Acquisitions in Italian Libraries

10 Aug

This is going to be my final blog international librarianship blog entry, which means that sadly, yes, i am leaving Florence. As I was chatting with my professor, Dr. Sarah Webb yesterday, we discussed the idea of making my blog post about Acquisitions, instead of my theme of technology. My job at YBP Library Services is focused on Acquisitions and it has been interesting to see how Acquisitions is done in the Italian libraries we’ve visited. Many of the libraries we have visited specialize in ancient texts and manuscripts and have received these books by donation, so they aren’t buying very many new titles, if any.

We went to the Casanatense Library in Rome and their 60,000 item collection is made up of many rare books, including first editions. They don’t have the capacity to add new books to the collection, so the collection is relatively static. The Casanatense isn’t open to the public, and their users are mainly scholars. So their attitude is basically, this is what we have, we may let you see it and it isn’t changing. We also visited the Harold Acton library, a British Library for ex-patriates and with a small budget, most of their Acquisitions are donation-based. They have to worry about duplicates and the titles not fitting into their collection and this inhibits them from having an overall collection development strategy. With no new, librarian-selected books coming in, one can assume that users would lose interest in the collection and not use the library. The manager of the Harold Acton admitted that library usage was steadily declining.

On the opposite side of the spectrum was the San Giorgio public library in Pistoia, which seemed to be constantly changing to meet the needs of their users, the public. The San Giorgio seemed to be very focused on new acquisitions, weeding, etc to keep the users interested in their collection and coming back to the library. They even have a program where couples getting married can have their guests donate books to the library in lieu of traditional wedding registry gifts. The San Giorgio librarians will select specific titles based on the donated amount.

Many of the libraries we visited seem to be providing digital content to their users, whether it be digitizing content for preservation and access purposes at the specialized libraries like the Uffizi and Galileo libraries. The Harold Acton library doesn’t have the money to provide e-resources, so they only offer print. I was a little surprised to hear that the San Giorgio isn’t doing much with ebooks, but the director said that their patrons prefer the print copy over a digital copy. They bought Kindles and and tried lending them to patrons, but usage was low. I think that San Giorgio would have had better luck with trying a different ebook lending model, such as by letting users download ebook titles to their own devices with platforms like Overdrive or Axis 360. As a user, I would want to view an ebook title on my iPad and my friend may want to download the ebook to his Android phone.


Overall, the Acquisitions strategy in Italian libraries varies depending on the library’s individual mission just like the U.S. They seem a little more cautious than the U.S. and it was mentioned in our meeting with the American Embassy and our DILL class that international libraries watch the U.S. closely to see what they are doing before they make changes to their own libraries. They don’t seem to be jumping into acquisitions models like Demand Driven Acquisitions and digital only purchasing, which are becoming more and more popular in the U.S.


Technology makes libraries innovative, but is it reliable?

8 Aug

New technologies can help make a library innovative and efficient…when it works. Internet is unreliable in Italy from what I have heard and my own experiences using the internet while staying at the Villa Morghen have confirmed this. One minute I’m online, the next I’m not. This is happening right now as I try to blog. It is a little frustrating, especially since I am so dependent on the internet for connecting with people and accessing information.

As we move to digital libraries, we need reliable internet connections, working computers, projectors, etc or else what do we have? It seems that we would have a bunch of useless machines and information we can’t access, therefore we won’t be able collaborate with others and knowledge creation will be difficult to achieve. A digital library is only as good as the technology available to make it accessible.

We visited an innovative public library, the San Giorgio, in Pistoia, a 30 minute train ride from Florence.


The San Giorgio Library, is in a space that was an old factory and is now a beautiful 5-year old library using new technologies in creative ways to help make users excited to use the library. The library director, Maria Stella Rasetti gave us a lovely tour. Their values are Energy, passion, creativity and freedom and you can see these values expressed throughout the library’s design, tools and attitudes of staff members.

When you first walk in, there is a projected image on the wall with a counter showing how many total users have been in the library, how many have left and how many are currently in the building. The image also provides library information and important news of the day. I thought that sharing this information with users was useful and that the location was also nice and centralized.


The San Giorgio has a number of computers to use for checking the catalog, and using the internet and they have free wi-fi with a time limit. They use QR codes as promotional tools for users to learn more about the library, which I thought was a neat idea. The users scan the barcode with their smartphone app and then they will be taken to informational videos. The San Giorgio also uses QR codes for users to put holds on new, popular books. The user scans the barcode for the title that they want to reserve, and then the hold request goes straight to their integrated library system.


I was impressed by the library’s 100 seat auditorium, which has equipment for events and presentations, such as a computers for the presenters, a projector, special lighting and a microphone. The auditorium gets rented out 150 days a year by different organizations and they pay the library to use the space.


The San Giorgio is an innovative library and uses technology heavily, but what about when the technology doesn’t work, or in some cases, a user does not have what is needed to use the technology (such as a user not having a smartphone, therefore they cannot scan the QR codes). This would limit access to the user. If the internet is down, how is a user to access a digital library? Technology is great if it works, but it doesn’t always.

What if the user or the library doesn’t have access to the internet, or necessary technology to create or access digital libraries? This is a point mentioned in Fox & Marchionini (1998) in regards to the challenges in building global digital libraries, specifically technical interoperability. Without the necessary hardware, networks, etc, shared global digital libraries will not work.

