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3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From kessler September 15 1992
September 15, 1992 FYI France: "Europe"! by Jack Kessler email@example.com Lyon, September 15 The September 20 French vote on the Maastricht Treaty is on everyone's minds here. But the effect on libraries of the possible rejection of the treaty by the French hasn't appeared too much in the library literature. I thought it wouldn't hurt to suggest some of the more dramatic consequences. The Muse'e de l'Imprimerie et de la Banque Here in Lyon there is a fascinating and quickly-growing, "Muse'e de l'Imprimerie et de la Banque", supported by the giant bank Cre'dit Lyonnais and housed in a beautiful 15th century building, donated by the bank and located across from their nearly equally-handsome world headquarters downtown. The museum contains a complete, working, printing workshop, vast exhibits of stamps, printing, engraving, and printing machinery, and a well-presented collection of printed works by Gutenberg, Koburger, Gryphe, Husz, Plantin, Granjon, Estienne, and many others, including the "first book printed in French", the "first book printed in Lyon", and the "first French book printed with woodcuts". A walk through the museum gives a complete introduction to the history of the print medium. This is perhaps the finest such museum outside Antwerp. Which brings us to the point of Maastricht and the French vote on the treaty next week. Cultural exchanges are the life-blood of a museum like the one which they have here in Lyon. Cultural property rules, a mess at the best of times, stand to be considerably simplified and loosened under work now being undertaken in Brussels. The ability to organize traveling exhibits would be immeasurably enhanced by "Europe": Lyon might send its treasures to Antwerp more easily, the Plantin Museum there might find it easier to do exchanges with Lyon, and both might benefit greatly from access to the newly-available collections of eastern Europe. With the failure of Maastricht, much of this growing ease of cultural exchange would be in jeopardy. Belgium still might be cooperative with a French museum, but it would be harder to get in touch with collections in Germany, and new finds in eastern Germany might simply become "unavailable". The Bibliothe`que Municipale de Lyon If that isn't convincing, take the case of a large French public library, busily engaged in library automation. The Bibliothe`que Municipale of Lyon is not only one of the largest public libraries in France but also -- like other French "bibliothe`ques municipales" -- is the home of one of the nation's better collections of rare books and manuscripts. Work on the automation of access to all of this is under way: already, bibliographic entries for works cataloged in the 1980s and 1990s may be seen by the general public, from anywhere in the world, online (via Minitel -- 3614 BMLYON) -- and much work is planned, with substantial government financial assistance, for retrospective conversion, fulltext, and eventual isdn. Immediately, anyone involved in library automation outside of France will wonder, "standards?": what standards are the French using, what MARC format (surely not USMARC?), what subject headings (certainly not LCSH), what classification (Cle'ment? The Bibliothe`que Nationale itself will abandon this when it switches over to the new Bibliothe`que de France), what content to the records (no AACR2 here, and SGML isn't even adopted yet for non-French fulltext)? Yet here is a major French library -- a major world library, by world standards -- flinging itself into networked information access to the general public. Contact with the outside world is needed, if only to tell the rest of the outside world how quickly they're falling behind (how many US public libraries are available, to the general public, on the networks?). "Europe" would bring the BMLYON together more with other Europeans, perhaps giving both the chance to catch up on each other's library automation activities, not least of all standards. Coordination, if not actual centralisation, at Brussels perhaps would provide a check on the babble of networked information standards which might result if each local library were to go its own way, as each could do given the availability of computers and software and government support here now. If Maastricht is rejected next week, if such a rejection means the end of "Europe" (of this linkage see more below), what a bad consequence for the cooperative development of networked information in libraries here! The Bibliothe`que de France Finally, the Bibliothe`que de France. One of the speakers at the recent BdeFrance conference held at Berkeley (see my previous conference summary postings, or I can send them to you) tried to get the French to see their Bibliothe`que Nationale collection as a world, and not just a French, resource. The idea is that national groups are mere custodians of such great collections for a global user public, and thus should take extra special care. One thinks of the Elgin marbles and of the Hermitage collections: and of certain spaces on certain corporate walls in Tokyo. The French "custodians" at least are more