Swedish Historical Bibliography Mysteriously Threatened

Here’s a case of odd priorities. The Royal Library in Stockholm keeps a copy of everything that is printed in Sweden (and Swedish), and also has a lot of people tending LIBRIS, the national bibliographic database. Recently, the folks who keep track of scholarly publications in historical research (through the Swedish Historical Bibliography project) completed the digitisation of a huge printed bibliography for their field, which means that LIBRIS now contains references to almost every piece of historical research that has ever been published in this country.

Now, how is the Royal Library celebrating this milestone in Swedish historiography? Well… By terminating the Swedish Historical Bibliography project! We have just attained this unbroken slab of on-line digital bibliography, a boon to everyone around the world who takes an interest in Swedish history, and now it’s just going to end with 2010!

The Director of the National Library, Gunnar Sahlin, refers scholars to the new user-generated database Swepub instead. Trouble is, Swepub is only open to contributions by authors employed by a university – and not all those who are ever update Swepub. Looking at publications from 2009, for instance, Swepub has caught 655 pieces of historical research, while the professional bibliographers have put 2218 into the Swedish Historical Bibliography. Swepub has only 30% of the material.

Not all worthwhile historical research is produced by people who work at universities and use their Swepub accounts. Sooner or later someone will reverse Sahlin’s decision, the Swedish Historical Bibliography machinery will have to be reassembled and re-started from a stand-still, and then there will be a backlog starting in 2011 to process…

The Swedish Library Association’s newsletter covers the issue.

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6 thoughts on “Swedish Historical Bibliography Mysteriously Threatened

  1. As publisher since 10 years of the amateur project “Svensk Farmacihistorisk Bibliografi” (SFB; “Swedish Bibliography on the History of Pharmacy”), at http://www.ownit.nu/PharmHist/Bibliografi/ , I can only support Martin in a fight for continuation of the main project, particularly as I am painfully aware that not even LIBRIS covers 100 per cent, despite high credibility ratings (my SFB is more comprehensive and/or accurate in its field at many points), and, finally, because people tend to rely more and more only on on-line search for literature – with the consequence that official databases have to be kept up to date. Funding may be the problem; I know from my earlier professional life that some business, patent and science databases may update several times a day, even by the minute, but serve you horrendous bills for their effort.


  2. These kinds of centralised subject repositories can be short lived and project based. When the funding runs out, the plug gets pulled on them.

    Odd decision, though, especially as the National Library of Sweden is supposed to “offer special support to the humanities”. I don’t suppose anyone would challenge it legally? Admittedly, I only worked at the library for 18 months but I got the impression that the humanities were not a priority. In the library newsletter Gunnar Sahlin said that humanities graduates were below par when compared to natural and social science graduates.

    I bet the new off-site natural and social science journal repository there hasn’t been shelved (no library pun intended)!

    In the UK it is being suggested that there should be a legal requirement for all research at universities which receive government funding to be deposited in a national repository. Progress is slow, though. Technically it’s relatively easy to make sure that one copy of everything a scholar produces is deposited centrally, as well as in the university’s own institutional repository.

    But top universities don’t want to share a bed with lesser ones.

    I recently met an ex-colleague from the National Library who told me it’s under administration which probably explains the demise of the Swedish Historical Bibliography.


  3. A lot of important historical scholarship is extramural.

    the National Library [is] under administration which probably explains the demise of the Swedish Historical Bibliography.

    Pardon? It’s under what?


  4. Tvångsförvaltning. An ex-colleage of mine said that the finances are shot. Apparently the library mismanaged its budget for several years and has lost or is going to lose its financial autonomy to the Education Department. Can this be right?



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