Barbara Sosinska-Kalata

The impact of the works of Paul Otlet and SuZanne Briet on the development of the epistemology of documentation and information sciences in Poland


The paper investigates the influence of Francophone pioneers of documentation and information science  on the development of the epistemological foundations of this discipline in Poland. It focuses primarily on the reception of the ideas and works of Paul Otlet and Suzanne Briet – two figures who played a fundamental role in shaping the European concept of documentation and information science. There are presented results of the analysis of the publications of the most important Polish researchers in bibliography, documentation and information science (i. e. works of Stefan Vrtel-Wierczyński, Jan Muszkowski, Adam Łysakowski and Maria Dembowska) as well as an overview of contents of the most important Polish journals in documentation and information science: “APID – Current Problems of Information and Documentation”, “PTINT – Practice and Theory of Scientific and Technical Information”, “Library Review”, “Library Yearbooks” and  “Issues in Information Science  – Information Studies “. The results of these analyzes confirm a great interest in Poland, first of all in the ideas of Paul Otlet, whose publications were commented and quoted by the most influential Polish researchers (Muszkowski, Lysakowski) already in the interwar period. Also, after the war, Otlet’s ideas were returned in works on modern bibliography and its subject matter (Vrtel-Wierczyński) and in the works on the establishment of epistemological concepts of information and documentation science and  the theoretical foundations of organized information services (Dembowska, Muszkowski, Majewski). In the literature the links were stressed between Otlet’s documentologie as a science of broadly understood books and bibliologie (Polish: bibliologia), which was treated in Poland as a discipline which includes comprehensive studies of the phenomenon of the book in various forms and its social functioning (Krzysztof Migoń). Unlike the clearly visible influence of Otlet’s work on the development of documentation and information science in Poland, the reception of Suzanne Briet’s works is rather small. One of Briet’s most important ideas of integrating the activities of various institutions and professional communities dealing with the documentation and dissemination of human knowledge, which is fundamental for contemporary GLAM movement, has not found wider interest in Poland until today. The paper outlines the likely causes of this state and attempts to estimate the chances of changing it in the context of digitization of cultural heritage and information services.


Professor  Barbara Sosińska-Kalata is full professor in Humanities (Ph.D. in Linguistics, Dr. Sc. – habilitation in Information Science) at the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Journalism, Book and Information Studies.  Since 2016 she has been the Head of the Department of Information Studies at this Faculty, formerly in the years 2004-2016 she was the Head of Information Systems Section at the Institute of Information and Book Studies of the University of Warsaw.

Research interests of Prof. Sosinska-Kalata are focused on knowledge organization and information systems design, as well as on theoretical, methodological and ethical  problems of  information science and knowledge management. She is the author of 12 books and over 100 research papers. The most important publications: Models of knowledge organization in documentary information systems (Modele organizacji wiedzy w systemach informacji o dokumentach, 1999), Classification. Organizational structures in knowledge, literature, and information (Klasyfikacja. Struktury organizacji wiedzy, piśmiennictwa I informacji, 2002), Thesauri in the changing environment of information retrieval (Tezaurusy w zmieniającym się środowisku wyszukiwania informacji, 2006), Criteria for evaluation of document ordering systems (Kryteria oceny stosowane wobec systemów porządkowania dokumentów, 2007),  Legacy of Paul Otlet and modern information science (Dziedzictwo Paula Otleta i współczesna nauka o informacji, 2010), L’efficacité des systèmes d’organisation des connaissances: un point de vue praxiologique (2012),  Evolution of knowledge organization research paradigm (Ewolucja paradygmatu badań organizacji wiedzy, 2013), Research Domains in Contemporary Information Science [Obszary badań współczesnej informatologii (nauki o informacji, 2013); Semantization and standardization – cooperative or conflicting trends in knowledge organization? (2014). For long time she has also been involved in research in the area of academic education in Information and Library Science as well as in professional education of librarians and information specialists.

Since 2013 Prof. Sosińska-Kalata is the editor-in-chief of the journal Issues in Information Science – Information Studies (Zagadnienia Informacji Naukowej – Studia Informacyjne), the most important scholary journal i information science in Poland.  Previously, in the period 2005-2013 she was the editor-in-chief of another Polish scholary journal – Library Review (Przegląd Biblioteczny). She has edited also 14 books, among them eight volumes of the “Miscellanea Informatologica Varsoviensia”.