Congratulations! EIFL’s partner in Latvia turns 20
One of the earliest members of the EIFL network, Latvia’s Culture Information Systems Centre, celebrates its 20th Anniversary

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Congratulations to our partner library consortium in Latvia, the Culture Information Systems Centre (CISC), which turns 20 this year.

CISC started life in 1997, as a small non-profit agency, the Library Information Networks Consortium, formed by eight state academic and research libraries. Today CISC is a government agency under the Ministry of Culture. CISC membership has expanded to include all university libraries, college and polytechnic libraries, public libraries, the National Library, school libraries and specialist libraries.

CISC was born at a time of global and national rapid change. Just seven years earlier, Latvia had regained its independence from the Soviet Union, becoming a democratic republic and opening up to the West. And the digital revolution was accelerating, with profound implications for libraries everywhere.

CISC’S ‘GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT’

CISC Director, Armands Magone. believes that CISC’s greatest achievement has been successfully guiding the Latvian library sector through these changes - especially in relation to technology.

“In these last 20 years there has been a huge jump in development, from traditional to modern libraries. Initially, the differences between the old styles and practices and the new ones created confusion and confrontation. However, librarians understood the need for change and were able to integrate new insights into the life of libraries, while also preserving traditional values, that is, to be reliable sources of information and to provide free and equal access to knowledge.

“CISC worked hand-in-hand with libraries to gain a full understanding of their needs and processes. We acted as guides and assistants, helping libraries to move forwards,” Mangone recalls.

CONNECTING LIBRARIES ACROSS LATVIA

The consortium’s earliest project, in 1997, was to create the ‘Unified Library Information Network of Latvia’, known as LATLIBNET, using digital library management and automation systems to create a network of libraries and a union library catalogue.

By the end of 2001, a joint catalogue for all state libraries had been completed. “This fulfilled the main task of the LATLIBNET project,” said Magone. The catalogue included information on more than 250 000 bibliographic records.

The consortium continued to build collaboration, implementing three more projects to link libraries and unify systems, for example, by introducing a unified reader card for the consortium libraries and joint purchasing of electronic databases. The consortium also expanded to include more and different kinds of  libraries.

Early in 2004 the national library consortium became a government agency, the Cultural Information Systems (CIS). In 2013, CIS was incorporated into the Ministry of Culture, and renamed the ‘Culture Information Systems Centre’ - or CISC, as we know it today.

CISC’S PARTNERSHIP WITH EIFL

CISC was one of the first consortia to join the EIFL network, in 1999.

Magone remembers early cooperation with the EIFL Licensing Programme in a project called ‘Electronic Publications for Libraries in Latvia’: “By subscribing to databases through EIFL, libraries had the option to pay lower subscription fees. The circulation of documents also became much simpler.”

In 2009, EIFL partnered with CISC and University of Latvia to organize the first-ever open access (OA) workshop in Latvia. The workshop brought together researchers, research managers and policy-makers, journal editors and publishers, librarians and digital technology specialists to discuss OA and how to raise the visibility of research published by Latvian scholars. Two years later, in 2011, the University of Latvia launched an institutional OA repository - the first in the country.

Over the years, EIFL’s partnership with CISC has strengthened. Three CISC public library members have received grants and awards from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP). Klintaine Public Library received a grant for a project that supports farmers’ access to information; Valmiera Public Library received a grant for a project that promotes teen literacy, and Pelci Parish Library received an EIFL Public Library Innovation Award for a service that teaches children to research local history and make short animated films about the past.

“These awards are very important to our libraries, because they have the opportunity to compare themselves to libraries in other countries. The awards motivate librarians to grow and develop,” said Magone.