The Crosscurrents of Technology Transfer
The Czech and Slovak Library Information Network
One would have no great difficulty in estimating the demand function, i.e., the relationship between the price and the quantity that can be sold at that price for, say, tomatoes. But one would have considerable problems in making sales predictions at various hypothetical alternative prices for a new product that looks like a blue tomato and tastes like a peach. (Quandt 1996, 20)
This vivid image of an odd-looking vegetable that tastes like a fruit is meant to highlight the difficulty of estimating the demand side in the overall cost picture of producing and distributing new products, such as electronic publications. Compared to the traditional printed material, electronic products are new, from their internal architecture to the mechanisms of production, distribution, and access that stem from it. After all, the world of readers is not a homogeneous social group, a market with a simple set of specific needs. Yet we assume that a segment of this market-the scholarly community-takes easily and more or less quickly to supplementing their long established habits (of associating the printed text with a paper object) with different habits, experienced as equally convenient, of searching for and reading electronic texts. While this observation may be correct, it should be emphasized at this point that precisely in the expression "more or less" is where the opportunity lies-for those of us interested in transitions-to see what is involved in this change of habit and why it is not just a "matter of time." As anyone who has tried to explain the possibilities of electronic text delivery to an educated friend will attest, the idea can be viewed with anxiety and taken to mean the end of the book. The Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic, a wellknown author and dissident, looked at me with surprise as I tried to explain the need for library automation (and therefore for his ministerial support): he held both hands clasped together as if in prayer and then opened them up like a book
close to his face. He took a deep breath, exhaled, and explained how much the scent of books meant to him. His jump from on-line cataloging and microfilm preservation to the demise of his personal library was a rather daring leap of the imagination but not an uncommon one, even among those who should know better. It is not just the community of scholars, then, but of politicians and even librarians who must change their attitudes and habits. The problem is further compounded if we consider that in the case of Eastern Europe this new product is being introduced into a setting where the very notion of a market is itself unsettled. The question of demand is quite different in a society that had been dominated by a political economy of command.
In the pages that follow I will give a brief account of an extensive interlibrary automation and networking project that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiated and funded abroad, in the Czech and Slovak republics. While most of the papers in this volume deal with digital libraries, this one points to the complexities that affect the ability of any library to change its ways and expand its mandate to include access to digitized materials. My aim is critical rather than comprehensive. By telling the reader about some of the obstacles that were confronted along the way, I hope to draw attention to the kinds of issues that need to be kept in mind when we think of establishing library consortia-the seemingly natural setting for the new technologies-in other countries.
The Caslin Projects
The Mellon-funded proposal to establish the Czech and Slovak Library Information Network (CASLIN) commenced in January 1993. In its original stage it involved four libraries in what has now become two countries: the National Library of the Czech Republic (in Prague), the Moravian Regional Library (in Brno), the Slovak National Library (in Martin), and the University Library of Bratislava. These four libraries had signed an agreement (a Letter of Intent) that they would cooperate in all matters that pertained to fully automating their technical services and, eventually, in developing and maintaining a single on-line Union Catalogue. They also committed themselves to introducing and upholding formats and rules that would enable a "seamless" integration into the growing international library community. For example, compliance with the UNIMARC format was crucial in choosing the library system vendor (the bid went to ExLibris's ALEPH). Similarly, Anglo-American cataloging rules (AACR2 ) have been introduced, and most recently, there is discussion of adopting the LC subject headings. Needless to say, the implementation was difficult and the fine-tuning of the system is not over yet, though most if not all of the modules are up and running in all four libraries. The first on-line OPAC terminals were made available to readers during 1996. At present, these electronic catalogs reflect only the library's own collection-there are no links to the other libraries, let alone to a CASLIN Union Catalogue-though
they do contain a variety of other databases (for example, a periodicals distribution list is available on the National Library OPAC that lists the location of journals and periodicals in different libraries in Prague, including the years and numbers held). A record includes the call number-a point of no small significance-but does not indicate the loan status, nor does the system allow users to "Get" or "Renew" a book. In spite of these shortcomings, the number of users of these terminals has grown sharply, especially among university students, and librarians are looking for ways to finance more (including some graphics terminals with access to the WWW).
