Nordic collaboration

on digital library services for the immigrant population

For a number of years, the Nordic countries have collaborated on the development of adequate and well-run library services for linguistic minorities and immigrants. These services have been developed over many years and are organised in specialist libraries, but also through the local municipal libraries. Service provision varies between the individual countries, since the users have varying needs.

The board members from right: Marit Vestlie, Eric Hofmeister og Anna Lundén. Photo: Elin Lucassi/KBThe similarities are nevertheless more prominent than the dissimilarities, so opportunities existed for establishing a Nordic project to improve the provision of digital library services to immigrant groups.

In 2009, the State and University Library of Denmark, the National Library of Sweden and the National Library of Norway entered into a formal collaboration to improve the services to linguistic minorities across the national borders.

The board

The collaboration was organised as a board consisting of a representative from each of the libraries. The board currently consists of Eric Hofmeister from the State and University Library of Denmark, Anna Lundén from the National Library of Sweden and Marit Vestlie from the National Library of Norway.

In addition to the board, there are reference groups with representatives from other Nordic countries and specialist libraries for multicultural library services. The collaboration has included efforts to improve service provision while lowering the cost and enhancing the efficiency of procurement to the specialist libraries.

In recent decades, the libraries have provided an increasing number of digital services to their users as a whole. However, the supply of digital literature to immigrant groups has been minimal. There are very few digital books available for this target group, while the supply of films and music is somewhat larger, for example through the Danish Library Centre for Integration, which has developed a platform for dissemination of music and films.

In the spring of 2012, the board was contacted by the Nordic Council, who wished to commission a study on the opportunities for establishing digital services for linguistic minorities. Literature in non-European languages should be prioritised.

The project framework was prepared the following year and in 2016, the Nordic Council of Ministers granted DKK 1 million (approximately EUR 135 000) to the project, with an option for equivalent grants for the next two years.

About the project

The project was started in the summer of 2016 and is headed by the National Library of Norway. In addition to the national libraries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, participants include the specialist libraries: the International Library (IB) in Sweden, the Multilingual Library (DFB) in Norway and the Danish Library Centre for Integration.

The objective is to improve the provision of digital library services to linguistic minorities in the Nordic countries. Shared solutions for procurement and dissemination of digital material will be put in place, with emphasis on improving the supply of digital books, but other types of material will also be made more broadly available. The project is organised in four groups:

Group 1: Procurement and copyright clearance

This group will select and procure material and rights for digital dissemination. In light of the priority given to non-European languages, the following five languages were chosen: Arabic, Pashto/Dari, Persian, Tigrinya and Somali.

The goal is to establish an electronic supply of books. Efforts will be undertaken to procure ebooks, alternatively other books with the right to publish them digitally. Literature for both adults and children, as well as both fiction and non-fiction, will be relevant, as will translated titles, for example from the Nordic languages.

Group 2: Cataloguing and digitisation

Cataloguing of this type of material requires competence and is costly. There is a need to make use of expertise from all the countries involved. The project’s aim is that each country will catalogue the material that it is responsible for procuring. The other countries are permitted to reuse the data generated in their catalogues. This group shall also ensure that the material is digitised.

Group 3: Editing of dissemination

Dissemination of material is crucial and a necessary prerequisite for a good digital library. The goal is to achieve a consistent high quality that can be reused. The group will prepare a kind of standard or template for dissemination of the various types of material and ensure that it can be used by the other countries.

Group 4: Digital publication platform

The basis for the platform will be the Verdensbiblioteket. dk website under the State and University Library. The platform has been procured and developed mainly for music and film-type material. The group will examine the opportunities for expanding the platform to encompass material in book format and make provisions for its use in all the Nordic countries.

In the autumn of 2016, efforts have been focused on procurement and rights, which are preconditions for a successful project. The three specialist libraries have put a lot of effort and enthusiasm into identifying opportunities and favourable purchases. By the new year, we hope that the first titles will be in place and that the next phase of the project can be initiated.

Strategic Adviser National Library of Norway