Congratulations to our partner library consortia in Estonia and Poland, which both celebrate their 20th anniversaries this year!
The Consortium of Estonian Libraries Network in Estonia (ELNET) and Poznań Foundation of Scientific Libraries in Poland are among our oldest partner consortia. Both were formed in 1996 to share library hardware, software and technical skills in implementing modern library management systems in their countries.
We have worked together since 1999, when EIFL was born. It gives me great pleasure to look back at some special moments in our shared journey in increasing access to knowledge.
In 1999, when EIFL licensed its first product, EBSCO, ELNET became our partner consortium as they wanted to expand their services and start licensing of e-resources for their members.
At the time, Estonia, like many other countries in Eastern Europe, had a very limited budget for libraries and poor purchasing power with publishers. ELNET nominated Marika Meltsas, then a librarian at the University of Tartu, to be EIFL’s contact person, tasking her to engage with EIFL to acquire licensed e-resources. Now Marika, in addition to her commitments to the University of Tartu, also heads the department of Estonian Research Information System at the Estonian Research Council.
The situation in Poland was similar: very few libraries had access to e-resources. When, in 1999, EIFL negotiated a good deal with EBSCO for Poland and approached the Polish government to partner, they nominated the Poznań Foundation of Scientific Libraries to serve as EIFL’s contact for libraries across the country and to coordinate subscriptions to licensed e-resources negotiated through EIFL.
Jan Andrzej Nikisch, who is EIFL’s Poland Country Coordinator, was then director of the Poznań Foundation of Scientific Libraries, and is now president of the foundation’s board. We had a chance to visit Poznań in 2004 when the foundation volunteered to host EIFL’s General Assembly and invited everyone to come to their beautiful city.
Marika and Jan already had experience of working in library consortia, and had deep understanding of the needs of academics, researchers and students, as well as knowledge of libraries. Their knowledge was relevant to other developing and transition economy countries, and we invited Marika to be part of our e-resources negotiations team, and Jan to serve on our advisory board at the very early stages of EIFL’s development.
Both have made vital contributions in giving practical advice that has helped EIFL to shape our relationships with publishers, to develop licensing models, and to select content for universities in developing and transition economy countries.
Although Estonia and Poland are now members of the European Union, ELNET and the Poznań Foundation of Scientific Libraries still see themselves as part of the EIFL community, and continue to share knowledge and experience across our network.
ADVANCES IN OPEN ACCESS AND COPYRIGHT
Estonia and Poland have also greatly benefited from EIFL’s programmes and expertise.
A couple of years ago, the Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Estonian Research Council adopted a policy mandating open access (OA) to all publicly funded research. This national OA policy was a result of advocacy conducted by librarians at Tartu University with support from EIFL. The Estonian government now wants to take OA further, and last year they initiated public consultations on Open Science policy.
Last year, the Poznań Foundation had cause to celebrate when the Polish government adopted a new copyright law that enables libraries to digitize material for socially beneficial purposes, such as education and preservation of cultural heritage. In a project supported by EIFL, the EIFL Copyright Coordinator in Poland, Barbara Szczepanska, who was nominated by the Poznań Foundation, had been at the forefront in ensuring that the interests of libraries and library users were fully represented in the law review process.
We are proud to have been associated with ELNET and the Poznań Foundation over the years. Together, we have seen the world around us change, and libraries change with the ever-increasing use of technologies, vastly improving possibilities for increasing access to knowledge. We look forward to continuing our journey together.