EU online library opens

US broadcaster Voice of America carried this item yesterday:

EU Opens Online Library

By Lisa Bryant


20 November 2008

The European Union has launched a vast online library offering people across the globe access to millions of books, movies and other items from the 27-member block. Lisa Bryant has more on Europe’s efforts to showcase its cultural heritage – via the Internet.

Call it the 21st century version of the famous Alexandria library that served as a hub of knowledge in ancient times. Europe is offering a similar trove of information via the Internet – allowing users to access tens of thousands of paintings, books, manuscripts, sound recordings, newspapers and other items from across the European Union.

European Commission spokesman Martyn Selmayr says the Europeana digital library is planning to expand enormously in the years to come.

“Today its just the beginning,” he said. “We have two million objects today on Europeana – cultural objects which exist in digital form. Our objective is to have by the year 1010, 10 million digitized objects available from all over Europe and they will be offered in 23 languages so that everybody around the world has access to these cultural heritages of the European Union member states.

That includes digitalized representations of masterpieces from the Louvre museum in Paris or manuscripts of composers like Beethoven – or books from libraries around Europe – although only a small fraction of the region’s 2.5 billion books will be available online in the coming years.

The project is one way to showcase the European Union – this time through its cultural heritage.

“On the one side it shows that Europe is made up not of a single unified culture but that it has 27-member nations and each one of them has a very long history,” said Selmayr. “It also shows what we have in common and gives the perspective of the neighbors.”

“For example, the fall of the Berlin Wall – very important for German history and also for European history – is something you can find on Europeana in the form of a film that is today stored in the French national audiovisual institute. Germans, Hungarians, British citizens and also Americans can see this big event, but through the eyes of French citizens,” he continued.

Those who want to check out the new European library can click on

[Link expired]

The Europeana site is now up and running:

Future of BFI national library

Plans to find a HE partner to take the BFI national library have moved on. As usual, the decision-making process is shrouded in mystery, and there has been no public debate or announcement. However, Goldsmiths University of London is currently in the frame as the lead partner to take forward a digitisation project of some (unspecified) BFI holdings, possibly with funding from HEFCE. A small, select group of other UK universities (currently Glasgow, Warwick, Leeds, UEA and possibly Bristol) would participate by testing the digitised material in its initial stages.

In January 2007 MeCCSA, the official body that represents those who teach and research media, communication and cultural studies in the UK, published a paper in response to the BFI’s plans for the national library expressing its concerns. Among them were the positioning of the library as a HE resource rather than a national resource, the implementation of short-term solutions to the financial problems facing the BFI and the lack of any clear strategy for collecting, preserving and accessing documentation on the moving image. (MeCCSA – Papers – The issues facing the British Film Institute National Library)

MeCCSA proposed a conference to address the need for a long-term strategy; in September 2007 a symposium on The Future of Screen Heritage in the UK was held at Roehampton University, attended by stakeholders and senior representatives of the BFI. Unfortunately it seems that the discussion had little effect on BFI management’s thinking. Rather than lead debate about long-term strategy, the BFI continues to pursue short-term, temporary solutions that could be disastrous for the national library and its constituency.