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“Virtual Communities in Europe: the cultural mix and how the European Library has responded”


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Bridging Worlds Conference 2008, Singapore
Day Two Track Four
Speaker 1 - Fleur Stigter

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“Virtual Communities in Europe: the cultural mix and how the European Library has responded”

  1. 1. Virtual Communities in Europe: The European Library approach Fleur Stigter Marketing Manager The European Library ‘Users for Usability’ Coordinator EDLnet / Europeana Bridging Worlds: Knowing, Learning, Sharing conference October 2008, Singapore Abstract In the virtual world, the library has to establish its place like any other content provider, and (re)act according to constantly changing market demands. As successful marketing comes from effective targeting, libraries have no choice but to focus on clearly defined segmented audiences. This given has made The European Library – gateway to Europe’s national library resources – focus its portal on the (European) academic community and to fit The European Library services primarily within academic working processes. This does not mean, however, that The European Library does not try to reach other communities. The European Library is also providing content to Europeana, the portal that will give access to all kinds of material from many different cultural institutions from across Europe. As Europeana serves various target groups and educational user groups, The European Library reaches a much wider audience. In this paper further details are given about the focus and other key elements of The European Library marketing approach. Keywords: Library marketing, digital libraries, national libraries, portals, virtual communities, Europeana, CENL, European Commission, Web2.0, API 1. Introduction Earlier this year, The European Library established a Users Advisory Board. As Dame Lynn Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library and Chair of the Executive Group of The European Library, explained at that time: “It is significant that so many leading librarians, academics and web2.0 experts have accepted our invitation to join the Advisory Board. (…) Its formation symbolizes an important step in the development of The European Library. In a very practical way, the Board will give a voice to the user. We need to pay careful attention to the users points of view as we continue to develop services for the researcher and information-seeker.” The inaugural meeting of this board was entitled ‘What is the future for library portals?’1 Together with representatives of Europe’s national libraries and several other European-wide library organisations such as LIBER and CERL, they discussed the future of library portals from different angles by performing a PESTLE analysis.2 1 ‘European Library sets up user advisory board’, Michele Perry, in: Information World Review, 7th April 2008 2 A PESTLE analysis focuses on broader market developments that may affect the marketing strategy of an organisation. PESTLE stands for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, Technological, Legal, Environmental. 1
  2. 2. The meeting ended with the conclusion that the critical factors for the future of library portals are in meeting user needs, finding a sustainable business model for the service and investing in ongoing innovation.3 In other words, libraries are able to fulfil an important function in online environment but only if they behave as proactive content providers, and, think and act according to the wishes of the market. Here an explanation is given as to how The European Library tries to meet these critical factors and aims to reach an international audience that constantly changes its demands. 2. Backgrounds is a service of the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL). Founded in 1987 as a Foundation under Dutch law, CENL aims to increase and reinforce the role of national libraries in Europe. Eighteen years after its foundation, the first fully operational version of The European Library was launched (2005).4 Image 1: Screenshot of The European Library homepage The European Library gives integrated access to national library resources from across Europe. Resources encompass many varieties of content including books, posters, photographs, maps, sound recordings and video. To ensure that visitors can always find their way to the material, whether or not it is already digitally available, 3 A summary can be find on the Users Advisory Board page of The European Library portal: s/useradvisory_en.html 4 For a full historical overview of The European Library please see for instance ‘Online Collaboration Between European National Libraries Since 1995 - Building Towards a European Digital Library’, Olaf Janssen, Conference paper SLA 2006 conference (June 2006, Baltimore, USA) 2
  3. 3. every query leads to a list of bibliographic records of the participating libraries. On estimation, The European Library currently holds over 150 million records. The percentage of digital objects continues to grow. For instance, a further 20 million pages of fully digitized material from collections across Europe will soon be added.5 All national libraries of the member-states of the Council of Europe can join CENL, and also The European Library. By the end of 2008, from a total of 47 states of the Council of Europe 45 countries will have become full partners of The European Library. This broad range of partnership makes The European Library not only a truly pan-European service (covering much more than just Western Europe) but also the most comprehensive gateway to Europe’s catalogue entries. Technological developments have greatly improved the search experience of The European Library portal and it now offers centralised catalogue searching that is not only comprehensive but also fast. Various