3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Dec 15, 1996 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on December 15, 1996. This particular issue originally was distributed in two parts, as indicated below.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45 -- $35 until January 1, 1997 -- payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us .


From kessler@well.com Mon Dec 16 17:28:18 1996

FYI France: _Internet Digital Libraries_, "France" chapter, part 3 of 4

This issue of FYI France presents two items:

1) FYI France Online Service -- http://www.fyifrance.com -- 88 new / updated entries, new "search engine" and "suggestion box", and last chance to subscribe for $35 (site licenses available) before Jan 1 launch;

2) Internet Digital Libraries : The International Dimension book excerpt -- the fulltext chapter on "France", conclusion, parts 3 & 4 of 4. XXX

1) The FYI France Online Service -- http://www.fyifrance.com :

-- FYI France has added 88 new or updated entries during the past month, including the bibliothèques de l'Arsenal, Gustav Mahler, and l'Opéra, "IRCAM, La Médiathèque", "INTERNET Society Chapitre Français" and "Téléthèses", "Culture d'òC" (l'Occitan!), Eds. Dalloz-Sirey, Presses Univ.de France, and librairies Decitre and Sauramps;

-- FYI France now has a "search engine" and a "suggestion box";

-- FYI France moves to password / site license access on January 1, so you have two weeks left to look it over and subscribe, with substantial discounts on subscriptions received before the New Year!


[The following is a continuation of the excerpted chapter on "France" from Internet Digital Libraries: the International Dimension (Boston and London : Artech House, December, 1996). Parts 1 and 2 described the BPI, INIST, the BMLyon, FRANTEXT / ARTFL , the IRCAM / Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique - Musique, Minitel, the Ministry of Culture's work, and the BIBLIO-FR econference. Here in Part 3 the BNF, and the possibility of a new BN d'Art are presented.]

* The Bibliothèque Nationale de France / la BNF -- one - stop - shopping for information, offline and online

One of the world's largest traditional print libraries, the French Bibliothèque Nationale -- newly re - christened the "Bibliothèque Nationale de France" -- is making a serious bid to become a world - class one - stop - shopping - place for information, both offline and online.

The BN possesses, depending on which account and definition are used, between 10 and 12 million printed books, all of which are being physically moved during 1996 - 7, to the entirely new and gargantuan and highly - controversial edifice constructed to house them at Tolbiac, just upriver on the Seine from the Paris Left Bank and Latin Quarter.

The BNF project -- the construction of the new building at Tolbiac, the move of the collections from one site to another, the retention of some things at the old site and the decision as to what to retain and what to move, and the provision of hi - tech organization and access in all of this -- were to some extent the product of former French President François Mitterrand's love of literature and books, and to some extent the result of decades of growth and crisis at the old BN.

The old BN outgrew itself many times during this century. Each time, just when cramped conditions, shelving space, and book damage became insufferable (the French call book mold, curiously to foreign gastronomes, "champignons" -- the Paris Right Bank, on which the old BN is built, is an ancient flood plain, and the BN books grow plenty of "champignons"), a way out was found.

But by the 1980's, at least according to then - administrateur Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, no further "way out" remained: shelf space simply would be exhausted soon, he said, and a new building was needed. Various reorganizations and plans were developed. A "BN bis" was much - discussed. All were rejected as being insufficient or impractical.

The impetus finally to do something came from then - President Mitterrand. He was an author himself, and a man proud enough of his literary background to have his official photographs taken holding fine books and against a background of fine books.

He announced, during a remarkable interview held in 1988 in his Elysée Palace garden, the construction of a "très grande bibliothèque", promptly re - christened by the Paris press the "TGB" to rhyme with the French high - speed "Très Grande Vitesse" train's acronym "TGV", and just as promptly rendered into US journal - ese as the slightly ridiculous - sounding "very big library". The President was right, though: by anyone's definition, this new library was to be "very big".

For Digital Libraries purposes, however, the most remarkable portion of President Mitterrand's announcement, and of the ensuing BNF mandate, was his intention that,

"This great library will cover all the fields of knowledge, will be at the disposition of all, will use the most modern technologies of the transmission of knowledge, and will be able to be consulted at a distance, and to enter into relations with the other European libraries." (Letter of Mission from the President of the Republic to the Prime Minister, August 1988.) [4]

This was the mandate to spend money on "informatisation", the French term for the congeries of library automation and telecommunications and information search and retrieval and generall access hardware, software, systems, and service which underly Digital Libraries. The idea which President Mitterrand had was that the French would lead, not only with a truly "very big library" but with the very latest and very best in online digital information technology.

The project which resulted has consumed much of the imagination and energy and aggressiveness of the French intelligentsia, and most of the budget of the Ministry of Culture, for nearly a decade. From original estimates of US $200 million the construction costs perhaps predictably soared to over US $ 1 billion, and the building is not yet completed.

