Book Science Conference in Vilnius

Doctoral student Inga Liepaitė & Associate Professor Aušra Navickienė
Institute of Book Science and Documentation,
Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University

The 18th international conference devoted to book science, Book and Media Science: Research, Researchers, Communication, was held at the conference hall of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, 22–23 October 2009. The event was organized by the Institute of Book Science and Documentation from the Faculty of Communication at Vilnius University. As with previous conferences, assistance was provided by HIBOLIRE and, this year for the first time, by the Department of the Humanities and Social Sciences from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. The programme of the conference is available as a pdf-file.

As was noted during the conference, two anniversaries gave cause to reflect over developmental landmarks and past achievements in book sciences, as well as its relationship to other sciences, both in Lithuania and other Baltic States: these being the 1000th anniversary of the first recorded use of the name Lithuania, and the 430th anniversary of the founding of Vilnius University.

The range of issues discussed at the conference was extremely broad and challenging. However, while a focus of attention was ancient manuscripts and printed books, it was the issues raised about concepts used by the founding fathers of book science and problems they faced, together with their applications, that were discussed most enthusiastically, often within a modern unstable context of 21st-century developments such as relations between traditional and digital books or in disquisitions related to the traditional book and the future of its study. It is hoped that the latter issues will provide guidelines, which will determine topics for future Vilnius conferences devoted to book science.

Over two days, the speakers and participants of the conference had an opportunity to hear 32 presentations, by scholars from Belarus, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, France, Russia, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden. Some speakers were visiting Lithuania for the first time.

The event was opened by the chairman of the organizing committee, Professor Domas Kaunas of Vilnius University, and Associate Professor Andrius Vaišnys, Dean of the Faculty of Communication, who welcomed conference delegates. This was followed by three gripping plenary presentations. The first speaker was by Professor Simon Eliot of IES, University of London. His speech was devoted to a rather intriguing issue – has book history a future? With the conclusion of his presentation, delegates were relieved to hear that the strongest feature of the book is its tangibility, which is why there would be little reasons to worry about its disappearance. Professor Eliot noted that, due to its broad subject, the book in the future would develop into the history of communication and information. Ideas voiced by Professor Miha Kovač of Ljubljana University, Slovenia, were also inspiring. Professor Kovač stated that the traditional book continues to be the backbone of our civilization and possesses many merits, when compared to speedily developing technologies. Associate Professor Aušra Navickienė, representing Vilnius University, addressed issues related to development of book science.

The conference was organized into four sections. For the first time in the history of the Lithuanian book science, a section devoted to the manuscript book in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its neighbouring countries was undertaken. It was chaired by Associate Professor Alma Braziūnienė of Vilnius University and Dr Tatjana A. Isachenko of the Russian State Library. Seven papers relating to the state-of-the-art of manuscript book research, possible perspectives for the future, possible modes of research, and the reconstruction of the manuscript collections were presented in the given section.

The second section was devoted to the history of the printed book. It was chaired by Professor D. Kaunas from Vilnius University and Professor Tiiu Reimo from Tallinn University. The nine papers in this second section were devoted to theoretical and methodological problems relating to book history, reading, book dissemination and the history of libraries.

The third section, entitled "Book Science Creators and Concepts", was chaired by Ausra Navickienė and Professor Krzystof Migon of Wroclaw University. Nine presentations discussing developments to theoretical problems of bibliography, as well as the scope of book research and book researchers, were given.

The fourth section, entitled "Applied Research of Book and Other Media", chaired by Associate Professor Jurgita Rudžionienė and Associate Professor Aile Möldre of Tallinn University, in which seven presentations were made, can be characterized by the variety of issues investigated. The section considered the relationship of book science with other sciences, book relations of the Baltic States, modern university publishing within the context of the new changes, while issues relating to print statistics and standardization were also discussed, as well as results of the investigation of the documentary science communication being introduced.

In his closing speech Professor D. Kaunas expressed his gratitude to the speakers and listeners for the productive atmosphere of the conference and hoped that each delegate had heard at least one or two interesting presentations of specific interest. Professor Kaunas’ sentiments were endorsed by the conference’s international speakers, who recognised the importance of the event, and expressed their gratitude to the organizing committee for the opportunity to participate. Ilkka Mäkinen, associate professor at Tampere University, said that the attempts of the organizers to create an environment for intellectual exchange between Western and both Mid- and Eastern-European traditions was vitally important. In his opinion, since contemporary book history in the West was born from the integration of Anglo-American and French traditions, there should emerge something entirely new in a Western-, Middle-, and Eastern-European intellectual exchange. Institute of Book Science and Documentation at Vilnius University is doing a great job along just these lines. The forthcoming SHARP conference in Helsinki may be the next important step in this direction.

The conclusions and insights drawn from the conference will continue in future discussions. It is planned that scientific articles prepared from the conference presentations will be published in vol. 54 of Knygotyra (Book Science) in 2010. All issues of Knygotyra are available at the homepage of the publication.

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