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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Virtual European library planned
The British Library
The British Library building at St Pancras
The British Library is co-ordinating a pan-European project which will allow internet users to access digital and other collections from institutions across the continent.

A 30-month project involving eight European libraries will provide the basis of the service.

Library bookshelves
Bricks-and-mortar libraries are going virtual
Libraries in Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are all collaborating on the initiative.

The ultimate aim is to create a virtual European library that can be accessed across the world.

The Instituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico in Italy (ICCU) and the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) will also take part in the trial.

'Vision'

Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said: "We are extremely pleased to be leading this important project to improve access to the digital resources of major European national libraries."

"The vision of a seamless European library comes one step closer to reality through this project, to the benefit of students, scholars and citizens across Europe."

The British Library is also involved in a world-wide project to put education material free on the internet.

The national libraries are committed to funding additional work to develop an operational service soon after the EC-funded project is completed.

Members of TEL use a widely varying range of information standards - for cataloguing, indexing, and preserving materials - which means that data cannot be easily shared between libraries.

Progress

They aim to agree and test a range of standards working methods and practices, which will enable all the national libraries to work as a seamless partnership.

More than 40 other national libraries in CENL will be invited to monitor the progress of the project with a view to taking the necessary steps to become fully involved in the eventual operational service.

The British Library is the UK's national library and its collection ranges from ancient Chinese oracle bones to technical reports about the latest scientific discoveries.

Funding for the European Library (TEL) project will be boosted by 740,000 from the European Commission's Information Societies Technology (IST) research programme.

The progress of the project is shown on the European Library website.

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