Electronic libraries and the information society If the information society is to develop quickly from a technological concept to a universal consumer environment, like today's networked telephone and television services, it will have to attract user interest at the level of the general public. In this context, information, ... If the information society is to develop quickly from a technological concept to a universal consumer environment, like today's networked telephone and television services, it will have to attract user interest at the level of the general public. In this context, information, entertainment and communication services will be the main attractions. The European Commission has set out the potential role of libraries in this process. Improved access to public information improves quality of life, enhances the image of public authorities, promotes democratic values, and can provide support for economic development and social services. In many countries, public libraries play a significant role in the promotion and supply of public information services on an affordable basis, particularly for important population sectors such as young people, students, small professional and business enterprises, the elderly, and other socially and economically excluded groups. Public libraries have already led the way towards a wider awareness that the world of information reaches beyond the book to all media resources. Many have been among the pioneers in using computer and telecommunications-driven data processing to make catalogues and other information more generally and easily available, offering their clients on-line access to other library collections, whether regionally, nationally or internationally. Until such access becomes truly user-friendly, the help of a welcoming librarian is often the most effective first introduction to the potential of the information society. Tomorrow's libraries will have no walls and librarians will be essential navigators and brokers in the global world of information and media resources. Public library networks are therefore an ideal testing ground for possible solutions to many of the difficulties of regulation and coordination which frustrate progress towards critical mass use of new technology. In areas like networking standards or multi-media management, particularly in the public information sector, today's libraries are already confronting some of the key challenges of the information society. The European Commission's Libraries programme fosters a wide range of programmes designed to create an environment which allows libraries to offer network-based services to end users, to stimulate library cooperation, resource sharing and networking, and to develop telematics systems for the extension of library services. In most EU Member States there are practical examples of pilot projects in the public information sector, some of them with a transfrontier dimension, often working with EU support. The European Union's institutions themselves have libraries with professional staff with on-line and networking experience. Together, these provide a basis for rapid and effective development in the context of the information society.