Academic journal article Alexandria

Towards the Digital National Library: The Estonian Approach

Academic journal article Alexandria

Towards the Digital National Library: The Estonian Approach

Article excerpt


The developments in the information environment during the last decade have urged libraries, and in particular national libraries, to rethink the principles of collection development, preservation and information services. Libraries have been managing their traditional collections according to fixed standards and principles which have been successfully functioning for decades; in the context of digital collections, however, libraries have already been facing the necessity to experiment for some time.

In its development the National Library of Estonia proceeds from the vision of the European Digital Library which can be found in the document The Commission of the European Communities Recommendation of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation) This recommendation invites the EU member states to establish digitization centres in order to facilitate the accessibility of the European cultural heritage on the Web. The National Library of Estonia has consistently improved its technological capability, considering its role in the network of Estonian memory institutions. As a result, the library is developing into a competence centre for the digitization and preservation of e-collections with the necessary technological basis and knowhow.


The fulfilment of the tasks of a national library is supported by the Legal Deposit Copy Act which is among the essential frameworks extended to cover new information carriers in many countries, including Estonia.

The first regulation in the Republic of Estonia governing the issues of printed publications was enforced by the Provisional Government in 1918, ordering printing houses to send six copies of each publication to the Publications Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The regulation did not specify which libraries were entitled to receive legal deposit copies. According to records the Archival Library of the Estonian National Museum started to receive 1-2 copies from 1918; another institution receiving a copy was the University of Tartu Library. In 1919 the Legal Deposit Copy Act was amended - the number of legal deposit copies was increased to eight and the National Library of Estonia (at that time the State Library) was included in the list of libraries entitled to legal deposit. After the Second World War the legal deposit copy in Soviet Estonia was directly related to censorship and it was sent to the National Library (then the State Public Library of the Estonian SSR) and to the State Book Chamber, a Soviet institution (Ainz, 2004).

After the re-establishment of independence in Estonia, the new Legal Deposit Copy Act was adopted in 1997 which extended the status of a deposit copy to audiovisual documents and electronic documents on physical carriers in addition to printed documents. The previous legal act, the Government of the Republic Regulation of 1992 'On the provisional supply of legal deposit of printed matter' covered only printed publications and ruled that 20 libraries were entitled to receive 28 legal deposit copies of all editions exceeding 50 copies. The Act of 1997 came considerably closer to the main aim of the Legal Deposit Copy Act, entitling only five libraries to receive the legal deposit (National Library of Estonia, University of Tartu Library, Archival Library of the Estonian Literary Museum, Academic Library of Tallinn University and Tallinn University of Technology Library).

The present Legal Deposit Copy Act does not cover films or radio and TV programmes. The long-term collecting and preservation of radio and TV programmes is regulated by the Estonian National Broadcasting Act, according to which each broadcaster operating on the basis of an Estonian broadcasting licence sends to Estonian Public Broadcasting a copy of each recording (or mandatory copy). Estonian Public Broadcasting makes a selection among all recordings as the Act requires it to ensure the permanent preservation of only those recordings which contain events or works important from the viewpoint of Estonian national culture or Estonian history. …

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