THE EUROPEAN UNION CATALOGUE PROJECT

Pages56-64
Publication Date01 Feb 1958
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb026254
AuthorTHEODORE BESTERMAN
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
THE EUROPEAN UNION CATALOGUE
PROJECT
by THEODORE BESTERMAN
I
AM
personally1 convinced that in due course a European union catalogue
will come into being—and indeed I believe that the matter is now again
under discussion. It may therefore be useful (or at least historically interest-
ing) to give some account of the abortive and almost wholly unknown project
for which I was responsible ten years ago.
It must be remembered that this plan was put forward in the immediate
post-war period: the preliminary work was done in 1946, and the first
memorandum (Unesco/Misc./85.1947=WBLC
Proj.
1/1) is dated 7 January
1947.
The major preoccupation then was rehabilitation, and the restoration
of communications. These were the principal directives of the preparatory
conference of Unesco in London and the first general conference in Paris. It
was therefore with these matters that my memorandum first dealt, and I then
went on to say:2
Having ascertained what libraries there are in Europe, it is next necessary
to know what they contain. This is, unfortunately, far from being as easy
as might appear at first sight. Far too many libraries can be said to be un-
catalogued for all practical purposes. Others are catalogued only in the most
limited sense of the word, that
is,
they have catalogues of a sort, but these are
in manuscript and therefore not fully available. Other libraries, although
their own catalogues are in no better state, are included in regional union
catalogues, so that their resources are at least ascertainable in a convenient
form at some central point. Yet other libraries, and these are numerous,
have more or less fragmentary and for the most part out-of-date published
catalogues. And finally there are some libraries, very few in number but
among the biggest and best, which have published or are in process of
publishing good catalogues and/or issue acquisition lists or printed cards.
It must be pointed out, however, that the holdings even of those libraries
which have the best published catalogues are not in any sense completely
recorded, nor are their catalogues up to date. For instance, the new British
Museum library catalogue is still in 'C' in the alphabetical sequence of its
author entries; everything beyond that point is many years out of date so far
as the published catalogue
is
concerned. Similarly the Bibliothèque Nationale
catalogue has reached 'S', but the earlier volumes are now half a century old.
In both cases large classes of materials are excluded from the published
general catalogues.
1 I beg the reader to forgive the personal tone of this paper, which has been adopted in order
to make it perfectly clear that I am not speaking for Unesco or indeed for anyone but
myself.
2 All the financial estimates stand as then made, but of course they are now hopelessly out of
date, as are some other details.
56

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