You are hereI*M Europe / Telematics / Libraries / Background 11/02/99
A-Z Subject index Libraries home page Supporting pages FR | DE | IT | ES News
Keep me informed
Daily libraries news
News archive
What's new?
Support Actions
External resources
National focal points
Test sites

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 Finland now listing 247 public libraries on the Web. This trend can be expected to continue as most countries now have firm plans in support of libraries in the Information Society , illustrated most recently by an ambitious new strategy in Ireland .

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 EU projects , but national projects - particularly those under eLib in the UK - have contributed significantly. And last but not least, concerted efforts in the area of public libraries , 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, EBLIDA , provide useful guidance on developments.

European library resource pages

The BUBL Web server from the University of Bath contains many interesting links as does the UK Office of Library and Information Networking, UKOLN, also at Bath. The section on Public Libraries 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.

Our own general resource page provides additional details of European sources.

Information on the world of libraries

Perhaps the best all-round site for information on the world of libraries is IFLA , 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 in Dallas.

Public libraries

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 ALA Website 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 public libraries page and in theHarden lists 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 French German Italian and Spanish 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 projects 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 metadata 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 and elsewhere in our resource pages , 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. 

European Commission 
DG XIII/E-4 Telematics for Libraries
Contact person: Ian Pigott

Home - Gate - Back - Top - Lib int - Relevant

Children's page
Distance learning
Music libraries
Public libraries
Green paper
IST Information Day
FP5 Calls
Back to Top
EC Home Page
Personalised I*M Europe
DGXIII Home Page
Site map
About this site