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"When we are looking forward to what will happen in the next 5 years, or what should
be reflected on, my opinion, my message would be: I am missing, on a national level as well
as on an European level, a discussion on the mission and the philosophy, of what libraries
should be, or are, or what their job should be in the next years.
I think that in building up the information society in Europe, in the public discussion
libraries, and also museums and also archives, do not appear in an appropriate way. If I
compare this with the United States, where, for example, the Director of the New York
Public Library told me in an interview, it is clear for him that libraries are an integral part
of the American understanding of democracy and building up democracy.
I have the feeling that the discussion in Europe is stressed too much on what I would call
the economic shift in thinking about information and, especially, when we are talking about
cultural heritage issues. I would like to add something here concerning the financial point
of view and also the costs: that this is a very risky way, because it is not at all true that you
can make a lot of money out of it, and I think we should discuss this mission and
philosophy issue." (Hans Petschar, Austrian National Library, DigiCULT ERT, Berlin, July 5,
The "valorisation" expectation, that has been evident since the 1990s particularly from
the political side, seems to be somehow tempered by the many experienced voices that
report back from the commercial "front", there is no or surely no short and easy way to be
successful. And, of course, the " wipe-out", i.e. the inglorious end of so many
commercial online ventures, some of which explored to "valorise" cultural heritage, adds
another strong signal to this. As the New York Times' art@large columnist Matthew
Mirapaul, wrote in April 2001,"the e-commerce landscape changed from a sunny Monet to
a desolate Hopper". (Mirapaul, 2001)
Many representatives of cultural heritage institutions might welcome this, but with
reduced budgets there is a considerable and increasing pressure to somehow "go
commercial".This pressure is there not only verbally, but also shows up for example in
project application forms, in that the project will be funded on the understanding that there
is an "exit strategy", i.e. that it leads to something that after a given time can stand on its
own feet.
Covering the total cost of ownership of cultural heritage
Many experts that participated in the DigiCULT-study confirmed the observation of a
pressure to "go commercial". Some representatives of memory institutions considered doing
this, of course not in order to become an economic enterprise, but to generate revenues to
finance their cost-intensive operations, which are not only ICT-related, but also very
traditional ones (e.g climatisation of stock rooms).
Memory institutions hold collections, for which there is a huge total cost of ownership.
Today, they realise, more than ever, that they also have intellectual capital (e.g. copyrights),
and due to financial pressures should or would need to demand (more) money for certain
services they provide.This re-orientation can be illustrated in a statement by a participant
from the DigiCULT expert roundtable on organisational and financial issues, Reimer Witt,
from the State Archive Schleswig-Holstein, Schleswig (Germany):
"In former times and also nowadays, the use of archival documents was without charge,
but I think nowadays we have to think more economically and, therefore, we have to try to
find methods of refinancing our work.That means, we have to think of our services for
people that need written expertise, reproduction, research and so on, that is one way.The
problem of archives is not only (...) the question or the issue of copyright. It is only a