France, April 2013
We had left Romania last October puzzled at the way the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest could have funded such lavish conferences each year, with well over 100 delegates funded from all parts of the world. I reported on the "Fifth international symposium. The book, Romania, Europe", held in Mamaia on the Black Sea from 24 to 26 September 2012 on my book history website. I was therefore very intrigued when, just before we left on our latest round of travels, we received an email dated 14 February 2013 headed "BMB - events from the last 4 months". This directed our attention to a series of articles written by the investigative journalist Andreea Butor who in October 2012, began to look into the Bucharest Metropolitan Library. These articles appear on the website B365.ro. The email was from Ana-Maria Moldovan, but whether this is the same as a Romanian actress of that name I have been unable to discover, as she did not reply to my own email.
It is a lengthy story, but with a diverse cast of actors. Beside the director of public libraries for one of the largest cities in Europe we have a disgruntled academic, a frightened millionaire, an ambitious wife, a porn star and a host of extras, made up of library staff and conference participants.
Florin Rotaru, the Bucharest Metropolitan Library Director and the instigator of the series of symposia, is certainly a notable and widely regarded figure. A report dated 11 February 2013 (three days before the email was sent out), reports that he had just been awarded the Pushkin Medal of the Russian Federation, through the Ambassador in Bucharest, Oleg Malginov. The Pushkin Medal is a decoration given by the Russian Federation for outstanding achievements in art, culture, education, humanities and literature studies. On 10 February 2013, the Russian Embassy in Bucharest marked the Day of Russian Diplomacy, a day to celebrate people who devote their lives to supporting and promoting the international interests of the Russian Federation. His Eminence, Mr. Oleg Malginov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in Romania, gave Florin Rotaru the certificate which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. For numismatic nerds the medal is numbered 0748 and was issued on 14 October 2012, shortly after the symposium in Mamaia. Florin Rotaru, who has a PhD in history, is described as an expert on archaeological and historical books, manuscripts and archives, both Romanian and foreign. “He received this award humbly thanking, in turn, those who made this honour possible.” Among the guests at a small reception held in the marble hall of the Studio Cinema in Bucharest, where the Russian film series Family Medallion was opened, were Prince Paul and Princess Lia of Romania and well-known actors and fellow librarians of Mr. Rotaru. This was the culmination of a long career which began during the communist era in the History Museum of the City of Bucharest where he worked from 1979 to 1987 as an expert on national cultural heritage.
But it seems there has been a series of complaints against Florin Rotaru and his wife. They fall into a number of categories:
1. Book fund and book purchases
2. The symposia
3. The Institute of Oriental Studies
4. The abuse of staff
5. Other irregular goings-on
These will be described below, simply repeating some of the contents of the email and the reports from the B365.ro and other news websites. Google translate does not always make for an easy understanding. I have done my best and omitted sections where there is a severe risk of misrepresentation. There is also a section on subsequent developments since we returned from our latest travels.
The elegant if cramped headquarters of the Biblioteca Metropolitana
Certainly I found a great discrepancy between the splendour of the symposium and the cramped premises that the headquarters of the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest occupied when I paid an unannounced visit after the symposium. There may be some explanation for this in the direction in which Rotaru was taking the institution, which seems far removed from public libraries in other parts of Europe. It is equally clear that many of the allegations are motivated by spite and picked up by the journalists in search of a dramatic story. But underlying much of the reporting there is a considerable amount of detailed investigation, particularly into the book purchases.
1. Book fund and book purchases
The sources for this section are mainly The old man who made a million Euros from books purchased by the Metropolitan Library, 7 November 2012, by Andreea Bujor, The secret millionaire from the Metropolitan Library, 29 November 2012 and Overpriced purchases through an NGO by Rotaru, Director at Metropolitan Library, 7 December 2012, Andreea Bujor.
The Metropolitan Library's book budget has certainly seemed to defy the economic crisis. The director Florin Rotaru was State Secretary in the Ministry of Culture from 2001 to 2003 and senator for the PSD between 2000 and 2004. He produced and edited the Library Law, No. 334/31.05.2002. By Article 40, paragraph 12, this law established "The annual growth of collections in public libraries must be at least 50 documents per 1,000 inhabitants." This law suited matters well when setting the purchase budget. In fact from 2009 until the present the Metropolitan Library has received each year a positive budget adjustment for book purchases. In the following figures there are about six Lei to the Pound Sterling and five to the Euro.
|Year||Initial budget||After rectification of 31 December|
|2009||2,800,000 Lei||3,054,000 Lei|
|2010||500,000 Lei||1,308,000 Lei|
|2011||2,895,000 Lei||4,155,000 Lei|
The initial 2012 Budget of the Metropolitan Library for book purchases, 3,376,000 Lei, is equivalent to 744,957 Euros. The budget for book purchases of Bucharest Central University Library in the same year is 837,000 Lei, equivalent to 185,140 Euros. It should be noted that from this budget, the University Library also supplies all faculty libraries belonging to Bucharest University. The budget of the Academy Library is 35,000 Lei or 7,742 Euros. The Metropolitan Library is allocated a fund for the purchase of books almost 100 times higher than the Academy Library and four times higher than that of the University Library.