In the period between 1994 and 1996, several additional projects (conceived as extensions of the original CASLIN project) were presented to The Mellon Foundation for funding. It was agreed that the new partners would adopt the same cataloging rules as well as any other standards and that they would (eventually) participate in the CASLIN Union Catalogue. Each one of these projects poses a unique opportunity to use information technology as an integrator of disparate and incongruous institutional settings.
The Library Information Network of the Czech Academy of Science (LINCA) was projected as a two-tiered effort that would (1) introduce library automation to the central library of the Czech Academy of Sciences and thereby (2) set the stage for the building of an integrated library-information network that would connect the specialized libraries of all the 6o scientific institutes into a single web with the central library as their hub. At the time of this writing the central library's LAN has been completed and most of the hardware installed, including the highcapacity CD-ROM (UltraNet) server. The ideal of connecting all the institutes will be tested against reality as the modular library system (BIBIS by Square Co., Holland) is introduced together with workstations and/or miniservers in the many locations in and outside the city of Prague.
The Koſsice Library Information Network (KOLIN) is an attempt to draw together three different institutions (two universities and one research library) into a single library consortium. If successful, this consortium in eastern Slovakia would comprise the largest on-line university and research library group in that country. The challenge lies in the fact that the two different types of institutions come under two different government oversight ministries (of education and of culture), which further complicates the already strained budgetary and legislative setup. Furthermore, one of the universities-the University of Pavel Josef Safarik (UPJS)-at that time had two campuses (in two cities 40 km apart) and its libraries dispersed among thirteen locations. UPJS is also the Slovak partner in the SlovakHungarian CD-ROM network (Mellon-funded HUSLONET) that shares in the usage and the costs of purchasing database licenses.
Finally, the last of the CASLIN "add-ons" involves an attempt to bridge incompatibilities between two established library software systems by linking two university and two state scientific libraries in two cities (Brno and Olomouc) into a
single regional network, the Moravian Library Information Network (MOLIN). The two universities-Masaryk University in Brno and Palacký University in Olomouc-have already completed their university-wide library network with TinLib (of the United Kingdom) as their system of choice. Since TinLib records do not recognize the MARC structure (the CASLIN standard adopted by the two state scientific libraries), a conversion engine has been developed to guarantee full import and export of bibliographic records. Though it is too soon to know how well the solution will actually work, it is clear already that its usefulness goes beyond MOLIN, because TinLib has been installed in many Czech universities.
Fortunately, storage, document preservation, retrospective conversion, and connectivity have all undergone substantial changes over the past few years. They are worth a brief comment:
1. Up until the end of the Communist era, access to holdings was limited not only by the increasingly ridiculous yet strict rules of censorship but also by the worsening condition of the physical plant and, in the case of special collections, the actual poor condition of the documents. The National Library in Prague was the most striking example of this situation; it was in a state of de facto paralysis. Of its close to 4 million volumes, only a small percentage was accessible. The rest were literally "out of reach" because they were either in milk crates and unshelved or in poorly maintained depositories in different locations around the country. This critical situation turned the corner in January 1996 when the new book depository of the NL was officially opened in the Prague suburb of Hostivar. Designed by the Hillier Group (Princeton, N.J.) and built by a Czech contractor, it is meant to house 4.5 million volumes and contains a rare book preservation department (including chemical labs) and a large microfilm department. Because more than 2 million volumes were cleaned, moved, and reshelved by the end of 1996, it is now possible to receive the books ordered at the main building (a book shuttle guarantees overnight delivery). Other library construction has been under way, or is planned, for other major scientific and university libraries in the Czech Republic. There is no comparable library construction going on in Slovakia.
