Humans of LIBER Interview — Roxana Dinu, Digital Librarian at the National Library of Romania
This interview is part of our Humans of LIBER series. We feature real people working at research libraries who make up the LIBER community. By highlighting our community and the people who work in LIBER libraries across Europe, we aim to inspire, connect and strengthen our network – and emphasise the value of being a LIBER Member. We hope you enjoy each of these personal stories from our research library network.
We interviewed Roxana during the LIBER Annual Conference 2022, which was hosted by the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) Library. Roxana attended the Conference through LIBER’s Conference Fund Award scheme. Find out more about the award and if you could be eligible to apply.
My name is Roxana Dinu. I hold a PhD degree in Library and Information Science. Currently, I work in the National Library of Romania in the Institutional Development Department. I started to work in the library field two years before finishing my degree in Library and Information Science. My first experience was at the
Romanian-American University Library in Bucharest. Later, I switched to the “Carol I” Central University Library of Bucharest, which is on a much bigger scale. It addresses all the needs of all of the faculties from the University of Bucharest, but also other universities in the capital.
I’ve been working in the National Library since 2013. I’m in charge of the coordination of methodological activities for public libraries all around the country. My responsibilities consist of helping and providing them with advice, studies, and translations of important materials in our field as well as supporting professional development programs. In addition to keeping up with all the events in libraries, museums and archives, I also create and update an agenda for professional events.
Working at a library happened by accident for me. I studied philological and social humanities in my hometown, very close to Bucharest. Because I was in love with languages, I initially wanted to do a bachelor’s degree to become a French teacher. But it wasn’t a success. I learned that there was a Library and Information Science course and, even though I didn’t know what that meant at that time, I thought it was something new and attractive. So, I decided to go for it. Looking back on it now, it was an inspirational decision for my career.
Working at the National Library of Romania
A National Library has a role in preserving heritage so it can be alive for the next generations, with the main focus being the organisation and preservation of materials, as well as making them accessible for all its users. Of course, we also organise the legal deposits of the library. We are a centre for providing the standard numbers such as the ISBN for books, ISSN for periodicals, ISIL for libraries and related organisations, etc. and essentially, a methodological centre for the other libraries in the national system of Romania.
The National Library has two branches; the headquarters is located in Bucharest in the heart of the capital. The Batthyaneum branch is situated in Alba Iulia, Transylvania, where we have very precious historical special collections and manuscripts. The other branch, Omnia, is located in Craiova, the south of Romania. Here you can find different documents covering different areas of knowledge, but mostly in French, because it’s a collaboration between the French Embassy and the library.
University libraries focus more on research activities, and they have a specific type of user. A national library addresses its collections, its services, its products and activities to a very large group of users from young children to professors, to researchers, to teenagers. And of course, we have encyclopedic collections to cover all their expectations.
The Value of the LIBER Network
The LIBER Annual Conference is a great opportunity for me to learn from my European colleagues.
I try to attend different conferences like the LIBER Annual Conference. The National Library of Romania is a LIBER member. Thanks to the conference fund that LIBER offers, I have previously attended several editions. I take the opportunity to thank LIBER for giving this financial support, otherwise, it would be impossible for me to attend. The LIBER Annual Conference is a great opportunity for me to learn from my European colleagues.
After attending several editions of the LIBER Conference, I started to get to know people and it’s always a pleasure to see them again once a year. Last year, I also visited the National Library of Sweden through a scholarship granted by CENL (The Conference of European National Librarians). This allowed me to go on-site for one week to hear about the workflow in another European National Library in a more developed country. The visit was also an opportunity to learn what we can do in Romania.
From this trip, I got several valuable ideas and met a lot of people there. The Deputy Director, Lars Ilshammar, arranged a meeting with his other colleagues and they presented their work to me in the first days. In the following days, I had the chance to visit and see exactly how they work across the different departments.
This experience taught me many things. Importantly, we want to implement electronic legal deposits. Prior to the experience, we did not know how to do it in practice. To achieve this, the experience taught me the key steps we need to follow. I also learned how to better manage research publication flow. This is useful as the National Library of Romania publishes several scientific journals. I also learned how to improve our digitisation processes, specifically how to enrich the metadata schemes in our digital library department.
