17 January 2006
Research reveals significant gaps in digital R&D programmes of national libraries of European Union New Member States
The vision is a shared European heritage network. The aim of the European Commission Information Society Technologies Programme is to ensure better access to resources by fostering European partnerships and increasing the participation of new member states in EU research activities. A recent survey of new member states under TEL-ME-MOR looked at how well the new member states national libraries are achieving or can achieve this goal. The resulting report is aimed at the European and national policy-makers, library specialists, and the managers of the EU research networks in cultural heritage (e.g. MINERVA).
The survey revealed what makes it difficult or impossible for National Libraries to be actively involved in research and development programmes. The issues range from intellectual, financial and organisational to the management experience of digitised and born-digital content, the size of digital collections, application and adoption of international standards and technological infrastructure. The result is that only 4 of the 10 libraries surveyed had significant amounts of digitised content.
The capabilities of these libraries vary. Those of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia have been involved with more European R&D projects and have also built considerable infrastructure such as digitisation facilities, mass storage systems, web harvesting, and search and retrieval gateways.
National libraries have a huge role to play in the preservation and accessibility of our cultural heritage. They are often the custodians of legal deposit and the national cultural heritage. To fulfil their role in the vision of a shared European heritage the survey concludes that libraries should find a more prominent role in their national R&D programmes; that more resources need to be digitised and new funding models uncovered and that more effective systems for the management of research need to be put in place. The European Commission should help create the conditions needed for international collaborative networks and sharing knowledge and expertise. The gap between technological innovation and its widespread application in society, split between infrastructural, human and social elements of cultural heritage R&D, needs to be overcome at the European level.
The report of the “Questionnaire for Analysis of Research Activities and Needs of National Libraries of the New EU Member States” can be downloaded here. It gives considerable detail on the state of research and digitisation of resources in the national libraries of the New Member States. The report was commended by CENL (Conference of European National Librarians), who would like to see it extended to all its 45 member national libraries.
For more information on the report and its methodology please contact the report authors: Zinaida Manžuch email@example.com or Adolf Knoll firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about TEL-ME-MOR please contact Toomas Schvak (email@example.com)
TEL-ME-MOR supports the 10 national libraries from the New Member States, that are partners in the project, in becoming full members of The European Library , an initiative established under the aegis of the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL), providing unified access to the electronic resources of the main European National Libraries as well as to other library services.