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Sharing Human and Electronic Resources: A European Perspective

Paper presented at the 15th Annual Conference of the Association of SDA Librarians 19-27 June 1995

By Per Lisle
Librarian, Newbold College, England

  1. Introduction

    While Europe is a small continent compared to North America or Africa, it is still too big and diverse to be treated as a nice, uniform, easily managed unit. In fact, since 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and what Churchill called the ‘Iron Curtain’ disintegrated, Europe has grown both in size and diversity.

    I cannot claim that I am well versed in the library needs and concerns of the emerging Europe. What I will put to you in this paper is very much one European perspective rather than the European perspective. On the whole I will have to limit myself to the national contexts I am familiar with and work or have worked within, namely the British and Scandinavian. I will focus largely, though not exclusively, on the situation within the academic/higher education sector and not touch on the public library sector at all.

    The paper comes in three parts. The link between the parts may not be entirely obvious, but I have chosen three different themes in order to give you a feel for some of what is going on the European library scene both within and without Adventism. In the first part I will outline what exists in terms of Seventh-day Adventist Libraries and look at whatever sharing or co-operation that is taking place between them. There are only four Adventist libraries in Europe that fall within the parameters suggested above. Co-operation between the four is minimal. I will offer an explanation as to why this is the case.

    The second part of the paper will deal with the kind of resource sharing that is taking place in the European (ie British) library and information community at large.

    Electronic networking and resource sharing are at the top of the agenda at the moment. I am going to suggest what I think is at least one of the reasons why this is the case. I will go on to look briefly at the tools that are available to us. I will also highlight two of the problems which have yet to be overcome in this area, both in the British library and information sector in general and at Newbold College in particular.

    In the third part I will try to be adventurous and venture into the realm of prophesy. The prophesies will not be my own but those of one of the leading thinkers in the area of academic and educational librarianship in this country at the moment, Dr Richard Heseltine, Librarian and Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Support at Hull University.

  2. Adventist libraries in Europe

    Between them, the two divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that cover most of Europe run only three senior colleges or colleges of higher education. Friedensau Theological Graduate School in Germany, Saleve Adventist Institute in France (Euro-Africa Division) and Newbold College here in England Trans-European Division. In addition there are the Zaokski Theological Seminary in Russia (Euro-Asia Division) and several emerging schools in eastern Europe.

    While the number of SDA libraries serving Adventist higher education in Europe is very small, there are other types of Adventist libraries and library-like establishments. These are worth mentioning despite the fact that they are small and not always very well looked after. 

    1. 2.1 Church libraries

      In the Trans-European Division there are 1,129 churches. In Euro-African Division there are 3,423. Not all of these churches are in Europe and far from all of them have church libraries. But a significant number do. From what I have seen, the quality and scope of the collections vary widely and there seems to be a tendency towards not maintaining the collections. However, many of these libraries contain valuable resources – notably in the form of older Adventist books and pamphlets.

    2. 2.2 Secondary school libraries

      Virtually all European unions of Seventh-day Adventists run secondary schools. A good number of these have well established libraries. An appropriate example is the Norwegian Junior College, Tyrifjord. A significant part of that collection stems from Tyrifjord’s predecessor, Onsrud, and the collection of rich in older Adventist publications.

      With a couple of notable exceptions, one of them being the Danish Junior College, these libraries are not run by library professionals. That is a shame, because some of the collections are significant and deserve professional attention which they are not getting at the moment.

    3. 2.3 Archives and archival book collections

      A very positive development over the past few years is the emergence of archives and archival book collections aimed at preserving the Adventist heritage in specific geographic areas. Again, Denmark is at the forefront. HASDA Denmark is well established, as is a similar establishment in Germany. HASDA Norway is under development and at the Norwegian Publishing House there is a virtually complete collection of Adventist publications in the Norwegian language published from 1875 to date. In Sweden the situation is somewhat different at the moment in that at lot of materials are packed in crates and not accessible at all. Here the idea of depositing the materials in the Swedish National Archives has been aired, at least in private.

