EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW. The Mission of Being the Space of Knowledge, Creating Value for the Society


On 16 February this year we’ve celebrated the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood. In the modern and-rapidly changing global world a small country with population of fewer than three million can preserve its identity, create unique things that are interesting to the world and participate in the competition only by developing and fostering the nation’s intelligence. That is why we focused on Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania – the centre of intellect.
The guest of our magazine is Prof. Dr. Renaldas GUDAUSKAS, Director General of Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

Upon visiting the library after eight years of reconstruction it’s difficult to recognise the same sanctuary of books that we used to spend time at, studying for our exams at the huge long tables. The library that has reopened its door in September 2016 became even more magnificent and mysterious, attracting attention not only at national, but also global architecture and design competitions. These external features are truly very pleasant. Professor, could you name the essential changes that are invisible for the competition judges and perhaps even visitors?
Lithuania has a unique institution of national memory, working at full capacity once more. Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania (NLL) has been entrusted with an exceptional mission – we are the keepers of the national archive collection of published documents. It includes publications on our culture, language, history, politics and economy, as well as representative documents, published in Lithuania and beyond, dated from the 16th c. (1547) to this day. The current number is around 7 million. Thus, the NLL plays a significant role in the fields of preserving, promoting and integrating the national documented heritage into the European culture heritage. However, the National Library that was reopened in 2016 is significantly different from what it was before. In the eight years of reconstruction the world has changed, especially in the field of information technology. The spaces of the reconstructed building of the National Library are better fit to the changed needs and expectations of our information consumers. Aside from the traditional library spaces – reading rooms, printed media funds, etc. – the NLL also has its own TV studio, Youth Workshops, Metadata Cooperation Space, conference and cinema halls, a Recording Studio, music and art spaces, as well as a Children’s Activity Centre (Toytheque). All of them are engaged in very intensive activities. Since the autumn of 2016 the library has organised more than 1500 various national and international events – conferences, discussions, concerts, film viewings and exhibitions.

What is the difference between the modern library and the one, where we used to study for our exams? What is the vision of a contemporary library?
The NLL is implementing its mission – to become a space of Lithuanian knowledge, creating value for the society – in a rapidly-changing environment, which determines its course. Global tendencies are transferred into the national space as well. There is an exponential growth of information flows and the digital content takes up more and more space in all fields of science, economics and culture. There is a well-developed field of strategic activities for managing information flows in the fields of culture, education, science, economics and politics. The NLL has been a parliamentary library for already 27 years. Recently we’ve expanded the range of our information analysis services and the network of our institutional partners, signing cooperation agreements with the Presidential Palace and Government of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as Vilnius Municipality Administration. Aside from the national mission that we’re already engaged in, we are seeking to become the capital’s Knowledge Quarter, thus significantly contributing to the development of the modern Vilnius.

Talking at one conference you have mentioned culture, science, the state and the future as the major values that suppose the library’s mission, and the values that should be especially cherished – scientific research spaces, as well as the nation’s intellectual, social and economic value. How does this mission actually work? What is the library’s role or contribution to fostering or increasing the protected values?
The NLL is a reliable strategic partner for accessing knowledge and information in the fields of culture, education, science, economics and state management, offering various activities and thus contributing to the improvement of the Lithuanian knowledge society and increasing the state’s international competitiveness. The NLL Model for Intellectual Activity for 2017–2020, which involves metadata analysis, introduced and approved during our visit at the World Library and Information Congress, which took place in Cape Town (SAR) back in 2015, will become the new, augmented reality. We hope that it will become a significant contribution to the implementation of the state innovation policy, increasing competitive advantage and developing the Lithuanian knowledge society. The library is also proud of the historical funds of the state’s manor libraries and famous persons, which have been accumulated for almost a century (next year the National Library will celebrate its anniversary).