From this budget the Metropolitan Library acquired from 2007 to 2012 books costing a million Euros from a single individual. Although the amounts for many individual purchases were over 15,000 Euros, none, it is claimed, were through reputable auctions. A committee headed by the director Florin Rotaru approved all purchases.
|Year||Purchases from one individual|
Over five years, Florin Rotaru approved purchases totalling 5,530,527 Lei from this individual, equivalent to 1,353,818 Euros or more than £1,000,000. Amounts going to this individual each year were higher than the amounts that went to major publishers.
|Publisher||Purchases over past five years|
|Alfa and Omega||685,347 Lei|
In total, from all these publishers, the Metropolitan Library purchased books worth 2,446,196 Lei as against orders from this individual totalling 5,530,527 Lei.
In fact the Metropolitan Library seems to have created a millionaire who lives in a modest apartment in District 3. At first D365.ro did not disclose the full name of the old man in order to protect the identity of an elderly person, who told them he is frightened, but it later emerged that his name is Constantin Pavelescu. When journalists from B 365.ro visited him, he was apparently very scared and not communicative. He said at first that he is going through a very bad period of his life, he's sick and not in the mood to talk. After much insistence, he let them enter his three-room apartment. When he heard that they were interested in his links with the Metropolitan Library, he began to tremble and said: "Don’t tell anyone that I have links with the Metropolitan Library. I have broken them. It’s put me in a right mess, that is enough, do you understand [...] Do not say you were with me; do not say you saw me. […] I can’t give you more details. Don’t put words in my mouth. Don’t put me in jail!” The 86 year old man has lived alone for 40 years, since his wife died. The house is stuffed with books, but it has nothing luxurious or which demonstrates in any way that this man has over a million Euros in his account. In contrast, the apartment is modest, as is the man. Books are thrown higgledy-piggledy in all corners, on a bed, chairs, and an old blanket-covered sofa placed in the middle of the living room. The only thing that gives the house a new look is a plasma screen surrounded by books. The man was wearing a shabby gray pullover, and a pair of black sweatpants, rolled up to the knees.
Florin Rotaru was not afraid of any investigations into suspicious acquisitions. He seems to have boasted to journalists of his personal relationship with the Mayor of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu. The Metropolitan Library is subordinated to Bucharest General City Hall, from where it receives its budget, but when approached by B 365.ro, the City authorities said that the problem is that the City Hall does not check library purchases in detail. Reporters from B365.ro contacted the director Florin Rotaru, to ask him to justify the exorbitant amounts that were given to Pavelescu. The discussion is presented below:
Reporter: Over five years books were bought totalling 5.5 million Lei from one man? How can that amount be justified?
Florin Rotaru: I'll check; I do not know.
Reporter.: Who approves these purchases?
FR: The Committee and head of the commission.
Reporter: You are part of the commission, you head the commission, don’t you?
FR: Yes, yes.
Reporter: So you approve?
FR: Yes, I do. But […] I did not always do a calculation.
Reporter: There have been higher value purchases then 15,000 Lei from this man without tender. Why?
FR: Because it was over a period, not all at once.
Reporter: And how is it that in five years you buy all these books from one man?
FR: Yes, he is a great collector. His is the only collection that remains.
Reporter: Why such large amounts? Are the books expensive?
FR: Yes, yes, they are unique.
Reporter: And finally, why do you not get them by auction?
FR: Well - I do not know - well - the titles are unique.
Reporter: So only this man has all these unique expensive books?
FR: Not only him, I also obtained them elsewhere. But he has many. He is a great collector.
Reporter: You have bought a greater amount from this man than from major publishers. How can this be justified?
FR: I did my calculations honestly, I can tell you.
Reporter: And all the money went into this man’s account? This man has 5,500,00 Lei in his account?
Reporter: And yet he lives in a modest apartment?
FR: I do not know what to say. You’d better talk to him.
Reporter: Who is on the committee?
FR: Well there are three antique dealers, Ms Cristina Andreescu, Marius Niculescu, Mircea … colleagues of ours.
Reporter: What is the annual budget granted for purchasing library books?
FR: I do not know exactly. We usually average 50 volumes per one thousand inhabitants.
Reporter: Neither the University nor the Academy Library acquisitions budget is as great as that of the Metropolitan Library.
Reporter: Why, given the status of the Library?
FR: Well, is that my fault?
Reporter: And most of that money goes to the one man. You must know the amount.
FR: I have told you, how can I say that you do not know.
An antiquarian bookseller Mircea Stuparu, a member of the committee of the Metropolitan Library for book purchases, attended only two meetings and knew nothing suspicious about these purchases. He told B365.ro: "I do not sign documents; I participate as a specialist antiquarian bookseller. I have never participated in more than two meetings per year. I saw there the books which were valued, and always for books valued in these two meetings a year in which I participated, the price discussions were well documented. There were claims that some, including those of Mr Pavelescu, were too high, and I always bring things down to earth. For example they purchased some books from private individuals, through auction catalogues or from foreign antiquarian booksellers. Prices from the committee meetings that I attended cannot be attacked. We never gave a higher price; we even bought books at lower prices. But it's hard for me to say, attending two commissions per year. [...] I can only say what I know and the books brought to the committees that I attended had fair prices. […] The rest is not my problem."
Following the claims by Florin Rotaru that these books were unique, and therefore very expensive. B365.ro obtained a list of books purchased from Pavelescu by the Metropolitan Library. For example, the book A display of heraldry, by John Guillem (1679) can be found in a simple search on the internet on various sites in the same edition. On Vialibri its price is between 1660 and 2751 Lei. Metropolitan Library bought it from Constantin Pavelescu for 30,000 Lei, eleven times more.