    4. 2.4 The college libraries

      Currently the library at Friedesau Theological Graduate School holds approximately 34,000 volumes, the library at Saleve Adventist Institute 40,000 volumes and Newbold College Library 70,000 volumes. The bias in all three libraries is towards religion and theology, but there are also significant holdings in other areas. Friedensau has a sizeable collection in the area of social work, Newbold in areas like English literature, history, music, business studies and education. All libraries utilise electronic databases in one form or other, and at least Newbold and Friedensau have electronic library management systems under development. Newbold also has an Internet connection of sorts.

      By European standards all three collections are large compared to those of other privately run institutions of a similar nature.

    5. 2.5 Co-operation and resource sharing

      The above account was intended to give you some general understanding of Adventist libraries and librarianship in Europe. It is not a complete picture. A lot more research ought to be done in order to gain a fuller picture both of collections and activities.

      Sharing of human and electronic resources among European Adventist libraries and librarians has so far been virtually non existent. In fact, there has hardly been any contact at all between the libraries, let alone sharing of expertise and resources. Some limited interlibrary loan activities have taken place, but on an ad hoc basis not as a part of structured co-operation. This does not mean that we are strangers to resource sharing and co-operation in general. For instance, at Newbold we borrow from and contribute to the national interlibrary loan scheme and our contacts within the British academic and special library communities are increasing in number. We also utilise the electronic tools available to us, although access to these have had its own set of problems. But we do not have any significant interaction with other European Adventist library establishments.

      You may find this strange, even sad. There are, however, at least three factors which may go some way towards explaining this situation.

      1. The first one is political. The three major European Adventist libraries are located in three different countries. The European Union, to which Germany, France and Great Britain all belong, does not function in quite the same way as for example the United States of America. The three countries are still three distinct political and cultural units, at least for the time being. Despite improved communications and vastly improved understanding of each others circumstances, there are still barriers to be overcome.
      2. One of these barriers is language. While most Germans and French read and speak English and many Britons speak French, language issues are still obstacles to co-operation.
      3. A third difficulty is the way the Seventh-day Adventist church is organised in Europe. There are three divisions covering European territory – the Trans-European and the Euro-African and the Euro-Asian. The criteria applied when assigning countries to divisions are no longer altogether clear, but European post-war politics have clearly played a part. It could, therefore, be argued that the composition of the three divisions are somewhat lacking in the area of geographical logic. There is not a strong tradition for inter-division co-operation.
      My view is the that there is a need for sharing and co-operation and that the will to share and work together is there. The 1995 ASDAL conference may turn out to be an important catalyst and starting point.

  3. Resource sharing and networking in the British library community

    1. 3.1 Current situation

      Resource sharing is a long established concept in British librarianship. It has traditionally included activities like interlibrary loans and shared cataloguing, but the advent of large scale electronic networking has taken us a lot further than this.

      During the last two years no fewer that three major reports into the information needs of higher education and research have in different ways extolled the virtues of resource sharing through networked electronic information. One for them, the so called Follet Report, argues forcefully that extensive use of networked information, or the ‘virtual library’ will play a crucial role in successful teaching and research in the future.

      Today this kind of argument is neither original nor revolutionary. What makes it interesting is that British politicians, and to some extent educational administrators, have warmed considerably to this idea and begun to see it as a solution to one of the problems they face in the area of higher education: the increasing pressure on academic libraries.

      What librarians have argued for many years has suddenly become very obvious to everybody charged with funding higher education: the time of the self sufficient library is long gone – if it ever existed. Everybody is dependent on information held by somebody else. A library is no longer narrowly defined as a collection of books in some sort of order, but as a place there the information seeker meets the information and where the format of the information bearer is irrelevant.

      Both academic and public libraries find themselves under increasing pressure. Public funding, which throughout Europe for a long time has been the main source of financial resources, is dwindling. At the same time new demands are constantly being put on library organisations. In the case of academic libraries, the ‘massification of higher education’ has meant that student numbers have increased dramatically. New teaching methods with emphasis on problem oriented, student driven, project based learning have been introduced – partly for sound pedagogical reasons, but also as a response to the increase in numbers. All this means increased pressure on library resources at a time when the cost of books and periodicals is going up at a rate far ahead of general inflation.

      The ‘virtual library’, the idea that sophisticated computer simulations could be employed to provide users with library and information services by electronic means, with network document delivery and access, as if from a ‘real’ library, but without the physical entity actually being necessary, is by some seen as a large part of the solution to this.