2. The original CASLIN Mellon project included a small investment in microfilm preservation equipment, including a couple of high-end cameras (GRATEK) with specialized book cradles-one for each of the National Libraries-as well as developers, reader-printers, and densitometers. The idea was to (1) preserve the rare collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century periodicals (that are turning to dust), (2) significantly decrease the turnaround time that it takes to process a microfilm request (from several weeks to a few days), and (3) make it technically possible to meet the highest international standards in microfilm preservation. The program has since evolved to a full-scale digitalization project (funded by the Ministry of Culture) that includes the collections of other libraries.
3. The most technologically ambitious undertaking, and one that also has the most immediate and direct impact on document accessibility, is the project for the retrospective conversion of the general catalog of the National Library in Prague. Known under the acronym RETROCON, it involves a laboratory-like setup of hardware and software (covered by a Mellon Foundation grant) that would-in an assembly-line fashion-convert the card catalog into ALEPH-ready electronic form (UNIMARC). RETROCON is designed around the idea of using a sophisticated OCR in combination with a specially designed software that semiautomatically breaks down the converted ASCII record into logical segments and places them into the appropriate MARC field. This software, developed by a Czech company (COMDAT) in cooperation with the National Library, operates in a Windows environment and allows the librarian to focus on the "editing" of the converted record (using a mouse and keyboard, if necessary) instead of laboriously typing in the whole record. As an added benefit, the complete scanned catalog has now been made available for limited searching (under author and title in a Windows environment), thereby replacing the original card catalog. One of the most interesting aspects of this project has been the outsourcing of the final step in the conversion to other libraries, a sort of division of labor (funded in part by the Ministry of Culture) that increases the pool of available expert catalogers.
4. For the most part, all installations of the LAN have proceeded with minimal problems, and the library automation projects, especially those involving technical services, are finally up and running. Unfortunately, this achievement cannot be said for the statewide infrastructure, especially not the phone system. Up until the end of 1997, the on-line connections between libraries were so poor that it was difficult to imagine, let alone test, what an on-line library network would have to offer. Needless to say, this holdback has had an adverse effect on library management, especially of the CASLIN consortium as a whole.
A comparison of the present condition and on-line readiness of research and university libraries in Central Europe with the status quo as it arrived at the doorstep of the post-1989 era leaves no doubt that dramatic improvements have taken place. But even though the once empty (if not broken) glass is now half filled, it also remains half empty. Certainly that is how most of the participants tend to see the situation, perhaps because they are too close to it and because chronic dissatisfaction is a common attitude. Yet the fact remains that throughout the implementation and in all of the projects, obstacles appeared nearly every step of the way. While most of the obstacles were resolved, although not without some cost, all of them can be traced to three basic sources of friction: (1) those best attributed
to external constraints-the budgetary, legal, political, and for the most part, bureaucratic ties that directly affect a library's ability to function and implement change; (2) those caused by cultural misunderstandings-the different habits, values, and expectations that inform the activity of localization; and (3) the internal problems of the libraries themselves, no doubt the most important locus of micropolitical frictions and therefore of problems and delays. In what follows, I will focus on the first source of friction (with some attention paid to the second), since my emphasis here is on the changing relations between what are taken to be separate institutional domains (particularly between libraries and other government organizations or the market) as I try to make sense of the persistently problematic relationships between libraries (particularly within the CASLIN group). Obviously, while these analytical distinctions are heuristically valuable, in reality, these sources of friction are intertwined and further complicated by the fact that the two countries are undergoing post-Communist aftershocks and an endless series of corrections. Not only are the libraries being transformed, but so is the world of which they form a part. To make sense of this double transition and to describe the multifaceted process that the library projects have moved through may pose some difficulties. But the task also offers a unique opportunity to observe whether, and if so how, the friction points move over time. What could have been predicted when the initial project commenced-that implementation and system localization would also mean giving in to a variety of constraints-is only beginning to take on the hard contours of reality four years later. In several instances, the results differ from our initial conception, but I don't think it would be fair to assume that the final outcome will be a compromise. Instead, the success of the Mellon library projects