They analyzed nine books at random, and compared the amount of money that Florin Rotaru paid to Pavelescu with the prices on the international market. Price differences are astounding: the books were bought up to eleven times more expensively from Pavelescu than they could have been on the world market. For just nine books the prices that the Metropolitan Library has paid total 138,000 Lei more than the market price. It should be noted that they chose the maximum price those books are sold on the international market. So if Pavelescu’s books received the maximum price they would have been acquired for approximately 35,000 Lei, 20% of what the Metropolitan Library gave for them. Some examples:
Republica Hebraeorum libri tres by Cunaeus Petrus, Johanne Nicolai editio. - Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Henricum Teering" 1703. Antiquarian market maximum price: 2040 Lei, BMB paid Pavelescu 12,000 Lei.
Felix literatus ex infelicium periculis et casibus, sive De vitiis literatorum commentationes Historico-theosophice, quibus infelicium exanimo, he vitiosorum literatorum calamitates et Miser, et documentis selectioribus conquisitis exemplis exponuntur, atque eruditis, ad Vera et imperturbable felicitatis us sit down tendentibus via tutissima ostenditur, by Theophilo Spizelio. - Augustae Vindelicorum [Augsburg]: Theophilum Goebelium, literis Koppmayerianis , 1676. Antiquarian market maximum price: 2411 Lei, BMB paid Pavelescu 25,000 Lei.
Tannhäuser: a dramatic poem by Richard Wagner; Freely translated in poetic narrative form by TW Rolleston. - London: Harrap , 1911. Antiquarian market maximum price: 13125 Lei, BMB paid Pavelescu 40,000 Lei.
Some of the books in the list can be found in facsimile with exact reproduction of text, signatures, drawings, paintings or photographs, but Florin Rotaru, they claimed, paid exorbitant amounts to buy original books, although it is not the responsibility of this type of institution to purchase such items. One example is the book Roumanian anthology, or Selections of Roumanian poetry, ancient and modern, being the collection of the National Ballads of Moldavia by the Hon. Henry Stanley. - Hertford: Stephen Austin, 1856, which can be found in facsimile for 143.5 Lei, but Florin Rotaru bought the original version from Pavelescu 244 times more expensively: 35,000 Lei.
In addition, most of these books they had also found in the Academy Library, a national library responsible for such book purchases. So, although Florin Rotaru argued that the national heritage is rescued by buying these books, this property was already saved by a specialized library. In any case, with a simple internet search, anyone can find these books at a much lower price. The Metropolitan Library bought from Pavelescu rare books that fall outside the scope of activity of a municipal library, according to the investigators. The Metropolitan Library should acquire, according to library legislation, rare books only about the cultural heritage of Bucharest and Ilfov county. Otherwise, the responsibility of the municipal institution is felt by the investigators to be the acquisition of current items for reading, information, documentation and continuing education in all areas of the capital.
It seems that Florin Rotaru created a charity in 1997, an organization named the Association of Librarians and Documentalists in Bucharest (ABIDOB), and then, in 2003, through an amendment, made it into a joint Association of Librarians and Libraries in Romania (ABID), expanding them and their functions. He has been President of ABID since its inception. The procedure used by Florin Rotaru, who approves all such purchases, is alleged to be that ABID buys books at market prices and sells them at overvalued prices to the Metropolitan Library. B 365.ro obtained a list of books, including the price at which ABID purchased titles and the cost of the same books for the Metropolitan Library. The differences in price for twelve books alone total 29,694.57 Lei. The total amount of the books purchased by the Metropolitan Library through ABID, from 2008 to 2012 is 322,957 Lei. Some examples:
Omnis monumentorum Analecta liber aevi Vindobonensia: opera et studio by Adam Francisci Kollarii. - Vindobonae: Typis et Sumptibus JT Trattner, 1761-1762 in two volumes, is in the Metropolitan Library in a facsimile edition after the edition of 1761; the purchased edition was published in 1970. However, in the catalogue, this book was wrongly described, as if it were the edition of 1761. The reason for this error was understandable; the book was purchased by the Metropolitan Library at a cost of 10,715 Lei but the same book is selling on the internet site abebook.com at the price of 54 Lei, 200 times cheaper. Although the catalogue entry describes it as the edition of 1761, the book has an ISBN (international standard book number), a code used to identify trade books, which was created in 1966 and adopted as an international standard in 1970. So it is impossible for a book published in 1761 have this code.
Rerum decades Ungaricarum by Antonius of Bonfinis; ediderunt I. Fogel et B. L. Juhász et Iványi. - Lipsiae: BG Teubner, 1936-1941 (4 volumes), can be purchased on the international market for 372 Lei (93 Lei per volume). Florin Rotaru approved the purchase by the Metropolitan Library through ABID for 15,050 Lei (3752.5 Lei a volume). The difference in price is 14,678 Lei.
Roma ristaurata et Italia by Biondo da Forli, tradotte in buona lingua volgar, per Lucio Fauno. - Venice: Michele Tramezzino, 1542, the market price is 3272 Lei to 3185 Lei, but was bought by BMB through ABID for 12,900 Lei, the price difference being 9627 Lei.
Encyclopedia of neuroscience, editors Marc D. Binder, Nobutaka Hirokawa, Uwe Windhorst. - Berlin: Springer, 2009. - 5 vol (Springer Reference) market price 2,600 Lei was purchased by the Metropolitan Library through ABID for 14,500 Lei. The difference in price is 11,900 Lei.
