Sami literature on the world wide web

- a joint project between the libraries of Northern Scandinavia and the Barents region
Northern Scandinavia and the Barents region Traditionally there has always been a natural co-operation between the research libraries, the university libraries and the public libraries in Northern Scandinavia, also with their counterparts in the northernmost areas of Russia. Their geographical situation in the far north, their local links and the extreme distances from their respective capital cities have all contributed to creating a shared identity and community across national borders. The Sami live in four countries, mainly in the far north, with strong cultural bonds of language, way of life, reindeer husbandry, arts and crafts, traditions and family ties, which recognise no borders. Co-operation between libraries in order to establish a joint search access to the Nordic Sami bibliography in the Barents area and in Sápmi – Sami land – is therefore more than a natural development. It is a necessity.
The reason for this co-operation between different kinds of libraries can be found in the fact that national responsibility for Sami literature is assigned to different types of institutions. In Norway the responsibility lies with the National Library’s department in Rana, in Sweden with Ájtte – the Swedish Sami museum in Jokkmokk, in Finland with the county library in Rovaniemi and in Russia with the Murmansk Library. Staff at these libraries have had contact with each other for many years, arranging among other things meetings, today known as the Barents library conferences.

The background
Since April 2000 the University Library of Tromsø in Norway has been responsible for the co-ordination of this Nordic- Russian project which represents a continuation of an EU-project carried out in Jokkmokk in Northern Sweden 1998-99 as part of the Berenice project. This joint project was later assigned to the Swedish Sami parliament with Anna Prakhova from Murmansk as coordinator. The project is thus of an extremely international character and shows that interest in creating joint search access to a Sami literature base is equally great on all sides of the northern borders. The Sami on the Russian side have been active in establishing contact with the Sami in Scandinavia. For the time being, the Murmansk Library is working on its bibliography as a separate project. In the course of spring 2002 co-ordination responsibility will be transferred to another institution.

Experiences from the project
Co-operation to achieve concrete aims has presented the members of the working committee with a serious challenge. We have several different languages, different registration systems, different working traditions in completely different institutions and different cultural backgrounds. As we co-operate over longer periods,these differences become more apparent, both as a challenge and as a luxur y. Sometimes, how-ever, they can prove an obstacle to co-operation.

The bibliographical work taking place at national level is dependent on the general library development of the countries involved. This presupposes that technological solutions for Sami bibliography also should be developed nationally as part of each country’s library strategy and as part of library services for the Sami population. This development,however, does not run parallel in all the four countries. Our efforts at co-ordination can therefore encounter considerable surprises and difficulties.A condition for the future must be that decisions concerning Sami bibliography are taken at national level. So far this has not been the case.

Over the years many aspects of the project have changed. It is typical of project work that at some institutions it can become closely attached to one particular person. This makes the project vulnerable, if the person responsible moves to a new job, is given other duties or falls ill. This has occurred in our project and has led to delays and uncertainty. These experiences have taught us that as much as possible of the project plan should be drawn up in the form of written agreements. In this way the institution itself becomes involved to a greater degree and the driving force behind the project is not restricted to the enthusiasm of one individual employee.

The situation today
Today it is possible to search through the three Sami bibliographies on the web. A look at the following web site, however, will illustrate the problem.

Anybody seeking literary references to Sami culture must search three times in three search systems in three different languages. In Russia they are working on their own system in their own language,thus making four languages on the web. In addition we naturally would like to use as much of the Sami language as possible.

As yet there is no Russian bibliography on the web, but plans do exist. In 1996 the manuscript of Sami bibliography was completed, covering the period from the early 19th century and up to that time.Data is constantly being registered. The list is extensive with 2,200 entries for literature relevant to Sami culture collected from all the largest libraries in Russia, a country with a long tradition in bibliographical work.

The following descriptions of the search pages of the various systems show how these are organised with a brief account of the type of material concentrated upon. Further information about the individual bibliographies can be found on the search pages.

a) Access to Norwegian Sami bibliography In the Norwegian Sami bibliography between 500 and 700 publications are registered each year, the majority being articles. Particular emphasis is laid on local-historical material. The National Library of Norway is responsible for the bibliographical work resulting from the demands of legal deposit. Audiovisual material,newspaper cuttings, etc.are not included. Of all the nations participating in the project, Norway has the longest tradition of registering literature concerning the Sami people, having commenced this work as early as 1945.

b) Access to Swedish Sami bibliography The Swedish Sami bibliography started registering a couple of years ago. Two bibliographies are maintained, one for current publications and one for retrospective material. During the year 2000 the number of registrations came to 1,072 publications,954 of which were articles. An eye is also kept on material not registered elsewhere, such as Sami student theses, reports, etc. The bibliographical work in Sweden has no permanent financing and is therefore run on a project basis.

c) Access to Finnish Sami bibliog raphy In Finland between 150 and 200 publications are registered every year in the Sami bibliography. Material not registered elsewhere, such as newspaper articles,is also included, provided it deals with Sami literature or other important and relevant themes. A close watch is kept on Sami-language publications in Finland. These include Northern Sami, Enare Sami and Skolte Sami. The majority of publications are in article form. Bibliographical work is financed partly by the Minist ry of Education and partly by the Rovaniemi municipal authority.

