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Extracts from Country Studies: Germany

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The study on Libraries in the information society has so far resulted inter alia in 5 case studies and 9 country and regional studies. The following extract reflects the highlights only - the full text will be available upon publication of the final report.
Table of content

Notable changes to traditional public library services
New services in Public Libraries
Inspiring examples of Public Libraries
Main barriers to development
Professional development of public librarians
Regional cooperation

Notable changes to traditional public library services:

The most outstanding change in German public libraries within the last three years has been a decisive step forward in the introduction of integrated library systems in big and small libraries. Out of 4,397 German public libraries some 850 or 20% are computerised, but to differing degrees. About 30 different systems are in use.

The introduction of OPAC's signified a big change for staff and users. Increasing use is made of externally available bibliographic records. So far only few public libraries have online access to union catalogues, but, in the case of Ulm accessing the South-West Union Catalogue, the hit rate is 90%. A pilot project involving the public libraries in Reutlingen and Munich offers them on-line access to the booksellers database through EDI based on EDIFACT standards and X.400 software. Self-borrowing units (often in combination with machines for paying fees or fines), connected to the security system and interfacing with the automated system are reported as working successfully in Cologne , Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Leipzig.

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New services in Public Libraries:

IT related new services are not very frequent in German public libraries. Many public libraries are now offering an OPAC, but only a few an inhouse CD-ROM network for OPAC use. The InfoThek project by the public libraries of Bremen, Chemnitz and Cologne offers a user friendly multimedia hypertext information system for access to the OPAC, to CD-ROM and a community information service. In Bremen there is an on-line connection between the server and the community information kiosks (some installed in branch libraries). The software is now available to all libraries.

Paderborn was the first public library in Germany where customers could book computer time for their special interests and private needs and use up-to-date peripheral units and other devices. The childrens' departments of Cologne, Paderborn, Munich and Stuttgart offer multimedia PCs with interactive educational software and games, accompagnied by special training courses like More bits for kids (in Munich). The Mediothek of Stuttgart public library offers a sophisticated media mix combined with advanced computer equipment and access to the Internet. An outstanding example of using IT for disabled customers is a reading computer for the blind in Cologne.

Remote access to the OPAC is offered by several big city libraries (e.g. Berlin, Bremen, Chemnitz, Dresden , etc). Communication by remote users via voice processing techniques or via a push button telephone are both in use at Berlin Central Library; the public library Ludenscheid participates in the EU project Sprintel for information dissemination by a voice processing computer.

The burning issue is public access to the Internet: Berlin Central Library is planning to become a direct supplier of its own multimedia products derived from its historical Berlin collection directly to the end user - public libraries Cologne, Berlin and Stuttgart provide information selected from the net and document FAQs and search strategies for their users. They all offer public Internet terminals for users, some libraries intend to open Internet Cafes.

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Inspiring examples of Public Libraries:

The country report for Germany cites the following libraries:

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Main barriers to development:

The political structure of Germany (independance of federal states, decentralized responsibility for public libraries, no library legislation), lack of appropriate funding (expensive equipment, high communication costs, restrictive budgetary system), human problems (not enough time for training, psychological barriers regarding IT, seeing librarianship as mainly cultural and not information work) and other technical and legal barriers hinder progress. The traditional differences between academic and public libraries still exist, although they should be obsolete in this age of IT based work in all libraries.

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Professional development of public librarians:

All 5 German library schools regard IT competence as key qualification for the professional, and have changed the curriculum accordingly, sometimes creating new profiles for their professors. Stuttgart and Hamburg created completely new courses with new degrees.

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Regional cooperation:

In general, there is little practical cooperation and networking amongst public libraries in Germany. Outstanding examples exist in Hannover ( HOBSY cooperation between public and academic libraries), in Saxony ( Sachsen-OPAC offering access to public and academic catalogues) and Cologne and Duisburg, offering an online search service to smaller public libraries. Cable Book Library

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