      Don’t make the mistake of thinking that British politicians are above average when it comes to arriving at creative solutions to complex problems. They are not. What impresses them is not the possibility and challenges of ‘virtual reality’ technology as such, but the fact that this kind of technology is perceived as the key to serving more users with less money.

      It is not yet altogether clear how this is supposed to happen, but the scenario includes network access to electronic books and journals, multimedia databases, etc. The assumption is that remote access to this kind of networked resources will reduce the need for locally based resources.

      I am not going to put forward any judgements as to the realism and general merits of this scenario. I am much more interested in the facilities and services emerging at least in part as a result of this kind of thinking.

      British librarians access the same Internet as everybody else. In other words, what you have access to on the net we have access to. And as far as using the net for anything other that time wasting, I suspect that we experience the same joys and sorrows as you do.

      In the following I will briefly present some Internet services and resources originating in Britain. The information is largely taken from a publication called JANET 1995: an overview for libraries compiled by Peter Stone.

      JANET: the British Joint Academic Network

      JANET connects users to the facilities of more that 250 institutions in the UK and far more world wide. All British universities and many other higher education establishments are connected, as are many organisations associated with academic work and research. Basically, Internet access in the British academic context means JANET access. JANET has extensive links other national and international academic networks, and to the growing number of commercial and public network service.

      Within the UK JANET is distinctive for its high speed capacity and as a testbed for new services. The developing SuperJANET network – carrying multimedia sound and video alongside text and data – is predicted to cause major changes in research techniques, patterns of collaboration, document delivery and access to new forms of information.

      More information about JANET is available on the JANET Information WWW Server (
      NISS: National Information Services
      NISS provides a gateway for the British education and research communities to access information resources world-wide. NISS can be accessed on
      BUBL Information Service
      BUBL, the Bulletin Board for Libraries, serves as the British library community’s electronic bulletin board. It contains news of jobs, meetings, current research, contents pages and abstracts of 80 library, information science and computing journals. BUBL also offers easy access to Internet resources and services, including a combined WWW/Gopher subject tree.

      BUBL provides links to electronic journals and texts, OPACs and online databases world-wide. BUBL can be accessed on
      BIDS: Bath Information and Data Services
      BIDS was launched in 1991 and is a bibliographic database service directed primarily at higher education. At the moment the data goes back to 1980 and covers the four disciplines anthropology, economics, political science and sociology. An electronic document delivery service is available.

      Apart from the limited number of subjects covered, the main problem with BIDS is that it is available only to institutions funded by the British government. Nevertheless, it is an important resource which is accessed by 20,000 people each week. The URL is, but it is impossible to get beyond the welcome screen without special authorisation.

    2. 3.2 Problems

      Unfortunately, there are still problems to be overcome in the area of access to networked information. The problem that is seen as most pressing by the majority of net users has to do with lack of capacity on the infrastructure. Due to heavy network traffic, response times are some times unacceptably long. This is the case particularly in the afternoon and early evening British time when all the American users log on. The solution to this problem seems to be increased infrastructure capacity, although any extra capacity made available will probably soon be filled.

      A problem which has plagued smaller, privately funded academic institutions like Newbold is how to gain access to the network. A few year back JANET was the only serious Internet provider in Britain, and their policies excluded institutions not funded by the government. This policy was eventually changed, but the cost of linking up with JANET proved prohibitive in most cases. The result was that smaller institutions seldom had network access at all.

      However, all this has now changed. There are now a number of network service providers servicing the British market. This fact, combined with technological developments, has made network access a real possibility. There are still significant costs involved, but these are far smaller than they were some time back. As a result of this Newbold will probably move towards full Internet access before the end of 1995.