Patience with technology is key. Technology allows libraries more possibilities for marketing, sharing and collaborating, which would not be possible otherwise.

Fox, E. A. & Marchionini, G. (1998). Toward a worldwide digital library. Communications of the ACM, 41(4), 29-32.

Social Media…Like it, follow it!

3 Aug

Social media technologies like Facebook and Twitter seem to be just as popular here in Italy as it is in the U.S. and I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Social media has made global interaction incredibly easy and why wouldn’t libraries want to promote themselves through this medium? Personally, I don’t use Twitter, but I have a Facebook account and I check my account on a daily basis; sometimes even more than my personal email. I know I’m not alone. Many people “like” their favorite places, including libraries.

One of the libraries we visited that used social media extensively was the Information Resource Center (IRC), at the American Embassy to Italy. Mental note: I need to go back to Rome someday. It is an incredible city and there is way too much to see in one day. The IRC is focused on international relations, specifically offering information on U.S. policy to Italy, so naturally, social media is a good way to share information on the U.S. with Italians. They IRC said that they focused on their Facebook page in 2011 and Twitter in 2012, so they can be followed on both of these sites. On their Facebook page, they have over 6,000 likes! They’ve also included photos, and post regular wall posts with information on American history and events.


Social media seems to be a much easier way for the embassy to interact with Italians, as it is difficult to get into the library due to tight security, plus they do not even have a collection of materials anymore. The embassy also posts videos to YouTube. They showed us a music video on free words that was promoted in Italy. Another was a clip from the Spring Event that the IRC hosts every year.

The IRC was clearly very proud of how they are using various types of social media technology to market the American Embassy to Italy and I think they are doing a good job with it. The biggest challenge I see for them is monitoring all of their social media sites to ensure that people do not post negative sentiments about either country. I could see how negative comments could put a strain on the relationship between the U.S. and Italy, and that is certainly something they would want to avoid. Overall, I think that utilizing social media technology is positive for global information sharing and collaboration for libraries.

Digitization and the Galileo Library

2 Aug

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited several libraries in Italy now; many in Florence and a few in Rome. I have stepped foot in some incredible libraries housing rare books from the Renaissance period, such as books owned by the once powerful Medici family, proven by the impressive Medician coat of arms on cover. I still can’t believe I held a first edition Galileo with my own two hands. I’m grateful to be here on Italian soil, seeing these libraries up close and personal, however I realize that not everyone has the ability to have this experience. I mean, airfare to Europe isn’t cheap and even if you can make a trip to Florence, it doesn’t mean you can be guaranteed access to a rare book collection. Since we are an International Librarianship class, they let us in, but can other students and scholars who would like to access these texts? Oftentimes, the answer has been yes. Many libraries that we’ve visited have told us that they digitize their rare books. What a relief!

Digitization allows for greater reach and access for people worldwide. As stated in Peter Lor’s article, Critical Reflections on International Librarianship, co-operation is an important motivation for librarianship. If libraries digitize their materials and make access open, anyone can view and study the materials globally. If their is money in the budget for digitization technology and staff, I think this is an ideal model.

Digitization is also very important for preservation. The Arno River Flood of 1966 is a good example of why digitization is important. This flood affected many libraries, including the Museo Galileo Library, which we visited. The librarian at Museo Galileo showed us a particular text, Instrumentarium chirurgicum militare Austriacum by Giovanni Alessandro Brambilla, who was a personal physician to the emperor. Brambilla’s book was unique in that it provided life size images of instruments. See picture below.


The text was damaged and completely ruined in the flood, which was tragic at the time. Fortunately, the library was able to acquire a replacement copy of the same edition and we were shown that copy of the interesting book in our visit. Galileo Library was very lucky to get the replacement copy, but if they hadn’t been able to, this important work would have lost forever, never to be seen again. Perhaps this is why the Galileo has been so proactive about digitizing their collection. Galileo Library has 15,000 digital items available to access for free online. I was impressed by their integrated search database, which is a one stop shop for all of their history of science material. Users can easily search the catalog and databases, and even expand or filter their search after they have executed it. Galileo Library is a great example of how a library can use cutting edge technology to provide easy access to share their resources globally.

Welcome to my blog

31 Jul


I’d like to welcome you to my international librarianship blog. So, welcome! Not only is the my first time blogging, but I’m blogging from the birthplace of Renaissance and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, Florence, Italy. I’m taking Syracuse University’s International Librarianship course taught by Sarah Webb, along with five other Library & Info Science grad students.

For the next week and a half, I’ll be talking a lot about the impact of technology on international librarianship as I visit libraries here in Florence and participate in class meetings. In our first few days here, I quickly noticed that along with ancient artifacts and text in these historic libraries and information spaces, one can find computers, iPads, digital libraries, etc. I have seen this new technology being used in libraries in the states, however we don’t have nearly the amount of history as Europe does. Texts from the 16th century are ubiquitous in Florentine libraries.

New technology can greatly impact how info spaces function, how they present information, preserve documents and provide access to users. Many libraries have moved from card catalogs to online catalogs, for example and there are certainly pros and cons to this change. What about international libraries? How do they use technology to improve their services and reach out to patrons globally? What are some of the issues and challenges that they face? In between interesting library and museum visits, gelato stops and resting, I’ll be blogging on this important topic. Enjoy!