3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Sep 15, 1992 issue. This file presents an archival copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on September 15, 1992.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45 -- $35 until January 1, 1997-- payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us .


From kessler September 15 1992

September 15, 1992

			FYI France: "Europe"!

by	Jack Kessler

Lyon, September 15

The September 20 French vote on the Maastricht Treaty is on everyone's
minds here. But the effect on libraries of the possible rejection of the
treaty by the French hasn't appeared too much in the library
literature. I thought it wouldn't hurt to suggest some of the more
dramatic consequences.

The Muse'e de l'Imprimerie et de la Banque

Here in Lyon there is a fascinating and quickly-growing, "Muse'e de
l'Imprimerie et de la Banque", supported by the giant bank Cre'dit Lyonnais 
and housed in a beautiful 15th century building, donated by
the bank and located across from their nearly equally-handsome world
headquarters downtown. The museum contains a complete, working,
printing workshop, vast exhibits of stamps, printing, engraving, and
printing machinery, and a well-presented collection of printed works by
Gutenberg, Koburger, Gryphe, Husz, Plantin, Granjon, 
Estienne, and many others, including the "first book printed in French", 
the "first book printed in Lyon", and the "first French book printed with 
woodcuts". A walk through the museum gives a complete introduction to the 
history of the print medium. This is perhaps the finest such museum outside

Which brings us to the point of Maastricht and the French vote on the
treaty next week. Cultural exchanges are the life-blood of a museum
like the one which they have here in Lyon. Cultural property rules, a
mess at the best of times, stand to be considerably simplified and
loosened under work now being undertaken in Brussels. The ability to
organize traveling exhibits would be immeasurably enhanced by "Europe":
Lyon might send its treasures to Antwerp more easily, the Plantin Museum 
there might find it easier to do exchanges with Lyon, and both
might benefit greatly from access to the newly-available collections of
eastern Europe. With the failure of Maastricht, much of this growing
ease of cultural exchange would be in jeopardy. Belgium still might be
cooperative with a French museum, but it would be harder to get in
touch with collections in Germany, and new finds in eastern Germany
might simply become "unavailable".

The Bibliothe`que Municipale de Lyon

If that isn't convincing, take the case of a large French public
library, busily engaged in library automation. The Bibliothe`que Municipale 
of Lyon is not only one of the largest public libraries in
France but also -- like other French "bibliothe`ques municipales" -- is
the home of one of the nation's better collections of rare books and
manuscripts. Work on the automation of access to all of this is under
way: already, bibliographic entries for works cataloged in the 1980s
and 1990s may be seen by the general public, from anywhere in the
world, online (via Minitel -- 3614 BMLYON) -- and much work is planned,
with substantial government financial assistance, for retrospective 
conversion, fulltext, and eventual isdn.

Immediately, anyone involved in library automation outside of France
will wonder, "standards?": what standards are the French using, what
MARC format (surely not USMARC?), what subject headings (certainly 
not LCSH), what classification (Cle'ment? The Bibliothe`que Nationale
itself will abandon this when it switches over to the new Bibliothe`que de 
France), what content to the records (no AACR2 here, and SGML isn't
even adopted yet for non-French fulltext)? Yet here is a major French
library -- a major world library, by world standards -- flinging itself
into networked information access to the general public. Contact with
the outside world is needed, if only to tell the rest of the outside
world how quickly they're falling behind (how many US public libraries
are available, to the general public, on the networks?). "Europe" would
bring the BMLYON together more with other Europeans, perhaps giving
both the chance to catch up on each other's library automation
activities, not least of all standards.  Coordination, if not actual
centralisation, at Brussels perhaps would provide a check on the babble
of networked information standards which might result if each local
library were to go its own way, as each could do given the availability
of computers and software and government support here now. If
Maastricht is rejected next week, if such a rejection means the end of
"Europe" (of this linkage see more below), what a bad consequence for
the cooperative development of networked information in libraries