in Eastern Europe (of which CASLIN is only one) should be judged by the extent to which they have been accepted and have taken on a life of their own, initially distinguishable but finally inseparable from the library traditions already in place. After all, if the projects were designed to affect a change in the library system-and by "system," we must understand a complex of organizational structures, a real culture, and an actually existing social network-then we must also expect that the library system will respond that way, that is, as a complex sociocultural system. What appeared at first as a series of stages (goals) that were to follow one another in logical progression and in a "reasonable" amount of time may still turn out to have been the right series. It's just that the progression will have followed another (cultural) logic, one in which other players-individuals and the organizational rules that they play by-must have their part. As a result, the time it actually takes to get things done seems "unreasonable," and some things even appear to have failed because they have not taken place as and when expected. What is the meaning of these apparent problems? A seemingly philosophical issue takes on a very real quality as we wonder, for example, about the future of the CASLIN consortium. If establishing a network of library consortia was one of the central aims of the Mellon project, then it is precisely this goal that we have failed to reach, at least now, when it was supposed to be long in place according to our
scheme of things. There is no legal body, no formal association of participating libraries in place. This deficiency is particularly important and, needless to say, frustrating for those of us who take for granted the central role that networking and institutional cooperation play in education and scholarly research. But behind this frustration another one hides: it is probably impossible to say whether what is experienced as the status quo, in this case as a failure or shortcoming, is not just another unexpected curve in a process that follows an uncharted trajectory.
As I have noted above, in 1992 a Letter of Intent had been signed by the four founding CASLIN members. It was a principal condition of the project proposal. In January 1996, when this part of the project was-for all intents and purpose- brought to a close, there was still no formally established and registered CASLIN association with a statute, membership rules, and a governing body in place. Although the four libraries had initially worked together to choose the hardware and software, the work groups that had been formed to decide on specific standards (such as cataloging rules, language localization, or the structure of the Union Catalogue record) had trouble cooperating and their members often lacked the authority to represent their institution. Tasks were accomplished more because of the enthusiasm of individuals and the friendly relations that developed among them than because of a planned, concerted effort on the part of the library leadership guided by a shared vision. The initial stages of the implementation process were characterized by an uneven commitment to the shifting of priorities that would be necessary in order to carry the intent through. There was even a sense, in some instances, that the prestige of the project was more important than its execution or, more exactly, that while the funding for library automation was more than welcome, so was the political capital that came with being associated with this U.S.-funded project, even if such an attitude meant using this political capital at a cost to the consortium. As is well documented from many examples of outside assistance in economic development, well-intentioned technology transfer is a prime target for subversion by other, local intentions; it can be transformed with ease into a pawn in another party's game. Potential rivalries and long-standing animosities that existed among some of the libraries, instead of being bridged by the project, seemed to be exacerbated by it. In one instance, for example, affiliation with the Mellon project was used by a library to gain attention of high government officials (such as the cultural minister) responsible for policies affecting their funding and, most important, their mandate. The aim, as it now turns out, was to gain the status of a national library. This library's target, that is, the library that already had this status, was the Slovak National Library, its primary CASLIN partner. While both libraries participated in the CASLIN project's implementation and even cooperated in crucial ways at the technical level (as agreed), their future library cooperation was being undermined by a parallel, semiclandestine, political plot. Needless to say, this situation has left the CASLIN partnership weakened and the managements of both libraries dysfunctional.
As the additional library projects mentioned earlier were funded and the new
libraries joined the original CASLIN group, it became clear that the new, larger group existed more in rhetoric than in fact. From the newcomer's point of view there was not much "there" to join. "What is in this for us, and at what cost?" seemed to be the crucial question at the January 1996 meeting at which a written proposal for a CASLIN association was introduced by the National Library in Prague. This meeting was not the first time that an initiative had been presented but failed to take hold. Nor was it the last. The discussion about the proposal resulted in a squabble. An e-mail discussion group was established to continue the discussion but nothing came of it nor of several other attempts.
