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The Role of Libraries
in the Information Society
The Netherlands - 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 the Netherlands.


Generic data

In 1993, the Netherlands had 15.3 million inhabitants and an area of 40844 sq. km., giving a population density of 374 inhabitants per square kilometre. Netherlands spent, in 1990, 0.28% of its GDP in libraries.

Higher education libraries

Higher education libraries in the Netherlands had 1039 service points in 1990. The number of volumes in book collections was 24.2 million. In these libraries, there were 223.6 registered users in 1990.

Public libraries

Public libraries in the Netherlands had 1192 service points in 1992. The number of volumes in book collections of 41.8 million. In these libraries, there were 4.5 million registered users in 1992 .

Statistical data on libraries

The total number of titles in UDC classes in 1993 was 34,067, up from 11,844 in 1992 and 11,613 in 1991.

The production of titles in the national bibliography ( it should be noticed that there is no difference between the title records of the national bibliography and “books in print”) has evolved in the last seven years according as follows:
Year Production of titles in the National Bibliography
1990 25039
1991 29879
1992 34523
1993 32295
1994 29717
1995 40561
1996 48952

Libraries and Internet

The foundations WSF-bibliotheken and Provinciale Bibliotheekcentrales have set up the Netwerk Innovatie Centrum Openbare Bibliotheken NIC-OP with the highly demanding goal of connecting all public libraries to the Internet within one or two years.

In the Netherlands, 46 public libraries provide a homepage on the Web, as well as 5 regional libraries and 4 libraries with national functions. There are 21 higher education libraries on the Web. In addition, 22 special libraries and documentation centres provide Web services and there are six sites with library networks and union/regional catalogues.

Policy issues on libraries

The Dutch information service is extensive and has many branches. It receives funds from the government amounting to around NLG 1.4 billion annually.

Attempts are being made to improve the provision of historical information in various towns and regions, with high encouragement from the Government for regions to collaborate and pool the resources of their municipal, district and state archives, involving libraries and museums, which will provide a response to the residents' need for easily accessible information about their town and district. This collaboration will also help to improve the quality and efficiency of the archiving system as a whole.

Although the archive sector has seen a number of significant developments, it is intended to take various steps to make archives more user-oriented, anchoring them more firmly in the society and as a part of the cultural infrastructure. The public archive sector should carry out its statutory duties in relation to digital as well as conventional archives, presenting the digitalisation of archives, society's memory, a formidable challenge. With a view to implementing by the year 2000 procedures for storing digital archives for public access, the Dutch Government believes it is vital to raise levels of expertise quickly, restructuring the course at the National School for Archivists and putting extra effort into in-service and refresher courses.

The preservation of paper holdings from the period from 1840 to 1950 form a significant and pressing problem because the types of paper and printing inks rapidly deteriorate, and preservation will cost about NLG 275 million. According to the Dutch Government, the institutions are responsible for the material that they hold. Nevertheless, an annual amount has been set aside as a contribution towards the costs libraries will incur.

Public libraries can help to prevent a social divide being created between those who have access to information and those who do not. This is why the Government thinks that all information of general interest ought to be available through libraries , in electronic and other forms. The role of libraries could be improved in relation to the past, since they can publish and process information themselves.


European Commission

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



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