A Norwegian host: BIBSYS
During the year 2001 the Norwegian library system for universities and colleges of higher education, BIBSYS, joined the project as IT-consultants and as the future host for the bibliography. The precondition for Nordic co-operation is that the Norwegian Sami bibliography is first t ransferred to BIBSYS. This transfer, currently underway, requires conversion work that will provide the basis for other later conversions. The Sami bibliography will be available free of charge in the BIBSYS web search. BIBSYS is willing to work towards a Sami-language version of the whole library system and has retained expertise in this field. According to information given in the BIBSYS news periodical, they have committed themselves to supporting the Sami language in the programme system and database.

User-friendly service in many languages
The project aims to offer a simple, joint search access to the Sami bibliographies on the Internet. User friendliness is a primary objective.We can all make use of the experience we have each gained with our own library systems and can to a certain extent tailor the user interface to the requirements of our public. User dialogue and with it the whole service will be in several languages according to the needs of the user. In addition to Norwegian and Sami, this means Finnish, English, Swedish and Russian. The use of the Sami language on the web presupposes the development of Sami characters for data, especially in the library systems.

A greater vision behind the Sami bibliography is the development of a ‘Sami digital library’ with the bibliography itself representing the first stage. There is a need for co-ordination of Sami webresources in the form of a subject portal. The man behind this vision is Lars Noodén, data expert at NetLab in the University Library of Lund. Noodén became involved in the project at an early stage, examining the technical situation in each of the countries concerned. His report, submitted in 1999, led to the project being extended. Our vision still exists, as we wait for the realisation of the first stage.

Infrastructure for a Sami information society
A joint search access to all the Sami bibliographies should be regarded as a basic tool for searching through Sami literature.We are in the process of developing the infrastructure of a Sami information society. In a way the bibliography could be described as a Sami national bibliography at article level, which means that we are favouring the most important user group, the Sami population itself. Nevertheless,it is equally important that all those people throughout the world with an interest in Sami culture should have access to information and literature. Communication between the various library systems will initially take place in a traditional way. Items will be imported into a common base, making necessary a g reat deal of conversion. At a later stage we hope to avoid importing and the search operation will therefore be based on Z39.50 across all the library systems. At the present moment, however, there remains a considerable amount of work to be done at the national level before this protocol can be used to search the Sami bibliography.

Sami thesaurus in a multilingual environment
In addition to search access we aim to develop a multilingual tool for searching and indexing in the joint bibliography. This tool is called Sami thesau – rus terminology. The vocabulary consists of subject words used in the var ious Sami bibliographies with particular emphasis on Sami culture and matters concerning minorities and indigenous peoples. This work involves our developing a thesaurus programme as a tool to help create a multilingual thesaurus. With such a programme we could co-ordinate subject words in several languages. Several users could use the programme simultaneously on the web, entering or formulating their own subject words from their own workplace. The person responsible for developing this programme is Tomas Schöntal at NetLab in the University Library of Lund. The programme is called VocabEd.

The aim is to create a terminology service where the person conducting the search can look for subject words in his own language regardless of which language has been used when indexing the document. The programme ‘translates’ the terms. It will also be possible to couple thesaurus searching with a search in the bibliography. At the moment we are working on co-ordinating vocabulary in two languages: Norwegian and Finnish. The bibliographies use a common,joint classification dedicated to Sami culture called Løov’s classification after the name of its originator.

The road ahead
Nordinfo granted 27,000 Euro for an 18-month project which came to an end in February 2002. The Nordic Language Council provided additional funds towards the thesaurus part of the project. The efforts of employees from the participating institutions have accounted for most of the work so far carried out. Bearing in mind our limited financial resources, co-operation has been successful and we have achieved a great deal.

We should like to find a more permanent framework for co-operation based on the existing foundation describ ed in this article. At a meeting held in February this year at the Norwegian Sami Parliament in Karasjok, a Nordic steering committee was appointed and an agreement on co-operation formulated. A proposal was put forward that the Sami Parliaments of Finland, Norway and Sweden should assume their share of responsibility for co-ordinating this co-operation. Initially, the intention is for responsibility to be placed with the Sami Parliament libraries in Norway and Sweden. This proposal, however, must be approved by each individual Sami Parliament before it can become a reality.

The task of financing this joint service and formulating a project plan will be given high priority by the co-ordinating bodies. BIBSYS will retain operational responsibility but there is still the need to draw up an agreement. By the end of the first six months of this year BIBSYS and the Rana department of the National Library of Norway will have initiated a pilot project to organise the importing of data to the BIBSYS Web Search. In the longer term we aim to integrate a Z39.50 solution to support Sami written characters in all these library systems.

Sami literature on the world wide web Further information concerning work on this project can be found on

Translated by Eric Deverill

departmental librarian in Tysfjord (in connection with the Lule Sami mobile library service)