If the point of a consortium is for libraries to cooperate in order to benefit (individually) from the sharing of resources so as to provide better on-line service, then a situation such as this one must be considered counterproductive. How does one explain the chronic inability of CASLIN to get off the ground as a real existing organization? Where does the sense of apathy, reluctance, or even antagonism come from? Most of the answers (and there are many) lie hidden within the subtleties of society and history. But of these answers, a few stand out clearly: the fact that all the original CASLIN libraries come under the administrative oversight of the Ministry of Culture is one key piece of the puzzle. The dramatic cuts in the ministries' overall budgets are passed down to the beneficiaries who find themselves competing for limited goods. Another answer is in the lingering nature of the relationship: if the difference from the previous setup (under the "planned" socialist economy) lies with the fact that the library has the status of a legal subject that designs and presents its own budget, its relationship to the ministry-very tense and marked by victimization-seems more like the "same old thing." In other words, certain aspects of organizational behavior continue not only by force of habit (a not insignificant factor in itself), but also because these aspects are reinforced by a continuing culture of codependency and increased pressure to compete over a single source of attention. The situation appears as if, from our point of view, the formal command economy has been transformed into a market economy only to the extent that strategic and self-serving positioning is now more obvious and potentially more disruptive. So-called healthy competition (so called by those whose voices dominate in the present government and who believe in the self-regulating spirit of "free market forces") seems to show only its ugly side: we see the Mellon project embraced with eagerness in part because of the way its prestige could be used to gain a competitive advantage over other libraries. In the case of CASLIN partners, we see it take the form of suspicion, envy, and even badmouthing expressed directly to the Mellon grants administrator (myself).
What are the constraints under which a research or national library operates, and in what way is the present situation different from the "socialist" era [1948-1989]? An answer to these questions will give us a better sense of the circumstances under which attempts to bring these institutions up to international standards-and get them to actively cooperate-must unfold.
Figures 13.1 and 13.2 illustrate the external ties between a library and other important domains of society that affect its functioning and co-define its purpose before and after 1989 (while keeping in mind that economic, legal, and regulatory conditions have been in something of a flux in the years since 1989 and, therefore, that the rules under which a library operates continue to change).
1. Under "party" rule the library, like all other organizations, came under direct control of its ministry, in this case the Ministry of Culture [MK]. One could even say, by comparison with the present situation, that the library was an extension of the ministry. However, the ministry was itself an extension of the centralized political rule (the Communist party), including the watchful eye of the secret police [STB]. The director was appointed "from above" [PARTY] and the budget arrived from there as well. While requests for funding were entertained, it was hard to tell what would be funded and under what ideological disguise. For the most part the library was funded "just in order to keep it alive," though if the institution ran out of money in any fiscal year, more could be secured to "bail it out" [hence "Soft" Budget]. In addition to bureaucratic constraints (regarding job descriptions and corresponding wage tables, building maintenance and repairs, or the purchase of monographs and periodicals), many of which remain in place, there were political directives regarding employability and, of course, the ever-changing and continuously growing list of prohibited materials to which access was to be denied [Index]. In contrast, the library is now an independent legal body that can more or less decide on its priorities and is free to establish working relationships with other (including foreign) organizations. The decision making, including organizational changes, now resides within the library. While the budget is presented to the ministry and is public knowledge, it is also a "hard" budget that is set at the ministerial level as it matches its cultural policies against those of the Ministry of Finance [MF] (and therefore of the ruling government coalition). After an initial surge in funds (all marked for capital investment only), the annual budgets of the libraries have been cut consistently over the past five years (i.e., they are not even adjusted for inflation but each year are actually lower than the previous one). These cuts have seriously affected the ability of the libraries to carry out their essential functions, let alone purchase documents or be in the position to hire qualified personnel. For this reason, I prefer to speak of a relationship of codependence. The Ministry of Culture still maintains direct control over the library's ability to actualize its "independence"-though it has gradually shifted from an antagonistic attitude to one of genuine concern. The point is that whereas the Ministry of Culture is supposed to oversee the well-being of its institutions, it is, as is usually the case in situations of government supervision, perceived as the powerful enemy.
