Meet the Members Council: Olimpia Curta

Author: Olimpia Curta
9 May 2017 Comment

I grew up in a village: I must say that access to books was not always easy without certain efforts. Not only did I have the desire to read and get informed, but also to help more people to enjoy access to information. Since then, I have been convinced of the importance of science, culture and information for the progress and well-being of mankind.

Computer sciences for knowledge management

During my first job as a teacher in a village school, IT began to shyly assert itself in Romania. But it was not until 1989 that I started working as a programmer at an industrial company. I later became a librarian at the Central University Library of Cluj-Napoca in 1991, precisely when Romania, which had by then become a democratic country, was opening up to international collaborations and undergoing strong developments in computer sciences.

I have always been fascinated by libraries, which I consider to be the main repositories of universal culture. But globalisation and the accelerated technological development of the last decades have expanded to such an extent that knowledge management becomes more difficult, and leads to a drastic decrease in reading aspiration. That is why we need to organise stored information to facilitate its access for readers. In this sense, computer sciences offer unpredictable possibilities. I firmly believe that gradual digitisation of funds and databases opening to the widest audiences are necessary for the progress and education of new generations. This means free and easy access to the universal scientific and cultural resources.

Károly Pap Szathmári, Ţărănci din Dâmboviţa (Peasants from Dambovita), Public Domain

My responsibility for the Central University Library

I started my work in the library focusing on these needs, leading the institution's Informatics Laboratory, and participating in the implementation of all domain-specific systems, programs and applications. As an IT manager, I carried out the library automation (since 1992), created CDs with bibliographic databases (since 2004), digitised our main collections (since 2007), implemented the EDS portal with online catalog and subscribed databases (since 2011) ), and included our catalog in WorldCat (2014). I have contributed to building up the National Catalog in Science and Technology (NUSIDOC), among other initiatives. Since 2005, as Deputy Director, I kept on assuming direct leadership of the IT sector of the library. For the past 20 years, I also delivered computer science courses and seminars for students in the Library and Information Science field, at "Babes-Bolyai" University of Cluj.

Through these positions, I noticed both the huge progress made in the field and the limitations that occurred along the way. The main problems were met in designing domain-specific databases, as reliable and compatible with those already in place as possible. We are in charge of training our users, but we also need more and improved platforms. Last but not least, adjusting the digitisation facilities to the legal regime of publications (see the copyright laws) implies increased responsibility. Therefore, it is not surprising that, sometimes, we might be reluctant about the progress of international digitisation and cooperation, or misunderstand the new library functions nowadays.

Europeana offers a wide range of information and documentation, and the Europeana Network Association (ENA), based on cooperation, opens up new possibilities for solving such problems. We were able to include our digital library in Europeana in 2015, and the results are encouraging: it is the Romanian institution with the highest amount of metadata.

Ştefan Luchian, Sălciile de la Chiajna (Willows at Chiajna), Limited Re-use CC BY-NC

My responsibilities as a councillor

As a councillor, I would like to contribute in two major directions. First, I want to encourage further development of our collections digitisation, placing them into the universal context, and facilitating free online access. In other words, raising our level of activity up to today's international standards. Equally important, my second objective is to convince as many Romanian scientific libraries as possible to contribute to Europeana with quality metadata. Such achievements will enhance the library’s role in today's society, enable Romanians to access universal science and culture, and support the European integration of our country on the field of information. The future of the library, and therefore of knowledge, requires receptiveness and cooperation. In this respect, Europeana seems to me the most appropriate tool.