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IP/05/1202

Brussels, 30 September 2005

[Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Commission unveils plans for European digital libraries

The European Commission today unveiled its strategy to make Europe’s written and audiovisual heritage available on the Internet. Turning Europe’s historic and cultural heritage into digital content will make it usable for European citizens for their studies, work or leisure and will give innovators, artists and entrepreneurs the raw material that they need. The Commission proposes a concerted drive by EU Member States to digitise, preserve, and make this heritage available to all. It presents a first set of actions at European level and invites comments on a series of issues in an online consultation (deadline for replies 20 January 2006). The replies will feed into a proposal for a Recommendation on digitisation and digital preservation, to be presented in June 2006.

“Without a collective memory, we are nothing, and can achieve nothing. It defines our identity and we use it continuously for education, work and leisure”, commented Information Society and Media Commissioner Reding. “The Internet is the most powerful new tool we have had for storing and sharing information since the Gutenberg press, so let’s use it to make the material in Europe’s libraries and archives accessible to all”. Ján Figel’, Commissioner for Education and Culture, added: “European cooperation is an obvious necessity in this field: it is about ensuring preservation and access to our common cultural heritage for the future generations”.

Making the resources in Europe’s libraries and archives available on the Internet is not straightforward. On one hand, we are talking about very different materials – books, film fragments, photographs, manuscripts, speeches and music. On the other, we have to select from very large volumes – for example, 2.5 billion books and bound periodicals in European libraries and millions of hours of film and video in broadcasting archives.

The Commission communication sets out three key areas for action: digitisation, online accessibility and digital preservation. At present, several initiatives exist in the Member States, but they are fragmented. To avoid creating systems that are mutually incompatible and duplicate work, the Commission proposes that Member States and major cultural institutions join EU efforts to make digital libraries a reality throughout Europe. Private involvement and public/private partnerships are a key element in achieving this goal.

For its part the Commission will step up coordination work and contribute funding through its research programmes and through the eContentplus programme:

  • the results of an online consultation on digitisation and digital preservation issues (2005) will feed into Commission Proposal for a Recommendation ( 2006). The results will also be an input for other relevant initiatives such as the review of EU copyright rules (2006) and the implementation of the Community R&D programmes (2007). A High Level Group on digital libraries will advise the Commission on how to best address the identified challenges at European level,
  • collaboration among Member States will be facilitated by an update of the Lund action plan, providing operational guidelines on digitisation (2005), backed up by quantitative indicators to measure progress. The Commission will work together with cultural institutions, such as the national and deposit libraries, to ensure co-ordinated action at European level,
  • the Commission has made 36 million available for research on advanced access to our cultural heritage and digital preservation in the fifth call for proposals under the sixth research framework programme for R&D (2005). Under the seventh framework programme (FP7), the research on digitisation, digital preservation and access to cultural content will be considerably stepped up, inter alia through a network of Centres of Competence in the fields of digitisation and preservation (2007), and between 2005 and 2008, the eContentplus programme will contribute 60 million towards making national digital collections and services interoperable and facilitating multilingual access and use of cultural material.

Digital libraries is one of the flagship initiatives of Commissioner Reding’s initiative “i2010 – a European Information Society for growth and jobs”, adopted by the Commission on 1 June 2005 (see IP/05/643).

Useful links:

- online consultation on digital libraries

- eContentplus programme

- Lund action plan

- European Cultural Portal : http://ec.europa.eu/culture/portal/index_fr.htm

see also MEMO/05/347


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