Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek on Thursday resolutely dismissed claims by the parliamentary opposition that the new law on libraries and librarianship envisaged the privatisation of public libraries or made it possible for people who lacked the necessary qualifications to become library heads.
That is not written anywhere in the bill, nor does the bill envisage any commercial provision of library services, the minister said during a parliamentary debate on the bill to which the opposition had numerous objections.
Most of the opposition's criticisms referred to the proposed method of appointment of library heads, with opposition MPs claiming the bill would make it possible for people of any profession, and not just librarians, to become library heads.
"You are degrading librarianship and making it possible for anyone to become a library head," said Bozo Petrov of the opposition Most party.
Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) proposed that the bill include a provision making it possible for an ethnic minority association to establish a minority library, adding that otherwise her party would not support the bill.
The minister responded that minority libraries were by definition collections already integrated into libraries.
Branimir Bunjac of the anti-establishment Zivi Zid party said that the deputy mayor of the central town of Slunj, a plumber by occupation, was appointed the head of the town library, with the explanation that he could hold both posts because neither required university education.
With all your good intentions, local leaders will appoint as library heads people who will receive a salary for doing nothing, Bunjac told Obuljen Korzinek.
A library head can only be a person with university education specialising in librarianship, and if a person who is not a librarian applies for the post, they can be appointed on the condition they have appropriate qualifications and work experience in the culture sector, the minister said.
We can't afford to shut down a small town library which has two or three employees, none of whom want to apply for the post of library head, just because there is no librarian who wants to take the job, she said.
During the consultation on the bill, as many as 2,600 objections had been made, the opposition said, adding that librarians themselves were dissatisfied with the fact they were excluded from the process of drafting the final version of the bill.
In September, the Croatian Library Association warned that the new bill was detrimental to the development of the society as a whole, and was bringing into question the future of libraries not only as public institutions, but as parts of the education system as well.
“Instead of modernising the existing law, the Culture Ministry has prepared a new bill which is universally opposed by the library community, including the Croatian Library Association,” they had said, adding that their objections were dismissed mostly without proper legal explanation.
If you want to avoid a fiasco, it would be best to scrap the bill altogether, and start writing a new one together with librarians, said Bunjac.