ABID, the Association of Librarians and Documentalists of Romani is no. 965 in the Register of Associations and Foundations . Among its functions are:
- Editorial program under the imprint Bucharest Library
- Organizing the Sound Library for the Blind
- Participation in exhibitions of national and international book and media
- Francophone program, the Collection Francophonie Elena Vacaresco
- Purchases of foreign books
Its purpose is stated as: Defending the professional status of librarians and documentalists, and emphasizing the role of strategic importance held by libraries in the information society and knowledge. Objectives are: special programs for children, youth, minorities and disabled people, professional development programs, editing publications special events and organizing the profession of librarianship, revitalize local community memory, raising the social status of librarians and library. It was established on 17 May 1997 and in 1999 joined the Federation of Library Associations in Romania. In 1997 it joined the International Association of Metropolitan Libraries, in 1998 the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations, in 2008 the Association Internationale Francophone des Bibliothécaires et Documentalistes).
A 2003 document, addendum 5, mentions, among the powers of ABID, "Editing and printing of publications by publishers and printing under the imprint Bucharest Library or through other specialized companies, publishing the magazine of the Bucharest Library Association and participating in other specialized publications". Editing and printing these publications was always paid from the funds of the Metropolitan Library. Article 6 of the amendment of 2003, said that ABID will support investment projects and routine repairs of the Bucharest Metropolitan Library premises. It is alleged that this never happened; the money simply went in the reverse direction; the Metropolitan Library buying books at inflated prices from ABID.
In practice, it is claimed, this association is packed with employees of the Metropolitan Library, ranging from the cleaners, guards, skilled workers, librarians or accountants to researchers. When taken on by the Metropolitan Library, a necessary condition is to become a member of ABID. ABID is registered at Tache Ionescu, no. 4, Sector 1, which is the address of the headquarters of the Metropolitan Library. But in this premises no room is designated for the work of this association.
Irina Bologa, head of cultural services in the Directorate for Culture, Education and Tourism in the City Hall is responsible for monitoring and analyzing performance assessment procedures for book purchases. "We do not have specialized personnel on the field and have no legal competence in this sense to answer your questions about the differences between the purchase price of the BMB and international quotations for heritage books identified you as being similar," she said to B365.ro. But any interested person may search for those books on the internet, so there is no need for specialist personnel to look for price differences. City Hall stated, after B365.ro published the article "The secret millionaire", that "the mayor of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu, was pending action with the Metropolitan Library over the legal control of purchases by the institution, and the charges concerning the management of the institution, including the issues raised in the media." However, in the middle of the investigation, the Mayor signed a document giving Florin Rotaru another six months at the helm of the institution.
This expenditure does not mean that he actually bought what the library required. Many departments, including the Centre for Oriental Studies asked for books which were never bought. The reason was according to the director was the economic crisis. Certainly when I visited the library the stock seemed very sparse for one of the largest cities in Europe, and poorly presented, although in the short time I was in Bucharest I was not able to ascertain what other premises the library might have. According to a recent article in American libraries magazine: Romania’s new national library remains a dream yet to come true, the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest runs a network of 35 branches throughout the capital city, including the main branch in central Bucharest, serving a population of 2 million. Most of the branches are situated in old buildings that were confiscated during the communist regime; several of them are under litigation, claimed by the original owners. The Metropolitan Library has been able to secure the funding to have five locales purpose built as branch libraries, quite an achievement in a country where since World War II only about ten buildings have been designed to serve as public libraries. In addition, it has opened six branches in other European countries to serve the information needs of the Romanian population living in those areas.
Shelving in the headquarters building of the Biblioteca Metropolitana
Much of this section is taken from an interview with Rodica Pop, former head of the Institute of Oriental Studies, who had been retired early by Rotaru. There is certainly some overstatement in her account, and it must be stated that, to the best of my knowledge, the large majority of academics and librarians who attended the symposia did so in good faith.
"The year we were subordinated to the Library, I arrived from an institution that had approved a modest amount of 14,000 Euros for organizing PIAC (Permanent International Conference of Altaic Studies), whose chairman had already been nominated. Unfortunately it now came under the organisation of the library director who, although he had not the slightest knowledge of this kind of organization, regularly gave me orders. I had the first open conflict when I wanted to receive the small sum the project required. He insulted me, humiliated me and spoke rudely, especially in the presence of other colleagues. Admittedly, the director eventually increased the budget, requiring me to invite people who did not have anything to do with the area of research. […] I do know that a payment from the public funds obtained on behalf of my conference was made for two return tickets from India and Germany for two teachers who attended his wife’s doctorate at the University of Bucharest (and not in Germany as he says), in the autumn."
Florin Rotaru followed on from PIAC and began to hold his own annual symposia: "The difference was the budget. For my world-class conference, the best in the area, I asked 14,000 Euros. For last year's symposium, organized by Rotaru, the supplementary budget alone was more than 50,000 Euros, according to a reliable source I know of," according to Rodica Pop. She says that Florin Rotaru turned a symposium that should be scientific into a ball and a way to impress and do favours to international big names in the field of research. "He wanted to invite the wives or husbands. Some came by business class. What he has done is not on: the spouses pay their way, that is considered only fair. Symposia have been held at the Intercontinental Hotel or Novotel and this year at Hotel Hagi in Mamaia. The law says you are not allowed to host events like this in a hotel with more than three stars. But he hid details of the hotels in the program. Moreover, what Romanian researchers have been invited? If you have money to do so, invite great scholars of the Central University Library, the Library of the Academy, to make a specialized event. And don’t pay the travel costs of spouses, costing thousands of dollars. Rotaru invited chamber orchestras from St. Petersburg although there are several chamber orchestras in Romania, meeting the costs of travel, accommodation and services, even a ticket specifically for a cello, while researchers have had to pay their own travel, books etc." according to Rodica Pop.
