The Telematics for Libraries - Programme of the European Commission, Aims and Work Programme

Monika Segbert, Consultant to DGXIII / E - 4
European Union Information Programme, Luxembourg

1. Introduction

This paper provides a brief historical overview of the European Commissions start up Libraries Programme, followed by a detailed description of the objectives and work programme of the currently running Telematics for libraries programme, and the conditions for participation by libraries in Central and Eastern Europe.

2. The Libraries Programme of the European Commission (1990 - 1994):

In 1984 the European Parliament drew political attention to the importance of libraries and called for action by the European Commission in this sector. A number of ground clearing studies and pre-cursor projects were carried out during the preparatory phase 1985-1989, to establish the size and impact of the libraries sector, to identify areas of difficulties and where co-operative European actions would contribute to a better use of resources. The ensuing action plan for libraries had as its long term objectives to promote the availability and accessibility of modern library services throughout the European Union, to support a more rapid but orderly penetration of new information technologies in libraries in a cost-effective way, to promote standardisation and to promote the harmonisation and convergence of national policies.

This action plan was incorporated as a specific programme for libraries within the European Commissions 3rd Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Its specific objectives were to provide better access to library services and resources through the cost-effective use of IT, to stimulate resource sharing amongst libraries, to improve the storage of data and eventually enable remote access to information through the application of telematics services throughout European libraries. It focused on the development of computerised bibliographies, the interconnection of library systems, the development of innovative library services, and the stimulation of a European market in technology-based library products.

3 Calls for Proposals resulted in some 80 actions, including 51 projects, most of which are still on-going. There were also 3 concerted actions, for computerised bibliographic records (CoBRA), copyright (ECUP, the European Users Copyright Platform), and library automation (EFILA, the European Forum for Implementors of Library Automation). These concerted actions foster co-operation and act as facilitators amongst interested parties in Europe. The Telematics for Libraries home page at offers further information and links to the web sites of most of these projects and concerted actions.

Main results are emerging in the areas of networking technology, imaging systems and hypertext, and the use of optical character reading for the creation of machine readable catalogues. Significant progress has also been made towards a more consistent and standardised approach for data exchange, interconnection and the introduction of new techniques. Interconnected OPACs, interconnected document delivery networks and the interconnection of library and book trade via EDIFACT are all results from the first Libraries Programme, serving now as building blocks for the current Telematics for Libraries Programme.

3. The Telematics for Libraries Programme (1994-1998):

The European Commissions 4th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development contains the Telematics Application Programme, which includes Libraries as one sector under the broader area of Telematics for Knowledge. The Libraries Sector, with its three action lines and a range of supporting activities has a budget of 30 MECU, some 3.6% of the total budget for the telematics application programme.

The Telematics for libraries programme recognises that increasingly, information is being created, distributed, accessed and used entirely in electronic form. It focuses on the role of libraries as key participants in the move towards an electronic information infrastructure, in their central role in managing these flows of information, and in introducing users to new ways of information use. It also recognises that the added value of libraries to society can only be realised by creating a Europe wide libraries infrastructure. It aims to encourage a modern market-oriented approach amongst libraries, and to harmonise practice in the predominantly public sector libraries with that of information providers in the private sector. Its perspectives are to create a modern libraries infrastructure in support of economic, social and cultural life in the European Union, to provide follow-up and continuity to the start up programme and to aim for integration of libraries in the wider information and communications infrastructure.

One of the main challenges for the programme is to accelerate the move from collection-based to access based services in the knowledge that enhanced co-operation both between European libraries themselves, and with suppliers and publishers can significantly increase the range, quality and quantity of resources and services available to the individual libary user. It specifically aims to stimulate sharing of catalogue resources and document collections, bibliographic data exchange and access and the creation of data models and formats for distributed bibliographic resources and document delivery between libraries and to users. It also addresses issues concerning the extension of library interconnections to publishers and distributors as user demand for electronic distribution of published information becomes more common place. It recognises that the shift towards electronic information leads to changes in the way products and services are marketed, distributed, authenticated and paid for, and provides support to research in order that libraries can play a central role in this process.

Another challenge for libraries, that the programme addresses through its research projects, lies in their strong and active participation in shaping the new information infrastructure. This important role is also reflected in the increased attention paid to libraries in discussions about the so-called Information society and its global networks.

4. Action Lines of the Telematics for Libraries Programme:

The Action Lines operate at three interlocking levels, namely the library and its services, the library world and their collective resource, and the libraries role in the information world at large. They are:

4.1 Action Line A: Networked oriented internal library services

This action line has at its main objective to ensure that libraries are better placed to offer network based services. Its goals are in particular the modernisation of library systems and tools, with a view on cost-effectiveness, the development of easy-entry technology to reduce disparities, and the provision of continued stimulus to the European market for libary systems and tools.

This action line carries a strong element of continuity with the previous-programme. It is envisaged that about 15-20% of the budget go to projects in this action line.

Action Line A calls for projects that research the development of open library systems using appropriate standards, techniques for the digitisation of materials, access to and management of library materials in electronic form, user tools and interfaces for access to services, integration of library functions with other functions, and the creation of test beds for the authentication and preservation of electronic documents.

Projects under this action line are expected to result in integration tools and interfaces for library systems in the local network, in local platforms that must be generic in order to support integration, tools and methods for the creation and use of libary materials in electronic form, and the development and testing of tools for the management and administration of library services in an electronic environment.

