Visit your library from home

Better quality and more information
… such were the enticing words when the Danish National Library Authority in the spring of 2001 launched their PR campaign for the national service: which has now been on the air for about a year.

Via the Internet offers free access for all to the seven million registrations of books,CDs, videos,CDROMs and talking books which are available in the Danish public libraries and public research libraries. In 2001 over 300,000 requisitions were processed. Having found a title you want on the screen, all you have to do is to put in a request, indicating from which library you want to colle ct the material.

The new service offered to every Danish citizen is common to all public libraries, but the user experiences it as being adjusted to the possibilities and the service which his particular library is able to offer.

Right from the start, the aim of bibliotek. dk was quite simple: a common, free web-access to the Danish national joint catalogue DanBib were to be established which would make it possible for the individual user to order material, directly upon searching in the base. A discussion paper was prepared in the spring of 1999, suggesting how this aim could be put into practice, and the paper was debated at a number of open meetings with representatives from the country’s libraries during the summer. Towards the end of the year work had progressed so far that the Danish Library Centre – in charge of the common catalogue DanBib – was able to put the wheels in motion. The actual financing of the new service is set down in the Danish Act regarding library services which was passed in May 2000. Already in October 2000, bibliotek. dk made its debut on the Danish screens.

It was decided that each library would be able to participate, whatever their stage of technological advancement. This means that every library in the country can take part and loan books – as long as it has at least an e-mail address. Neither would there be any demands as to a change of the individual library’s policy, thus for each library there exists a number of parameters which ensure that a user is not promised more that the library is able to deliver.

Focus on the user
The user chooses his material and where he wants to collect it. And it is then up to the library system to decide on the most rational and economical way of carrying out the request.Where the material actually comes from is in the end immaterial to the user.

The local library is also is a gateway to information and a route to material in all the public libraries in the country. The gateway is also where the user has to ask for any help he might need. There is no central hotline for the users – it is the local library which offers its support to As far as the user is concerned, the possibilities of depend on his/her library. Each library still determines its own level of service – including for example whether loan of videos is only possible for the municipality’s own citizens. Texts and functions are therefore adapted to the individual library.

Further development of is under constant development. The Danish National Library Authority last autumn conducted a user survey and the results of this will be taken into account in the further development of the service. Some development projects already under way and some which are still on the drawing board are described below:

‘To be bought-button’
It seems obvious to offer the user the choice of either buying the material or borrowing it.A button which takes the user to a page whe re a number of suppliers offer a title for sale is on the cards. The user chooses his supplier and is transported into the supplier’s system where he will be able to order the title he wants immediately. This facility is being developed at the moment.

Improved search facilities
The Danish common catalogue shares the problem of other common catalogues. When bringing the libraries’ cataloguings together, the difficulty is to collect all cataloguings of the same edition of the same title. This has long been a thorn in the flesh for the professional users of DanBib. And public access to the base has only accentuated the problem. So quite a number of resources have been spent on doing a new match of the bibliographic records. This has been done twice and means that more than 1,2 mil. duplications have been removed.

In order to distinguish the different editions from each other, a new edition is catalogued as a completely new registration. At the moment we are working on collecting every edition of a title so that a search will not hit different editions, but just one title. The first attempt is planned for spring 2002. Various other resources are being considered. For example to supplement the precise search on words with a search on ‘similar words’. If a search on automobile yields few or no results, the search could for example be extended with car or van.

Extended interplay with local library systems One thing missing at the moment in is for the users to be able to know immediately whether the title they want is out on loan, and if so – how long it will be before one may be expected to get it. The solution to this problem is being looked into with a view to implementing the transfer of holdings information and requests via Z39.50.

Library-relevant resources on the Internet is first of all a gateway to the physical materials available in Danish libraries. But an ever-increasing amount of relevant information resources are only available as internet publications and registration of such resources on the net is the refore taking place in various projects in the libraries and the Danish Library Centre registers some material as part of the national bibliography. This material has to be registered on a par with books etc. in DanBib and consequently in bibliotek. dk.

New services
In the long term it is quite possible that will be extended and various services will be added, for the benefit of the individual user. One obvious possibility is to have a photocopy of an article sent directly to one’s private address, a service to be paid for by the user. This possibility will materialise when online payment of smaller amounts has become common practice, as no special payment systems are intended. is meant to be a straightforward and simple service. The further development of will by no means abandon this principle. The vision is for better quality and more information – not for more complex functions. is for the citizen.

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Adviser to the Director, The Royal Library (Copenhagen) Standards Committee Chair, Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI). Chair Danish Standards S24, Information and Documentation Member Bibliographic Council (Denmark)