Conference “Visibility, accessibility and usability of special libraries” (Galicia, Spain)

The Conference on “Visibility, accessibility and usability of special libraries”, held on 20 October 2010, was organised by the Ethnological Museum Library of Ribadavia-Ourense, an entity managed by the Government of Galicia, Spain. The Conference, which gathered over forty professionals, mainly from several Galician libraries, was intended to tackle the need for cooperation and greater visibility of special libraries. To this end, the organisers invited professionals from other Spanish government departments working on cooperation and visibility of special libraries, willing to share their experiences.

Conference Galicia 2010

The Conference was held in two sessions. The morning session focused on cooperation and the afternoon session on information management using social networks and web 2.0 technologies. At the end of each session, speakers and attendants actively took part in a roundtable debate.

Maite Cuende, manager of Catalan Government Special Libraries’ catalogue (BEG), explained the origin and development of the collective catalogue of such libraries, an endeavour which brings together libraries with different realities. From her vast experience in this networking project, she learnt that, once practice demonstrates that cooperation reduces costs and increases benefits, the sense of property expressed by many libraries in the beginning later dissolves. In order to succeed in networking without a legal framework, the key formula was to create network spirit, work without budget and count on volunteer work. Cuende highlighted the merit of professionals in special libraries for being highly skilled information managers who know their users’ needs: “we are capable of more than we have been allowed”.

Ana Real, coordinator of the Working Group on Special Libraries (GTBE) of the Andalusia Association of Librarians, shared her cooperation experience within the framework of library associations. Her insights proved to be highly relevant as isolation is one of the problems of professionals working in special libraries. “Intelligent and competitive team-making” arises as a means to address this shortcoming. She also highlighted the importance of Andalusia’s legal framework, i.e., Act 16/2003, the law governing Andalusia’s Libraries and Documentation Centres, including the Special Libraries and Documentation Centres Network, still under development. The creation of this working group results from the twofold need of regulating the law and mapping Andalusia’s libraries.

María Prego, from the Costume Museum Library, and Rosa Chumillas, from the National Archeological Museum Library, talked about their active involvement in the Museum Libraries Network project (BIMUS), developed by the Deputy Directorate General of Spanish government’s Museums. As a result of this project, the services rendered by the museum libraries were invigorated with the creation of an on-line collective catalogue which enables access to the bibliographical heritage of Spanish government museums. In tune with Maite Cuende’s appreciations, Prego and Cumilla insisted upon the importance of professionals’ voluntarism, commenting on the problem entailed by the lack of a steady coordination within the project and the added difficulty of setting up working groups in libraries with few staff.

In the morning roundtable debate, Maite Cuende, Ana Real, María Prego and Rosa Chumillas, moderated by Remedios Pedreira, tackled various issues:

  • Special libraries find it difficult to network due to the differences among administrative dependencies. Given this concern, Maite Cuende suggested that networking processes might begin with libraries depending on a single administration so that initiatives can later spread. In fact, Catalan government special libraries may already open up to Catalonia. Also BIMUS begun with libraries of government museums and now will include museums of other administrations, institutions, and so on.
  • Is it necessary a legal framework before beginning to collaborate? Not necessarily, but it could help. This issue was raised by Remedios Pedreira in relation to the situation in Galicia, where a new Libraries Law was being drafted at the time, but its text did not address the issue of special libraries, simply leaving leeway to set up networks. Consuelo Meiriño Sánchez, Chief of Servicies of Xunta de Galicia’s Library System, who was present at the conference, committed herself to coordinate a working group from the Galicia Library in order to take a census of special libraries in Galicia.
  • ¿Is it effective to have a Technical Committee on Library Cooperation of Special Libraries within the Cooperation Council of the Ministry of Culture? Why is it so little visible? At that time, the Report on the Situation of Special Libraries in Spain 2010 had already been issued, but was not available on-line. One of the persons responsible for the report, who was among the audience, declared that preparing a good report is difficult due to the lack of information.


Elena Roseras, in charge of the Library and Documentation Centre of ARTIUM, explained the global management process of the library and documentation centre at the museum: knowledge, strategic planning and goals, including new programs, innovations and improvements to reach a wider range of users. She showed how to develop a content manager with few economic resources and free software, adapting it to the needs of each centre. She also showcased the experiences, activities and programs with which she manages to make the whole institution visible from the library.

Araceli Corbo, in charge of the Library and Documentation Centre of MUSAC, shared her experiences with new technological tools in a museum special library, especially implementing web 2.0 tools in the website of the museum for content management. She showed how, by using these tools, the documentalists’ job is made easier and more visible both within the organisation and outside.

In the roundtable debate, Elena Roseras and Araceli Corbo, moderated by Carmen Bouzas, claimed libraries play a key role in projecting content management and making it visible in each and all museum services and departments, which is done most of the times with restricted budget and a lot of voluntarism. They also invited the audience to use web 2.0 tools as they are cost-free and ensure visibility, content-sharing and user-involvement.

Everything on the conference: the audios, presentations (Maite Cuende’s full text, and the power points of the rest of the speakers) and photos are available at Ethnological Museum Llibrary’s blog:

This workshop enabled that a group of professionals from museum libraries, who attended the conference, submitted a Section Forum for the next XII Spanish Documentation Conference (FESABID 2011), which will take place in Málaga, under the title “Museum Special Libraries: good practices to enhance visibility”.

Rosa Lamas Casado

Ethnological Museum Library, Ribadavia-Ourense

Translated by Magdalena Biota

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