It has become easily the most expensive among the series of costly central Paris monumental building projects built since the 1970's -- the Louvre Pyramide, the Musée d'Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Opéra, the Grand Arche de La Défense, and others -- known to those most supportive of them as the "grands travaux", and to their critics in the French press by many far less - complimentary epithets.

Among the BNF project's greatest supporters have been foreign -- non - French -- francophiles and French scholars, who look forward to improved access to the BN collections, and who always enjoy a trip to Paris to view the latest monument; but then they don't have to pay for it.

The great danger of the BNF as a project has been that the new building might so exhaust the budget as to become merely a warehouse for seldom - used printed books. The French have been acutely aware of this danger.

To avoid it, much attention has been devoted both to coordinating the Tolbiac site's resources and services with those of other BNF sites, and to establishing and maintaining a BNF Digital Libraries presence. At the BNF online, one already can find digitized texts, digitized images, brave announcements of more of both to come, and immensely - helpful services of various types.

Online access to the BNF catalog now is available as well, although this particular effort -- like any other library cataloging effort -- still is subject to the usual criticisms of its lack of standardization: the French are engaged in enormous projects to standardize their bibliographic practices -- as are the British, as are the Americans, and as are most librarians -- but the standardization is not in place yet, and the entries which one obtains online resemble, but do not match, what is most familiar to a foreign user.

Most remarkably, particularly for this national and nationalistic library project, its online presence is available in English: one need only point and click to reach a complete presentation of this French Digital Libraries effort in a foreign language.

via W3 to http://www.bnf.fr .

* La Bibliothèque Nationale d'Art? -- imaging -- the future?

Perhaps ironically, the outstanding source of potential competition for the BNF Digital Libraries effort already under way comes from within France itself: from an entity which may even ultimately become a part of the BNF itself.

Back at the old site, on the Paris Right Bank's rue Richelieu, all the old non - print BN collections, which now will have the great added benefit of much - increased physical space, are being reorganised into what very hopefully is being called La Bibliothe`que Nationale d'Art: this would include the famous BN collections and administrative departments devoted to manuscripts, and prints and drawings, and coins and medallions, and everything which this enormous institution accumulated over the centuries which didn't happen to be a printed text -- all this perhaps combined with several other central Paris art library collections, and even a brand - new school dedicated to the teaching of art and art documentation.

At a time when "imaging" has become the leading key word in online digital information -- everything, it seems at times, which can be digitized can be considered as an "image", even text [5] -- an institution could do worse than become a leading world center for nearly everything which up until now has been associated with the term "image".

Online digital information techniques brought to bear, as they necessarily will be, on the collections and concerns of the Bibliothèque Nationale d'Art potentially could eclipse in importance even the enormous efforts in the Digital Libraries area currently being undertaken by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

[Next, in the final Part 4: Internet Digital Libraries, the International Dimension -- Some Common Themes in the French Case.]


FYI France: Internet Digital Libraries, "France" chapter, part 4/4

[The following is the final installment of the excerpted chapter on "France" from Internet Digital Libraries: the International Dimension (Boston and London : Artech House, December, 1996).

[Parts 1 and 2 last month described the BPI, INIST, the BMLyon, FRANTEXT / ARTFL , the IRCAM / Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique - Musique, Minitel, the Ministry of Culture's work, and the BIBLIO-FR econference; Part 3 the BNF, and the possibility of a new BN d'Art.

[Here, in this concluding Part 4: Internet Digital Libraries, the International Dimension -- Some Common Themes in the French Case.]

** Some Common Themes in the French Case.

The common themes suggested by these examples of Digital Libraries in France are several.

The first is a common interest in the exhibition of what is a remarkable national cultural heritage. French pride in their nation's cultural achievement, particularly the long history of this record, is enormous, and is well - illustrated in the development of the French approach to the construction of Digital Libraries.

A second strand, though, somewhat modifies this first: multi - lingual access is of great concern to the French -- almost all of their Digital Libraries efforts which can be found online provide some form of multi - lingual access.

This perhaps is an admission of the degree of difficulty and limited reach of their own national language: the French themselves at times are even less confident in this regard than foreigners are. But it also shows an understanding of the role of their nation in a multi - national world, an understanding not shown by English - language nations: the rest of the world doesn't speak the French language -- and the French appear to realize that if they are to communicate with the outside non - French world they at least must do so in the language of the users.

A third, particularly - French, strand in Digital Libraries development is the enormous prestige accorded there to digital affairs as a national priority. Interest in the digital revolution is high in most places in the world now, but few have placed it so high on the national development agenda as have the French.

It takes the form of a personal crusade in Paris, among some decision - makers: the French ambassador to the US and the national Minister of Culture both have posted messages to BIBLIO - FR, the French librarians' e - conference -- the prime minister of the country himself chaired the October 1995 meeting which decreed that the Internet would be brought too all French citizens for the price of a local telephone call in 1996. Politicians elsewhere give Cyberspace much lip service, but few outside those in the US have become this personally involved.

Libraries and librarians in France never have been considered separate from governmental functions and certainly concerns, as they have in the US. In France culture is a national concern, with its own national Ministry, civil servants, statutes and administrative structures.

