Hurray! The millionth bibliographic record in the online catalogue of the National and University Library in Zagreb

Objavljeno 21.6.2018.

The online catalogue of the National and University Library in Zagreb reached one million bibliographic records for resources in the Library’s collections. It is a significant number, evidencing the Library’s long-standing efforts to computerise its services, automate library operations and finally undergo a complete digital transformation.

On this occasion, on 15 June 2018, the Library organised and hosted a small celebration that brought together the Library’s Director General Tatijana Petrić, NSK Integrated Library System Adviser Dijana Machala, Head of NSK Cataloguing Department Tanja Buzina, Professor from the Department of Information and Communication Sciences at the Zagreb Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Aleksandra Horvat, Head of NSK Current National Bibliography Division Lobel Machala, Head of the NSK Monographic Publications Cataloguing Division Vesna Hodak and – Monika Batur, a member of the staff of the NSK Cataloguing Department who created the jubilee record. “In a supportive and stimulating working atmosphere that Thursday afternoon, it turned out that it was my record that was archived as the millionth in our bibliographic database. This certainly gives us a good reason for celebration, since it brings attention to the dedicated work of all cataloguers which makes the bridge between a library and its users solid and reliable. The organisation of library resources in the modern age necessitates a comprehensive and functional online catalogue, since it is the means for enabling a quick and easy access to information about library resources to both library users and librarians,” said Batur, who joined the Library’s cataloguers as recently as January 2018.

The beginning of computerisation of the Library’s services dates back to 1979 and the planning of the new library building, which was to be only one of the vehicles for the transformation of the Library, with its traditional operations and services, into the modern library, entirely suited to the requirements of the information age. At the beginning of the 1980s, the National and University Library in Zagreb was “the first computerised library” on the territory of then Yugoslavia, and its archives hold records that it even “managed to procure a UNIVAC V77-612 computer”. Considering the embargo that was in force at the time, i.e. restrictions on the import of computer equipment from the West, this represented a truly great achievement, and as thus was rightfully singled out in the Library’s annual work report.

The experimental phase of computerised cataloguing began in 1980, while as soon as the next year the Library adopted the international standard and format for computer cataloguing of its resources. Records show that in 1983 the computerisation of cataloguing resulted in the creation of 1,130 bibliographic records, 637 of which were for books printed in 1981 and 219 for those printed in 1982. The next year, the Library planned the development of a software for the printing of then current national bibliography of books, which was to be “the first printed bibliography of books published in the Socialist Republic of Croatia compiled by way of a computer”. At the same time, the Library developed a special software for the development of a computerised version of the then current national bibliography of treatises, journal articles and works published in national literary journals whose compilation started on 1 December 1982. Apart from its CROATICA database and current national bibliographies, the Library was also developing its old books database (1984), central catalogue of foreign books (1984), Cataloguing-in-Publication programme (1984) and the monograph accessions database (1985).

During this pre-internet time, the Library’s professionals dedicatedly worked on the development of strategic guidelines for the establishment of the modern national library and information centre, i.e. an information system that would integrate all libraries at the national level. The Library’s collections at that time included 1,262,281 monographs and 210,633 serial publications, with the growth of 50,111 items per year. The guidelines highlight many obstacles to the realisation of the Library’s objectives, ranging from the inadequate technical equipment of libraries in Croatia to the insufficient number of qualified librarians, and others. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all those limitations, by the end of 1988, the National and University Library in Zagreb had 120,000 bibliographic units in its computerised catalogue, with some 30 librarians working on “the online interactive data entry”. Until 1990, alongside the computerised catalogue, the Library continued to compile its card catalogue, distributing to Croatian libraries records in both formats.

In 1990, the Library introduced a fully computerised cataloguing procedure, entirely discontinuing its card catalogue, while in 1995 it developed the first user interface for searching its online catalogue, which was accessible via user computers made available in the Library’s new building. The growing Library’s catalogue now includes records for all types of holdings in the Library’s collections, in all formats, i.e. online, electronic and printed resources, audio-visual resources, prints, cartographic material, etc., while data on resources published prior to 1990 from the old card catalogue have been digitised and are available as part of the Library’s website.

“Cataloguing is not often under the spotlight, but is certainly one of the fundamental activities of the Library and the prerequisite for many of its other services and operations, especially in today’s digital age,” said Head of NSK Cataloguing Department Tanja Buzina. Also expressing her congratulations, NSK Director General Tatijana Petrić pointed out that this jubilee record should prompt an even faster further development of the Library’s catalogue – “We hope that a shorter period of time will be required to include the next million records in our catalogue and that all the Library’s resources will be available online in the near future.” Wishing to highlight the importance of high-quality bibliographic records, Head of NSK Current National Bibliography Division Lobel Machala emphasised their central role in the development of the national bibliographic centre, which supports the development of the Croatian publishing sector and enables the sharing and use of bibliographic records among libraries making up the national library system.

The National and University Library in Zagreb continues to invest its efforts in the development of a comprehensive and functional national library information system, the most recent part of which is the Croatian National Union Catalogue, currently also under development.

(Featured photo of the NSK card catalogue by Eva Vučković)