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Posted for Elena Maceviciute

The recent fire in one of the biggest Russian libraries, the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION), that happened during the night of January 30-31, 2015, has destroyed approximately one fifth of the huge collection of almost 15 million items. The Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations informs us that among 5.47 million lost items were books weeded out of the collection and duplicates. The library also hopes to re-create 2.32 million books with the help of other national and foreign libraries, publishers, and other organization. The biggest work, however, is to save what has not been burned, but is damaged by smoke, soot, and water and to rebuild the library building, which at present is not possible to use. Thus, the first boxes with the documents have been transported to places of salvation and restoration or temporary storage. The loss to Russian and international humanities and social science is difficult to estimate. However, the fire seemed to have lead to (or at least to speed up) work on changes to the law on legal deposit of documents, which has to be approved by the federal government by February 15 (i.e., right now) and sent to the State Duma. The bill deals with legal deposit of digital copies of all new publications that are issued to the public and are acquired by libraries.

The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation also plans digitisation of all library collections starting with scanning of old manuscripts and also helping to restore the INION collection. Judging from the sum available for the programme at the moment (appr. 1.4 million Euro or 1.6 million USD), the realisation of the plans will take some time, though many digitisation projects in Russian libraries are already in progress. Thus electronic copies of newly published books provided as legal deposit should speed up the digitization of the national library collections and set up the foundation of a modern information system of all published materials. At the moment, the government expects to provide free and unlimited access to the future digital library, but also respect copyright and acquire the rights to use the books using the resources of the state budget. The Ministry is preparing the Law on the National Electronic Library. (see http://www.m24.ru/articles/65517?attempt=1)

One can only wish good luck to Russian librarians, but also be rather sceptical about the expressed plans knowing the problems that other National Libraries are meeting on the way to building their national digital libraries.

Quite a large number of national libraries (e.g., Canada, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, the UK, etc.) have laws covering legal deposit of digital and online publications. Others are permitted to collect digital materials and build national archives (e.g., Australia, Israel, Japan, Slovenia, etc.). Some libraries, for example, Lithuanian Martynas Mažvydas National Library, approach the authors with a request to permit digitisation of their printed books (coming in as legal deposit) for preservation purposes due to restricted storage capacity for physical books.

Most of the libraries do not permit user access to their collections outside the premises of the national library and this service is available only to registered users. Usually, the constraints do not affect material that is in public domain.

The Norwegian plan of digitisation of all the books published in Norway is among the most famous and ambitious plans. It seems to be on its way to success. The National Library of Norway started the programme in 2006, but the initiative has attracted great attention from the foreign press when the legislators and the government have confirmed that the legal deposit act does not specify any specific medium, therefore all documents, regardless of the media and formats, are subject to legal deposit law. Thus, the project of digitising all Norwegian books also acquired new dimension. It pursues two goals: conservation of the national collective memory and distribution of copyright-free material. The plan is detailed and thought through taking into account interests of different parties, legal aspects, collaboration between different actors, organizational and funding matters. All digitised material is available on library premises in the digital reading hall. Digital books are distributed through the Bookshelf. It was launched in 2009 with approximately 50,000 books published in different periods of the 17-20th centuries. Some of the books are not free of copyright but are available through the agreement with Kopinor – the organization representing copyright holders of published works. According to the plan there should be 250,000 books available free online by 2017.

Bokhylla resources are available free to all with a Norwegian IP address. Copyright-protected books cannot be downloaded or printed. Authors and publishers are paid through the collective agreement maintained by Kopinor. The National Library also offers free downloads of 98 books (though the introductory text names only 38) through its own website. They represent a cross section of Norwegian litterature and are available in ePub format.