2017 Spring - Europe in Bits & Bytes

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Column Editor: Kathleen Smith

Vol. 40, no. 2

WESSWeb > WESS Newsletter > Spring 2017 > Europe in Bits & Bytes



Europe's New Arrivals

A collaborative project by The Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Spiegel Online, "The New Arrivals" traces how migrants and refugees are settling in Europe in order to understand "whether European society is changing the new arrivals - and vice versa."

This Map of Lexical Distances Between Europe's Languages presents an alternate view of European cultures: rather than geographic and territorial borders defining the outlines of Western Europe, the Indo-European language families are used to depict relationships and to rethink the way we view proximity.

Universities Under Siege

The Central European University (CEU) in Hungary, founded by George Soros in 1991, is under attack from the Hungarian government. Michael Ignatieff, the president of CEU wrote about the threat in the New York Times.

Funding for Europe's universities and institutions of higher education is not keeping pace with enrollments and student needs. The OECD Science, Technology, and Innovation Outlook 2016 report points to international gaps in public research funding in favor of tax incentives and support for research in the for-profit sector, endangering international cooperation and teamwork.

Pan-European Resources

The Federation of European Publishers has released "The Book Sector in Europe: Facts and Figures 2017."

The Copyright Working Group of LIBER released A Basic Guide to EU Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries, Educational and Research Establishments.

Version 2.0 of the European Data Portal is now live! The European Data Portal is a single point-of-access metadata catalogue for data available for reuse from European agencies and institutions.


Axelle Lemaire, the French minister of state for digital affairs, is championing the need for more connections between academics and policy makers, particularly in the areas of digital innovation and large-scale data use, in order to deal with what she terms "suffering democracies" and to foster co-operation between French and British academic research in a post-Brexit world.

Although the library for refugees in the Calais migrant camp no longer exists, it "will be remembered as one of those curious offshoots of the literary world, a place where books, the context of a library, offered sanctuary." Another way in which books offer comfort can be seen in the popularity of works in France by Arab authors and/or focusing on the Middle East, as readers reacting to current events seek to understand the broader cultural context and to learn more about the Arab world.


Italy announced that it will be launching an Italian Digital Library to showcase the images from 101 state archives and 46 state libraries. The Digital Library will receive two million euros in funding and will be coordinated by L’Istituto Centrale per il catalogo e la Documentazione del MiBACT (Central Institute for Cataloging and Documentation of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism).

The last bastion of Catalan in Italy is the city of Alghero in Sardinia. Although Catalan, or Algherese as the dialect is known to its speakers, is legally recognized as one of twelve historic minority languages in Italy, its use is declining rapidly. Despite this bleak outlook, Alghero stands as a reminder of the flexibility of national borders and the importance of a broad understanding of cultural heritage: "In an age when people cling ever more tightly to national identity, the lingering use of Catalan in Alghero is a reminder of the ways Mediterranean cultures have blended for centuries, rendering identity a fluid thing."


The memory of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime is being reshaped through physical memorials and cultural heritage sites. In Madrid, plaques are commemorating a generation of female writers, artists, and thinkers who went into exile or were silenced, while streets named for fascist leaders are being renamed for famous women from all over the world. In some cases, old factions are being revived, as in this memorial plaque to a victim of terrorism killed in 1977 that is stirring up tensions dating back to before the Civil War. In WWII France, the role of Spanish Republican fighters in the French Resistance is being re-evaluated by British historian Robert Gildea.

From WESS Member Adan Griego:

Social media postings alerted to the possibility of Madrid’s iconic Berkana book store closing. Several pointed to an article from Spain’s leading daily El Pais: “Let’s Save Berkana.” For over 20 years Berkana has been a permanent presence in Madrid’s LBGT section of Chueca. Showcased in media outlets like Public Radio International to travel guides, its co-owner Mili Hernandez is perhaps the most visible face of LGBT activism in Spain and co-publisher of Egales, the only outlet devoted exclusively to publishing LBGT books in Spanish.

Berkana is more than a book shop; during several visits to Madrid I've seen people come in inquiring about books, bars, making photocopies, etc. I know that Hernandez has been quite generous with LBGT community groups in Latin America, quite often donating books to places with little queer visibility and in much need of publications.

The crowdfunding campaign closed short of its goal of 15,000 euros after Hernandez thanked contributors for their outpouring of support, some as little as 5 and 10 euros. The possibility of losing Berkana certainly struck a sentiment of solidarity, with many comments attesting to the important role it had played in the lives of many visitors. Hernandez noted in a radio interview in Spanish that she got the idea from London's LGBT bookshop that faced a similar situation a few years ago.

