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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Non-Latin Scripts in a Romanized World: Western European Catalogs

Introduces ILL librarians, scholars, and students to the basic skills and resources that will help them verify Slavic-related bibliographic citations, identify holding libraries, and complete ILL requests (or projects) with little to no wasted time

Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog (KVK)

This catalog from Germany provides a meta-search capability to search library and union catalogs from many European countries including Germany, Switzerland, England, Austria, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and France.  There are even catalogs from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia included in the system, as well as some book trade catalogs. It provides access to records for over 100 million books and periodicals in libraries throughout the world, but mostly in Europe. There is an English interface, so no need to worry about German. However, that is not to say that German libraries are not important, for German libraries collect heavily in the field of Slavic Studies. Records from German libraries for Slavic language materials frequently turn up in WorldCat searches.

The searcher can select all of the catalogs from a particular country or select just a few catalogs to search. The results list is very easy to digest with a selection of records from each catalog searched and the total records found. Once you click on a record you are taken to the individual catalog. Karlsruhe provides just the search and display mechanisms. But the simple interface is deceptive. The same problems that we have discussed above regarding Romanization apply. For example, if you do a search for author name Tolstoy, you will get different results from an author search for Tolstoi, and from Tolstoj. And this difference does not just pertain to multiple country searches, but also across multiple catalogs from one country. If you do the above-mentioned search for all of the libraries in Germany, you will get three different sets of results. Searching in Cyrillic is not an option, not even for using this interface to access the one Russian library available via Karlsruhe. In fact, trying the three different spellings just in the Russian State Library catalog via Karlsruhe results in 4099, 5627, and 5571 hits. An ILL librarian’s search will be much more specific, so examining the results for differences will be easier, but the above example is illustrative of the problems with meta-search – how do you make one interface perform the work of multiple catalogs with multiple interfaces and multiple forms of cataloging. As long as you keep this potential problem in mind, Karlsruhe can be an extremely valuable tool for the ILL librarian.

As an ILL librarian, if you can predict where the problem areas with Romanization might arise, you can take advantage of the truncation provided by Karlsruhe. For example, when searching for the journal title Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, you can try the following truncated search in the title field and get many pertinent results: nova? i nove? istori?. In this case the truncation anticipates the different possible Romanized renderings of the “aia” combination. This search finds results in some German libraries, and most contain relevant record.

A specific example for the title in the German Romanization scheme Novaja sovetskaja muzyka in German libraries shows some records, which include some for the book in two different libraries and also some false hits.

The European Library

This tool provides information and access to the contents of 48 national libraries in Europe, approximately 200 million records. The site is more than just a cross-catalog metasearch tool, for it provides access not only to bibliographic records, but also digitized resources, as well as contact information and short historical overviews for the various libraries that participate in the program. The Slavic and East European countries participating in The European Library include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia (2 national libraries), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The website launched in 2005, and underwent a “renovation” with a new interface that appeared in 2012. This description is based on the beta of the new interface.

From a librarian’s perspective, the new interface is less desirable. It mixes search results together from digital and online catalog resources, but displays the results compressed to the left side of the screen with minimal information, but plenty of white space. The old interface allowed you to search just the catalogs of the national libraries with the number of hits from each catalog displayed on the left sid e of the screen. The new interface allows the same thing but it appears under the “Remote Search” tab with results displaying on the right. You can choose a specific library to search with the Contributor menu. If you do not recognize the tab arrangement of the displays, you will be irked by the mixture of types, for the results default to the “Everything” tab. As of this writing, the beta interface is not fully functioning, but presumably searching in Latin vs. Cyrillic and with or without diacritics depends on the catalogs of the participating libraries, and as can be seen below, the Eastern European catalogs use an array of methods. The best advice would be to try your search in all possible ways. The old interface produces different results depending on the script and diacritic factor, so being mindful of the possible necessity of knowing the diacritics or original alphabet is important. There is a full-text tab that produces hits from full-text resources available on the libraries’ websites, but seems to produce records in no discernable order.

Subject Guide

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Slavic Reference Service
Slavic Reference Service
International and Area Studies Library
Room 317
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, Illinois 61801


Information about Union Catalogs compiled by:

Angela Cannon
Reference Specialist
European Division
Library of Congress