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									Dialog mit Bibliotheken, 13. Jahrgang. 2001, Nr. 2, p. 6 – 8

Marco de Niet, Susann Solberg

The „1st European Library Seminar”, June 10 – 12 in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Since its foundation in 1995 Gabriel1, the World Wide Web service of the European National
Libraries has established itself as the official network service of the Conference of European
National Librarians2 (CENL) and has undergone a continuous development. Gabriel is the
only trans-European library service with 41 libraries from 39 countries participating. Via
Gabriel access to varied information sources and numerous online catalogues and other
information services by the National Libraries of Europe is offered.
The service is supervised and maintained by an international board and small team, which is
co-ordinated by the National Library of the Netherlands. Although a small group of libraries
maintain the service from day to day, Gabriel is a shared responsibility of all the libraries
Since the beginning of Gabriel Internet know-how and services have advanced rapidly and
web services are now at the core of the libraries' strategic plans. Almost all CENL libraries
run professional web services, such as online catalogues, digital collections, virtual
exhibitions and tutorials. Many more users from across the globe now find their way into the
libraries than would have been possible in the physical world. The Gabriel service has
proven itself to be a valuable central entry point and it is used more heavily every year
In the year 2000 the directors of the CENL libraries decided on the modernisation of Gabriel.
Besides getting a bit old-fashioned, another reason for modernising Gabriel is the role it will
be playing for the development of "The European Library3 (TEL)". Funded as an
accompanying measure by the European Commission the project "The European Library"
started on 1 February 2001 with ten partners from eight countries.
          The objective of TEL is to set up a co-operative framework which will lead to a system
for access to the major national and deposit collections (mainly digital, but not precluding
paper) in Europe's national libraries. TEL will investigate how to make a mixture of traditional
and electronic formats available in a coherent manner to both local and remote users.
          The project will contribute to the cultural and scientific knowledge infrastructure within
Europe by handling technical and business issues associated with distributed access to
large-scale content. It will lay down the policy and develop the technical groundwork for a
sustainable pan-European digital library, which is based on the collections and other services
of the participating libraries and agencies. Results from previous projects in which the
national libraries participated (or still are participating), are essential building blocks. Neither
will it lead to an operational service, already for all the world to use. The main results are
expected to be the testing and application of open standards and the agreement on working
methods and best practices that can readily be adopted by all national libraries for a shared
operational service (s. auch Dialog für Bibliotheken 2001, 2).
          Gabriel will play an important role in this development, as it already has established
itself as a central entrance to the libraries. Based on the experiences gained from Gabriel,
the information service of the European national libraries can create a virtual pan-European
This, and the fact that the completely restructured and redesigned Gabriel would see the light
of day during the summer of 2001, seemed a good occasion to bring together all those
Gabriel colleagues for a 2-day seminar.


The seminar was planned as the first in a series of workshops and seminars organised by
the partners of the TEL project. Both the start of the project and the modernisation of Gabriel
were to be the main topics of the seminar. Initial information could be shared, awareness
could be risen and future developments could be discussed. However, the organisers
decided to bring together staff members who are involved with the development of the
websites of the national libraries. They should be capable, more than anyone else, come up
with recommendations about how the European Library can be realised.
Only a few days before George W. Bush met with Vladimir Putin, 40 colleagues from 27
European National Libraries came to Slovenia. The National and University Library of
Ljubljana4 (NUK), one of the TEL-partners, had kindly offered to host the seminar. To support
both aims - inform on Gabriel and the TEL project on one side, and discuss broader themes
about European collaboration on the other - all Gabriel colleagues had been invited to give a
presentation on web-related, internationally oriented projects they were working on. The
main themes that surfaced for the seminar were the building of digital collections, the
growing importance of information portals, the application of tools and standards as well as
standards of European national library websites and web services, the input of human
resources, and, not least of all, usage as well as the end users of the library services.
In the course of this year’s seminar it became clear that nowadays the subjects dealt with
during the workshop are in the fore.
The participants formulated the “Recommendations for the National Libraries regarding the
Creation of European Information Portals” following this article. These recommendations
reflect the topics discussed at the seminar, and will hopefully be an incentive for future
discussions on the European Library. “General guidelines for the design of a national library
website” have been elaborated too. All papers and presentations as well as an extensive
report on the seminar will be found on the TEL website (


International co-operation between the European national libraries is a matter of course
nowadays. The “1st European Library seminar“ has best given proof of that. Nevertheless, it
keeps on being exciting and the exchange across the borders is always stimulating and
fertile. Hence the programme offered was rated by the participants as interesting, useful and
above all as profitable.


Recommendations for the National Libraries regarding the creation of European
Information Portals

The participants of the “1st European Library seminar“ would like to ask the members of the
Conference of European National Libraries (CENL) to take notice of the following
recommendations. They reflect the topics discussed at the seminar, and will hopefully be a
incentive for future discussions on the European Library.

Reaching out to the users
 The participants strongly believe that the most prominent contribution of the National
   Libraries to the European community will be a professionally designed single access
   point to their entire collections.
 However, to meet the needs of special user groups and individual users, this access
   point should also offer facilities of a smaller scale: a user may approach the system with
   an international, national, regional, local or even individual perspective.
 Now the websites of the National Libraries are getting truely professional, it is necessary
   that the libraries become more aware of the user groups and their needs, and that they
   respond to them.
 Both the libraries and the library users would benefit from a more professional marketing
   than is currently done: many users are not aware of all the services currently offered by
   the national libraries.

Offering content
 One of the most important reasons for an internet user to use the services of a national
    library instead of any other webservice, is the reliability of information. The National
    Libraries have a special responsibility regarding intellectual quality control.
 As many of the resources in the National Libraries are unique, the libraries should invest
    in creating added value to the digitized documents: the National Libraries are in many
    cases the only source of information for a user.
 Integrating and sharing metadata is the right way forward to offer the same resources in
    different contexts. As a consequence, the National Libraries should be willing to share
    their metadata.

Creating the proper technical environment
 The joint information services of CENL should all support international and open ICT
 An important enhancement of the co-operation among the National Libraries would be
   the installing of a centralised expert centre on standards and expert knowledge.
 On a smaller scale, the libraries should all invest in enriching their webpages with

Recognising European cultural aspects
 The joint information services of CENL should all be multilingual.
 The joint information services of CENL should all support the various character sets in
   use by the CENL libraries.
 The National Libraries should be aware of the European identity of their collections
   alongside the national identity.


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