The website e-licitatie.ro (award notice number 122884/27.03.2012) indicated that the Metropolitan Library made purchases totalling 509437.1 Lei for travel agencies and related services. This sum does tie in with my own estimate of at least 100,000 Euros to meet travel and accommodation costs for over 100 delegates, but it has to be said that not all spouses had their costs met. Jill and the wife of an American delegate shared their astonishment at the high level of prices charged for meals at the hotel, and Jill had to pay her own flight from Munich. It also answers my questions as to the source of funding for these events. I had suspected that it was made possible by European funding, but it would seem that considerable sums were diverted each year from the public library budget. The February email adds:
"The symposium is another good business for the Rotaru family. It is a mixture of sections in order to include his wife’s section, although she was never able to work on it. It seems library employees had a hard time organizing it and following the contradictory orders, which changed daily. The megalomaniac symposium did not have anything to do with a normal European academic event. […] There were luxury dinners at the Casino in Sinaia and others at the seaside, with costly sightseeing in the Danube Delta. Much of the library budget was diverted to these Symposia, considered by the director to be the most important in the world."
Even the publication of the conference proceedings is not without controversy. Rodica Pop spilled the beans on the editing of the proceedings of the 2009 conference. "Rodica Pop, Adina Berciu and Julieta Rotaru collaborated in a work titled The Book. Romania. Europe, second edition, 20-24 September 2009, published by the Library of Bucharest. This book gathers together work by Romanian and foreign authors, participants in the symposium organized by the library. Rodica Pop prepared sixteen works from the section on oriental studies, Julieta Rotaru six papers.” After publication of the book, only Julieta Rotaru was named. “Julieta was always at home, phoning through orders which changed from hour to hour. [...] I can say that I worked day and night. What was the contribution of Julieta Rotaru? She gave orders that all the titles in English should be written with lowercase. Surely that cannot be right. The authors had not given their consent and, moreover, it is an abuse punished by copyright law. Even ethnic names appeared written in lowercase. Consequently, I had big problems because one of the Turkish guests questioned me: Why did you write Turks with lower case t?" Some of these allegations descend into academic trivia, but Rodica Pop is clearly very aggrieved.
3. The Institute of Oriental Studies
It may seem strange that a public library should host an institute of oriental studies when there is a university and an academy in Bucharest, especially when it has to be crammed into such a small building. I was unable to gain access to one of the few rooms in the headquarters when I visited, and the sound of chanting drifted through the doors as a course on Sanskrit prosody was in progress – hardly an everyday event in a typical public library. In the meantime the general stock was crammed in right up to the ceilings in the remaining rooms. Some background to the Institute may be gleaned from reports such as: Oprescu’s protégé destroyed Institute of Oriental Studies, to make his wife a researcher, 24 January 2013 by Andreea Bujor. Much of the information is from Rodica Pop the former head of the Institute of Oriental Studies (now renamed the Centre for Eurasian and Afroasiatic Studies), who clearly has an enormous chip on her shoulder.
She accuses the Metropolitan Library director, Florin Rotaru, of destroying the Institute, which came under his control in 2008. She claims he used money from the budget for the Institute for personal purposes, did not want to buy the books needed to develop research, and promoted his wife, Julieta Rotaru, a third-degree student without qualifications in oriental studies, while qualified people were waiting, in vain, to be promoted.
The only Romanian specialist in religious anthropological field studies of Mongolia, and Honorary Consul General of Mongolia in Romania, Rodica Pop is an internationally recognized researcher. She has worked on important projects such as the first Mongolian to French translation of The Secret History of the Mongols, published by Gallimard, the publishing house that has produced most of her books. With a doctorate from the Sorbonne, and currently associate professor at the University of Bucharest, Rodica Pop is appreciated all over the world, but not, it seems, in her own country. She laments her misfortune to be subordinate to a man who tried hard to stop any development.
Rodica Pop revealed to B365.ro the humiliations and insults she claimed to have suffered together with other researchers since she passed under the control of the Metropolitan Library. Although a municipal library, according to her, has no legitimacy and jurisdiction to absorb an institute for oriental studies, this happened in 2008. "It is absurd that a municipal library can take on a research institute. Perhaps the Central University Library or the Library of the Academy – but the Metropolitan Library? Such a thing does not work. This is a public library for high school students, for retirees, for the general public. We undertake specialist studies and research work. However, the General Council of Bucharest Municipality managed, after several failed attempts, to transfer the institute to the Metropolitan Library, and this endeavour was supported by the councillor Romeo Pop."
Why did Rotaru acquire this Institute? It is claimed that the Director’s wife, Julieta Rotaru, wanted to be employed at the Institute of Oriental Studies, but was not successful, because she had no specialized qualifications in the field. Florin Rotaru is said to have used his position and relations within the Municipality and brought in his wife. "The story was that I was in the main building in Tache Ionescu Street and found that Rotaru was to go to a meeting in Crete in late May 2010, as usual with his wife and child, but this time he was accompanied by Romeo Pop. [...] Later I heard from the chief accountant that the amount used to pay Romeo Pop’s travel was taken from our Institute’s travel fund. With such an amount I could pay a visit to Germany as beneficiary of a scholarship for two months at the University of Bonn. That money to fund trips for the Institute was taken and abused was confirmed in October 2010, during my official journey when I had to pay my own travel expenses. When the new Director of Culture, Education, Tourism at City Hall, Emmanuel Papagheorghiu, asked for a list of trips abroad, it created a great stir." It seems that Romeo Pop’s name should not appear in travel documents and that it was replaced by Constantin Ion (a former employee of the library), "which is a fake" according to Rodica Pop.