2. The publishing world was strictly regulated under the previous regime: all publishing houses were state enterprises (any other attempt at publishing was punishable by law), and all materials had to pass the scrutiny of the state (political) censor. Not everything that was published was necessarily political trash, and editions were limited; the resulting economy of shortage created a high demand for printed material, particularly modern fiction, translations from foreign languages, and the literary weekly [hence "Seller's Market"]. Libraries benefited from this situation. Because all state scientific and research libraries were recipients of the legal deposit, their (domestic) acquisitions were, de facto, guaranteed. At present the number of libraries covered by the deposit requirement has been reduced from some three dozen to half a dozen. This change was meant to ease the burden on publishers and give the libraries a freer hand in building their collection in a "competitive marketplace." But considering the severe cuts in the budget, many of the libraries cannot begin to fulfill even the most Spartan acquisitions policy. For the same reason publishers, of whom there are many and all of whom are private and competing for the readers' attention, do not consider libraries as important parts of their market. Furthermore, many of the small and often short-lived houses do not bother to apply for the ISBN or to send at least one copy (the legal deposit law is impossible to enforce) to the National Library, which, in turn, cannot fulfill its mandate of maintaining the national bibliographic record.
3. During the Communist era, access to materials was limited for several obvious reasons: political control (books on the Index, limited number of books from Western countries, theft) or deliberate neglect (the progressively deteriorating storage conditions eventually made it impossible to retrieve materials). Over the years there was less and less correspondence between the card catalogs in the circulation room and the actual holdings, and as a result, students and scholars stopped using the National Library in Prague because it was increasingly unlikely that their requests would be filled. This situation was also true for current Czech or Slovak publications because of an incredible backlog in cataloging or because the books remained unshelved. Of course, in such a system there was no place for user feedback. Since then, some notable improvements-many of them due to Mellon and other initiatives-have been made in public services, such as self-service photocopying machines and, to remain with the example of the National Library, quick retrieval of those volumes that have been reshelved in the new depository. Also, readers are now used to searching the electronic OPACs or using the CD-ROM databases in the reference room. On the other hand, the backlog of uncataloged books is said to be worse than before and, with acquisitions cut back and the legal deposit not observed, the reader continues to leave the circulation desk empty-handed. The paradoxical situation is not lost on the reader: if the books are out of print or, as is more often the case these days, their price beyond what readers could
afford, going to the library may not be a solution either. So far the basic library philosophy has remained the same as it has throughout its history: although there is concern for the user, libraries are not genuinely "user driven" (only a few university libraries have adopted an open stack policy) and, as far as I can tell, user feedback is not a key source of information actively sought, analyzed, and used in setting priorities.
4. Under the policies of socialist economy, full employment was as much a characteristic of the library as it was of the rest of society. In effect, organizations hoarded labor (as they did everything else) with a sort of just-in-case philosophy in mind, since the point was to fulfill "the plan" at just about any cost and provide full benefits for all with little incentive for career development (other than through political advancement). Goods and services became known for their poor quality; the labor force became known for its extremely low productivity and its lousy work morale. More time seemed to be spent in learning how to trick the system than in working with it, to the point where micro political intrigue-the backbone of the "second" economy- competed very well with the official chain of command. The introduction of a market economy after 1990 did very little to help change this situation in a library, a state organization with no prestige. Simply put, the novelty and promise of the private sector, coupled by its high employment rate and good wages, has literally cut the library out of the competitive market for qualified labor. Between the budget cuts and the wage tables still in place, there is little space left for the new management to negotiate contracts that would attract and keep talented people in the library, certainly not those people with an interest in information technologies and data management.
