Barbara Budyńska, Małgorzata Jezierska

LIBRARIES IN POLAND AS OF 2015: DIVERSITY OF TYPES, POTENTIAL AND SERVICES

With the present, rapidly-changing library community, the growing demands as regards the effectiveness of library work, and the ever stiffer competition on the market of information and educational services, it is important to diagnose the condition and define the directions of development in the main areas of our activity. Research is underway on trends that are vital for libraries (on a macro and micro scale).1 Their aim is to answer the question about the most important changes that have an impact on the functions of and demand for library services, about major achievements, weaknesses and potential niches in library activity, and also about how to respond to changes in progress.

The following text discusses the main phenomena concerning the functioning of libraries in Poland in 2015 (library networks, resources,  services, facilities, users), and is therefore an attempt to join the general debate. Its main aim is the evaluation of the work of libraries in Poland in the year 2015, including the discussion of their basic types, definition of their development priorities and the conformity of the ongoing changes with social expectations, the indicator thereof being the users’ satisfaction and the improvement of co-operation among institutions. 

The diversity of research themes influenced the research methods used. The basis for obtaining empirical data was the statistical analysis of
the figures connected with the work of Polish libraries provided by GUS. A uniform GUS K-03 form for basic types of libraries allowed an analysis their work and comparison of the data concerning selected fields. Complementary sources were analyses of descriptive materials about the work of state libraries provided by voivodship libraries together with source materials related to the activityt of other library networks. These material were supplemented with the knowledge obtained in field research: interviews with librarians, participant observation in diverse types of libraries and analyses of their documentation.

In an information society, the accessibility of online resources (digital libraries, traditional libraries) serves as the main criterion when dividing
libraries into types. Other methods of typology use as their main criteria membership of the national library networks or basic tasks as described in legal acts,2 though in that case a sizeable group of libraries do not fit any such classification (e.g. Church and denominational libraries, private libraries, numerous Polish libraries abroad).3

There are various library typologies (depending on ownership, needs of the users and nature of the collections, field of knowledge, organisational principles and membership of the supervising institution), but nowadays such strict divisions are hardly ever applied. The accepted view is that the majority of libraries have a mixed character, represent more than one type, and perform similar social, educational and cultural functions corresponding to the needs of various users.

The differences between libraries consist mainly in their organisational structure and substance, rather than the type of institution they represent (e.g. public libraries, research libraries), although they may also differ due to their place within the network (e.g. main or central libraries and their branches). A separate problem is the differing level of development, con-nected with such things as the extent to which new technologies and new forms of accessibility have been introduced (e.g. 24/7 and self-service4).

Changes in public communications and transformations surrounding the libraries are two dominant directions when we analyse today’s libraries. The most frequent problems that reflect on the work of individual libraries, their standards and also their development include:

– the atomisation/dispersal of libraries,

– a change of the work organisation in libraries towards developing various forms of cooperation (networks, consortia).

The main ideas of present-day librarianship are: acting as a “middleman” in public communications, integration with the environment, and
the library offer in the broad meaning of the word.5  The former main idea – that of creating collections as the basic aim – has shifted to a lower rung in the hierarchy. The role of middleman in public communications – between the supplier of writing matter (printed and electronic) and its recipient – has taken precedence in libraries of all types.6

In view of the changes that are taking place, libraries must put forward an offer that on the one hand makes maximum use of all their possibilities as libraries, and on the other hand takes into account various aspects associated with the reception of this offer. The libraries’ offer
still includes: resources (printed, electronic), information on these resources, users’ education (the formation of needs for information, the
development of computer and information competence), community programmes that use local public premises for integration, compensation,
recreation and knowledge7 (known as cultural space for organising meetings, exhibitions, concerts, consultation points, propagation of reading habits, services for national minorities, the disabled, groups threatened with social pathology etc., as well the adaptation of libraries
to their needs through initiatives such as the selection of documents or the removal of barriers).


1 E.g. reports of the National Library (Public libraries in figures for 1972–2011; B. Budyńska, M. Jezierska, Stan bibliotek w Polsce. Raport 2012, Warszawa 2016), Central Statistical Office (hereafter GUS) (e.g. Kultura w 2015 r., Warszawa 2016), Foundation for the Development of Information Society (FRSI), Programme for the Development of Libraries (e.g. Raport Biblioteki w Polsce (2008) – http://programrozwojubibliotek.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Biblioteki_i_bibliotekarze.pdf [accessed 30.03.2017]; Po co Polakom biblioteki. Raport – http://frsi.org.pl/po-co-polakom-biblioteki-raport/ [accessed 29.03.2017]; Co się zmieniło w bibliotekach? (2014) – www.biblioteki.org/...Co_sie_zmienilo_w_bibliotekach_raport.pdf [accessed 27.03.2017]); K. E. Kristensen, “The Danes love their library! This is the conclusion in the most extensive Danish user and benchmark survey so far concerning the public library”, Scandinavian Library Quarterly 2016, vol. 49, No 4 – http://slq.nu/?article=volume-49-no-4-2016-8 [accessed 30.03.2017]; S. Legault, Le financement des bibliothèques publiques québécoises: histoire et modèles, “Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France” 2016, No 8, pp. 62–69 – http://bbf. enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-2016-08-0062-007 [accessed 31.03.2017]; N. James, L. Shamchuk, K.Koch, “Changing Roles of Librarians and Library Technicians”, Partnership. The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 2015, vol. 10, No 2 – https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/viewFile/3333/359 [accessed 31.03.2017].

2 Law on libraries of 27 June 1997 (and later amendments), J.L. 1997 No 85, item 539 – http://isap.sejm.gov.pl/DetailsServlet?id=WDU19970850539 [accessed 31.03.2017].
3 A. Tokarska, “Typologia i misja bibliotek w kontekście historycznym”, in: Bibliotekarstwo, ed. A. Tokarska, Warszawa 2013, p. 66.

4 K. Boelt, “Open libraries in Aalborg – a great success”, Scandinavian Library Quarterly 2015, vol. 48, No 1–2 – http://slq.nu/?article=volume-48-no-1-2-2015-19 [accessed 31.03.2017].
5 J. Wojciechowski, O bibliotekach po mojemu, Warszawa 2012.
6 G. Tetela, “Polityka gromadzenia i selekcja zbiorów”, in: Bibliotekarstwo…, op. cit., pp. 131–142.
7 Cf. S. Aabø, R. Audunson, A. Vårheim, “How do public libraries function as meeting places?”, Library & Information Science Research 2010, vol. 32, pp. 16–26 – https://www.researchgate. net/publication/257244609_How_do_public_libraries_function_as_meeting_places [accessed
31.03.2017]; R. Audunson, A. Vårheim, S. Aabø, E. D. Holm, “Public libraries, social capital and low intensive meeting places”, Information Research 2007, vol. 12 No 4 – http://www.informationr. net/ir/12-4/colis20.html [accessed 31.03.2017]; cf. C. A. Johnson, “How do public
libraries create social capital? An analysis of interactions between library staff and patrons”, Library & Information Science Research 2012, vol. 34, pp. 52–62 –https://www.researchgate. net/publication/257244922_How_do_public_libraries_create_social_capital_An_analysis_of_
interactions_between_library_staff_and_patrons [accessed 31.03.2017].