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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 6, 2015

(Dis)Embedding. The Institutionalization of the Social Memory of Totalitarian Pasts

Claudia Șerbănuță
Pages 39-63

Memory Exercises in Public Libraries

The main roles of libraries are developing and providing access to collections of cultural heritage. While the specific policies necessary to accomplish these roles may vary across different types of libraries, these institutions have at their core a dual role in preserving and supporting access to documents illustrating an era of knowledge and culture. Libraries are thus significant institutions in the process of learning, but also in that of remembering and forgetting at a social level. This article provides an overview of the structure and organization of the public library system in the last two decades of the Communist regime in Romania. As part of a larger information history project, the research discusses the characteristics of this system created to support mass education and the ways in which public libraries also became institutions of memory in Communist Romania. The description of the library system structure is enriched by an overview of the professional training available for librarians and descriptions of the main library services related to access to collections and memories. The analysis of archival materials and oral history interviews with librarians document how these services were implemented and delve into the challenges encountered. Partial access to knowledge and information was a core part of the offered library services. As a consequence, services that were part of the Communist library system could be a source of long-term memory impairment at the social level.

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