important scientific collections either underutilized or in danger of being lost

The organisation, exchange and exploitation of information and knowledge is vital for economic and social development, and a recent Conference of European information managers and librarians from the fisheries and aquatic scientific research sector focused heavily on the needs of aquatic science information provision in European Countries in Economic Transition (ECET)


At a recent meeting of the European Association of Aquatic Sciences Libraries and Information Centres (EURASLIC) a participant from Bulgaria highlighted the plight of the library of the Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (IFA) in Varna. Due to administrative problems the library is only currently open for four hours per day, but more importantly, the building housing the library is in a very poor state of repair, seriously endangering the valuable collection of more than 30,000 volumes of scientific reference books and many periodical holdings in the fields of fisheries and the fish industry, marine biology, hydrochemistry, oceanography, and ichthyology. This library also houses a unique collection of books and maps published in the 19th century.


The meeting heard reports from several participants from countries bordering the Black Sea, including from the Institute of Oceanology in Varna, Bulgaria, and from the Georgian Marine Ecology and Fisheries Research Institute in Batumi. During the last decade this latter institutes library has been greatly affected by the socioeconomic and political situation in the region. Until 1990 the library, being part of VNIRO (Soviet Scientific Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography), had direct connections with all other research institutes of a similar profile in the region. In 1991 all of those links were lost and the libraries in Georgia became isolated, a situation which worsened in direct relation to the struggling economy of the country. As a result, library and information development with regard to the collections, technology and staff training have almost stood still for nearly a decade. Whilst there have been some recent small improvements as an outcome of the Institutes involvement in EU funded projects, these are minimal compared to the standards in information centres and libraries linked to scientific institutes in Western Europe.


During the course of their meeting in Brest, Euraslic initiated a discussion session between participants from a number of European Countries in Economic Transition (ECET), including Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine, and invited the representative from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of Unesco to participate. The discussion participants were encouraged to review their special needs; the uniqueness of their collections; and the future role they could play in marine, freshwater and fisheries information provision and exchange both in Europe and Internationally, and to formulate specific proposals for projects which EURASLIC could channel towards relevant funding bodies.


The interaction of librarians and information specialists from ECET countries with those not only from institutes in Western Europe, but also with those from other developed and developing countries in other geographic regions is crucial in targeting the needs of these individual libraries and establishing joint projects which will attract funding from International and regional donor organisations. All of the participants from ECET countries were only able to attend this Euraslic Conference because of funding made available by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of Unesco; the European Association of Aquatic Sciences Libraries and Information Centres (EURASLIC); and the Directorate of Fisheries in Norway.


The European Association of Aquatic Sciences Libraries and Information Centres (EURASLIC) is the only European organisation directly addressing the needs of aquatic libraries and information centres across Europe. This Ninth Conference of EURASLIC, which was held in conjunction with the 27th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) in Brest, France from October 14th - 18th, was attended by 125 participants from more than 40 countries and representatives of two International Organisations, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of Unesco, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The local host for this joint Conference was the Institute Fran├žais de l'Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER). Further information about the activities of Euraslic and about the proposals initiated at this meeting can be obtained from: Joan Baron Varley, Euraslic President.