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Updated: 15 MAR 99 

Concertation Meeting on Public Libraries
Luxembourg, 8 March 1999

European Commission
DG XIII-E2, Cultural Heritage Applications

Agenda of the meeting


Axel Szauer, opening the meeting and welcoming the participants on behalf of the Commission, explained that the day's main objective was to ensure greater mutual awareness of all public library projects.

Many similar areas of interest were being addressed:

  • analysing user requirements,
  • integrating new electronic services with the traditional ones;
  • introducing users to the new possibilities of the information society;
  • disseminating project information and results via the web or in brochures, press reports, journal articles, conferences;
  • making newly developed services more widely available;
  • defining priorities for extensions or improvements.

The meeting would also provide an opportunity for project participants to learn of some important developments in national policy in relation to public libraries. Progress here would be useful input for the policy conference planned to take place in Copenhagen on 14 October.

The most important outcome would however be the opportunity for all those present to meet people from difference projects and different countries who are involved work of common interest.


The meeting was organised by the European Commission, DG XIII/E-2 in close collaboration with PubliCA , the concerted action for public libraries. It was a one day meeting from 10.00 to 16.30.

The morning was devoted to project presentations, first by PubliCA and then by 6 individual projects (see agenda). The projects mainly emphasised the results achieved, the problems encountered and their future plans, including exploitation plans for completed projects.

The afternoon consisted of a session on Concerted actions (ECUP/TECUP, HARMONICA, EXPLOIT), of two panel discussions on areas of common interest (user requirements and web-site development) and of examples of national policies (Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland).

Jan van Vaerembergh, coordinator of PubliCA, concluded the meeting by summarising the main issues arisen and by making recommendations for continued concertation betweeen projects involved with public libraries and how projects can assist in achieving the objectives of the Leuven declaration (see PubliCA site).

Project presentations

Jan van Vaerenbergh presented PubliCA, the concerted action for public libraries whose overall purpose is to support development and enhancement of public library services throughout the European Union and recently also in the Central and Eastern European countries.

A few statistics on the involvement of public libraries in the Libraries programme were provided, showing an under-representation of public libraries in the programme. The PubliCA genesis, strategic developments and main actions undertaken so far were outlined.

The Leuven Communique (after the PubliCA workshop in Leuven, on 22nd August 1998) and the future Policy Conference (Copenhagen, 14-15 October 1999) were mentioned as two of the main actions featuring the activity of PubliCA .

Stress was given to the need for concertation among public libraries, within the broader library sector as well as within the national policies. PubliCA is committed to supporting projects in order to create public libraries services in Europe.

The ILIERS (Integrated Library Information Education and Retrieval System) and CHILIAS(Children in Libraries: improving multimedia virtual library access and information skills) presentations were scheduled one after the other, having a few common aspects.

ILIERS, completed in January 1998, developed a multimedia library information system to give all categories of library user more effective access to information available in the local public library and in the local community. The project will be commercialised in the next future in the Scandinavian countries. Exploitation in other European countries is not planned at the moment.

CHILIAS, ended in October 1998, and recently renamed Infoplanet, developed four complementary and integrated applications in a WWW environment, namely a virtual children´s library, an interactive application for creative input from children, a discussion and feedback tool for use by children and an information skills tool. Chilias has enhanced the availability and accessibility of children's library services in the participating European libraries and established new collaborations across Europe. The project has been followed by a new European project, VERITY - Virtual and Electronic Resources for Information skills Training for Young people. Under the coordination of University of Sunderland, UK. VERITY started in April 1998 and will develop a new electronic library service aiming at the needs of young people between 13 and 19 years with a Virtual Librarian, a Referral Service and an information skills package for the target age group.

The fourth project presented was LISTED , Library Integrated System for Telematics-based Education. This project, completed in July 1998, was designed to develop the use of the latest technology to help to meet the needs of adult independent learners in public libraries. The project has been recently extended to cover a period of Central and East European involvement. The work of the project has involved the development of distance learning test-sites in six public libraries and developed an Extended Interactive Catalogue (EIC). The catalogue can be accessed from anywhere in the world via the internet and contains a searchable data-base of learning materials with about 200 titles.

DERAL , Distance Education in Rural Areas via Libraries, is one of the projects funded under the call for proposal 1996. The project started in May 1998 and looks at the role of public libraries and librarians in connection with distance education. It specifically focus on rural areas, addressing the unemployed and the elderly or disabled people who cannot normally attend university, college or high school. DERAL will provide a gateway to distance learning resources on the Web as well as guidelines for librarians and library users and a set of tools based on Internet technology and video-conferencing to allow libraries to act as brokers between the providers of distance learning courses and users. In order to do that the project will have first to identify the kind of users who need support and the typology of support to provide (Technical, educational, media support etc.). Practical problems (space problems, cost for telephone/ISDN connection) need to be taken into account.

