A national strategy for the digital preservation and dissemination of our cultural heritage

During the course of the last six months the National Library of Norway has signed agreements with three leading newspapers ensuring cooperation in the field of digitisation. These agreements contain three elements: constant delivery of material to the National Library’s digital storehouse, collaboration on the digitisation of newspapers of historic importance and the right for the newspapers concerned to be made accessible in digital form throughout the library system. Several other newspapers are queuing up to sign similar agreements. The more we can make agreements of this kind, the easier it will be for libraries to offer digital search of newspaper articles as an alternative to microfilm and also to meet the growing interest for material dealing with local history. These are just a few examples of the everincreasing range of digital library services.

The desire to achieve greater accessibility to digital material throughout the library system is part of Norwegian policy as laid down in the Report No. 24 (2008-2009) to the Storting – National Strategy for Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Cultural Heritage. The proposal, which was dealt with by the Norwegian Parliament in June 2009, assigns to the National Library of Norway major responsibility for digitasation within the library sector.

Almost a year ago the National Library of Norway launched ‘’, an Internet web site which makes accessible in full text digitised works from the 1690s, the 1790s, the 1890s and the 1990s. Some of the works from the 1890s and all of those from the 1990s are subject to copyright. This has been made possible by a unique agreement between the National Library and Kopinor, a body which represents 22 member organisations in the field of intellectual property. At the present time this service contains almost 30,000 books and before the end of the year we expect to have some 50,000 accessible. The National Library pays for the rights to make this service available to the public and its budget allotment for 2010 has been increased in order to maintain and develop this initiative.

From the end of May 2009 and up until 15th April this year 80%, i.e. 22,555 books, have been accessed on Bokylla. no. This represents roughly one book page per second, day and night.We have 63,940 unique visitors (IP addresses) and in 2010 every visit has averaged 64.8 pages. This proves that books are read on the Internet, even though they cannot be downloaded. Books in NBdigital, the National Library’s digital collection also containing titles now out of copyright, can, however,  be downloaded and this is happening at an ever-increasing rate. So far we have registered 17,580 pdf downloads; 48 per day in 2009 and 75 per day in March this year. Figures such as these show an increasing demand for books in full text on the Internet. is a 3-year project due for evaluation in 2011, but from what we can observe at present it is a success with regard to public demand and level of use.

A gratifying feature is that when in recent months we have provided links to library systems such as Alephi, Bibliofil and BIBSYS, there has been a noticeable increase in use. This clearly illustrates how and similar future services can play an important role in all libraries. This initiative is also a response to the expectations and the challenges raised by the authorities towards the public library system in general and the National Library in particular with regard to the realisation of national library policy by means of internal digitisation and the creation of digital services. The Government Report also stipulates that the National Library should continue to seek agreement with publishing houses, newspapers, etc. on the storage of digital resources along the lines previously mentioned.

Absolute sector responsibility

The government’s vision for ICT-policy in the cultural field is for as much material as possible in archives, libraries and museums to be made accessible to the greatest number of people by forward- looking use of ICT-technology.

A constant theme in the Government Report to Parliament is the need to concentrate efforts on those institutions tions which already have a national responsibility and also possess the necessary competence and strategies for digital development. It points out that future initiatives will take as their starting-point the responsibility existing institutions already have to digitise, preserve and disseminate the material in their own collections. At the same time, however, there is a recognition that in certain areas there may be a need for collaboration and cooperation in order to achieve the desired outcome. In such cases the Ministry will appoint an advisory committee to study cross-sector strategies. The central message, however, is that strategies and professional priorities concerning digitisation should be worked out by the respective institutions involved and that steps must be taken to ensure greater digital development during the coming decade.

The operative responsibility for the work of digitisation is to be based on an absolute sector mandate. Given this perspective, it is natural for libraries in general and the National Library in particular to assume wider tasks. As a consequence of the decree that the National Library is to play the principal role in digitisation within the library sector, it also follows that in addition to the tasks relating to legal deposit the National Library also bears sole responsibility for national bibliographic standards, including standards for quality, format and identification of digital material, together with the task of finding a digital solution for search facilities across all library sector boundaries.

Initiatives to improve accessibility

Equally important as the preservation and safety of digital material for future generations is the question of accessibility today. The Government Report claims that the Bokhylla project could serve as a model for similar licensing agreements in respect of copyright and other types of intellectual property. The Ministry will evaluate the possibility of some revision of licensing authority in order to open for wider use than is permitted by today’s legislation. Work on national licences will proceed in cooperation with relevant organisations, such as universities, colleges of learning, the library sector, etc. As far as the National Library itself is concerned, this process will apply to its entire multimedia collection. A severe challenge in the future will lie in establishing agreements for the purchase of rights not only for printed material but also for music and film.

Initiatives for national search programmes

Emphasis will be laid on developing sector-specific search programmes and joint search facilities across institutional boundaries. Collection owners will have to ensure that the material in their possession can be accessed and indexed by standard search programmes. The National Library has been given the task of developing a joint search for all libraries. This is a huge assignment which will take time to complete but we are already engaged in development work with the various companies which provide library systems. A further goal is to extend this development to the archive, library and museum sectors as a whole.

Cooperation and dialogue – conditional to success

In accordance with the intentions set out in the government report on digitisation, the National Library is concerned that the digital services we develop should prove to be of benefit to all libraries. The ‘raw data’ we store should provide a basis for the development of new and varied services in other libraries. The government has decided to transfer library responsibilities from the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority to the Norwegian National Library. The reason for this decision lies in the conviction that the library system is in need of a powerful national body if it is to carry out the policies outlined in the Government Report to Parliament on libraries and digitisation. The aim is to achieve a compre- hensive library policy utilising to the full the new opportunities for development presented by digital technology. A change of this nature will make possible an even closer dialogue between the National Library and other libraries.

Vigdis Moe Skarstein
National librarian
Vigdis.skarstein AT

Translated by Eric Deverill

National librarian