browsing experiences are being developed to bring more deep-web content to the surface. A relatively new area of the portal is the online Exhibition Space. Here, visitors can get an impression of the wide variety of cultural treasures (showing different themes and collections), and become familiar with Europe’s national library buildings and their history. Practical information about the libraries is also presented, including opening hours and location. Image 2: Screenshot of The European Library – national libraries of Europe For first-time visitors to the portal, online user guides are available in a number of languages. A video version has also been published, currently in English but with plans to launch it in a number of other European languages. Building upon the framework of The European Library a new service is currently being developed, entitled Europeana. This service – originally known as the 5 This digitisation effort is coordinated via TELplus, a European Commission funded project that aims to strengthen, extend and improve The European Library service. Key issues that are being addressed, include improving access through OAI compliancy, and making more than 20 million pages from the European National Libraries' digital content available with OCR. 3
  4. 4. ‘European digital library’ or EDL – is not yet available but the first public prototype will be launched in November. It is being created to give integrated access to millions of digital resources that have been made available by museums, archives, libraries and audio-visual institutions from across Europe. It will be a simple but powerful tool for finding resources from all over Europe. Books, journals, films, maps, photos, music etc. will be available for everyone to consult – and to use, as permitted by right holders. Bringing together a massive amount of content together from a great number of different institutions from across Europe, this new service will give access to Europe’s intellectual and cultural history in an unprecedented way. “They [users] no longer have to make decisions about what type of institution would hold the material of interest. Is the Domesday Book (the national survey of England in 1086) in the British Library or the UK’s National Archives? (…) Should Chopin’s manuscripts be in Paris or Warsaw? The location of material will no longer be an impediment to access.”6 Europeana is a European Commission driven initiative. As part of the i2010 Digital Library Initiative it is funding the ‘European digital library network’ (EDLnet). One of the key aims of this so-called thematic network is to produce a first prototype of Europeana. The network consists of over 90 representatives of heritage and knowledge organisations and IT experts from throughout Europe. Building - The European Commission’s objectives:  To create a public domain access point  To use digitised cultural and scientific heritage resources as input for a wide range of information products and services  To play a key role in the future growth of sectors such as learning and tourism  To inspire new creative enterprise and innovation  To promote understanding of European connections and the sense of a European identity So far the creation of Europeana has gone through the following development phases: 1. the creation of a ‘static’ maquette – a proof of concept of a user orientated common interface for search, discovery and use across all domain content (an animated demo showing the basic functionalities and features of the anticipated prototype) 2. the creation of an operational prototype7 – a first working prototype mainly focusing on back-end (technical) solutions 3. development of the final prototype 6 ‘Web 2.0 ideas enrich Europe's digital heritage’, Jonathan Purday, Research Information (Aug/Sept. 2008) http://www.researchinformation.i fo/features/feature.php?feature_id= n 185 7 A description of the prototype is given in “Europeana Prototype 1 description” (Catherine Lupovici and Julie Verleyen, EDLnet Office, 2008). For an impression of the ‘Users expect the Interoperable’ conference during which this prototype was released: E 4
  5. 5. After the launch of the final prototype (due for November 2008), Europeana will be developed into a fully operational service, with a regular increase of content and institutions associated with it and improving the robustness of the prototype.8 If all goes according to plan by 2010, a full-service version with access to at least six million items will be launched. Europeana is important to The European Library not least because it helps reach the widest possible audience. A citation of a European Union communiqué states: “A common multilingual access point [Europeana] would make it possible to search Europe’s distributed – that is to say, held in different places by different organisations – digital cultural heritage online. Such an access point would increase its visibility and underline common features. The access point should build on existing initiatives such as The European Library (TEL), in which Europe’s libraries already cooperate.”9 In sum, Europeana aims to serve a broader audience than The European Library. By participating in this unique concept and by being open for co-operations with other partner-organisations The European Library is able to fulfil its traditional role as cultural institution and serve the community at large. 