROMs on history, culture and geography are offered for lending. Most of the Goethe-Institut libraries are lending libraries.

In many countries, demand for books and media on Germany exceeds the possibilities of Goethe-Institut libraries. Therefore, local libraries are supported in acquisition of appropriate media by annotated bibliographies and individual consultation. In Middle and Southeast Europe and the former Soviet Union, German Information Centres are installed in local libraries (see 3.4).

Reference service is one of the main activities of Goethe-Institut libraries. Questions about all things related to Germany come in by letter, phone, fax, email or during a visit. If the answer can not be given, the question is re-directed to other libraries or information sources in the same country or in Germany. WWW-listservs are used to ask other librarians and obtain an answer. If a small library aims to provide good reference service, co-operation is compulsory.

For special occasions or subjects, Goethe-Institut libraries compile exhibitions of books and other material (posters, videos, CD-ROM). They are displayed in the institute or in other libraries. Subjects and contents of exhibitions are discussed with librarians and other interested parties.

The language barrier can be a serious obstacle for effective information services. In cooperation with editors and translators, Goethe-Institut libraries promote translations of German fiction and non-fiction. They provide annotations and abstracts of important books and media, consult publishers and compile bibliographies of translated material. This work is especially important for countries who lack access to international publications like the former Soviet Union, Central Asia and China.

Internet information services, either in German or in the languages of the countries we are working in, has become one of the most important tools of proactive information services. Designed to meet the needs of selected target groups, they are easy to access and to update. As for all other services, co-operation with information professionals in Germany and abroad is needed to get webpages done in the right way at the right time. In countries like USA, Goethe-Institut librarians participate in German-related listservs and discussion groups on the WWW. By doing this, they contribute to German studies and get direct feedback from their customers and from other information professionals working in the field. This helps to make the Goethe-Institut's website and link collections useful gateways to Germany for the scientific community and the general public.

Job-rotation, life-long-learning and internship play important roles in the work of Goethe-Institute libraries. Library directors, as other staff of Goethe-Institut, are transferred to other countries every five years. Seminars and participation in information-related conferences are provided regularly by Goethe-Institut headquarter. And last but not least, Goethe-Institute libraries receive interns from German or local library schools, other universities or libraries. The exchange of views and daily co-operation is rewarding for both sides.


3 Library Co-operation

As we have seen, co-operation with information professionals is absolutely necessary and common praxis for Goethe-Institut libraries information service. In addition to this, library co-operation has become a distinctive working field over the last 10 years. The purpose is to provide access to job-related information and promote exchange of information professionals. Partners are librarians, associations and institutions in Germany and abroad. First to mention is DBI (German Library Institute) 2) and BA (Foreign Relations Office), a joint institution of German Library Associations. Goethe-Institut libraries act as intermediate for libraries searching contacts abroad. British Council, Institut Franais and other cultural institutes of European countries co-organize conferences and seminars. Foundations like Bertelsmann 3) and Soros 4) are taking part in the exchange.

European universities in the field of library and information science are co-operating to promote international contacts and to give students the opportunity to learn project management by doing. BOBCATSS 5), an acronym of participating universities, organises yearly conferences in co-operation with the local Goethe-Institut. In 1999, a conference with the title 'Learning Society Learning Organization Lifelong Learning' was organized in Bratislava (Slovakia) 6).

Lately, library programs of the European Union 7) provide new possibilities. They support library and information-related projects of three or more EU countries, some programs also allow the participation of Asian countries. Application formalities are rather complicated, therefore DBI (German Library Institute) has set up a counseling bureau for German libraries. EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations) 8) is an independent umbrella association of national library, information, documentation and archive associations and institutions in Europe. They communicate the European Unions developments on copyright, culture, telematics, information society related matters and information technology to information professionals in member states and aim to act as librarians lobby in the EU decision making.

The following chapters present some exemplary Goethe-Institut projects.