The Bibliothe`que de France

Finally, the Bibliothe`que de France. One of the speakers at the recent
BdeFrance conference held at Berkeley (see my previous conference
summary postings, or I can send them to you) tried to get the French to
see their Bibliothe`que Nationale collection as a world, and not just a
French, resource. The idea is that national groups are mere custodians
of such great collections for a global user public, and thus should
take extra special care. One thinks of the Elgin marbles and of the
Hermitage collections: and of certain spaces on certain corporate walls
in Tokyo. The French "custodians" at least are more interested in
outside "advice" regarding their collections than are some of these
others. One hopes that "Europe" might increase this openness. The
increased access that it might bring to other European collections -- a
greater sharing of experience with national and other major libraries
in Britain, or Germany, or Italy, greater possibility of collection
exchanges, and so forth -- might help the more broad-minded among the
French to adjust what they're doing to fit standards and expectations
elsewhere. You don't have to be on an island to have an island
mentality, and "Europe" is getting the French off theirs.

The need for this among the non-French library community is increased
immeasurably by the extent to which the BdeFrance represents the
forefront of several leading library battles: the reorganization of major 
collections, badly needed at many institutions besides the BN
preservation and conservation, in which the BdeFrance is tackling a      
3 million volume problem automation, in which they are adopting all the
latest techniques they can find fulltext, with their 150,000-texts
conversion project and, not least of all, public access, with the
possibility that all their efforts might shortly be available to the
general public throughout the world via the French Minitel, as are
those now of the BMLYON. If this is the path these developments are
taking, how much more badly needed -- by both the French and outsiders
-- is the cosmopolitan approach promised by contact with the outside
world, such as that promised by "Europe"? How much worse for the
international library community if the French, in a rare showing of
public-spirited openness and willingness to share, are rebuffed and are
forced to develop all these fabulous new techniques for their
Bibliothe`que de France in isolation, through no lack of willingness on
their own part to share their ideas this time around?


The French rejection of the Maastricht treaty would not mean a formal
dissolution of the EC, as legalistic pundits here tirelessly remind
everyone. It would mean something far more important, though, as Flora
Lewis pointed out in the Herald-Tribune recently:  it would mean a
change to an attitude against "Europe" on the part of its primary
architect and supporter of the past 25 years, France. Because "Europe"
is primarily just a political and not a legal entity still, such a
fundamental shift in attitude could well destroy it, leaving its
legalisms merely an empty shell: the Europeans remember the League of 
Nations, the Germans remember Weimar, and the French remember 
Vichy -- legalisms don't hold together over here as well as they do in the 
more consensus-driven UK or US.

There also is somewhat of a political and cultural vacuum in France
today, as there is in the US. The old paradigm has been shifted out,
but no new one yet has taken its place. George Steiner complains, in Le
Monde (September 8), of the lack of direction of his students at
Cambridge: "The students whom I taught in the past had all their
windows open towards hope: it was Mao, or Allende, or Dubcek, or
Zionism. There always was a place where one could fight to change the
world. Now, all that is over...Today they prefer their private lives,
and they leave power to the Mafia. This is the real crisis of
democracy." Steiner is getting old, perhaps. His students will find
their messiah, or messianic cause, and we'll get our new time of
troubles sooner or later. Steiner thinks we're in the beginnings of
"post- Marxisme": "The foundering of this hope which turned to horror
left trailings which will burn for a long time. Christianity also died
slowly and left all sorts of poisons from its decomposition...I don't
think I'll live to see a new collective dream that will be so

"Europe" just might be the "new collective dream" of Europeans. If
Maastricht is rejected by the French next week, more than just
libraries will suffer. Rejected suitors do strange things here: think
of the disillusioned Germans after Weimar -- and the "crime passionel"
still is a respectable concept in Continental jurisprudence. Already
there have been temper tantrums: Delors says he will resign if
Maastricht goes down, Rocard -- the leading French presidential
candidate -- warns darkly  that Germany will "drift east" and become
"the old Germany" if there is a rejection. Now stock markets everywhere
are teetering, and currency markets are chaotic, pending the outcome.
>From within the little library world it's not so easy to predict all
the good that might flow from "Europe": but quite a bit that's bad is
predictable if there is a "no" vote here next week.


ISSN 1071 - 5916



FYIFrance (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916 
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        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved. 
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