I strongly recommend being part of the LIBER network. After attending a LIBER Conference, I spread the word every time I come back to the National Library. For the first time, I attended the conference in 2011 in Spain, being there with a Doctoral Research Grant at the University of Barcelona. After, I come back to my workplace at that moment (Central University Library of Bucharest) with so many ideas – because the LIBER Conference is both an inspiration for all librarians as well as a much-needed meeting point for librarians, publishers, and other information specialists. Normally, I write a report with my thoughts and with the topics that were discussed during the conference and share it with my colleagues. I also publish this in some of the national library journals that are edited and published by other Romanian libraries. This is a good way to make this information public because it’s very hard for most librarians in Romania to attend conferences such as the LIBER conference. In the program, I noticed that I’m the only person here from Romania; I’m blessed to be the only representative librarian for my country. But it’s also a huge responsibility to go back and discuss what was presented here and what we in Romania can do to align with the European library community – with limited resources. Every step is very important for us.
Library challenges in Romania
The small budget that every library has in Romania is decreasing every year, especially since the pandemic. Unfortunately, libraries are not so visible to decision-makers and politicians in Romania. This means that we don’t have much support from them. As an example, I received a petition from a city library in the west of Romania that the politicians of that region decided to dissolve. This library was the central library for that city. It’s considered a cultural hub for that city with a lot of visitors and many activities. Yet, the decision-makers concluded that it’s better to close the library and replace it with a small department inside the city hall. They seem to overlook the usefulness of the library because it doesn’t give any economic benefit in the short term. This is a great challenge for a lot of libraries here in Romania. We don’t have enough support and understanding of our value from people, especially those who have the power to decide and invest in culture.
The National Library tries to combine efforts with the local librarian associations and the Ministry of Culture to try to help save libraries that are impacted. We try to have solidarity with our colleagues and to write papers to the government to justify the importance of libraries. We attempt to show the great work of our colleagues and how, in the long term, libraries can have great results in the community and the income of an area.
Another challenge that the National Library encounters is staff shortage. Currently, we have almost 200 library employees, including the administrative auxiliary personnel. So, everyday operations are challenging in these conditions.
A day at work
Every day is different. I receive several requests from colleagues inside and outside of the library, varying with different requests for help or advice. To help other people to receive some training on specific processes or workflows in their library, I try to maintain a strong collaboration with many departments. On the regular, I look for different opportunities such as workshops, webinars, and conferences, to let my colleagues know: ‘Hey, you can go there. You can attend this’. This way, we can stay informed on the current topics within other, more developed countries. Currently, I’m involved with methodological activities for public libraries. We are developing a database of all kinds of libraries in Romania which includes different information from the history of each library, and their current activities or projects. Through this database, we try to stimulate colleagues not only from the National Library, but other colleagues in the country to be more active in our field. As the majority are not so enthusiastic or optimistic about our field of work, I try to send them new ideas and new information about what happens at the European level.
The future of Romanian libraries
I’m very optimistic! I hope that we can receive more visibility and that other stakeholders will see that libraries exist and will remain important institutions in the education of each person, no matter their age or background. I hope we’ll be more open and more equipped with not only tools but human resources. And, I hope that Romanian libraries will be more involved in different activities in different sectors. Not because librarians don’t want to be involved, as other institutions don’t always invite libraries to be part of their strategies or their new initiatives in the cultural and education sectors.
In my job, I want to emphasise the importance of every library.
In my job, I want to emphasise the importance of every library. I try to give more hope to my librarian colleagues and make them more optimistic and driven towards the future. This way, libraries can hopefully develop a better image in Romanian society.
Libraries, in the past, were more conservative. Now they are more open. Not only focused on the processes of libraries, but they also want to be cultural and education hubs for other sectors of society. They have become more important for other sectors and increased collaboration with other institutions. The library is definitely an Engaged and Trusted Hub of the community. It is and must continue to be an important centre for culture and for education. A library, or a librarian, always strives to give correct information. Especially in this fake news era that we are living in, they can be a vital tool for citizens to be informed and confident and that the information is reliable.
Outside of work
I like to go out with my colleagues, my friends, and my sisters. I like to travel a lot, which is the best chance to meet people with different points of view, different mentalities, and different cultures, and to discover different gastronomy. I love to eat, but I’m a disaster at cooking! To see the latest film releases, I also often visit the cinema.
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