The foreign books collection amounts to 767 239 volumes and the serials collection includes over 10 000 titles in 726 272 volumes. Electronic documents on CD-ROM are over 650 titles.
The collection history may be conditionally divided into three periods.
The first period: from the establishment of the Library to the end of World War II.
The Foreign Books Collection is based on donations granted to the newly founded National Library by private persons and charity societies, universities and other organizations. Books in Russian, French, German, Serbian, Romanian, Greek and other languages joined the Library collection. The first attempt to determine Foreign Books Collection parameters was made by K. Jirechek in his “Bulgarian National Library Management Instructions” (1884). This document defined what should be supplied for the book collections: Balkanika and Bulgarika, all classical works in the field of fiction and science, as well as all basic works in all sciences and reference books.
That initial development period was characterized by inconsistency and spontaneity in foreign books supply. The main reasons were the narrow means and the difficult economic and political situation (during that period Bulgaria took part in several wars that led to economic catastrophes). A considerable amount of the foreign books was destroyed in the air raids over Sofia in World War II.
In the end of World War II 50 000 volumes from 159 000 volumes are in foreign languages. Only 3% of them are monographs and 8% are reference books.
Foreign Books Collection random development continued for few more years after the end of the World War II. The acquisition criteria were more similar to those used in the public libraries. The acquisition of children’s books, fiction and educational literature was in multiple copies. The ambition to increase the collection in quantity was clearly expressed. Less attention was paid to foreign serials.
The second period: from the end of World War II to 1989.
In that period was worked out scientific approved criteria for the development of the foreign books and serials collections, which was the result of a long-lasting discussion for the specialized nature of the books collection. Opinions split into two basic standpoints:
– The book collection should be universal, i.e. literature from all fields of knowledge, including technical, medical and agricultural, should be collected.
– Social and political literature should prevail; yet everything worth in all other branches should be collected as well, except for particularly specialized literature.
The universal character standpoint got the upper hand. The ambition was to collect fully the worthiest scientific and reference books in all European languages.
The approach towards foreign serials collection was the same. In the first years that collection was humble and in the middle of 1950s it was 500 titles. Considering the importance of scientific serials as a source of fresh knowledge, gradually the supplied periodical literature broadened its quantity and scope. The collection of serials in fields of techniques, agriculture, medicine, etc. got on a larger scale.
A new book and serials collecting concept was adopted in the end of 1960s. A special attention was paid to the necessity of coordinated efforts of all scientific libraries in order to supply the National Library collection with the worthiest scientific editions. The National Library in its capacity of a universal scientific library should represent through its collections the unity and the integration between sciences and the new interdisciplinary scientific branches. In the area of scientific literature, the Library continued to collect monographs, the history of various sciences and capital works in different scientific branches.
That concept was tightly connected with UNESCO publications free access program and its requirement each country to establish collections of foreign literature. It followed the already recognized tendency to develop the book collections of most European National Libraries into central universal libraries.
The strong ideologization in selection and acquisition of foreign serials was characteristic for the said period. For example, the requirement for serials to be of scientific nature did not apply to Russian editions amongst which there were many of social and political, propaganda and fiction character.
In the period 1960s – 1980s foreign serials were supplied on a high speed. Their amount increased like avalanche and reached over 10 000 titles. Serials in the field of natural and technical sciences prevailed. That was the consequence of the rapid development of scientific and technical progress and the role Library should play in it. The strict observance of the requirement for serials to be of scientific competency and perspective should be underlined. For example, in the beginning of 1970s the supplied serials in English were more than those in Russian.
The reference system in book and serials selection was introduced. A main body of scientific serials was formed upon the opinion of specialists from foreign information centers. One of the criteria for the selection of a journal or miscellany was it to be referred in at least 5 foreign authoritative reference editions.
During that period began the development of international book exchange as one of the important means of foreign literature acquisition, especially of editions of limited distribution. In the end of 1980s the Library had about 1000 book exchange partners from all over the world.
The third period: after 1990.
The transition to market economy and the accompanying economical crisis influence greatly the development of foreign books and serials collections. Budget means allotted for book purchase lessen drastically.
Foreign books and serials collections lives through great changes due to measures undertaken for their de-ideologization. On the grounds of a careful secondary selection they are freed of unnecessary propaganda literature in Russian and other languages, children’s books, etc. These processes lead to a certain quantitative decrease in the amount of the collections.
The financial stagnation, on one hand, and the stabilization of central research libraries on the territory of Sofia, on the other hand, leads to giving a new meaning of the universal development of foreign books and serials collections. The Library reduces the collecting of agricultural, technical and medical scientific literature. There is a considerable quantitative decrease in the amount of books and serials acquisition. Serials suffer the most drastic decrease – in comparison with 1989, in 2002 8 000 foreign titles less have been supplied.
The international exchange turns into the basic means of foreign books and serials acquisition. Donations play a serious role in the enrichment of these collections.
A strong tendency for this period is the collection enrichment with new documents like electronic documents on CD-ROM and diskettes.
Contents and structure
The priority publication categories in the foreign books collection are: classical works in the field of science, culture and literature; works awarded with authoritative international and national prizes; documents from congresses and symposia; Bulgarika, Balkanika and Slavika; first editions of fiction literature by classical and contemporary authors. Foreign editions are collected in one copy in the original language of publishing. The supplied editions are in the most common languages: English, German, Russian, French, the languages of the Balkan and the Slavonic peoples. Editions in rare languages are supplied in translations into one of the European languages. Russian literature holds the largest share – 45%, followed by literature in German – 16,6%, in English – 15,4%, in French – 6,95%, in other languages – 15,8%.
The priority development branches of the foreign books and serials collection are: mathematics, philosophy, law, economics, politics, sociology, international relations, history /primarily new and the newest/, culture, science, librarianship, bibliography and information science, book studies, art, linguistics, theory of literature and fiction. A special attention is paid to interdisciplinary sciences as socio-linguistics, cognitive science, anthropology, political science etc.
Catalogues, inventories, publications
Foreign books and serials collections are presented in:
– The traditional index card catalogues of the Library collections and in the union catalogues of the collections of big research libraries.
– The electronic foreign books catalogue /since 1992/, accessible through the Library web-site;
– The electronic union foreign serials catalogues /since 1984/ and the electronic foreign books catalogues /since 1995/ for the big research libraries, accessible through the Library web-site;
– “Foreign serials in larger research libraries in Bulgaria” – a printed union foreign serials catalogue, issued since 1900.
– “The Bulletin of newly supplied foreign language books” /issued since 1954, 12 issue annually/ – a printed edition in two specialized series: Series A. Social and humanitarian sciences; Series B. Natural and applied sciences. Medicine. Techniques. Agriculture.
A Latin alphabet catalogue of books received in St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library for the period 1878 – 1977; A – C 3 v. Sofia, Cyril and Methodius National Library, 1981 – 1983.
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All readers of the Library may use foreign books and serials collections without restrictions only in the reading rooms.
Readers from the country may use foreign books and serials collections via the interlibrary loan.