The National Library’s digital newspaper service

In 2011, the National Library of Norway launched a new digital newspaper service ( The service is free of charge, and all Norwegian libraries can access the newspapers with which the National Library has an agreement. Since the autumn of 2006, the National Library has collaborated with a number of Norwegian newspapers on digitization and digital submission. New newspapers are submit-ted to the National Library in a high quality digital format, while the National Library and the newspapers share the costs involved in digitizing the older issues. Under the collaboration agreement with the newspapers, the National Library will have the opportunity to make all digital copies of the newspapers accessible in Norwegian libraries. Newspapers that are out of copyright can be read by everybody.

The digitization programme

In 2006, The National Library of Norway established a comprehensive programme for digitization of content. Over a period of 20-30 years, The National Library’s entire collection will be digitized. This will take place in the form of digitization of the physical objects in the collection, as well as establishment of digital submission of new publications directly from the publishers.

Six years into this period, The National Library now has a digital collection of approximately 350 000 newspaper copies, 235 000 books, 240 000 pages of handwritten manuscripts, 4 000 posters, 740 000 hours of radio broadcasts, 310 000 hours of television programmes, 7 000 videocassettes/films, 7 000 78-rpm records and 8 000 audiotapes. Large parts of the digital collection can be accessed at The National Library’s premises.

Digitization of newspapers

The National Library has a near complete collection of all Norwegian news-papers. Its volume has been estimated at approximately five million copies from a total of nearly 1 200 individual newspapers. In total, this amounts to approximately 70 million pages.

Until 2008, all Norwegian newspaper copies were stored on microfilm. New microfilms have a high quality, and the newspapers can be digitized from the microfilms with an acceptable result. This is the least costly method for digitizing newspapers, and has therefore been chosen when the microfilms provide sufficient quality.

Since 2008, all new newspapers are stored in a digital format. If the copies are not submitted digitally by the publisher, we digitize the submitted paper copy. Digitizing paper copies is more costly than using microfilms, but in return we are able to preserve the co-lours that are lost when microfilms are used. Our goal is to ensure that four years from now all new Norwegian newspapers will be submitted in a digital format. Then, we can concentrate our resources on digitizing history.

For the digitized newspapers we are using computer software to decipher the texts on the basis of the digital images (OCR technology). The results from this process are indexed to make them searchable. This automatic deciphering of the digital images functions very well for more recent newspapers, whereas the results for older newspapers with poorer print quality are more variable. Other national libraries have established services whereby the users can correct errors they discover in OCR-deciphered text. In this manner, the content can be ren-dered increasingly retrievable with the aid of user participation. In the longer term, The National Library of Norway wishes to establish this option.

To date, we have digitized approximately 4.9 million pages from microfilm and approximately 2.8 million pages from paper copies of newspapers. In addition, we have received digitally approximately 890 000 pages in preservation quality.

Currently, The National Library has agreements for collaboration on digitization with the newspapers Aftenposten, Asker og Bærum Budstikke, Inderøyningen, Jærbladet, Stavanger Aftenblad, Steinkjeravisa, Trønder-Avisa and Verran Namdalseid. In addition, agreements have been signed with Adresseavisen and Avisa Nordland on digital submission and digital access in Norwegian libraries.

The newspaper service today

All Norwegian libraries can gain access to this service by turning to avistjeneste AT To date, a total of approximately 250 Norwegian libraries have re-quested such access. The agreement between the National Library and selected newspapers to provide access in Norwegian libraries currently comprises approximately 80 per cent of the newspaper copies currently included in the service. This includes approximately 30 000 newspaper copies that are out of copyright, and thus are accessible to users outside of the library premises. The other copies included in the service are accessible from terminals on The National Library’s premises.

A primary objective of the new service is to phase out the use of microfilms of newspapers in Norwegian libraries. The National Library is no longer producing microfilms, but purchases such production services from an external supplier on the basis of digital news-papers or copies of existing films. Such production is costly, and many libraries would also like to avoid the costs of acquiring and maintaining microfilm viewers.

Naturally, a digital service has a potential that extends far beyond the possibilities provided by a microfilm viewer. The fact that the newspaper content has now become searchable opens completely new opportunities to re-trieve information quickly, as opposed to previously, when sometimes several days would have to be devoted to re-viewing numerous rolls of microfilm. In addition, a reader can leaf through the pages, or jump directly to the next or the previous issue. It is also easy to retrieve several different newspapers issued on the same date, to see how a particular event was reported by different newspapers. The reader can also zoom in on details, and single pages can easily be printed out. We encourage everybody to try out the service to gain an impression of its possibilities.

All objects in the digital repository are uniquely and permanently identified. This ID can for example be used to establish a link from other services to a particular newspaper.

The newspaper service has not yet been widely marketed, but we are nevertheless seeing a strong increase in its use.

Further measures

The key measure to increase the utility of this service even further will be to establish agreements with more Nor-wegian newspaper publishers to widen the scope of options available to the libraries. We are in dialogue with se-veral publishers, and we hope to enter into further agreements in pace with the establishment of digital submission of the various newspapers.

Of the approximately 1 200 newspapers that have ever been published in Nor-way, only about 250 remain active to-day. It is important to strive to find solutions also for the other parts of Norwegian newspaper history.  In addition to expanding the service with more content, the user experience will be further enhanced by adding new methods for locating specific content and new ways to browse the digital repository.

The newspaper service in the digital library

The newspaper service is part of The National Library’s digital collection. In the digital library (, visitors can search across several types of materials in the entire collection. Search results can be listed jointly, irrespective of whether the source is a book, a radio broadcast, a newspaper report or a manuscript. The purpose of establish-ing a specialized newspaper service is that this medium has special charac-teristics that can be reflected in the functionality of a service which is specially designed for this type of publication.

The National Library wishes to provide opportunities for general searches throughout the collection as well as specialized searchers for particular types of materials. We believe that this will result in a total user experience that will cater to a variety of needs.


Head of Department ICT and Digitization National Library of Norway