HERCULE , like DERAL, was funded under the last call for proposal. HERCULE, Heritage and Culture through Libraries in Europe, started in January 1999 and will develop the concept of young European citizens as information consumers and producers in the emerging Information Society. It will bring together librarians, teachers, arts workers and young people to work with new technologies. The project will produce a web site for European schoolchildren as library users containing signposts to leaning resources linked to school curricula, validated by teachers and mapped by librarians. The project will thus provide opportunities for schoolchildren to share the local culture and heritage of their area with students from other European countries and to explore how this is being affected by current issues concerning the environment and sustainable development.

The last project presented during the morning session was LIBERATOR, Libraries in European Regions - Access to Telematics and Other Resources, This is a two years project that started in February 1998. Its main objective is to develop regional information services (RIS) based on public libraries networks and regional web sites. The project will achieve its goals through dissemination and exploitation activities.

The LIBERATOR consortium fully agreed with the views expressed in the PubliCA Leuven Communiqué concerning the future role of public libraries in the information society. The Keynote Report -Regional Information Services - a Role for Public Libraries in Europe, mentioned during the meeting, draws on an evaluation of the North of England RIS demonstrator and on resulting recommendations for the benefit of the other project partners. It also takes into account Policies and strategies for public libraries in the information society, in line with the 1996 study on Public Libraries in the Information Society (PLIS) undertaken for the European Commission.

Support actions

Copyright, music libraries and Pan-European exploitation of the Libraries projects results were presented by ECUP/TECUP, HARMONICA and EXPLOIT respectively. The technological developments towards digitization and enhanced electronic services confront libraries with increasing problems with regard to (electronic) copyright. 
ECUP+ aim is to enhance awareness among information professionals of copyright issues. ECUP+ is to follow-up the results achieved under the ECUP project. Its main objectives are: to continue making librarians aware of the implications of copyright on electronic services, to establish a focal point for questions on copyright and information on EU legislative developments in this area and to reinforce the position of libraries in discussions about copyright issues with the appropriate bodies.  
TECUP will analyse, define and evaluate a wide range of practical mechanisms for access to electronic information based on the uses as identified in the ECUP framework discussion which takes account of the needs of users, providers and rights owners.

HARMONICA, Harmonised Access & Retrieval for Music-Oriented Networked Information Concerted Action, aims to improve access through libraries (including public libraries) to music collections of different types, while taking into account the needs of various groups of users in the evolving world of networked information and interactive multimedia. Attention was focused on the fragmented situation concerning music and on the non existence of public music libraries (music collections are held in departments in public libraries). Public libraries should give more consideration to music.

EXPLOIT , designed to promote the results of EU library projects, was the last support action presented during the meeting. After a preparation phase consisting of project self-assessment, followed by analysis and clustering of results, EXPLOIT will organise a series of activities including development of presentations of results to be used at key events by professionals in the sector, the establishment of a European Web magazine and a database of relevant European and national projects and a series of exploitation workshops in conjunction with the major European events in the libraries and related sectors in EU and CEE.

In this connection EXPLOIT is organising a joint workshop with PubliCA to be held on 17 May 1999 in Rome, in conjunction with the Annual AIB Conference (16-18 May).

Panels on user requirements and web site development

Two short panel sessions provided a basis for an exchange of views on topics of common interest.

In regard to user requirements, it was agreed that there was a need to combine the move towards the development of new services contained in a project proposal with a sensible approach to obtaining initial reactions from a representative sample of users. The experience of librarians should also be taken into account in this connection as well as the need for them to take on new areas of technical competence and responsibility. It should also be remembered that requirements could change quite considerably during the course of projects as had been the case during the introduction of widespread use of the web.

In conclusion, it was recommended that projects should try to benefit both from existing experience of conducting surveys and from the results and reactions obtained. Care should however be taken to avoid meaningless statistical extrapolations from small, non-representative samples as these could be quoted out of context and lead to misunderstandings.

As for web-site development, it was recommended that librarians should not assume - as they often did - that everything needed to be done from scratch. However, once they mastered the right skills, librarians could use their experience to validate quality resources accessible through the web and could also contribute to guidelines for users. As a rule, web sites should specifically limit the scope of the resources they managed, particularly as it was impossible to update large collections of links effectively. In some countries, responsibility for different areas of web development could be shared out between different libraries.

Web sites should have a manageable structure, should allow users to navigate backwards and forwards without difficulty and should sift through potential links before mapping them onto resource pages. Provision should also be made for web site use by the visually disabled.

Session on National Policies

The last session scheduled for the meeting consisted of 4 brief presentation on the emerging national policies in Ireland, Italy, Finland and Spain.