The French would not consider libraries to be a matter for uncontrolled private enterprise any more than they would consider this for hospitals or schools. They even have difficulty imagining telecommunications, originally considered a national security matter of high priority, to be a candidate for privatization and reduced government control.

The general attitude toward government control and active participation is very different in France from the US, but perhaps is more similar to its situation elsewhere: France and other countries did not have a Thoreau who taught that "that government is best which governs least". Digitization, insofar as it became a French national priority, logically would be imposed upon French schools and hospitals and libraries, following a political logic found elsewhere and considered strange perhaps only in the US.

There is, finally, central government involvement and support for Digital Libraries and online efforts generally. In the US, where the national central government sponsored the earliest Internet beginnings, subsequent developments have been funded largely by private industry, and now private industry seems to be taking over the enterprise as a whole. The French model, then, insofar as nations elsewhere also have strong central government participation in anything digital or networked -- at least in its beginnings overseas -- may be highly relevant to other non - US cases, and perhaps even more relevant.


[1] See the online version of the exhibit at http://www.bnf.fr/loc/bnf0001.htm , and, Tesnière, Marie - Hélène and Prosser Gifford, eds., Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, New Haven: Yale University Press, c1995, ISBN 0 - 300 - 06283 - 4; although this thesis is, like anything by or about the French, controversial -- see Kessler, Jack, "Treasures of the Bibliothèque Nationale at the Library of Congress, and now on W3 / the WorldWideWeb", FYIFrance, January 15, 1996, gopher://library.berkeley.edu:72/00/ejrnls/FYIFrance/1996/FYIFrance.01.1 5.96 , ISSN 1071 - 5916.

[2] Melot, Michel, "Les Nouveaux Enjeux de la Normalisation", Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France, Vol. 38, No. 5, 1993, p.10 -- text extract appearing here has been translated by Jack Kessler.

[3] Trésors de la Langue Française -- http://www.ciril.fr/inalf-bin/wncgi/tlf-showps?main.tlf .

[4] http://gopher.well.sf.ca.us:70/0/Publications/FYIFrance/fyi.93.05.15 .

[5] Collard, Claude, Isabelle Giannattasio and Michel Melot, Les Images dans les Bibliothèques, Paris: Editions du Cercle de la Librairie, 1995, ISBN 2765405778.

[Footnotes have been omitted here.]


The book's full outline:

Internet Digital Libraries: The International Dimension

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Part I: Setting the Stage

Chapter 1: The Internet Goes Public -- A New Story, Digital Information

Chapter 2: Digitization in Libraries -- An Old Story, Information and Libraries

Chapter 3: Incunabula -- The Development of Digital Libraries in the US

Part II: Specifics -- National

Chapter 4: France -- Flexible Centralization

Chapter 5: Singapore -- Rigid Centralization

Chapter 6: China -- Chinese Uniqueness

Chapter 7: India -- An Awakening Giant

Chapter 8: Australia -- The Antipodes, and the Sheer Reach of Digital Information

Chapter 9: Thailand -- The Blending of Worlds, Third and Other

Chapter 10: The UK -- Crowded Pipes

Chapter 11: Hungary -- Phenomenon of the Stranger

Chapter 12: Japan -- Investing vs. Consuming

Chapter 13: Indonesia -- The Rest of Asia, and the World

Chapter 14: National Government -- the NSF Digital Libraries Projects, in the US

Part III: Specifics -- International

Chapter 15: Language

Chapter 16: Politics and Political Structures

Chapter 17: Technical Standards

Chapter 18: Business

Chapter 19: International Organizations

Part IV. Generalities -- International

Chapter 20: Media and Messages -- Is the Pipe Neutral?

Chapter 21: Libraries and Information -- Warehouses and Services?

Chapter 22: Human Users -- Fitting Something New In -- Wine and Bottles, Chickens and Eggs

Appendix A: French Libraries Online -- the vast range of possibilities for Digital Libraries access overseas, including some not on the Internet but nonetheless Digital and accessible.

Appendix B: Electronic Conferences in France -- professional development possibilities online -- the future for the Digital Library, in any country -- one national example.

Appendix C: A Small Statistical Essai -- a "try" or "attempt" at not answering but at least asking a few general questions about the phenomenally - expanding international use of the Internet, based loosely on some brave statistics - gathering efforts which others have undertaken.

Appendix D: Digital Libraries so - called -- some unsophisticated "content analysis".


Annotated Bibliography and Resource List

General Index

Ordering information: from the publishers at http://www.artech-house.com . The ISBN number is 0-89006-875-5.


FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

      |           FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter,
      |           published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal,
      |           experiment, in the creation of large - scale
      |           "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material
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  ---------       address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if
 //       \\      if it is going to make them money, they must get my
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(path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or
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econference archive), or via telnet to  a.cni.org , login  brsuser
(PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at  http://www.fyifrance.com .
Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen
letters all will be gratefully received at  kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.

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Last update: January 12, 1997.