2) http://www.dbi-berlin.de
3) http://www.stiftung.bertelsmann.de/english/index.htm
4) http://www.soros.hu/eng/first.htm
5) BOBCATSS is the name of a co-operation between European universities in the field of library and information science working under the umbrella organization of (the European Association for Library and Information Education and Research). The main function of this co-operation is the organisation of a yearly international symposium.
The founding members of BOBCATSSS are the universities of Budapest, Oslo, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Tampere, Szombathely and Sheffield; the universities of Bratislava, Charkow, Moscow, Sofia, Tallinn and the FH Darmstadt have joined in the meantime.
6) http://coba.iud.fh-darmstadt.de/bobcatsss99/index.htm
8) http://www.eblida.org


3.1 Conferences
Conferences are held to promote discussion between information professionals of different countries. In societies with weak structures of professional communication like South Africa or the countries of the former Soviet Union, international conferences can also enhance communication within the country. Towards problems like library legislation or new challenges like digitalization, conferences can help to shape public opinions and find new solutions.

'Telematics for Libraries' 9) is the title of a conference and a series of workshops held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 1998. Its program and most of the papers can be consulted on the Goethe-Institut's WWW-site 10). The EU Telematics for Libraries Program with outlook into the 5th Framework Programme and its possibilities for South African / European Co-operation was presented and discussed. Speakers came from German libraries, European Commission in Luxembourg, British Council and South African libraries. All participants (about 60 from all types of libraries in South Africa) are listed in the WWW-site with postal address and email: a valuable tool for communication. Recently, a discussion list was established as follow-up to the conference. Besides Telematics related topics, South African and German librarians are invited to discuss questions and topics from the library and information field. A variety of libraries (such as academic, special or public libraries) are represented. The medium of communication is English. Goethe-Institut Johannesburg also provides an exchange program for librarians on co-operation with the Foreign Relations Office (BA), and information about internships and events for information professionals in Germany. A German language course for librarians is in preparation. Once a month, open discussions for librarians are held at the Goethe-Institut. The programme includes topics from the library and information science world as well as introductions to new offers on the Internet and on German databases. A newsletter is sent out on demand. The series of conferences was continued in April 99 with a seminar on 'Public Libraries and the Information Society'.

The example shows, how conferences can help to establish a network of communication and co-operation for information professionals in a country where everything changed dramatically over the last years. Libraries and information centres are playing an important role in these changes. New structures and communication patterns are necessary for information professionals.

'Library Management and Marketing' is the general headline for a series of international conferences and seminars in Middle and Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union. It started 1992 in Moscow and was held in following years in Kiev and St. Petersburg with participants from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Goethe-Institutes in these countries co-operate in conference organization, together with libraries, library associations, government agencies and Soros Foundation, a private initiative for the promotion of democratic change in the former East Block. Speakers came from Britain, France, Germany and the participating eastern countries. Western speakers were invited to visit Russian libraries before the conference started, for a better understanding of the situation. In some cases, bilateral partnership between Russian and German libraries resulted in exchange of books, media and internships. The conferences provided a forum for library professionals from different countries, all types of libraries and various levels of hierarchy. There were always more applications than places for the participants (200 - 400, according to available conference space). Choosing participants sometimes was difficult. Goethe-Institut's reputation as neutral in regard to internal struggle between different groups helped solving conflicts. Political impact and media coverage of conferences were high, and results can be measured by the rapid change in Eastern Europe libraries.

Recent conferences on 'Public Libraries in a new Europe' in Budapest 11) and Prague were French-German co-operation projects. Speakers and participants included directors of public libraries and representatives of library schools and universities in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Rumania and Tchechia. Programs and papers in German, French and Hungarian are published on the WWW and in print.

The first conferences in Eastern Europe were designed to fill the huge information gap of Eastern librarians in relation to Western developments (and vice versa). Over the years, professional discussion became more and more focused. Today, there are many means of communication and co-operation established between Russian and Western countries. Russian libraries face many problems which reflect the problems of a society in search for new values. Democratic structures are still weak. The more important it is for Western countries to support pubic libraries as institutions who provide the chance of democratic participation for all citizens.