5. As mentioned above, the first information technologies arrived in the state scientific and national libraries in the late 1980s. Their impact on budgets was minimal (UNESCO's ISIS is freeware) as was their effect on technical services. On the other hand, the introduction of information technologies into these libraries, in particular the CASLIN group, was the single most visible and disruptive change-a sort of wedge that split the library organizations open-that has occurred since 1990 (or, according to some, during the last century). The dust has not yet settled, but in view of our present discussion, one thing is clear already: between the Mellon funds and the initial capital investment that followed, libraries have become a significant market for the local distributors of hardware and for the library software vendors (in contrast to the relationship with publishers). But as we all know, these purchases are not one-time purchases but only the first investments into a new kind of dependency, a new external tie that the library must continue to support and at no small cost. And the cost is not just financial. The ongoing complications with the technology and the chronic delays in systems localization only
contribute to the present sluggish state of affairs and thus lend support to the ever cynical factions within the organization that knew "all along" that "the whole automation project was a mistake." Obviously, the inability to attract qualified professionals doesn't help.
What I have painted here is but part of the picture (the other part would be made up of a detailed analysis of the micropolitics that actually go on, both inside the organization and in relation to other organizations, particularly other libraries). But the above discussion should help us see how and why the libraries feel trapped in a vicious circle from which they perceive little or no way out other than continuing to battle for their place in the sun. Of course, their tactics and battle cries only reinforce the relationship of codependency as well as their internal organizational problems. And that is exactly what the public and government officials see: that these institutions need to grow up and learn what real work is before more money is poured down the drain. Needless to say, a sizable portion of the blame must be carried by a government that has made a conscious choice against long-term investment into the educational, scientific, and information sectors.
If the long-standing administrative ties between libraries and the Ministry of Culture inform and override the building of new, potentially powerful ties to other libraries, then the flip side of this codependency, its result, is a lack of experience with building and envisioning the practical outcome of a horizontally integrated (i.e., nonhierarchical) association of independent organizations. The libraries had only limited exposure to automation, and the importance of long-term strategic planning was lost on some of them. At least two other factors further reinforced this situation: the slow progress (the notorious delays mentioned above) in the implementation of the new system, which had involved what seemed like impractical and costly steps (such as working in UNIMARC), and the sluggish Internet connection. These factors suggest that at the present, a traditional understanding of basic library needs (which themselves are overwhelming) tends to take precedent over scenarios that appear much too radical and not grounded in a familiar reality. Since the on-line potential is not fully actualized, its impact is hard to imagine, and so the running of the organization in related areas continues to be predominantly reactive rather than proactive. In other words, in-house needs are not related to network solutions, especially when such solutions appear to be counterintuitive for the established (and more competitive) relationship between the libraries.
Cooperation among the libraries exists at the level of system librarians and other technical experts. Without this cooperation, the system would not have been installed, certainly not as an identical system in all four libraries. In addition (and, I should say, ironically) the CASLIN project has now received enough publicity to make it a household name among librarians. The acronym
has a life of its own, and there is a growing interest among other scientific libraries to join this "prestigious" group (that both does and does not exist). But are we waiting for a moment at which the confluence of de facto advances in technical services and a growing interest of other libraries in logistical support (involving technology and technical services) will create a palpable need for a social organization that would exist (1) above and beyond the informal network of cooperation and (2) without association with the name and funds of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (its original reason for existence)? I have heard it said that "nothing more is needed," because the fundamentals of CASLIN are now embedded in the library process itself (reference here, I gather, was to cataloging) and in the existing agreements between individual libraries on the importing and exporting of records into and from the CASLIN Union Catalogue that is to be serviced by the two national libraries. In fact, as the most recent meeting (June 1997) of the Union Catalogue group made clear, such processes are indeed where the seed of an association of CASLIN libraries lies. The import and export of records and the beginning of the Union Catalogue database have yet to materialize, but they did bring together these individuals who represented individual libraries. If these people figure out a way to run their own show and stick to it, then there is a fair chance that an organization of CASLIN libraries will take off after all.
