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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday July 28, 2017

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Meet the Members Council: Uldis Zarins

I studied librarianship almost by accident. But considering my childhood hobby of cataloguing everything – from ancient Greek gods to Nazi criminals – maybe there was actually some logic behind my choice!

My early involvement with Europeana

After finishing my studies, I didn’t work for a library until I was invited to oversee the digitization activities for the National Library of Latvia in 2009. It was an offer I could not refuse, as it allowed me to apply my library background alongside my digital expertise – I had previously worked for online media, dabbled in online marketing, and implemented a digital media monitoring system at a news agency.

Notebook, Riga 1925

1925. Riga. Circus Museum. CC BY-SA.

Part of my new responsibilities as the head of a digital library was to represent the National Library of Latvia in The European Library project – the predecessor of Europeana. Our library was also a partner of the EDLnet project, which began Europeana, and soon I became closely involved with Europeana as well. I took part in a number of projects (Europeana Travel, Europeana Local, Europeana Newspapers, Europeana Sounds, Europeana Awareness), in the Aggregators’ Forum, and got involved in the strategy and business planning workshops.

Considering this previous involvement, it seemed natural to me to step forward as a Members Council candidate when the Network Association was established. And after serving my first term, I am back for more – this time also as a member of the Management Board of the Association.

The power of networks

The most powerful thing about Europeana has always been the people it brings together. I believe that the Network Association gathers some of the most brilliant and forward-looking minds of the European cultural sector. And yet, there is still untapped potential waiting to be released, which is why I joined the Network Participation Framework Task Force.

Our group strongly believes in communities and participatory approaches, and we hope that our work will open up new avenues for professionals of different backgrounds to engage with Europeana. Historically, Europeana was created as a top-down initiative. Now that it has matured, it is about time to re-shape Europeana as a collaborative platform for engagement. Two years ago, our Annual General Meeting had the motto ‘We are Europeana’. Let us rise up to this bold statement!

Baltic Way stamps - 2 million people joined hands in a human chain

Baltijas ceļam veltītas pamarkas. Europeana 1989. Public domain.

The newly established Library Working Group of the Network Association, which I am chairing, serves as a pilot project for a more open method of engagement. Libraries have always been at the forefront of digitization, and their continued engagement is very important to Europeana.There is a need to rethink how Europeana deals with text-based materials, and I hope the active involvement of the library community can help in this regard – drop me a line if you are interested in joining the group.

Developing new missions

My current position at the library is Director of Development, which means that my bread and butter is visions and missions, strategies and business plans, and implementation and evaluation of both. In short, I have to make sure the National Library, and Latvian libraries in general, thrive and evolve. This also translates to my work at the Members Council. That’s why I gladly took part in the development of new mission and vision statements (now called aspiration and approach) of the Network Association and Europeana Foundation (to be approved during our Annual General Meeting this year) – I find them very inspiring and I hope that you will as well.