A familiar face at both LIBER and Guadalajara Book Fairs, Mili Hernandez is no stranger to librarians. She was also one of the main speakers for the WESS program at ALA-Anaheim 2012 "Documenting Sexual Dissidence and Diversity in France, Italy and Spain."


On May 14, 2017, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will celebrate its 180th anniversary. This stunning library holds the largest collection of Portugese works outside of Portugal--approximately 350,000 volumes. Furthermore, the Real Gabinete is the only institution outside Portugal that receives a copy of all works published in that country as a right of legal deposit.


German researchers were cut off from Elsevier journals from January 1, 2017, until mid-February 2017 after negotiations broke down between Elsevier and the consortium DEAL over nationwide licensing. Elsevier chose to restore access before the resumed renewal discussions were complete, possibly in part because their embargo did not have the desired effect on researchers: "The loss of access to Elsevier content didn’t overly disturb academic routines, researchers say, because they found other ways to get papers they needed, or because Elsevier journals happened not to be of prime importance in their fields. To help scientists cope with the situation, librarians organized speedy inter-library loans."

France will be the guest of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and there are a number of speakers and events planned, including the CIFNAL-GNARP New Directions for Libraries, Scholars, and Partnerships: an International Symposium scheduled for Friday, October 13, 2017.

In Hamburg, the local bus system has added bookshelves stocked with free books, or "Buchhaltestellen" (a portmanteau of the German words for "book" and "bus stop"), to their buses to encourage their passengers to read.


The Saalfelden hermitage near Salzburg, Austria, is seeking candidates for the (unpaid) position of hermit to continue this 350-year-old cultural tradition. The hermitage is built into the side of a cliff above the town of Saalfeld and is a popular destination for tourists and visitors.


According to the GDI Global Thought Leader Index network analysis, which ranks the 600 most influential online thinkers each year, the cultural divide, or "Roestigraben," between French and German speakers in Switzerland is even more prominent in digital visualizations. Despite attempts to compensate for the separation of the two language groups in creating a visualization that represents both, the majority language group dominates the representation: "when a network analysis investigates an overwhelming majority and a powerful minority, both of which communicate intensely among themselves but very little with each other, the majority networks appear to be more powerful and substantial than those of the minority." Among all German-speaking online communities, the most influential "thought leader" in 2016 was Pope Francis.


The Morgan Library & Museum in New York is hosting an exhibition of 75 masterpieces from the National Museum of Sweden until May 14, 2017. The paintings on display were assembled by Count Carl Gustaf Tessin (1695-1770) during his time in Paris as a diplomat at the court of Louis XV; this exhibit is on loan while the National Museum of Sweden is currently under renovation.


Researchers are exploring the role played by language in issues of cultural heritage, memory, and national, regional, and personal identity. In his article "Why Did the Van Gogh Brothers Write in French?" in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera looks at Vincent Van Gogh's multilinguality and its connection to his mental state: “'Patients appear less psychotic in a nonnative language,' says Vamsi K. Koneru, a specialist in acculturation and mental health. 'Presumably the intellectual effort of expressing oneself in other languages assists with maintenance of a greater connection to reality.'" This effect is also known to multilingual speakers and second-language learners who describe experiencing a personality shift in different languages.

Those interested in exploring innovative approaches to cultural heritage, as well as non-verbal connections to reality, might be interested to hear that a Dutch company that creates 3D impressions of paintings has begun producing very detailed figures from the works of Hieronymus Bosch.

A rare Dutch map from 1690, Gerald Valck's Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula, has been restored after it was found in a chimney in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The other two known copies of this map are in the British Library and the Maritime Museum Rotterdam.

United Kingdom

After Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 in March 2017, the UK has two years to negotiate its withdrawal from the European Union. Among other consequences, the UK will need to plan for supporting language skills among its own citizens in order to bridge the gap left by the Brexit and the resulting shortage of foreign-language competency.

The partnership between the British Library and the National Library of France to digitize 800 medieval manuscripts from 700-1200 held between both institutions by November 2018 is off to an exciting start, with 100 manuscripts now available.

Please submit notifications and/or reviews for inclusion in the upcoming issue of Europe in Bits & Bytes, as well as any comments, to Kathleen Smith.

WESSWeb > WESS Newsletter > Spring 2017 > Europe in Bits & Bytes

Editor: Jen Bonnet (jennifer.l.bonnet@maine.edu)

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