Rodica Pop says that since the Institute of Oriental Studies has passed under municipal control it began to be destroyed by Florin Rotaru. The first step he took was to bring a Dutch professor, Jan Houben, to "teach us to do research as in the West," and to transform the Institute into a European institution. "Actually the Institute was already a European institution and there was not need to come from abroad to destroy it." The former head of the institute accuses Florin Rotaru that, while he said he had no money to acquire books, he was paying 1000 Euros a month (four to five times more than a Romanian researcher) to Jan Houben, who teaches in France, at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and is an acquaintance of Juliet Rotaru, wife of the director. "We are considered third rate scientists - so let's bring in a specialist. Incidentally, I've been visiting professor at the University in France with the same degree as Jan Houben. He received 1000 Euros a month and his activity was limited to two reports, namely two emails: one proposed that the name be changed despite criticism from colleges here and abroad to: Center for Eurasian and Afroasiatic Studies - a pompous name for the five remaining researchers. And the second was to make a further evaluation of our diplomas, something that can be easily done by an employee in human resources. [...] As a close friend of the Director’s wife he provided researchers in the field whom she did not know, and used the Romanian budget in order to build his own career through the symposia. He could not have worked in this way in Holland or in France. Jan Houben and Julieta Rotaru were furthering their own interests without the involvement of other researchers from the former Institute which was now marginalized."
She and her fellow researchers seem to have faced a range of problems: they did not get the books they requested, funding for their calendar, accessible to the general public, with articles produced by staff was cut from the list of research projects. They were left with old computers; Rodica Pop’s office was only cleaned twice a year. Institute staff needed to order books, because they knew best what they needed. They complained that the budget was small, but agreed to limit the list to what was strictly necessary. "Even from this list I received very few books.” Not only did the institute not receive the necessary books, but were they were refused international loans. "We decided that if we do not have money to buy books, we have to borrow them. A colleague of mine went to the director with a list. His reaction was to send her away and citing lack of a budget. [...] I received permission to have internet subscriptions to certain scientific sites and periodicals online. The Institute did not stand a chance of surviving in this way. The director always insulted us, we were humiliated as researchers, he took pleasure in addressing me, telling me several times, "Mrs Pop, you know nothing", especially during meetings when I took a different view from the management. Though I asked for a travel budget and knew that money was available, I have been refused to pay hotel and daily expenses for a congress and a colleague was denied a trip to Budapest. Things were not the same when in January 2012, Julieta Rotaru, wife of the director, went to a congress in India : then travel and subsistence were paid, also participation fees and accommodation ..."
Julieta Rotaru, wife of the director, was employed as a researcher in the Metropolitan Library and became a researcher at the institution while her husband Florin Rotaru, was its director. Asked in July 2012 by journalists from B365.ro if he was part of the committee for granting scientific degrees, Florin Rotaru denied this, saying that "the title of world scientific researcher is not given by the Municipality, but the Ministry of Education as assessed by a committee that includes members of the Romanian Academy. I have not been part of this committee." But his wife is a researcher grade III, and the Ministry of Education validates only grades I and II and not the research assistant, principal investigator and senior scientist grade III, which is exclusively within the remit of employers. Finally, the director admitted that he was part of the committee. Rodica Pop explained that Juliet Rotaru did not go through the steps to be promoted to the level of researcher grade III. "One must first be assistant researcher, then obtain the necessary degree, then one can be promoted to grade III researcher, something which takes years.” Juliet went directly to the library to research grade III after Florin Rotaru married her. Rodica Pop alleges that Julieta Rotaru spends much of her time at home. "From her bed, where she was served breakfast by library employees, she would give orders by telephone to the "stupid" library staff. She confiscated the volume of 2010 proceedings of the second Bucharest symposium, for which two other editors had worked hard, by ordering the editor not to mention their names, but only hers, although she did not do any work."
Florin Rotaru retired Rodica Pop a year ago, while she was at a conference in Germany. "He did this even though I was 59 years old, and researchers can work up to 65 years […]. When I got home my contract of employment was terminated." The president of PIAC had been nominated again next year, and he knew it was the 55 years jubilee conference. You can not fire anyone who has such a project. [...] I was lucky that academician Mr. Ionel Haiduc helped me to run the event in Cluj, at the Babes-Bolyai University." What gave her encouragement was the support she received from researchers in the international world, outraged by the injustice that was done: "At PIAC there is a slot that is called "confessions". Everyone recounts what he did last year. I told them that last year I was fired. They were at the symposium and have seen what kind of a man Rotaru is. They said that they will announce it in universities and will inform their ambassadors in Bucharest, we will contact Mr. Oprescu and will up-date everyone about what is happening in Bucharest. [...] They fired all quality people, all people who had qualifications. [...] Now there are two researchers and a librarian."
Asked why a specialized research institute passed under a municipal library, the representatives of culture, education and tourism in the City Hall responded that this happened "as a result of a ruling by the council." Municipality representatives have not made any comment, according to D365.ro, about employee grievances. It also seems that aspersions are also being cast upon the integrity of Rodica Pop on the website http://www.cotidianul.ro, mentioning family favouritism and links with a Japanese company.
