Internet and the Library Sphere:
Further Progress for European Libraries
Updated: 28 JAN 99
Since this document was last updated in April, there has been considerable progress in the development of public library sites across Europe in terms of both quality and quantity. Services include sophisticated catalogue access for their users as well as links and guidance to other topics of interest (local and regional services, general reference, distance education, support for children, external resources). The strongest level of participation now appears to be in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands with
now listing 247 public libraries on the Web. This trend can be expected to continue as most countries now have
in support of
libraries in the Information Society
, illustrated most recently by an ambitious new strategy in
There is, of course, a vast amount of networked information on libraries, initially from North American sources but now increasingly from Europe and the rest of the world. Not only have sites been created for over 100
, but national projects - particularly those under
in the UK - have contributed significantly. And last but not least, concerted efforts in the area of
, have added a wealth of accessible resources in a wide variety of languages.
Searching for information on libraries
There are many indexes of libraries on the Web but unfortunately they have not been systematically updated in recent months. One starting point is the is Thomas Dowling's
Libraries on the Web
index which provides a number of links to other indexes.. One of the best European sources is the
Public Libraries of Europe
site maintained by Sheila and Robert Harden with its comprehensive list of public libraries and other key library sources for each European country. In addition, the
national library associations
and the European umbrella organisation,
, provide useful guidance on developments.
European library resource pages
BUBL Web server
from the University of Bath contains many interesting links as does the UK Office of Library and Information Networking,
, also at Bath. The section on
is well worth a visit.
Helsinki City Library
, the first public library in Europe to join the Web, offers an excellent series of resource pages.
The Gabriel initiative provides comprehensive links to
Online services of Europe's national libraries
covering catalogues and services for Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.
Information on the world of libraries
Perhaps the best all-round site for information on the world of libraries is
, the International Federation of Library Associations. Well developed indexes are also maintained at the
US Library of Congress
, at Illinois'
Northwestern University Library
, at the
Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Community Learning
and at the
Summer Institute of Linguistics
Public libraries have a special place on the Web scene as they are now play an increasingly important role in providing generalised access to networked information as well as to their own catalogues and services. An interesting information source in this connection is the
St Joseph County Public Library
in South Bend, Indiana, which maintains a worldwide list of
Public Libraries on the Internet
For some time the United States and Canada have been able to display long lists of public library sites. The
reports that the 1998 National Survey of Public Library Outlet Internet Connectivity found that 84 percent of public libraries in suburban communities, 73 percent of libraries in urban areas and 68 percent in rural areas provide Internet connections for the public.
Europe offers comparable levels of access in many countries. A key source here is
Public Libraries of Europe
compiled by Sheila and Robert Harden which provides comprehensive lists of public library sites on a country-by-country basis.
It is estimated that well over 1000 public libraries in some 30 European countries are now on the Web, the leaders being Finland (247), Sweden (132), the UK (112), Denmark (107), Germany (102), the Netherlands (72), Lithuania (51), Spain (56) and Norway (45). Recent additions include the Czech Republic (29) and Portugal (3). Russia also has a list of 26 public reference libraries on the Web.
These sites vary between rudimentary information on addresses and opening hours to full access to OPACs and/or to a variety of local and external services. Some interesting examples are available on our
page and in the
Public Libraries of Europe
where they are marked with a star.
The language problem
One of the major problems in accessing European resources is of course language. While some countries maintain many of their Web resources in English, others now make increasing use of their national language(s). This means that searches for specific items (e.g. distance learning) do not "hit" potentially interesting documents in Europe as a whole. We try to keep abreast with key developments in other languages, particularly
and we also maintain resource pages on key topics (see sidebar).
One answer to this problem is to restrict your search to the language in question. The main search engine providers are beginning to offer facilities of this types and many small companies are developing
tools for individual languages
Co-funded library projects under the Telematics programme
Access to over 100 Telematics for Libraries
is available directly from partners' Web sites. In some cases, a wide range of project information is provided complete with progress reports and public deliverables, in others information is confined to a summary of key items of interest. Some projects use the Web for communicating between partners and for testing out Web-based services. In such cases, some of the information may be password protected.
Improving the visibility of our work
There is, however, a continuing need for us to ensure that information about the library scene in Europe, including our Telematics for Libraries projects, enjoys more visibility. Searches on a given topic do not always list the pertinent European projects, possibly because the pages documenting them are not correctly or extensively registered. Often, only if a search is made on the basis of the project acronym can the relevant page or pages be found. Coordinators of projects and support activities should therefore ensure that their Web pages are properly registered with all the key search engines and take the time to fill in the questionnaires provided for registration by adding as much pertinent information as possible. Use of
in this connection is encouraged.
We have communicated the URL of our
Telematics for Libraries
homepage to many of the sources listed in this document, suggesting that they include reciprocal links in their own pages. Many have now done so. Libraries and related participants offering Web-based services and resources are encouraged to do likewise and also to make themselves known to us. Our site has consistently been one of the most successful on the I*M Europe server with monthly accesses now averaging about 30,000. We hope that this will contribute to stimulating wider interest in the wide range of Web services now being offered by libraries across Europe.
the business functional requirements of the libraries and the facilities
DG Information Society
Cultural Heritage Applications Unit