Posted : 2012-05-28 15:37
Updated : 2012-05-28 15:37

Dutch library shares digital strategy

Hans Jansen, deputy director general of the National Library of the Netherlands
By Do Je-hae

One of the core policies for any national library today is digitalization of printed volumes and pages. At the forefront of the trend is the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), or the National Library of the Netherlands.

Founded in 1798, the middle-sized library has been conducting projects to digitalize printed volumes from the Netherlands and is also famous for being the headquarters of the Europeana (, a multi-lingual portal that acts as an interface to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitized throughout Europe.

For national libraries with a modest budget, responding to the digital age has been a difficult task.

“Because of budgetary reasons, libraries are faced with a problem of re-designing and re-inventing their mission,” said Hans Jansen, deputy director general of the National Library of the Netherlands, in an interview with The Korea Times. “Our government has made an extra investment in the re-inventing of their missions through directing a focus on digital developments.”

Jansen heads the library’s Innovation & Development Division, whose main activities include digitization, digital preservation and development of technologies and systems for digitization of texts.

He was in Korea last week to speak at an international forum on the future challenges of national libraries hosted by the National Library of Korea in Seoul. This was his first visit since 2006.

“You need to be as digital as possible. Since my first visit to Korea, the impact of digital libraries has become more important. Back then, there was a focus on hybrid libraries. Now more talk is on the transformation from paper to digital.” Hybrid library is a term used by librarians to describe libraries containing a mix of traditional print library resources and the growing number of electronic resources.

At the moment, the KB holds 5 million printed volumes and 200 million digital pages. Last year, the KB hosted 180,000 visitors on site and 6 million on line. The library also hosts several open access websites, including the “Memory of the Netherlands.”

Jansen stressed that a key success factor of his library’s digitalization is the innovative partnerships with public and private sectors.

“A recent strategic development is the merger with The National Archives. The new organization called the ‘National Library and Archives of the Netherlands’ will open on July 1, 2013,” Jansen said. Combining the national library and the national archive is a new trend in the field. Countries like Canada have recently joined the trend as well.

He called Korea a “frontrunner” in building a network of digital libraries. In 2009, Korea opened the National Digital Library of Korea, also known as “Dibrary” combining “digital” and “library.” The facility allows access to over 800 libraries and other institutions around the world, including the U.S. Library of Congress. Access is available to non-Koreans as well.

Jansen said that there is not a lot of demand from the Dutch public for books on Korea, nor does his library carry a significant collection devoted to Korea.

“I hope my visit will lead to a stronger partnership between the two libraries and connect our two peoples through further cooperation,” Jansen said.
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