LOKAL <=> GLOBAL is the title of a recent conference in the Goethe-Institut headquarter in Munich. Experts from 20 European countries and the EU discussed library legislation in regional and federal systems. Discussions were based on the 'Draft recommendation on library legislation in Europe' by the Council of Europe and perspectives of libraries in the age of digitalization. The opportunities offered by today's multi-media communication technology make it more necessary than ever to establish library legislation in Germany. The same applies to Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, where a national legal framework is needed to enforce library legislation at regional level. The aim of the conference is to draw up a European agenda for guidelines on national framework library legislation in countries with federal or decentralised structures, to enable the application of the Council of Europe Recommendation on library legislation in Europe. Most prominent German speaker was Michael Naumann, German State Minister for Cultural Affairs and Media. Librarians hope that he might push forward the issue of library legislation.

Information policy becomes an important topic within the European Union. Libraries have to co-operate to improve their legal status. Their mission is to ensure the access to information for all citizens. Recent technical developments like digitalization make access easier for those who have the means - and more difficult for those who do have not. Promoting computer literacy is a new challenge for libraries. Digitalization also causes changes of copyright laws worldwide. New and stricter laws can create problems for libraries.

9) http://www.goethe.de/af/joh/tele/enindex.htm
10) http://www.goethe.de/af/joh/enindex.htm
11) http://www.goethe.de/ms/bud/biblio/koindex.htm
12) http://www.goethe.de/ms/pra/deibib.htm
13) http://www.goethe.de/z/30/biblkonf/dnindex.htm
14) http://www.goethe.de/z/30/biblkonf/enempf.htm


3.2 Study Tours
Study tours provide exciting possibilities for direct contact between library professionals of different countries. They involve great expense of time and money from all participants and need especially careful preparation. An example for successful planning and realization is a study tour for British librarians and architects, a co-operation of British Council, DBI (German Library Institute) and Goethe-Institut. 'Academic libraries and new media' was the title of the tour in 1998. British experts visited nine German university libraries 15) who recently moved into new buildings. The focus of interest was integration of new media and recent information technology in library design. University libraries in both countries face similar problems of small budgets and big numbers of students. How can printed material made available for a greater number of students? Can digitalization solve the problem? How to store and retrieve electronic media efficiently? The visits included not only official receptions by library directors, but also talks with architects, interior designers and employees of libraries. British experts discussed their concepts of 'Learning Resource Centres' with their German counterparts. Once contacts are established, co-operation and mutual consultation continues on individual basis.

15) University libraries in Muenchen, Regensburg, Eichstaedt, Frankfurt, Goettingen und Halle


3.3 WWW Information Services and Book Exhibitions
Today, nearly all activities of the Goethe-Institutes are accompanied by Webpages. Some features, like the publication of conference papers or discussion lists are directly aimed at information professionals. Other examples, e.g. information pages with collections of annotated links are also made and maintained with the information professional in mind.

'Southeast Asia and Germany - a cultural dialogue' 16) is the title of a page by Goethe-Institutes in Bandung, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, and Singapore. It gives essays on topics like mutual literary reception, dance and music in Indonesia, an overview of institutions in Germany with cultural ties to Southeast Asia and regional and national organizations and institutions in south East Asia. The site is aimed to help German and South East Asian publishers, librarians and other agents of intercultural reception to get in contact.

'A matter of form' 17) is a WWW information service on new developments and discussions taking place in German design. Goethe-Institute Hong Kong has set up this page for people interested in the German design scene. It is in English, German and Chinese language and aims to users in Chinese-speaking countries. The page was welcomed by German and Chinese designers, information centres and publishers who want to get in contact with their counterparts and keep in touch with new developments. Every month, there is an essay about a topic (e.g. Cartoon Illustration in Germany, Design for new Luxury Trains etc), a portrait of a prominent designer and a list of interesting publications in the field.