3. Virtual Communities In essence, The European Library service is for anyone worldwide seeking national library material. In practice it is, however, practically impossible to serve a global audience via one and the same channel (for instance a website). It is far more effective to identify users who are likely to value your offering, and target these specific groups with specific services. The European Library portal-site primarily targets librarians and members of the academic community. User studies have clearly pointed out that these groups appreciate most what makes The European Library offering (as presented via the portal site) special: As the most comprehensive pan-European library service The European Library provides a vast virtual collection of material from all disciplines and offers visitors ease of access to European cultural and scientific resources. Key terms often used in descriptions of The European Library: reliability, unique cultural treasures and context-providers.10 To this list can be added the fact that it is the best place to go to check if a particular item has been digitized or not. Though the internet is definitely one of the strongest globalization mechanisms, the question of whether user groups are defined more by interests (e.g. academic subject communities) or by nationality or linguistic groupings is not an easy one to 8 The prototype will be launched November 20th 2008 by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media. Keep up to date via 9 Commission Recommendation of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation (2006/585/EC) 10 Interestingly “Libraries and museums evoke consistent, extraordinary public trust among diverse adult users” is one of the key finding of ‘Interconnections: The IMLS National Study on the Use of Libraries, Museums and the Internet”, Institute of Museum and Libraries Services in cooperation with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jose-Marie Griffiths and Donald W. King (2008). The findings are based on five surveys of 1.000 to 1.600 adults each that were conducted during 2006. 5
  6. 6. answer.11 Either way it goes without saying that culture remains a crucially important factor in serving an international community. This is also expressed in how The European Library is presented and how it is developing its services. Great importance, for instance, is given to offering a multilingual service. At this point a user can select the language of the interface. Several projects are aimed, however, at expanding the range of services that are based on multilinguality.12 Image 3: Screenshots of Facebook Page, a website and blog illustrating the use of the Mini Library The European Library is active in various web 2.0 environments from a Wordpress blog to YouTube, MySpace up to various social community sites. The European Library has not (yet) tried to create virtual places in or outside the portal where academics, for instance, can meet and exchange ideas. Instead it aims to make its services available within already existing communities. The ‘Mini-Library’, for example, is a tool that is currently available both as a widget and as an application. It looks and functions as a mini-version of the search box of The European Library. Installers of the Mini Library can select specific collections, pre-set the language of the interface and modify the layout of the search box. As the ‘Mini Library’ can easily be embedded in any website or blog, it greatly increases access to, and ease of use of, the offered content. The European Library is also analysing the value of its presence within social community sites, such as Facebook. Currently, Facebook registrants can implement a ‘Mini Library’ on their personal page. Given the great 11 For instance: Manuel Castells, The Information Age. Economy, Society and Culture - Vol. II: The Power of Identity. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell (2nd edition, 2004). 12 Projects such as TELMEMOR, EDLproject, TELplus, Multilingual Access to Subjects (MACS), Cross- language Access to Catalogues And On-line libraries (CACAO), Cross-Language Evaluation Forum (CLEF) 6
  7. 7. number of ‘Faces’ that indeed makes use of this possibility, the Mini Library is a great success. By contrast, Europeana is creating virtual spaces in its own domain. Presented features include “MyEuropeana” and “Communities”. Via the latter facility, people can work on projects together or create interest groups around subjects.13 Many issues are, however, still left to be resolved. For instance it still remains to be seen if, and if so how, users may upload content, either in certified contexts or in specific publication spaces.14 Target audiences - Europeana:  General user: people that visit out of interest or looking for particular information  School students: major potential for Europeana, opening up easy access to cultural content  Teachers: enables them to find primary sources and create online course materials  University undergraduates: looking for certified information; want to export information for courses or research work  Graduate students, academics, scholars: want access to the largest possible amount of authoritative content, to annotate and use at a detailed level  Professional users: experts in their domains - archivists, librarians, curators; searching and verifying information Application programming interfaces (APIs) represent a potentially rewarding area for both Europeana and The European Library. Allowing institutional users and possibly general users to build new applications on top of Europeana content and embedding these in different platforms, would immensely expand the reach of Europeana. A local museum somewhere in Germany, for instance, may make a European exhibition on ships from the 18th century, using content of Europeana and putting it on the own website. 4. Keeping up in a multicultural environment To keep up with market developments it is necessary to react fast to changing user requirements and to integrate new developments into the services (the ‘innovation’ success factor). We have described how The European Library and Europeana try to act and react to the demands of targeted audiences.15 Here it is briefly explained how The European Library cooperates with its local partners in targeting a multicultural audience using the ‘act, measure and react’ approach. 13 ‘Web 2.0 ideas enrich Europe's digital heritage’, Jonathan Purday, Research Information (Aug/Sept. 2008) 14 For an overview of ‘pro’s and contra’s’ as these have been noted down during Europeana discussions on user generated content please check: Report on User Requirements for Europeana - demoversion 15 ‘Putting the shoe on the other foot’ - formulating user requirements for Europe’s cultural heritage portals, Conference paper, ELAG 2008 - Rethinking the Library (April 2008, Wageningen, The Netherlands) 7