interested in outside "advice" regarding their collections than are some of these others. One hopes that "Europe" might increase this openness. The increased access that it might bring to other European collections -- a greater sharing of experience with national and other major libraries in Britain, or Germany, or Italy, greater possibility of collection exchanges, and so forth -- might help the more broad-minded among the French to adjust what they're doing to fit standards and expectations elsewhere. You don't have to be on an island to have an island mentality, and "Europe" is getting the French off theirs. The need for this among the non-French library community is increased immeasurably by the extent to which the BdeFrance represents the forefront of several leading library battles: the reorganization of major collections, badly needed at many institutions besides the BN preservation and conservation, in which the BdeFrance is tackling a 3 million volume problem automation, in which they are adopting all the latest techniques they can find fulltext, with their 150,000-texts conversion project and, not least of all, public access, with the possibility that all their efforts might shortly be available to the general public throughout the world via the French Minitel, as are those now of the BMLYON. If this is the path these developments are taking, how much more badly needed -- by both the French and outsiders -- is the cosmopolitan approach promised by contact with the outside world, such as that promised by "Europe"? How much worse for the international library community if the French, in a rare showing of public-spirited openness and willingness to share, are rebuffed and are forced to develop all these fabulous new techniques for their Bibliothe`que de France in isolation, through no lack of willingness on their own part to share their ideas this time around? "Europe" The French rejection of the Maastricht treaty would not mean a formal dissolution of the EC, as legalistic pundits here tirelessly remind everyone. It would mean something far more important, though, as Flora Lewis pointed out in the Herald-Tribune recently: it would mean a change to an attitude against "Europe" on the part of its primary architect and supporter of the past 25 years, France. Because "Europe" is primarily just a political and not a legal entity still, such a fundamental shift in attitude could well destroy it, leaving its legalisms merely an empty shell: the Europeans remember the League of Nations, the Germans remember Weimar, and the French remember Vichy -- legalisms don't hold together over here as well as they do in the more consensus-driven UK or US. There also is somewhat of a political and cultural vacuum in France today, as there is in the US. The old paradigm has been shifted out, but no new one yet has taken its place. George Steiner complains, in Le Monde (September 8), of the lack of direction of his students at Cambridge: "The students whom I taught in the past had all their windows open towards hope: it was Mao, or Allende, or Dubcek, or Zionism. There always was a place where one could fight to change the world. Now, all that is over...Today they prefer their private lives, and they leave power to the Mafia. This is the real crisis of democracy." Steiner is getting old, perhaps. His students will find their messiah, or messianic cause, and we'll get our new time of troubles sooner or later. Steiner thinks we're in the beginnings of "post- Marxisme": "The foundering of this hope which turned to horror left trailings which will burn for a long time. Christianity also died slowly and left all sorts of poisons from its decomposition...I don't think I'll live to see a new collective dream that will be so coherent." "Europe" just might be the "new collective dream" of Europeans. If Maastricht is rejected by the French next week, more than just libraries will suffer. Rejected suitors do strange things here: think of the disillusioned Germans after Weimar -- and the "crime passionel" still is a respectable concept in Continental jurisprudence. Already there have been temper tantrums: Delors says he will resign if Maastricht goes down, Rocard -- the leading French presidential candidate -- warns darkly that Germany will "drift east" and become "the old Germany" if there is a rejection. Now stock markets everywhere are teetering, and currency markets are chaotic, pending the outcome. >From within the little library world it's not so easy to predict all the good that might flow from "Europe": but quite a bit that's bad is predictable if there is a "no" vote here next week. *** ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYIFrance (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYIFrance (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYIFrance may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYIFrance archives may be reached online at http://infolib.berkeley.edu , or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESfirstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or gopher.well.sf.ca.us , or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive). Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
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