'New Books in German' 18) started as printed publication. It presents regular reviews of new titles particularly recommended for translation into English. Titles are chosen by an independent committee made up of British literary experts and representatives of the book trade. The WWW-version was launched by Goethe-Institut London in July 1999. Now, all reviews are available, and additional features cover essays on German authors and a list of news and events around German books in Britain. The project began two years ago as joint effort of rather different institutions: the British Society of Authors, British Centre for Literary Translation, Goethe-Institut, Embassies of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, British publishers and the German Booksellers Association. Together, they form the steering and editorial committees, decide about books to be recommended to British publishers and finance the publication. Today, 3,000 copies are distributed not only to publishers, but also to libraries, universities, booksellers and translators worldwide. A special edition for publishers in the US is in preparation.

Similar pages about various subjects have been developed by other Goethe-Institutes. The Goethe-Institut homepage gives an overview 19). It is an easy and effective way to promote co-operation between professionals of different countries and to make information available.

Public and University libraries take part in events planned by their communities or set up cultural programs of their own. If the event has a relation to Germany, Goethe-Institute libraries are often asked to contribute. Therefore, they compiled exhibitions presenting German literature, contemporary history, biographies or special subjects like rock music or football.
'Was bleibt' (what remains) 20) is a documentary exhibition about German prose (East and West) since 1945. Visitors can view the online-version in English, German or Russian language. Libraries and other institutions can borrow the exhibition free of charge. It contains display panels, books, and a printed catalogue. Spanish, French and Russian versions are also available.

Exhibitions and WWW-sites, which can be linked to local libraries' homepages, allows information professionals to give information on Germany without having an in-house specialist for it. All topics and contents respond to existing demand.

16) http://www.goethe.de/so/enkintro.htm
17) http://www.goethe.de/os/hon/design/enindex.htm
18) http://www.new-books-in-german.com/
19) http://www.goethe.de/z/30/eniindex.htm
20) http://www.goethe.de/gr/lon/exhib/bleibt/title.htm


3.4 German Information Centres in Libraries abroad
As mentioned above, demand for books and media on Germany exceeds sometimes the possibilities of Goethe-Institut libraries. In Middle and Southeast Europe and the former Soviet Union, the need was especially important after 1990. For 75 years, these countries had been cut off from international discussion. German language still is widely understood and spoken, so the demand for German books was overwhelming. Many books were donated in the first years, mostly to university libraries and scientific institutions. In 1992, the German government provided funds for the foundation of German Information Centres in public libraries of Middle and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Albania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Russia and Poland were the first countries to get German Information Centres. Today, there are 44 of them in 21 countries. Three Centres in Russia are French-German co-operation projects with bilingual collections.

The concept has remained the same: the city is a regional centre without a Goethe-Institut, the host institution is a public library. The German contribution is a basic collection of 2,200 books (encyclopedia, dictionaries, books about German literature, arts, history, politics, economy, law and German as a foreign language), 25 periodicals, 150 videotapes, 300 audio-cassettes or CDs and technical equipment for the use of audiovisual media, sometimes also a PC. Collections are updated regularly by Goethe-Institut, according to the needs of the individual centre. They have to be in open access and should be lent. The host library provides a room and German-speaking personnel.

Co-operation was not always easy. Russian libraries were not used to the principles of open access and lending library. Personnel had to be qualified. Seminars improved language and professional skill. Unfortunately, librarian's wages in Russia are very low, and sometimes not paid for months. Qualified personnel therefore often find better jobs in private firms and quit the library.

But as a whole, it is a success story. German Information Centres bring information about Germany to cities like Vladivostok (Russia) and Yerevan (Armenia), where there will be no Goethe-Institut in the next future. Some of them organize cultural events in co-operation with a Goethe-Institut nearby. Internet, still not very much developed in these countries, will help to make the network more effective. For both sides, it is a valuable experience in every-day co-operation. The next German Information Centre will be established in Shanghai City Library.