In your presentation you have mentioned the business term of “the logistics of developing social capital” and noted that the British Library has about 500 business partners. Could you define the essence of the logistics of developing social capital and the role of business in that process?
The major current tendencies that will influence the global economy are urbanisation, merging and convergence, infrastructure development, future mobility, future energy and social capital. In case of libraries, the logistics of developing social capital as a classic value pyramid – data > information > knowledge – becomes rather intensive. This value chain is particularly influenced by networking science, artificial intelligence, digital humanities, supercomputers and the metadata. The NLL has been implementing these tendencies through strategic partnerships with business structures and associations.

The magazine is already well familiar with these concepts, since JŪRA MOPE SEA has been implementing the project of Synergy of Business, Science and Art for already several years. What opportunities for synergy of business, science and art with libraries do you see?
The NLL has a hub for metadata and creative industries, which is an equivalent to the model of the metadata institute of the British Library. Our hub offers opportunities for cooperation between high-tech experts, entrepreneurs of business and science, as well as digital marketing specialists, who can work together with information analysts, developing common projects that create precedent-setting strategic effects.

The EU Research and Innovation programme HORIZON 2020 (2014–2020), which helps to move towards integrated economic growth, aiming for world-class science and technology in Europe, is getting closer to the end. Is the National Lithuanian Library participating in this project? If so, then how will this project enrich the library and Lithuania?
The EU Research and Innovation programme HORIZON 2020 is mostly focused on universities, scientific institutions and those that work in the field of high technology. The NLL is also our country’s main library, employing several dozens of experts with doctoral degree. Modern libraries are getting increasingly more involved in the field of metadata. Based on the HORIZON 2020 programme, the NLL together with our partners – major Lithuanian universities and Scandinavian libraries, being consulted by the British Library – is preparing a project of a new generation library – the Intellectual Library. Its major ideas were already successfully introduced at the HORIZON events in Luxembourg and Slovakia.

Although your Estonian colleagues say that libraries are turning into digital fortresses, they will probably remain the sanctuaries, where we can flip through the latest paper books and the old issues. Not so long ago Romas Jankauskas, the Commissioner of the Lithuanian pavilion at EXPO exhibition, and I had the honour of bringing back ancient books that were donated to Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania by Arminio Sciolli, the owner of the Il Rivellino Leonardo da Vinci Gallery in the city of Locarno, Switzerland. We brought back two suitcases of books, dating to the prewar period. How does the library accumulate and store such ancient books? How do they get to be introduced to the society?
After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, we were presented with an opportunity not only to “free” the books from the interwar period that were deemed inappropriate by the Soviet regime and “imprisoned” in special storage departments. Thanks to the active cooperation with Lithuanian organisations and individual people of good will abroad, the library has accumulated huge funds of the so-called Lithuanian exodus press from Lithuanians living abroad. These include books and periodicals, printed “behind the iron curtain”, which were completely new to the Lithuanian society.
I should also mention the personal collections of famous Lithuanian public figures in politics, science and culture that have also enriched the library’s collection, featuring the family libraries of the philosopher Antanas Maceina, poet and publicist Tomas Venclova, as well as the famous family of politicians and diplomats – Stasys and Daniela Lozoraitis. Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, the Prime Minister of the Reconstituent Parliament, entrusted his book collection to the library at the end of last year, while at the beginning of this year we received a pleasant message from the patron Arminio Sciolli who lives in Switzerland and decided to donate a collection of the Russian exodus literature. Just taking a look at this collection we saw that it features pieces of Russian fiction that are unique not only to our library, but the entire Lithuania, including publications that come from a rather wide geographic area, ranging from South America to China. It is important to note that this collection coming to our library will enable the readers to expand and supplement the concept of diaspora publishing with new horizons, ranging from Lithuanian diaspora to fragments of other ethnic communities and cultures, living in Lithuania. It may become a rather important step in attempting to perceive and understand the concept of multinational and multicultural Lithuania, at the same time creating an opportunity to develop the civic maturity of its citizens.

Thank you for conversation.

Interwiewed by Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė


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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
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