Barbara Budyńska, Małgorzata Jezierska
LIBRARIES IN POLAND AS OF 2015: DIVERSITY OF TYPES, POTENTIAL AND SERVICES

Consequences for the work of libraries

Though the names of the tasks performed by libraries remain generally the same as earlier, they function in different circumstances and in more complex ways. The libraries:

– gather collections – the mass of written/electronic documents calls for cooperation in the selection, supplementation and creation of
   the resources;8 as far as the circulation of electronic material is concerned, more and more often we have to do with licensing;

– index/catalogue and provide information on the contents – with the vast growth of supply, libraries have to work on new principles of
   cataloguing, modifying and improving the formula of metadata; the development and improvement of the central electronic catalogue
   of books and periodicals, and of library electronic information, is also indispensable in this field;

– make accessible – apart from direct lending of ordered material, the libraries should develop their mobile services (library users are
   both in the inter-library space and on the web); therefore direct communication is essential between the users and the libraries by
   way of a computerised lending system and personalised library services; 

– provide information – owing to the multitude of information, forwarded changes in transmission are essential, as is the growth of flow
   in remote information, including automatic, permanently accessible information. This is just as important for users as the criterion of
   information reliability. Libraries should aim to provide their own information, which would complement the accessible ready
   information  from other sources. In this context, counselling on transmission, availability and information takes on a different
   dimension: this must  be expert counselling based on inter-library cooperation and specialised librarianship.9 Counselling is
   associated with library-provided educational activity – not only in the sense of teaching how to use library facilities and how to seek
   information, but also in the sense of organising various courses and advanced seminars.

The preparation of a modern offer and the implementation of tasks generated by this offer makes it necessary to acquire certain tools:

– means that allow day-to-day functioning, innovations and development  (the creation of the system of financing supported by
   subsidies, programmes or grants);

– technology, resources and bases, dependent on financial means, in other words, premises, equipment, collection and technologica
   infrastructure;

– personnel – a professional with an up-to-date, vast knowledge in various fields: library librarians, information librarians, engineer
   librarians, organisers of library structures, librarians representing various fields of knowledge.10

The reformed offer and the enlarged register of tasks call for the organisational restructuring of libraries. There is a tendency to form large combined structures – mega-libraries.11 For small libraries, the precondition of survival and development is joining an integrated network and sharing some services within that network, as well as centralising the majority of “backstage” processes.
All forms of library cooperation are gaining essential significance.12 Inter-library cooperation in the field of accumulation, choice and the presentation of resources, as well as in services, is becoming a fact and taking the form of voluntary associations of consortia. The norm should also be external cooperation with partners other than libraries, primarily educational and similar institutions, such as archives or museums. 

The condition of libraries and their organisation

Poland has close to 32,000 libraries of various kinds. A review of the condition and potential of public, research, pedagogical, trade, trade and fiction libraries, centres of scientific, technological and economic information (hereafter INTE centres) and scientific associations is prepared annually by the Central Statistical Office (hereafter GUS). According to its analysis, in 2015 there were 9,710 libraries (8,050 public libraries, 1,001 research libraries, 272 pedagogical libraries, 315 trade libraries, 52 trade and fiction libraries, 21 INTE centres, and 13 libraries of scientific societies13). Information on other types of library, collected irregularly and according to various methodological principles, comes from various sources.14 The data for 2012 indicate that there were additionally ca. 20,400 school libraries,15 118 military-educational, 157 prison libraries, and 1,480 parish libraries.16

Libraries account for 84% of all cultural institutions17. They represent a large institutional potential, boast valuable and varied resources, and
serve nearly 11 million users. As is the case in other countries, they do not form one network, a cohesive system based on uniform legal principles, but instead constitute a collection of various types. Their legal status and principles of operation are laid down in the Law on libraries of 27 June 1997. Under this legal act, which provides the general frameworks for the organisation and operation of libraries in Poland, the main burden of their upkeep rests on local government bodies, ministries and other subjects. 

Local government bodies are responsible for public, school and pedagogical libraries. The State provides funds for the operation of the National Library and, through respective ministries, of research or research libraries (including central, specialist and state university libraries, libraries of the Polish Academy of Sciences and those of research institutes), army and prison libraries, as well as libraries of other uniformed services. Various bodies are responsible for the financing of church libraries, libraries of non-state higher education institutions and associations. In addition to the Law on Libraries, separate legal acts regulate the activity of different types of libraries and formulate their principles of activity, for example in  the case of school libraries, the law on the educational system also applies, and in the case of higher education institutions the Law on Higher Education. As for other research libraries, their status is regulated, for example, by the law on the Polish Academy of Sciences and research institutes, while public libraries are also subject to the Law on the Organisation and Conduct of Cultural Activity.