  8. 8. Last year The European Library started to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).16 These indicators are meant to give insight into the performance of The European Library against its business goals. At the same time they are intended to increase the understanding of the market and its requirements. The KPIs and web-statistics in general, are a key element in marketing The European Library as these inform us whether or not marketing actions are cost-effective. In the near future they will be integrated in a network-wide market information system that is currently being built. This system is aimed at combining information input with monitoring and review mechanisms. Partners are requested to help the Office of The European Library to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing activities and recommend modifications and improvements to programmes. To this end, all partner libraries are asked to apply the KPIs and support further development of them. As The European Library is a collaborative network organization and it is strongly believed that partner-libraries know their own audiences best, all partners are also invited to help promote The European Library within their own country. In various ways the central marketing department supports partners in performing this task, from providing them with centrally-created templates to sending all kinds of promotional material upon request. Partners are also asked to give their own touch to particular actions. For instance in press releases they can add or – up to a certain extent – modify the text according to their insights. How The European Library responds to user needs may be illustrated by examples relating to the portal, for instance the work being done to translate the portal interface into the national languages represented throughout Europe. Logfile analysis has clearly shown how much users appreciate this functionality. Image 4: Screenshot of The European Library homepage – language functionality 16 Key Performance Indicators, an EDLproject report by Fleur Stigter (May 2007) You may also want to check ….presentations at Bridging Worlds Conference. 8
  9. 9. As the members of the newly established Users Advisory Board come from many different countries, it is expected that this board may play an important role in optimizing the portal for an international audience. Last but certainly not least, The European Library is looking to develop its relationships across the international community of library professionals. It is hoped that this community may further help develop The European Library according to the needs of users coming from different parts of the world. As has hopefully become clear, though targeting primarily a European academic community, our aim is to continue to strengthen our service for a global audience and to promote the benefits of the Library as a free resource for all library users. 5. Conclusions Libraries are able to fulfil an important function but only if they behave proactively and think and act according to the wishes of the user communities. Ideally a clearly defined vision and a user-driven concept precede all product and service development, certainly when it comes to working with or developing virtual communities. The ‘act, measure and (re)act’ approach helps The European Library network to keep up to date with changing user demands and to connect with the many different cultures represented in its international audience. At the same time The European Library hopes to reach a broader range of user groups by participating in Europeana. As APIs give the opportunity to deal successfully with different user groups in already existing virtual places, both The European Library and Europeana are planning to further explore this area. Indeed, along side multilingual search and opportunities to add user-generated content APIs have been incorporated into new Europeana proposals, which have been submitted to the European Commission under the last funding call for eContentplus. 6. References ‘European Library sets up user advisory board’, Michele Perry, in: Information World Review (7th April 2008) review/news/2213865/users-given-voice-european-3923010 ‘Web 2.0 ideas enrich Europe's digital heritage’, Jonathan Purday, in: Research Information (Aug/Sept. 2008) Manuel Castells, The Information Age. Economy, Society and Culture - Vol. II: The Power of Identity. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell (2nd edition, 2004) ‘Putting the shoe on the other foot’ - formulating user requirements for Europe’s cultural heritage portals, Fleur Stigter, Conference paper, ELAG 2008 - Rethinking the Library (April 2008, Wageningen, The Netherlands) 9
  10. 10. Online Collaboration Between European National Libraries Since 1995 – Building Towards a European Digital Library, Olaf D. Janssen, Conference paper SLA 2006 conference (June 2006, Baltimore, USA) ullPaper_Olaf_D_Janssen_20060430.pdf Interconnections: The IMLS National Study on the Use of Libraries, Museums and the Internet – Conclusions Summary, J. Griffiths and D.W. King, Institute of Museum and Libraries Services in cooperation with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008) Recommendation by European Commission on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation (24 August 2006/585/EC) Europeana Prototype 1 description, an EDLnet report by Catherine Lupovici and Julie Verleyen (2008) Key Performance Indicators, an EDLproject report by Fleur Stigter (May 2007 The Hague) 10