  4. Richard Heseltine and the ‘virtual library.’

    The impact of networked information and resource sharing on libraries has been the subject of debate for some time. A number of divergent views, some optimistic – others less so, have surfaced. One of the more challenging ones have been put forward by a leading British librarian, Dr Richard Heseltine. Heseltine argues the notion of the ‘virtual library’ is too conservative to be useful. It is combining “technological radicalism with sociological conservatism”. It is addressing the increase in numbers in higher education rather than the change in philosophy and content. He argues that “if we are to understand the future of libraries, what we need to be considering a fundamentally different concept of higher education.” In order to illustrate how teaching and learning might change in the future, Heseltine quotes from a scenario developed by two researchers from Oxford and Lund:

    The first thing Carlos does after breakfast is to check his electronic mail. There are the usual multimedia advertisements that he glances at briefly, a voice message from his tutor reminding him of the evening seminar and an annotated copy from Jane of their first draft of their joint project. Carlos … turns his attention to Module PM207, which is on Company Ethics.

    His workstation, which he uses for most of his studying, connects to the academic network using the facilities his cable TV company and accesses the next unit of study. Carlos likes to see and hear the presenter so he opens a video window. Carlos stops the presentation every so often to make his own notes next to those of the presenter. At one point he has difficulty with the presentation and repeats a section of it. It is still not clear, so he selects ‘Explain’ from the Guidance menu. Carlos asks a few questions and is then offered a choice of three items of background material. Five minutes with the first of the is enough to explain the concept he had not previously encountered and he is able to proceed with the unit.

    At 10 o’clock he breaks off from his study to go to work. Much of his work is done from home, but today he has a number of meetings to attend. Carlos is completing his higher education in a way that has become the norm. He receives a full-time salary but his work hours are two thirds of normal. The remainder of his time is spent studying. His employer receives a grant from the education department to cover the cost of his study.

    Higher education if now totally modulised. Carlos’ degree is made up of a variety of different types and lengths of modules. Some are offered by his employer, others by local companies and colleges. However, most of Carlos’ studies are with the Open Network University. …

    That evening Carlos has a seminar with five other students and his tutor. As it happens each of them is in another country and the seminar is conducted using teleconferencing. Carlos has six windows on his screen each displaying the video image of the other seminar participants. The video camera on top of his monitor transmits his image to the other seminar participants. A lively discussion ensues on the ethics of insider dealing and very quickly the distance that divide the participants is forgotten. In addition to the six video windows there is a table top window which is used from time to time to show items of interest the others. The seminar ends when Carlos’ tutor Annette points out that they have over-run their time by twenty minutes.

    Carlos is enthusiastic about his mode of studying. He finds it hard to conceive how his parents sat through several hours of lectures a day when they were students. He has the freedom to study what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. He also enjoys excellent interaction with his tutors and fellow students even though he only knows most of them through electronic mail and teleconferencing links. Even his parents concede that he is able to find out more in ten minutes than they were able to in an afternoon in the university library.

    This is a radical scenario. It redefines the role of the higher education library totally. I have included it here as no more than a sample of the ideas on the implications and possibilities of electronic networking and resource sharing that are being thrown around within the British library community. However, I do think that concept of university courses taught on the net must be of interest to Adventist educators and possibly even to Adventist librarians.

  5. Conclusions

    My conclusions, like the paper, come in three parts:

    1. In Europe there is a clear need for more research into what resources are available in the different forms of Adventist libraries that exist. There is also a clear need to develop closer links and better co-operation between the different establishments. Access to the global electronic networks may assist in this.

    2. The British library and information community at large have access to all the resources available on the Internet. In the past, gaining access to the net has been a problem for small privately owned institution like Newbold, but that is about to change as new service providers and technical solutions emerge.

    3. To draw solid conclusion based on Heseltine’s ideas is probably counter-productive. Yet the idea of using the net for decentralised higher education is worth noting.


1. Joint Funding Councils’ Library Group, Report. [Chairman: Sir Brian Folett] Bristol: The Councils, 1993.

2. Heseltine, Richard. “A Critical appraisal of the role of global networks in the transformation of higher education.” Alexandria. Vol. 6, No. 3, 1994.

3. Prytherech, Ray (ed). Harrod’s librarians’ glossary. 8th ed. Brookfield, VT: Gower, 1995.

4. Stone, Peter. JANET 1995: a library overview. (Janet User Group for Libraries, 1995).

5. Heseltine.

6. Darby, Johnthan & Bengt Kjollerstrom. “A Student’s life in 1998,” in Martin Joyce & others. Higher education 1998 transformed by learning technology. (Oxford: CTISS Publication, 1994.

Per Lisle is Director, Newbold College Library, England

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