The above discussion raises three very important points. The first point regards cultural misunderstanding. The problem with the "misbehaving consortium" may lie to some extent with our (e.g., U.S.) expectations of what cooperation looks like and what basic fundamentals an on-line library consortium must embrace in order to do its job well. In the Czech and Slovak case, not only were the conditions not in place, they were counterindicative. While our naïveté caused no harm (the opposite is the case, I am repeatedly told!), it remains to be seen what the final result will look like. And in the final result resides the really intriguing lesson: maybe it is not so much that we should have or even could have thought differently and therefore ended up doing "this" rather than "that." Perhaps it is in the (information) technology itself-in its very organization-that the source of our (mis)understanding lies. After all, these technologies were developed in one place and not another. Our library automation systems obviously embody a particular understanding of technical and public services and an organization of work that share the same culture as a whole tradition of other technologies that emphasize speed, volume (just think of the history of railroads or the development of the "American system" of manufacturing), and finally, access. Every single paper in this volume exemplifies and assumes this world. In transferring a technology from one place to another, an implied set of attitudes and habits is being marketed as well. The intriguing question is whether the latter emerges logically from the former in the
new location. To this possibility, my second point lends some support: technology transfer involves a time lag, the duration of which is impossible to predict and that is accounted for by a complex series of micropolitical adjustments. It is this human factor that transforms the logical progression in the projected implementation process into a much less logical but essentially social act. Thanks to this human factor, the whole effort may fail. Without it, the effort will not exist. Only after certain problems and not others arise will certain solutions and not others seem logical. It is no secret that much social change is technology driven. It is less clear, ethnographically speaking, what exactly this process means, and even less is known about it when technology travels across cultural boundaries. There is much to be gained from looking carefully at the different points in the difficult process of implementing projects such as CASLIN. Apparently the ripple effect reaches far deeper (inside the institutions) and far wider (other libraries, the government, the market, and the users) than anyone would have anticipated. Before it is even delivering fully on its promise, the original Mellon project is demanding changes in library organization and management. Such changes are disruptive, even counterproductive, long before they "settle in." Nevertheless, and this is my third point, internal organizational change involves a gradual but, in consequence, quite radical realignment of ties with the outside, that is, with the Ministry of Culture (which-at least on the Czech side-has taken a keen interest in supporting library automation throughout the country; on the Slovak side, unfortunately, the situation is rather different), with other libraries (there has been a slow but palpable increase in interlibrary cooperation on specific projects that involve the use of information technologies, e.g., retrospective conversion, newspaper preservation, and, I hope, the CASLIN Union Catalogue), and most important, with the public. How far reaching and permanent these shifts are is difficult to say, especially when any accomplishments have been accompanied by a nagging feeling that they were done on a shoestring and against all odds. The persistent inability of the governments to pass legislation and appropriate funding that would support the newly emerging democracies' entrance into the global, information age in a sustainable manner highlights a serious lack of vision as well as of political savvy.E
At the beginning of this paper I argued that in discussing the introduction of new technologies, specifically information technologies, it is important to pay attention to the point of transition, to see all that is involved in this change of habit and why it is not just a "matter of time." The body of this paper, I hope, provided at least a glimpse of some of the friction points involved. For the time being, the last word, like the first, belongs to an economist, in this case to Václav Klaus, the prime minister of the Czech Republic (1993-1997), whose opinions expressed in a recent op-ed piece on "Science and our Economic Future" make him sound like someone who has just bitten into a blue tomato only to find that it tastes like a peach.
Science is not about information, but about knowing, about thinking, about the ability to generalize thoughts, make models of them and then testable hypotheses that
are to be tested. Science is not about the Internet and certainly not about its compulsory introduction. (Klaus 1997)