Mrs Norma McDermott, Director of the Library Council of Ireland, presented the current situation in connection with the national policy in Ireland concerning public libraries. She mentioned the following initiatives:

  • The report "Branching Out, A New Public Library Service" is a comprehensive review of public library policy in Ireland. The need for a better service, a better ICT (Information and Communications Technology) infrastructure and a better stock. are identified as key issues in order to have a better library service. The general thrust of the recommendations in the report is that a wide-ranging programme of improvements should be agreed between library authorities and the Department, with An Chomhairle Leabharlanna / The Library Council providing advice and research expertise to library authorities and fulfilling some project management roles on behalf of the Department. ( 
  • The National Policy on Libraries and Information Services Project An Chomhairle Leabharlanna is developing a framework for policy on Libraries and Information Services (LIS) in Ireland with the assistance of leading practitioners and key policy decision makers. This initiative aims to develop policy, to raise awareness, to consult directly with stakeholders and to propose solutions for staff, users and potential users of a wide variety of LIS. ( )


There are quite a lot of initiatives being undertaken in Italy in connection with public libraries although they are not appropriately promoted. The lack of information on Italian actions and initiatives in public libraries mainly depends on the library system in Italy, which, like in Spain, is highly decentralised, with public libraries depending on regional authorities.

Among the most relevant initiatives the following are worth to be mentioned:

  • Mediateca2000: an action plan launched by the Ministero dei beni culturali ed ambientali to develop and promote electronic information services and multimedia publishing in libraries. The aim is to create a national network of video and tape libraries and audiovisual archives. The plan is now in its second phase.
  • Within the Ministry of Cultural Activities a new department for the co-ordination of national policies will be open soon. The Italian Minister Malandri will be responsible for this department.
  • New public libraries will be open soon in Turin and Milan. A multimedia library is planned to be open in Easter in Bologna .


The Finnish library system is an organised network based on an extensive use of information and communications technology and information networks. In recent years, the Finnish Government has invested heavily in promoting library networking. Over 90% of library activities are computerised and about 90% of municipal libraries have Internet hosts. The libraries are also networking regionally. 
The Helsinki City Library ( ) acts as the central library for public libraries. 
The Library Act  ( was issued in Helsinki on 4 December 1998. This act prescribes the library and information services to be provided by municipal public libraries, and the promotion of these services both nationally and regionally. The act came into force on 1 January 1999 together with the Library Decree, issued in Helsinki on 18 December 1998.


Victoriano Colodron outlined the latest developments in Spain in connection with the use of Information and Communication Technologies in public libraries providing information on projects and initiatives planned for the future.

The newsletter "Correo Bibliotecario" and the Spanish translation of the PLIS study turned out to be two important means of dissemination to promote discussion and awareness on IT topics. The PLIS study turned out to be a useful tool of dissemination in Ibero-American Spanish speaking countries where it was distributed among key agents in the field of public libraries and used as working document in a meeting which took place in November 1998 in Cartagena de Indias, (Colombia), organised by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Argentinian National Library Conference, which will be held in Buenos Aires in April 1999, will be another occasion to present and promote the PLIS Study. Other initiatives mentioned are: 

  • The creation of a specific distribution list for public libraries
  • The launch, later this year, of a web site for Spanish Public Libraries
  • A project developing a Z39.50 client in Spanish to be distributed, free of charge, to public libraries. The client, being developed by a software company, will be available at the end of this year.
  • A pilot project aiming at harmonising interlibrary loans among the National library, regional libraries and one public library in each region. It is planned to extend this initiative to a larger number of public libraries in the next future.

Conclusions and recommendations

Involvement in strategic process, concertation, dissemination and exploitation are the main actions to focus on.

Access to information (electronic access, aimed at target groups), promotion of training, concertation and co-operation were identified as main steps within this strategic process. 
Concertation and co-operation is needed between libraries and software developers, information suppliers and other intermediaries but also among users. In this connection, the electronic newsgroups could play an important role.

Projects were recommended: 

  • To continue concertation and forum building
  • To focus on dissemination plans and objectives set
  • To speed up the exploitation plans

PubliCA in its role of support action will ensure and promote concertation between projects as well as among public libraries: 

  • Through initiatives promoting the exchange experience (web ring initiative)
  • Through horizontal actions: copyright issues, music PubliCA will also provide support in disseminating information:
  • By making deliverables and results available
  • Through PubliCA.Net
  • Through the country contacts

PubliCA will finally support the exploitation of projects: 

  • By making use of EXPLOIT presentation modules
  • By contributing to databases and web magazines
  • By participating in relevant events (workshops in Italy - 17 May 1999, in Spain, Policy conference, 14-15 October 1999)


Concluding the meeting on behalf of the Commission, Ian Pigott thanked all the participants for a very interested, if rather intensive exchange of views. Not only had the day served as an opening for closer contacts between projects working in similar areas, it had help to establish a clearer agenda for the future.

While further progress on policy issues could be expected from the Copenhagen conference in October, there was obviously a continuing need for closer collaboration on the project level. It would therefore be useful to arrange a further concertation meeting with public libraries in about a year's time when initial feedback would be available from the first FP5 call.

European Commission
DG XIII/E-2 Cultural Heritage Applications
Contact: C. Fernandez de la Puente

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