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The Role of Libraries
in the Information Society
Spain - Background Information


Updated: 05 NOV 98


In connection with research on the role of libraries in the information society , we have collected a fair amount of information on how the situation is evolving in different countries. This document provides background information on Spain.

Generic data

In 1993, Spain had 39.5 million inhabitants and an area of 504,782 sq. km., which gives a population density of 78 inhabitants per square kilometre.
In 1998, 39,099,429 inhabitants have been registered of which 1,153,300 illiterate (2,9%).

Higher education libraries

Higher education libraries in Spain had 1,131 service points in 1992. The number of volumes in book collections was 18 million and 959,000 volumes were added. In these libraries, there were 1.65 million registered users.

Public libraries

Public libraries in Spain had 4,880 service points in 1994. The number of volumes in book collections was 63.8 million and 2 million volumes were added. In these libraries, there were 5.3 million registered users in 1994.

Statistical data on libraries

The total number of titles in UDC classes in 1995 was 48.467, in comparison to 44,261 in 1994, 40,758 in 1993, 41,816 in 1992, and 39,082 in 1991.

The number of titles that entered in the legal deposit of the Spanish National Library are as follows:


Year Number of titles
1990
72193
1991
80468
1992
66905
1993
71586
1994
78023
1995
82075
1996
83345

The number of books with ISBN is as follows:


Year Number of books with ISBN
1990
40207
1991
43896
1992
50644
1993
49328
1994
51048
1995
51934
1996
50159
1997
54943

Of the total number of public libraries in Spain, 15 to 20% have a computerised library management system.. Nearly 100 of them subscribe to the Spanish Bibliography on CD-ROM, issued by the National Library, and 65 use the data in the REBECA database.

Data on the use of the different functions held by those systems are not available. However, generally speaking it can be said that cataloguing and circulation are automated and, to a lesser degree, so are acquisitions.

In Spain, 32 of 51 of the State public libraries have made their OPAC available via the Web.

Libraries and Internet

Communication through telematics among public librarians is not extensive. Only a few have e-mail facilities and even fewer participate in IweTel, the Spanish distribution list on librarianship. Remote access to information is still uncommon.

32 of the 51 State Public libraries are accessible at the Web server of the Secretaría de Estado de Cultura (Ministerio de Educación y Cultura). It is possible to search just one catalogue or the catalogues of all the State Public Libraries in a given region. In Spain, the National Library and the Conference of University Librarians have Websites. At least 55 municipal public libraries, those involved in project TECA, have videotex facilities.

The use and lending of CD-ROMs is increasing but it is still far from being generalised. No precise data are available about the total number of CD-ROM editions or CD-ROM players in Spanish public libraries. However, the 51 State Public Libraries as a whole had 174 CD-ROM editions at the end of 1994. A year later (December 1995), the number reached 703, a considerable increase in such a short period of time.

Regarding CD-ROM players, every State Public Library has at least one. Five of them have a CD-ROM network with a central server and capacity for 21 CDs and 5 multimedia PCs for users. A further 10 State Public Libraries were supposed to have the same CD-ROM equipment by the end of 1996.

Policy issues on libraries

No framework programme in the context of national policy exists in Spain to encourage the use of IT in public libraries or to support the development of the Information Society.

According to their administrative dependence, libraries can be classified into three main groups: State libraries, libraries depending on the Comunidades Autónomas (regional authorities) and municipal libraries.

The 51 State Public libraries, located at the main Spanish cities (with some exceptions), depend on the Ministerio de Educación y Cultura through the Dirección General del Libro, Archivos y Bibliotecas. The State is in charge of their co-ordination and automation, while the Comunidades Autónomas are responsible for their management, budget and staff.

Some other public libraries or library networks depend directly on the Comunidades Autónomas (regional authorities), but most of them depend on local authorities.

Every Comunidad Autónoma has its own library legal regulation. All of them have also created regional library networks or systems in which public libraries are included.

Since 1987, the Ministerio de Educación y Cultura has been developing Proinred, a project aimed at creating a telematic network among the 51 State Public Libraries. At present, all the State Public Libraries have an automated system thanks to this project. Proinred's main action line has been the provision to the State Public Libraries of the following equipment: basic UNIX servers, library management software, basic communications facilities (router and TCP/IP protocols, etc.), multimedia servers and various peripherical equipment.

Besides the automation initiatives taken by particular local authorities, the programme TECA has been the broadest one in the field of municipal libraries. TECA, developed between 1994 and 1995, was sponsored by the Federación Española de Municipios y Provincias with funds of the Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER). TECA involved 55 municipal public libraries which have been endowed with 3 personal computers, a database management system, a CD-ROM player and communications facilities (fax, videotex and modem). With this equipment libraries can get connected to the Spanish videotex network (Ibertext) and Internet.

The PNTIC (Information and Communication New Technologies Programme) aims at the introduction of new technologies in non-university teaching centres, equipping them with hardware, connecting them to the Internet through school libraries and automating school libraries.

The Ministry of Development has recently launched PISTA (Promotion and Identification of Emerging Advanced Telecommunication Services). It is intended to start projects and pilot actions that are operative in real environments and that use advanced network applications and services to satisfy the necessities of final users.

In the near future, a considerable increase in libraries offering Internet services to citizens is expected. It is also assumed that Internet is going to be the system commonly used to offer users remote access to information, instead of videotex or other options. An appropriate development of these trends could be restricted due to economical reasons. On the other hand, the introduction of these services would be worthless without an adequate training and development of the professional public librarians.

Additional background information

Information on Spain in Spanish is accessible from our Páginas Españolas .

Report on the situation of libraries, museums and archives prepared in February 1998 by the Spanish National Focal Point for the European Commission's Libraries Sector.


European Commission

DG Information Society
Cultural Heritage Applications Unit Contact:Digicult
e-mail: (email removed)


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