4. The abuse of staff
This was the first accusation to hit the headlines. It appeared shortly after the conference and all the information I have is from the email and reports in D365.ro: Testimonies of women slaves of the Director of the Metropolitan Library, 25 October 25, Andreea Bujor. This included audios and subsequently some rather shaky videos have appeared on YouTube as well as a recent report with more photographs.
It seems that employees eventually decided to talk about the nightmare they claimed to have been facing for many years, saying they were humiliated, insulted and exploited by their own Director: “Library workers complain that they have been terrorized for nearly two decades by the director of the institution, Lil Rotaru. In the 21st century, a man uses the employees of an influential institution as slaves: they are put to work, the women in the household, the men on construction.” D365.ro provided audio testimonies of women exploited by the Bucharest Metropolitan Library Director, their voices distorted to protect their identity.
"Lil Rotaru has been director for almost twenty years at the Metropolitan Library. Since he came into power, cleaners and drivers go through torment. In addition to normal working hours, the director forces them to come to his house and to continue their duties there. Without giving any money out of his pocket Lil Rotaru's household uses them as cooks, nannies, builders. For library employees it is common that institution and some staff cars depart daily for Bilciuresti and Buftea, which are two of the four houses of the Director.
Employees say that when he married Juliet the situation worsened. Instead of obeying the orders of a single tyrant, they now must obey his wife as well who, according to their stories, behaves badly and this breeds more and more discontent.
"We prepare all food, clean up, wash, iron. I took care of the child. Colleagues deal with gardening or building, "says one of the women." We are allowed no rest. We go to work there and stay for hours, then collect rubbish and put it in the car, so as not to leave it there. We take shifts during the timetable, but often come at seven to him. Once it is done, then we leave, no matter how late it is." She confesses. “I'm used to this routine. I know that it is not normal that we should be treated like this, but are resigned to it. We do not hope to receive any help.”
Other employees were working in his gardens. For example they planted almost 400 apple and plum trees and undertook a great deal of work on the construction of his huge villas. "If they were to ask us to do work in the garden, they say that the apples are counted, we must not eat one. […] None of us was allowed to use the toilet in the house. […] We dare ask for a bottle of water, we were terrified, we could not do it. They never gave us even a glass of water, […] and if we drink water from the hose, Mrs. Juliet grabs the hose and pulls it out of our hands. […] The men too were always upset that they did not seem to work satisfactorily. They had brought some tulips from Holland, they had to plant them and then had them take each of the bulbs out and move them elsewhere ...”
The director apparently reminded them constantly that the relationships he has in City Hall are solid. In addition, they say they have nowhere to find another job and fear to be left starving. "We do not have the courage to defend our rights. If I say anything, he says okay, tomorrow you’re out in the street; there many others who want to take it on," says one of the employees.
Problems in the Metropolitan Library were eventually reported by one of the employees. Encouraged by her son, who took photographs of conditions at the houses, she decided to break the silence and warn about the situation employees find themselves in. She sent a letter to Mayor Oprescu mayor and other representatives of the Municipality of Bucharest - a move that could cost her job, but it has not helped in any way so far. Although the letter was not signed, she gave the names of all those who were ill-treated by Rotaru and his wife and spoke of the work undertaken at the homes of the Director in Bucharest, Buftea and Bilciuresti. “Buftea is a palace which was constructed during the renovation of the headquarters of the library. I saw with my own eyes the library workers and engineers working in Buftea.” The writer of this letter and other staff also make personal comments about the life style of the family which it is not appropriate to repeat here. There are also reports of two car accidents on the journeys to and from Buftea in which library staff Constantin Vladulescu, Aurel Mangeac and Georgiu Ghimis were injured and hospitalized. A video does show damaged cars at a property somewhere in the country, but impossible to verify as one of Rotaru’s estates.
5. Other irregular goings-on
The allegations descend into farce at this point, becoming almost unbelievable, as the following report demonstrates: Sexy debauchery in Metropolitan Library, right next to director’s office, 21 November 2012
A naked blonde has been photographed in lascivious poses, involving books, inside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest, an institution financed from the budget of the Municipality of Bucharest. In the same building can be found Florin Rotaru's office. He claims that he has no idea what is going on in his own institution.
Roxana Nemes is a blonde who posed naked in the Metropolitan Library for wowbiz.ro. Books purchased from Bucharesters money, even children's books about wild animals, were used as a kind of fig leaf to cover the starlet's private parts.
Library director, Florin Rotaru claimed to B 365.ro that he did not know anything about this event, which took place on the ground floor of the headquarters of the institution he heads, and is where its head office is located: "I do not know. No one told me anything. I do not know how this happened." said the director. Director Florin Rotaru. The event triggered an internal investigation into the library to find out who took pictures of the naked blonde in the library headquarters.
The librarian who allowed photographers to take pictures in the Library says that the photos were taken at around 16:30 - outside office hours, she said, adding that he knew that nude photos would be made. She says that the door to library room where the photos were taken was closed and therefore she did not know what was happening inside as she waited in the hallway. Staff testimony suggests that Roxana Nemes also posed with naked breasts in the library lobby in front of the handsome fireplace that I had admired on my visit to the library, so she was not only in the library room. Pictures from the shoot can be seen on wowbiz.ro and are worth looking at to show the poor presentation of the library bookstock, without spine labels and perfunctory shelf guiding.