Action line A is concerned with modernising library systems and tools so that they are open to networking, that they develop appropriate platforms at local level for the integration of library systems and services, and that they provide a window IN to their resources, to the wealth that already exists in library collections.

4.2 Action Line B: Telematics Applications for Interconnected Library Services:

Action line B has as its main objectives to improve co-operation, resource development and resource sharing between libraries and encourage the shift from collection to access based services through interconnections between libraries, suppliers and publishers.

This action line is seen to be the key stone to developing the library infrastructure for Europe, and therefore some 60-70% of the project budget has been reserved for it.

Realising the objectives of action line B involves the development of interlibrary networks for resource development and resource sharing between libraries, of interconnections between libraries and publishers or suppliers, and of end-user access to resources. It requires also that issues concerning the development and integration of methods for authorisation, registration and cost recovery in connection with library services and the development and testing of economic models for electronic distribution of information via the library are addressed.

Action Line B calls for projects that create and test interconnected library services, integrating applications for at least two different library service functions. The previous programme focused on open system interconnections for what were essentially single service functions, which now need to be integrated, for example access and delivery services. End-user access to inter-libary network resources is an important area for Action Line B, focusing on the librarys capability to deliver services to users who are not in its primary community, as is the development of services for the acquisition and supply of materials to libraries. Finally, Action Line B calls for the development of new scenarios and models and the demonstration and testing of services delivered from virtual libraries.

Action Line B can be seen as the keystone to the library infrastructure for Europe, aiming at the development of distributed library services, leading to new models of co-operation and exploiting the collective resources that libraries can provide. This implies co-operation in traditional partnerships with publishers and distributors but also new alliances with e.g. network service providers, new alliances that require new dialogues, new synergies and new ways of working together.

4.3 Action Line C: Library Services for Access to Networked Information Resources

Action line C aims to build on and extend information resources and services mediated and delivered by libraries, by supporting the evolution of an organisational framework and integration of emerging resource discovery technologies into services for organised access to networked information resources. It also focuses on the development of library mediated intermediary services for end- user access to network information resources.

Action Line C with focus on the outreach to the networked information world will consume about 15-20% of the budget.

Services based on network navigation and resource discovery tools and on directory services, on methods and standards for resource description, indexing and classification, on the creation of an environments for local use of retrieved resources, on the unified access to combined networked information and library resources and on the integration of library services in distance learning environments are the foci for Action Line C. Projects are expected to result in the improvement of user services based on resource discovery and retrieval, to provide test-beds for library mediated access and services based on networked information resources and to create tools for use of retrieved networked information resources. User applications supporting unified access to combined networked information and library based resources and the integration of library services with distance learning environments are further issues for projects under Action Line C.

Action Line C thereby provides the new dimension, the electronic outreach into the networked information world. Everyone is aware of the fantastic increase in the networked information available and of the chaos surrounding it - resources are created much more quickly than the tools and methods to locate and control them.

5. Accompanying Measures

Accompanying measures are meant to ensure the exploitation and transfer of results, to establish platforms for groups with common interests, to investigate certain perspectives and issues, to mobilise and assist the library community and its partners in responding to the programme and to conduct training actions that help to create a climate for the organisational change needed to support and respond to technical change. The main accompanying measures funded to date are continuations of concerted actions created under the first Libraries Programme, namely for computerised bibliographic records, copyright, library automation as well as new groupings e.g. in the field of music information and for public libraries.

6. Priorities and Criteria for Project Proposals

The Telematics for Libraries Programme has defined certain priorities and basic criteria which must be observed by proposers:

7. European Commission Programmes open to Libraries in Central and Eastern Europe:

Under the rules of the European Commissions 4th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, which contains a specific action line for International Co-operation, it is now possible for libraries from Central and Eastern Europe (C&EE) to participate in research projects of the Telematics for libraries programme.

In practice this means, that project participation is open to libraries in those countries that have already or are about to sign an association agreement with the European Union (including the Czech Republic). One rule that has to be strictly observed is that a C&EE library has to have partners from at least two European Union member states. Furthermore, participation is at own cost, e.g. funding has to be found from sources other than the Telematics for libraries programme, as the shared cost option only applies to libraries in the Member States of the European Union.

The Department for International Co-operation of the 4th Framework Programme issues its own Calls for Proposals, with the next one expected to open in June 1996. If libraries feature as a topic in the work programme of this call, it will be possible to submit project proposals for library co-operation. Successful project partners under this call receive financial support from the European Commission. Further information will be available on the CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) web site:

PHARE, and its associated TEMPUS programme, may also offer openings for library co-operation between the European Union and Central and Eastern Europe, depending on national priorities. It is up to the professional community in the country itself to assert the important role that libraries can and are playing in the transition to democracy and market economy and in the integration into the global information society, with the national and EU advisers responsible for the definition of national priorities within the PHARE programme. Further information can be obtained from the PHARE unit of the European delegation and the local TEMPUS bureau (both located in Prague).

Finally, I would like to conclude by quoting a key sentence from the original document that provided the basis for the European Commissions actions for libraries:

No single library, not even the richest and the largest, can satisfy all the needs of its users from its own acquisition policies and stocks. As a consequence libraries have to co-operate so that human and budgetary resources can be more efficiently allocated. Furthermore, users increasingly need to access literature from all over the world, which is creating a requirement for libraries to co-operate also on an international scale.

Let this be our credo and aim.

Zpatky do INFOMEDIA 96.