Digitization of Heritage Librarian Funds: Our Necessity and Obligation

3rd October 2016

Project Implementation Report: A Workshop Series in the Library of the Franciscan Saint Michael’s Monastery in Subotica

In the summer of 2015, the students of the Chair in Library Science at Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek’s Department of Cultural Studies sojourned in Subotica, Serbia within their scientific-professional practicum, having worked on the systematization of the Franciscan Saint Michael’s Monastery library funds. Mostly, their monthly job implied inventorization, catalogization, classification and lexical retrieval of the older librarian materials in the monastic library.

This year, the task was continued and even elevated to a remarkably higher level, as the Osijek students and their mentors have systemized the newer librarian funds for the four consecutive weeks in July and August (Jul. 11, 2016 - Aug. 5, 2016); however, the operation has proceeded under the auspices of an international project titled Digitization of Heritage Librarian Funds: Our Necessity and Obligation, financed via DARIAH-EU’s topical Public Humanities Call within the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). Partnered by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts’ Institute for Scientific and Artistic Work, Academy of Arts, City and University Library and the Museum of Slavonia, all based in Osijek, Croatia, as well as by the Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croats and the Franciscan Saint Michael’s Monastery in Subotica, the Department of Cultural of Cultural Studies appears as Project Incumbent.

Coordinated by Assist. Prof. Tihomir Živić, Ph. D., President of the Chair in Library Science at the Department of Cultural Studies, the project is divided in two segments: in the first segment, the students and their mentors have continued their work on the heritage librarian funds of the Franciscan Saint Michael’s Monastery in Subotica while preparing the materials suitable for digitization, as a part of the funds will be digitized through the application of the state-of-the-art technologies in the second segment.

The project will disseminate and present the data at an international conference to be organized in Osijek in May 2017, and the final opportunity to promulgate the project cooperation results, raise the awareness, and proliferate the idea on a necessity to digitize and study cultural heritage as to complete the metadata will be provided in November 2017 by the DARIAH-EU consortium meeting in Aarhus, Denmark, the 2017 European Capital of Culture.

Digitization Workshops at the Franciscan Saint Michael's Monastery in Subotica in July and August, 2016

The four groups were mentored by Marija Erl Šafar, Ph. D., Hrvoje Mesić, TA, Marina Vinaj, Ph. D., and Tihana Lubina, TA, respectively. In the Library, located on the first floor of the Monastery’s right wing, the students have inventorized the books pursuant to the rules of their future profession, and for many of them it factually was the first encounter with the job and the old funds ever. As explicated by Marija Erl Šafar, Ph. D., they have simultaneously performed several activities to systematize the Library, e.g., cleansing, inventorying, labeling, shelving, stamping, etc. Additionally, the magazines and periodicals have been retrieved, and the 17th-century books have been deposited in metal cupboards, with their list to be accessible via online catalog. The premises and the status of the inspected funds have been detected as satisfactory, but the project aims at preserving them from infestation.    

Within the project's first phase, a workshop on a special, in-depth, and noninvasive digitization of archival materials was orchestrated by Goran Vržina of the ACOS service from Zagreb, Croatia. “A systematization of librarian funds and the forthcoming digitization of a part of their materials is of a great significance for our Monastery, as well as for the public. We do possess an invaluable cultural heritage, but we have to render it accessible to the audience to use it. This is our obligation,” emphasized Zdenko Gruber, OFM, Guardian of the Franciscan Saint Michael’s Monastery. Zdenko Gruber emphasized a mutual project’s benefit: “This is also important for the students who acquire practical knowledge through a hands-on experience. On the other hand, it is significant for the Monastery, as these funds have been practically chaotic but are systematized as of now. We are even contemplating an idea of opening the 20th-century funds in the Library to the public.”

The heritage material digitization is also of an utmost importance for the Vojvodina Croats’ culture. Within this international project, select books from the Franciscan library repository will be digitized. “We will use this opportunity to scan approximately 1,000 pages from the opus of Emerik Pavić, a Franciscan whose 300th birth anniversary will be celebrated in 2016. Moreover, its value is reflected in a fact that some of his books were written in the Croatian vernacular,” explained Katarina Čeliković from the Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croats. “Our partnership in this project has provided us with an avenue to the digitization of this type of books, belonging to the exceptional Croatian rarities. There are at least 200 of them in this Library. In this case, we truly hope that the time will be our ally and that we will be able to protect these books from unnecessary thumbing, bearing in mind the fact that their acquisition is extremely difficult. Still, the Library also contains other books, ephemerals, photographs, posters, etc., important for the Croats in Vojvodina and Serbia as a whole.” Thus, the Institute, having already mediated in similar projects, has devised an operational strategy to digitize the written heritage of Vojvodina Croats, as the 20th-century funds in the Franciscan Monastery’s Library count approximately 15,000 units.