So, what will happen about all these allegations? Although B 365.ro reported irregularities that occur in the Metropolitan Library, City Hall representatives did not immediately respond to any of claims regarding the situation within the institution. One of the most recent reports when I started to look into the situation is the following:
Oprescu has extended the mandate of the director of the Metropolitan Library, 10 January 2013, Andreea Bujor. In the midst of an investigation initiated by the City Hall into the Metropolitan Library into alleged illegal activities by Florin Rotaru, Oprescu the mayor, decided to extend the mandate of the director, which expires on January 7, for six months. Florin Rotaru never had any competition for the position of director and has been in charge of the Metropolitan Library for nearly 20 years. […]
An there was more dirt waiting to be dug, as demonstrated by a report made after the date of the original email: Oprescu’s protégé’s fancy car: Florin Rotaru has the money from the institution by a trick, 25 February 2013, Andreea Peony. When the 2012 budget was passed the Director of the Metropolitan Library, Florin Rotaru received money from the City Hall to purchase a pick-up that was required to transport library books. In the budget amendment, Rotaru turned the pickup into a van. The result: with over 30,000 Euros allocated for purchasing this vehicle, Rotaru bought a luxury car, which he uses for the personal use himself and his wife. The law currently prohibits the purchase of cars for employees of state and local institutions.
Exeter, June 2013
As I was wondering where all this would lead, I discovered another report after returning home from our latest round of travels: Director of Metropolitan Library, sacked after irregularities disclosed, B365.ro SPECIAL, 3 April 3, 2013
“Mayor Oprescu has ordered the termination of the contract of Florin Rotaru as manager of the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest, starting on 4 April 2013. The measure was taken after an investigation by the Control Directorate and the Directorate of Internal Audit of Bucharest City Hall, at the request of the Mayor according to a statement by the Municipality. Checks were ordered after B365.ro warned of numerous illegal actions by director Florin Rotaru. The mayor has announced that legal action will be taken.” The report showed that many of the deficiencies are the result of poor management due to ignorance or insufficient knowledge of the legal provisions in force, and inefficient administration, employment and use of local resources. It also revealed other inappropriate purchases for a public library in 2012: a set of Masonic awards purchased for 35,000 Lei and a bullfight poster Plaza del Toros Palma de Mallorca. Grandiosa corrida de toros costing 3,500 Lei.
The news article reveals another decision Florin Rotaru was involved in. He apparently refused a contract with the company that won a public tender for repairs and renovations at 15 library branches. The firm successfully sued the library, so the Library was forced to honour the contract. But three days after signing the contract, the technical proposal of the Library was amended after the firm had won the tender. The number of branches that the company had to renovate dropped from fifteen to five branches. These are presumably the five branches referred to in the report in the American Libraries Magazine cited above.
A competition for the post of director of the Metropolitan Library will take place and in the meantime the Romanian writer and journalist Nicolae Iliescu has been appointed interim director.
I have recently received an email from Julieta Rotaru apologising that delegates had received “unwanted circulars in connection with the Library and “unnecessary calumnious information on my family” following the misuse of the database of symposium delegates.
It appears that work on the publication of the 2012 symposium proceedings is continuing, with an on-line version scheduled for September, but that the 2013 symposium will be deferred to 2014. There is a fear that the pages relating to previous symposia will be removed from the library website. The website D365.ro is described as “a calumnious obscure site” and the new policy of the new directorate sneered at as reflecting Rodica Pop’s view that the “public Library is for school pupils and pensioners”. She also defends the work of Jan Houben “who, together with Dr. Saraju Rath, have been termed as profiteers. Both the savants have voluntarily worked for establishing the new CEAS on modern bases, for attracting book donations from foreign institutions, for organizing annual intensive summer courses on Indian codicoloy [...]” She also claims that the campaign against herself and her husband was really intended to undermine the library’s position because of the “the highly rated location of the fin de siècle building hosting the main Library, the ownership of which has been disputed for 20 years. Florin Rotaru has established the historic truth of ownership based on archive documents and the history of the building is exposed on the Library website: a German property confiscated as war debts, then used by a Soviet corporation, claimed after 1989 by the alleged owners. After having lost the case in many lawsuits, the alleged owners have sold the rights litigation to the estate mafia. This is a phenomenon in Romania and the present government has received a notification from the E.C. to immediately revise the law which gives so many rights to this mafia. We are waiting for that law to be passed, with some hopes for our Library too. But we have soon a trial, and the beheaded Library will no longer defend its cause, our jurist being bought by the mafia, along with others.” Other emails from library staff also give the impression that there are those who feel that the change has not been for the better.
We are also referred to an article: What lies behind concerns for Oriental studies: building middlemen want to get hold of the Metropolitan Library. Apparently property developers have their eyes on the building which is valued at 5-6 million Lei but could be developed into a 30 million Lei speculation. All sourrounding properties have been “arranged”; only the Metropolitan Library remains. It would appear that there is a campaign to undermine those seeking to defend the Metropolitan Library building.
So, those of you who have stayed the course in this lengthy account can draw your own conclusions. Florin Rotaru has undoubtedly achieved much for the library over the years, even if some of his achievements are not what is expected of a normal public library service. The symposia have certainly brought together much valuable research over the years, even if their organisation and sources of funding could be criticised. Hopefully the research made public in this remarkable series of symposia will remain accessible to the world. But there is a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth and I would not attend any future symposia – come to think of it, I probably won’t be asked!