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Green Paper on the Role of Libraries
in the Information Society

Updated: 23 OCT 98

Latest news - the Commission to move forward on a Communication

On 23 October 1998 in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted almost unanimously Mrs Ryynänen's report on the Role of Libraries in the Modern World . The report called on the European Commission and the Member States to support a number of measures in regard to consolidating the growing role played by libraries in organising widespread access to knowledge. An amendment on the need for European legislation on the use of permanent paper was also adopted. Congratulating Mrs Ryynänen on her comprehensive report, Commissioner Franz Fischler announced that the Commission would now begin work on a Communication stimulating concertation on all the important aspects affecting modern library services and citizen's access to them. The Communication would address a number of specific issues now facing libraries including lifelong learning, copyright, literacy, regional information services and public library collaboration on access to knowledge. It would also lead to more focus on R&D activities involving libraries under the Fifth Framework Programme.

The English version of the report is directly accessible from: . The other language versions can be found from thePlenary Sessions page of the European Parliament web site by searching by rapporteur and entering Mrs Ryynänen name or just "Ryyn*".


A report on The Information Society, Culture and Education by the European Parliament's Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, draftswoman: Eluned Morgan, proposed among other things that the Commission should draft a Green Paper on the role of libraries in the Information Society. A motion for a resolution in connection with the report was debated and approved at the March 1997 session of the European Parliament. One of the relevant amendments was that public libraries should provide CD-ROMs for their users. The revised version of the report and motion for a resolution containing the various amendments is now available.

The question of how libraries can support citizens' access to information has also been raised independently by the Council and the Commission.

The Telematics for Libraries sector welcomed the recommendation in the Morgan report calling for a Green Paper on the role of libraries in the Information Society. We have therefore collected information and facts on national policies and libraries in the Information Society as we believe the issue is a timely one.

The Green Paper's main purpose will be to stimulate discussion towards a coherent approach on how, within the context of the evolving Information Society, libraries can best serve the needs of European citizens by providing mediated access to the growing wealth of digital resources. We have already made significant progress in compiling relevant material in line with the following strategy:

Strategy followed

The need to ensure that the citizens of Europe are able to access the wealth of digital information resources is one of the key yet complex issues receiving attention by policy makers involved in the development of the Information Society.

The Green Paper should therefore invoke responses on options for future coordinated action at the European level aimed at:

  • improving conditions for citizens' access to information resources by addressing the legal, technical, economic and policy issues which can enhance or inhibit access via libraries;
  • assisting libraries in meeting the needs of citizens, for example by recommending suitable infrastructures, alliances and training measures.

Another important issue is the contribution that libraries can make to the key societal challenges recognised in recent EU documents. Here, there is a need to identify the barriers or problems - and their implications for libraries - in the transition to the Information Society. For example:

  • the need to help citizens to benefit from the Information Society, including the provision of access points and services for those without their own means;
  • the need to ensure freedom of access to information and knowledge while maintaining a fair balance between the interests of producers and users regarding copyright and other rights;
  • the relative difficulty for users in certain regions to access networked information resources owing to disparities in the technical infrastructure;
  • the danger that access to certain information resources could be curtailed by commercial interests leading to a widening gap between the information rich and the information poor;
  • the cost of extending library services to the Information Society while maintaining long-term access to traditional and digital resources.

The relevance of pertinent policy initiatives by countries outside the EU will also be considered, for example the US Government's decision to expand their Universal Service Obligations to include Internet access for schools and libraries.

The Green Paper will build on the ideas emerging in the Member States on the role of libraries in the Information Society in order to stimulate more systematic debate of the key issues and concerns and to identify those areas in which European solutions would be desirable.

Additional background information

Our page on National and Global Initiatives on Libraries in the Information Society is frequently updated as we learn of pertinent policy developments.

In addition, we are have country-by-country background information on Austria Belgium Denmark Finland ,France Germany Greece Iceland Ireland Italy Luxembourg , the Netherlands Norway Portugal Spain ,Sweden and the United Kingdom . This is based on a number of sources including the UNESCO Statistical Yearbooks , the European Commission's Library Economics in Europe report, the Public Libraries in the Information Society Report , the NORDINFO State of the Art of Information Technologies in Nordic Libraries and a variety of national sources including those listed on the National Programmes page and specific communications from our National Focal Points and other national experts.

Country information is also available from the reports compiled by the National Focal Points on the situation of Libraries, museums and archives in the EU Member States and EFTA Countries.

Those who can offer additional pertinent information, particularly in connection with the country reports should inform

European Commission 
DGXIII Telematics for Libraries 
Contact: Concha Fernandez de la Puente 


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