Challenges for libraries in a digital age are larger than local public libraries can handle on their own. In order to create a cohesive, efficient and technologically up to date answer to those challenges, the Flemish government founded a new organisation, Bibnet. Bibnet’s task will be to develop infrastructure and services for public libraries and the public, keep up with emerging technologies and build expertise in and collaborate with local libraries.
The efforts of the Flemish government and Bibnet will help to give meaning to the term “Digital Library Flanders”. However, achieving this goal is a responsibility which is shared across all layers of government. Local libraries will remain the starting point. They will receive help in strengthening their relationships with (local) users. In addition, libraries will be encouraged to become local points of reference where visitors can safely browse through a digital environment.
Bibnet wants to empower local libraries and give them tools to reach out to the public in new media and social networks. Bibnet’s focal point is the searchability, linkability and enrichment of the metadata of both digital and physical collections in Flemish public libraries. Bibnet’s mission is firmly rooted in the social and cultural value of the public library and its future roles in society.
Bibnet provides library professionals with knowledge about new digital opportunities and changing user behaviour, so they can deal with the expectations of their users in the digital era with confidence. Bibnet helps libraries to tap into new digital collections, integrate new media into their collections, and enhance their presence on the internet.
Bibnet aims in all its initiatives to strengthen the value of public libraries for society, and the meaning they can have for their users in a modernized society.
|Library collection development|
Each library invests in the development of its own collection, in order to adapt it to the local community and the needs of its users. Bibnet invests in tools which will help libraries develop their collections more knowledgeable and in a more cost efficient way. Libraries will be able to contract out a substantial part of practical collection management processes. This will help them to put more effort in acquiring knowledge about their users, and in meeting specific local (collection) needs.
Digital resources will become an ever more important addition to the physical library collection. Bibnet organises access to digital collections for public libraries and is developing joint purchasing models for the sector. Current products are Mediargus (a newspaper and periodicals fulltext database), Digileen (a database with digital music, provided by Centrale Discotheek Rotterdam) and a database with cover pictures.
Bibnet supported Playlane, a young Flemish media company, in the launch of Fundels, a multimedia picture book experience that combines books and computers. Fundels makes picture books come to life. It's a fun combination of animated picture books and engaging activities for children aged three till seven. By borrowing a Fundels-backpack (with an RFID-reader and one or more picture books provided with a Fundels chip), library members are able to install the Fundels application on their home computer and start their multimedia picture book experience. From June 2011 onwards, Fundels also became available as an iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch app, with a built-in lending option (the first app on iTunes worldwide to enable lending as member of a public library).
Together with the book trade, Bibnet is developing a Flemish e-book platform, that will allow the storaging, browsing, buying and lending e-books. Through this project, Bibnet wants to make sure Flemish digital books will be available on the internet amongst the growing English content from large players such as Google and Amazon. It will also provide a common platform for libraries, bookstores, publishers and other distributors alike, and enable the preservation of digitally born content.
Bibnet also created a new digital streaming music solution for libraries, in cooperation with Aristo Music and the public library of Lanaken. This new product, called Bib.fm, allows the user to listen in your browser window to digitalised music from the collection of the library. Through the library catalogue, everyone can listen to 30 seconds of any song available. Members of the library of Lanaken can log in with their library card and listen to whole songs for 10 hours. Within the walls of the library, the entire digital collection is available. Bibnet is currently working on the expansion of this pilot project to all libraries in Flanders.
The library collection is a library’s unique trump. Collecting, selecting, presentation, additional information, use of the collection, they all demand continued efforts. And gradually, digital content and new media will take their place within the library.
Whether for literature, informative works, films or music, Open Vlacc is the bibliographic database which holds the greater part of the collections of every public library in Flanders. Descriptions and additional information on and about library materials (data and metadata) are shared with local and provincial library systems.
Bibnet coordinates and optimises data entry in Open Vlacc and supports the exchange of the data. A revamped, faster and more efficient approach by a bibliographic centre under the auspices of Bibnet will add to the topicality and completeness of the data in Open Vlacc.
Just like everyone else these days, library users start their searches on the internet. Therefore it is positive for them to be able to find libraries and their services online. This strengthens the relationship between library and user. In addition, there are a great number of non-library users on the internet, many of them “digital natives”, for whom Google is the library. The presence of libraries on the internet also gives them the opportunity to discover free access to information and the unique collections of libraries.
Bibnet developed www.bibliotheek.be in order to bolster the presence of libraries on the internet. The cornerstone of this site is zoeken.bibliotheek.be, the search engine to Open Vlacc: a large and rich bibliographical database which will gradually connect to all public library collections and services.
Bibnet enriches its search engine with information that is available on the internet. At zoeken.bibliotheek.be, you can also find information from Wikipedia, Google Books, Librarything, Last.fm, newspapers and periodicals (some of them with full text articles), the database of the Book Trade, and Muziekweb, a Dutch service for information on music, including digital music free for borrowing.
Bibnet presents all this information in different ways and overviews. Users are given the opportunity to add their own information in the search engine, put together library materials and lists, add key words or tags, write reviews, etc. By linking into existing web platforms (such as www.librarything.nl) which are widely used, Bibnet also makes library collections visible on these internet forums.
Zoeken.bibliotheek.be not only offers central public access to the collected library collections, it is also a model for every local library catalogue. In the Library Portals project, Bibnet, together with the provinces and the Flemish government, is creating a shared portal environment for all public libraries in Flanders. The library user will be able to search all library collections in a similarly intuitive manner, regardless of where they are.
|Local library practices|
Local libraries are becoming important as (physical) places where everyone can participate in the virtual world and make use of digital services in a trusted environment. Bibnet wants to support libraries in employing new digital applications in order to create added value for their users. With the library as a local point of reference, Bibnet distils models and instruments from experiments with new technologies. This will help libraries to become places where people know they can explore new digital environments.
Bibnet set up 'Kenniskantoor', a Ning-platform through which library staff can exchange information and ask all kinds of work-related questions. This community is open to everyone, but in order to participate in a given discussion, one has to create a user account and log on. Three months after the initial launch, Kenniskantoor already counted over 1000 members, and the community is still growing.
Libraries are also focusing on those who lack the skills to use new internet applications. Libraries are turning themselves into a crucial local partner in bridging the digital divide and democratising access to the digital world. Bibnet wants to stimulate this process.
Libraries are challenged to cope with changing user behaviour and to integrate new digital possibilities. This challenges also library staff. They have to acquire knowledge about new digital environments, master them and share this knowledge with each other, and their public. One of the initiatives of Bibnet was to adapt 23-things, the American self study course on Web 2.0, to the Flemish environment at www.23dingen.be.
Where a joint approach on a Flemish level offers added value, Bibnet supports the local IT infrastructure, by establishing standards and creating practical tools to implement new technology like RFID, or by organising the joint procurement of software licenses.