Digital libraries

EIF Breakfast Debate


Digital libraries are contributing in giving access to the rapidly growing number of literary and scientific works online, and at the same time in making available Europe’s cultural heritage.

This breakfast discussion updated participants on the European Digital Library initiative and the challenges it faces, as well as on an innovative way to give access to books protected by copyrights.

First guest speaker was Javier Hernandez-Ros, who is head of the "Digital Libraries & Public Sector Information" unit at DG Information Society at the European Commission. 

It is about putting our cultural heritage on-line, the classics but also the twentieth century. There are big problems in digital preservation, because it is "very fragile". 

Who will do it? Who is to pay? How to deal with the myriad of rights-holders? The problem of identifying the rights-holders to "orphan" works. Who is to pay to preserve it in the future? 

The Commission is working on a Recommendation to Member States, is working with stake-holders to produce a common solution. All European libraries are members of the European Digital Libraries Foundation. He hoped for a Commission Communication to appear in July.

Second guest speaker was M. Arnaud Beaufort who is Deputy General Director of the French National Library. BNP, Biblioteque Nationale de France).

In Paris they are digitalising 100,000 books per year, but this is only one percent of their collection of over twelve million books. Their problem is less severe than it appears because 50% of all demands for books by readers are for only one million of the books. 

It helps to present the French language in a new way to a new audience and will create new habits and capacities. 

They are digitalising not only the pre-1918 collection which are now i nthe public domain, but also more recent books which interest the public. The library provides a platform for a certain number of publishers, but readers can only see the first page of each book and abstracts: to see more, they are re-routed to the publisher's computer. 

But digitalising is a threat to local libraries. In days past, people went to their local library to do a paper search: the national library was their last resort. Now they will go straight to the BNF and the local libraries do not have the money to digitalise their own collections.

Points made from the floor:

- Google explained that their Book Search is digitalising books in the public domain and more recent books published in the USA.

- Charlotte Lund Thomsen asked "What about also preserving all broadcasts for posterity too?"

- Catherine Trautmann MEP pointed out the dilemma of the wish to expand the public domain against the wish to extend the length of protection for rights-holders.


Programme - 11/06/2008

Chair: Bill Newton Dunn, MEP and EIF Governor

Javier Hernandez-Ros, Head of Unit, DG Information Society E4 Digital Libraries and Public Sector Information

Arnaud Beaufort, Director of Services and Networks at the Bibliothèque National de France

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