4 Basic Rules for Library Projects

Basic rules are the same for all Goethe-Institut projects:

All projects are based on demands and proposals of local partners. They are planned, financed and implemented in co-operation with local and /or German organizations. Ideas for projects derive from constant dialogue between Goethe-Institut's librarians with information professionals in Germany and abroad. Project schemes are first discussed among the Goethe-Institut's librarians of the geographical region, e.g. East Asia or Africa. Then, Goethe-Institut headquarter in Munich decides about funding and technical support.

Variety of languages is a special concern in all projects. Publications and projects are carried out in German and the language(s) of participating countries. English is used as working language if necessary but should not dominate the dialogue. However, in countries like South Africa with 11 official and 30 unofficial languages, only the use of English makes communication possible. In Goethe-Institut libraries, local and German staff is working together. German staff, even if transferred every four or five years, is strongly recommended to acquire language skills.

Partnership is a key principle. All project partners, even in very poor countries, have to contribute. And every partner's voice is heard and to be treated with respect. Host libraries of German Information Centres provide space and personnel for the treatment of books they could otherwise not afford to buy, and their choice is respected for the update of collections.

Subsidiarity is the principle, that central governing body will permit its branches to have control over those issues, decisions etc. that deemed more appropriate to the local level. Within Goethe-Institut, it means that the individual institute decides about priorities and guidelines for implementation according to conditions in their local environment. The experts in the Goethe-Institut headquarter who decide about funding and global priorities, have worked in different countries and therefore know about conditions, obstacles and the art of compromise. Subsidiarity in regard to local partners means Goethe-Institut would not do what local institutions could do by themselves. Goethe-Institut often plays the role of a catalyst: it makes the initial move and draws back when direct co-operation between local and German partners is established.

Sustainability means the capability of being maintained at a set level. Goethe-Institut launches initiatives for new developments. If the new development is really wanted and needed in the host country, there will be local agents to push it further. Therefore, every project has to result in follow-up activities, taken over by local organizations.

Goethe-Institut is an independent organization, not obliged to the policy of a specific agency or government. But it is obliged to democratic values, pluralism, freedom of speech and information as well as human rights. There is constant discussion and evaluation inside the institute, which sometimes seems to slow down decision-making. Advantages of this discussion are a high degree of participation and therefore motivation of every Goethe-Institut employee and a high degree of responsibility towards local partners.


5 Worldwide Networking

For Goethe-Institut librarians, networking is compulsory. It starts within the organisation: guidelines for establishment and update of collections and information services are discussed, project planning and priorities as well. Local project partners will only contribute, if their views are respected. And, regarding Goethe-Institut's modest funds for fees and allowances, German partners will only participate if they see aims and outcome of a project very clearly. With Internet, global networking has added a practical perspective: library collections are visible via worldwide OPAC, internal listservs and discussion forums help to improve information services. Resources and experiences are shared, projects and publications are adapted by Goethe-Institut's librarians around the world.

Project examples given above cited two or more partners for every project. Participation in events like IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) and ALA (American Library Association) yearly conferences or Frankfurt Book Fair are organized by Munich headquarters and/ or the local Goethe-Institut. The aim of participation is to make Goethe-Institut's activities known to the worldwide community of information professionals and to launch new projects. But it does not stop there. Goethe-Institut librarians also keep contacts to German and foreign authors, publishers, booksellers, translators and other representatives of book production and trade. Recently, document delivery and data trade seems to become a new working field.


6 Conclusion

Over the last ten years, Goethe-Institut libraries conducted and participated in a variety of projects in the field of library and information sciences. Every partner in the numerous projects gained experience and knowledge and learned to share whatever they could contribute. Modern technologies help to improve communication and resource-sharing. Globalization is not just a word. Information professionals in all countries face similar problems. There is a need to find adapted solutions for every country.

There are fascinating perspectives for Japanese-German library co-operation. By exploring them, all sides can win.



It is a great honour for me to have the opportunity to take part in the NACSIS series of international conferences and the project of Study on International Sharing of Japanese Scholarly Information. I would like to express my sincere thanks and admiration for Dr. Hiroshi INOSE for promoting international cultural exchange and library and information services.