Stuttgart University Library Seminar
By Gordon Anderson

WESS Newsletter

Spring 1999, Vol. 22, no. 2

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association

On Thursday, 8 October 1998, four of your German-speaking WESS colleagues were the featured speakers at a Stuttgart University Library (UB Stuttgart) continuing-education seminar entitled "Informationsvermittlung und Dienstleistungsorientierung wissenschaftlicher Bibliotheken in den USA [Bibliographic instruction and reference services in U.S. research libraries.]" Organized by Werner Stephan, Director of the UB Stuttgart, and Uwe Laich, Business and Social-Sciences Bibliographer at the UB Stuttgart, this day-long colloquium was attended by over 35 subject specialists from leading research and university libraries of southwestern Germany, such as the UB Stuttgart, the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, and the Stadts- und Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt.

Representing the Western European Studies Section in Stuttgart were:

Marianna McKim, Yale University Library; Jeff Garrett, Northwestern University Library; Gordon Anderson, University of Kansas Libraries; and Mike Olson, Harvard College Library.

Werner Stephan opened the program with greetings and introductions of the four distinguished guests from the USA.

Marianna spoke first, on the topic of "Das Fachreferentensystem der USA im Wandel [U.S. Subject Librarians in a Time of Change]." Referring in part to the merger of the collection development and reference departments in the Yale University Library in 1996, she discussed the increased and diversified functions required of professional staff in libraries that have made the transition from a bibliographer/reference librarian split to a subject-specialist model. The responses from the seminar participants suggested a good deal of common ground with German Fachreferenten (subject librarians). One important difference, however was that German subject librarians are responsible for cataloging, which is much less common for their American counterparts.

Jeff, speaking on "Das digitale Angebot der Universitätsbibliotheken in den USA-ein virtueller Rundgang [Electronic Resources in U.S. University Libraries: a Virtual Tour]," emphasized the importance of a strong computing infrastructure, with access both on and off campus, for the provision of electronic library services. He described the various levels of access provided, from stand-alone and circulating CDs on the one end of the access spectrum to full web access of heavily used resources on the other. There was some discussion about the efficacy of web access to databases-several German colleagues present described the WWW as an abbreviation for "Weltweites Warten" (worldwide waiting)-but Jeff attempted to assure them that the web was a mature delivery technology in the US university environment.

In the last presentation of the morning, "Die Bibliothek als Lesesaal oder Klassenzimmer? Bibliotheksinstruktion in den USA unter neuen Voraussetzungen," [The Library as Reading-Room or Classroom? Library Instruction under New Criteria] Gordon outlined and discussed the principles of bibliographic instruction as they have been developed and nurtured in U.S. college and university libraries over the past century. He emphasized that it has taken most of that time for college faculty to recognize the indispensable role librarians play in educating students in the skills and art of library research, especially because the library has become the focal point for the acquisition and exploitation of electronic resources in colleges and universities.

Mike led off the afternoon session with "Die Sonderstellung der deutschen Sammlung von Harvard im Netz amerikanischer Forschungsbiblio-theken," [The Special Position of Harvard's German Collection in the U.S. Research-Library Network] in which he spoke to a number of questions: What is the history of Harvard's German collections? Why are these collections extraordinary today? What are the methods for sustaining their strength? How do Harvard libraries cooperate with each other and other American libraries? What are the weaknesses of Harvard's German collections? What does the future portend for these collections? Today, approximately 1.5 million volumes of the Harvard Library's 14 million volumes are German-language. These collections support approximately 65 German courses. Researchers interested in Germany, or in books published in Germany, can consult Harvard's resources with the confidence of being able to find what they seek.

NB Mike's paper has subsequently been published in the Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie vol. 45, no. 6 (1988): pp. 676-84.

Following our individual presentations, many with Internet enhancements, the four of us pooled our windage and as a panel (ably led by Jeff) spoke with the audience on the topic "Nationale Zusammenarbeit von Fachreferenten im Rahmen von WESS" . We inundated our audience with information (and a little propaganda) about WESS's twenty-five-year history (that is, counting our predecessor, the ACRL Western European Languages Specialists Discussion Group [WELS], 1975-1979) membership, governance and committee structure, programs at ALA conferences, conferences outside ALA, WESS members' publications (conference papers and research guides, for example), our relationship with major European vendors, our Newsletter and our discussion-group WESSlist, and above all, the flag of the flagship: WESSWeb.

The day's deliberations and musings concluded with Messrs. Stephan and Laich giving us their considered views on "Die Informationsvermittlung und das deutsche Bibliothekssystem im Wandel" [Bibliographic Instruction and the German Library System in Transition]. Uwe outlined the principles of bibliographic instruction and reference service in German research libraries, noting a significant change of the term "bibliographic instruction" itself, from "Schrifttumsauskunft" (1920s) to "Information und Dokumentation" (1970s) to "Informationsvermittlung" (1990s). Informationsvermittlung constitutes a major part of a subject specialist's (Fachreferent) responsibilities and includes both classroom or group instruction and individual consultation and interaction. Informationsvermittlung and Auskunftstätigkeit are two distinct services but are becoming, or need to become, more closely linked. The active subject specialist is the key resource for quick, reliable, thorough, and cost-effective information services.

A fine article on this subject is Helmut Oehling's "Wissenschaftlicher Bibliothekar 2000-Quo Vadis? 12 Thesen zur Zukunft des Fachreferenten," Bibliotheksdienst 32. Jg., H. 2 (1998), 247-254. The acquisitions librarian for the UB Stuttgart, Dr. Oehling was a participant in this seminar.

Concluding observations

Both at the end of our WESS panel presentation and in the meeting's closing remarks, the four of us emphasized that we have much in common on both sides of the Atlantic, and that we hope this Stuttgart Meeting will lead to greater communication among us on topics, problems and projects of mutual interest. Our four papers and our WESS presentation are being published by the University of Stuttgart Library in a monograph of the conference proceedings that we hope will appear in print this year. In the chapter on our WESS presentation we note that "with WESS as our focus and point of departure, we are better able to make contacts with our subject-specialist colleagues in Western Europe and over time build lasting, regular, and mutually beneficial relationships. This seminar in Stuttgart can lead the way."

Return to WESS Newsletter
WESSWEB | WESS Newsletter Editor