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Telematics for Libraries - Projects


Updated: 07 SEP 98

Project Number and Title
2032 - Speedy Retrieval of Information on the Telephone
Programme/Action line Call Topic(s) Start End Project Duration
in Months
FP 3/ III Theme 15 January 1994 February 1996 26
public library services; audiotex; speech synthesis; voice recognition

blue bullet Additional information is available from the SPRINTEL web site . (

New information products in libraries (Theme: 15)
Project description
The aim of the SPRINTEL project was to develop a prototype audio-text information service in a library environment.
The project has tested the effectiveness of voice recognition technology in information searching in the public library environment. Four public library authorities from Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands have cooperated in this research and have implemented the prototype service.
The purpose of the SPRINTEL project has been the general improvement of library services to the end-user. The SPRINTEL service allows staff and other resources presently devoted to quick reference enquires to be assigned to other areas, providing users with better quality services in the library. In addition access to quick reference services has been enhanced in terms of effectiveness and cost/benefit and has brought about an increase in the availability of specialised support services such as those for the handicapped.
The project aimed to be language independent and replicable. Tools and methodologies have been used to foster the development of SPRINTEL type services in public libraries throughout Europe. This innovative exploitation of available low cost technology will ultimately enhance public access to libraries and add important value to existing public library resources.
Technical approach
The project had four phases:
  • Phase 1 , the longest of the four, produced functional and technical designs of the entire system.
  • Phase 2 developed the designs into a prototype system, which included four database types:
    • local library services and activities;
    • community information and bibliographical references;
    • thematic information;
    • procedural data, help functions, call routing;
  • Phase 3 tested the prototype in three ways:
    • in-house technical testing and database optimisation;
    • by a controlled test group;
    • public testing;
  • Phase 4 prepared a marketing strategy prior to end-user release. It included a schedule of information dissemination.
The developed prototype handles enquiries using ICD (Input Controlled Dialogue) techniques.
The prototype will contain small easily accessible databases for quick reference type enquiries and for community information. The service and its information will be available on a 24 hour basis through normal telephone services from any phone equipped location.
The caller is guided to the required information by pre-recorded messages. The message path is invoked by machine-recognisable keywords elicited from the enquirer, who eventually receives factual information, or a reference, or is transferred either to an operator or to procedural help.
Key issues
  • the testing of voice recognition (VR) technology as an information retrieval tool in a library environment ;
  • development of VR tools and technologies for libraries in the EC which are vendor/system independent;
  • development of database management tools for non-expert library staff;
  • investigation of improvements in library services .
Impact and results
The project has resulted in a service based on a product which is independent of language, speaker and telephone interface and which can be used by European libraries at low cost.
SPRINTEL has important implications for efficiency improvement and cost containment in public libraries, at a time when the general public's expectations of the service have risen and people are increasingly more critical consumers of information.
Users can enjoy access to library information 24 hours per day wherever they happen to be.
Library services will also be more available to customers liable to have access problems, such as the disabled, the housebound, people with limited mobility and those with reading difficulties.
Library services in general ca benefit from the release of skilled staff from mundane telephone duties to direct library activities.
The main outcome of SPRINTEL has been a prototype system which proves the concept to be highly effective.
The primary publication, the Functional and Technical Systems Description is classified as confidential.
Information is available from the and from:
+32-16 23 49 29
+49-2351-171 422
+353-1 676 77 39
+31-10 437 08 59


Name of Institution/Organisation Postal Code / City Country
Centrale Openbare Vaerenbergh, Provincie Brabant, LIB-Sprintel B - 3000 LEUVEN BE
Title, First Name, Name Mr. Dirk VAN EYLEN Address: L. Vanderkelenstraat 28
Tel: +32-16-20 83 10 Fax: +32-16-23 40 06
E-mail 1: E-mail 2:

Other Partners

Name of Institution/Organisation Country Role
Dublin Public Libraries IRL P
Nederlands Bibliotheek & Leektuur Centrum NL P
Stadtbücherei Lüdenscheid DE P
Stentor Speech Products BE P

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