School and public libraries form the most numerous groups of libraries.Public libraries are open, in that anyone can use their facilities free of
charge; they address their services to all social groups and they carry out their tasks through their vast network. They can operate as autonomous cultural institutions or as a part of other cultural institutions. Unlike with public libraries, the other types of libraries direct their offer to certain definite groups of users, and as such they are capable of providing specialised library services. School libraries are firmly rooted in the educational system: they act as interdisciplinary workshops, information centres for school children, teachers and parents, places where pupils gain reading and information knowledge.18

A specific feature of the Polish library system is the existence of pedagogical libraries as separate institutions, unknown in this form anywhere
else. Such libraries mainly serve the teaching community, although in recent years many of them also declare their readiness to cooperate generally with anyone interested in pedagogy, psychology and education; they also undertake various activities aimed at disseminating knowledge and reading habits among children and young adults. In addition, the remaining types of libraries address their offer to strictly defined users. An important group among them are church libraries, which in a literal sense are the property of the Catholic church and of other Christian denominations,19 and in a broader sense are institutions maintained by the State, or else by social associations for clerical education and for improving religious culture in society. These include such places as papal, cathedral, chapter, collegiate, monastery, seminary, deanery and parish libraries, libraries of monastic colleges and academies, of Catholic universities and institutes, and of Catholic higher academic institutions.20 There is also a numerous group of army libraries (governed by a directive of the Ministry of National Defence on the establishment of the military network of libraries) and libraries of the other uniformed services subordinate to various ministries (e.g. the police, fire service, prison system).

Since one of their tasks is gathering, preserving, registering and making available confidential, restricted and otherwise classified materials, their specific feature is strict observance of regulations on the protection of sensitive information. Among the libraries in this category there are institutions that have a more open character, such as army educational libraries, libraries of military colleges and the Central Military Library, which has an academic status. 


8 L. Swindler, “New Consortial Model for E-Books Acquisitions”, College & Research Libraries 2016, vol. 77, No 3, pp. 269–285 – http://crl.acrl.org/content/77/3/269.full.pdf [accessed 31.03.2017].
9 M. Bródka, “Kompetencje przedmiotowe w bibliotece naukowej. Kontekst zagadnienia, funkcjonowanie i rola”, Bibliotekarz 2017, No 4, pp. 10–13.

10 Z. Gębołyś, “Kształcenie bibliotekarzy i pracowników informacji w Polsce. Krajobraz po ‘deregulacji’”, Bibliotekarz 2017, No 4, pp. 4–9.
11 Megabilioteki. Wybrane tendencje w bibliotekarstwie publicznym, ed. D. Pietrzykiewicz, E.B. Zybert, Warszawa 2015.
12 T. Moseid, Norweskie doświadczenie w tworzeniu i wdrażaniu strategii. Reforma bibliotek 2014; A. Tyws, “Instytucja kultury w sieciach i partnerstwach”, in: Strategie dla kultury. Kultura dla rozwoju. Zarządzanie strategiczne instytucją kultury, ed. M. Śliwa, Kraków 2011.

13 Thirteen public libraries and one pedagogical library play the role at the same time as research libraries and are listed among the latter.
14 Due to the lack of current figures on the functioning of libraries not mentioned in the Central Statistical Office publications, these will not be discussed in detail in the further part of this article.
15 Source: System of Educational Information of the Ministry of National Education, on the basis of 2012 analyses.
16 Source: B. Budyńska, M. Jezierska, G. Lewandowicz-Nosal, G. Walczewska-Klimczak, Biblioteki w Polsce w 2012 r., Warszawa 2016, http://ksiegarnia.bn.org.pl/396/Biblioteki-w-Polsce-w-2012-roku.html [accessed 29.03.2017].
17 Kultura w 2015 r., GUS, Warszawa 2016.

18 J. Andrzejewska, Bibliotekarstwo szkolne. Teoria i praktyka, Warszawa 1996, vol. 1, p. 44. Other definitions describe the role and tasks of school libraries in a similar fashion (M. Drzewiecki, B. Staniów, J. Wojciechowski).

19 E.g. of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church) and the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, Pentecostal Church.

20 W. Nowodworski, Biblioteki kościelne, in: Encyklopedia współczesnego bibliotekarstwa polskiego, eds. K. Głombiowski, B. Świderski, H. Więckowska [et al.], Wrocław 1976, p. 61.