The importance of documentation has already been underlined several times, but it is probably worth emphasizing the critical role it plays in translation once again here, where we are directly concerned with the provision of documentation. We have already seen that producing a translation involves having acces to reference documents which can be numerous, are not always supplied by the requesting service and can be hard to find. Apart from direct reference materials, translators and terminologists frequently require other documentation during the research phase of doing a translation in order to establish correct terminology, to check usage, to consult previous translations or to find citations.
With the growth of the European Union and of the information society, the mass of documentation produced becomes ever greater, and the task of finding the relevant documentation becomes ever more complex. The role of specialist documentalist services subsequently becomes even more important.
The services of documentalists are available through the documentation centres (one per language in each of Brussels and Luxembourg), as well as through the Terminology unit's Reference Library (AGL 3). The terminology centres, although spatially separate, are coordinated by AGL 1.
The work of the documentalists focuses on the management of documentary resources, the collection of new resources and research in the resources available and in other data bases to find the solution to specific problems.
The documents available include standard works - monolingual, bilingual or multilingual - originating from outside the Commission, such as monographs, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, yearbooks, updates etc. Some CD-Roms have been acquired recently. They also include works originating from the Commission itself: the Official Journal of the European Communities, preparatory documents (COM, SEC, ...), reports (statistical and general), Bulletin of the European Union and so on. The official Commission documents are available in all Union languages.
Materials are collected either through direct purchase or acquired from the Commission and other institutions.
Finally, scientific, technical and linguistic reviews originating from outside the Commission are obtained by subscription. Not all languages can be equally covered. (There is a strong and growing tendency, for example, for the scientific community to publish a great deal in English, and very little in, say, Danish or Greek.)
The specialist magazines are distributed to both the translators and the terminologists, and the relevant articles are indexed in Terminology's local documentary database, TRADOC, which contains references to Terminology's stock of books and articles. Some AGL 1 documentation centres have a separate documentary system or database covering their own specific needs.
Research is done in response to requests from translators and terminologists, and typically involves searching the Community data bases. The latter include
In the course of their work, documentalists often need to contact requesting departments or national bodies, for example ministries, geographical institutes etc., in order to conduct their researches.
The documentalists also make use of data bases external to the Commission services, and would like access to more still. Several people, translators and terminologists, pointed out that one problem in consulting a wide range of different data bases was that the means of access and of query varied from data base to data base. The help of documentalists and others who had acquired specialist knowledge in this respect was much appreciated.
The clientèle of the documentation services is very wide. As well as translators and revisers, requests from officials outside the SdT, from interpreters and from freelance translators are also received. This gives rise to a growing problem; more and more interpreters and freelances address their queries directly to the documentation services, taking it for granted that the service will also undertake documentary research and supply glossaries, on demand. The service cannot meet all the requests made, and there seems to be no clear policy about which requests they should try to meet. Even, on occasion, the service can be unsure about whether it has the right to give out some of the material requested. A document distributed to all staff, ``Guide d'accès aux documents de la documentation'', sets out guidelines on confidentiality issues and the procedures for third party access to Commission documents, but only covers the procedural aspects of giving access to full documents. Some practical guidelines tailored to SdT needs and concerning the distribution of excerpts from documents, glossaries etc., might prove useful here.
As one of the people interviewed put it, the documentalists are at the centre of the information revolution. Ways of work are changing rapidly, and with them expectations of what can be provided in what form, but new ways of working have not yet settled into their proper place.