CENL - Foundation Conference of European National Librarians
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About CENL    Sunday, 20 August, 2017

About CENL


The Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) is a foundation under Dutch law with the aim of increasing and reinforcing the role of national libraries in Europe, in particular in respect of their responsibilities for maintaining the national cultural heritage and ensuring the accessibility of knowledge in that field.

Members of CENL are the national librarians of the member states of the Council of Europe. The conference currently consists of 49 members from 46 European countries forming the CENL Board. The CENL Board meets once a year and appoints the members of the Executive Committee for a period of at least three years. The Executive Committee consists of at least three members of the Board (chair, vice-chair and treasurer) and is charged with the management and the representation of the foundation.

The conference pursues its objectives by means of annual membership meetings as well as initiatives and support of research and development activities. At the meetings, the national libraries report on ongoing projects and working group activities, and invite speakers for topics of common interest.

National libraries have special responsibilities, often defined in law, within a nation's library and information system. These responsibilities vary from country to country but are likely to include: the collection via legal deposit of the national imprint (both print and electronic) and its cataloguing and preservation; the provision of central services (e.g. reference, bibliography, preservation, lending) to users both directly and through other library and information centers; the preservation and promotion of the national cultural heritage; acquisition of at least a representative collection of foreign publications; the promotion of national cultural policy; and leadership in national literacy campaigns. National libraries often serve as a national forum for international programmes and projects. They may have a close relationship with national governments, may be concerned with the development of national information policies, and may act as a conduit for the views of other sectors of the profession. Occasionally they also serve the information needs of the legislature directly.

National libraries need to secure their own position in order to establish the conditions necessary for free and unhindered access to information and documentation. This information must be, as far as possible, complete, clearly organised, prompt, and reliable. More than ever before, it is therefore necessary to develop new models of cooperation, to divide work tasks and share resources. National libraries can act as a focus within a cooperative network.

Experience clearly shows that European national libraries are especially suited to furthering cultural and scientific understanding. They represent the European heritage in a concentrated manner with a profound historical dimension. Along with the political and cultural significance of national libraries, there is an effective organisation of services within the information, research and teaching, and education and training sections.

CENL was founded in 1987 at the first meeting of 11 European national librarians in Lisbon. The following countries were represented: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and Vatican City. Topics on the agenda were the interconnection of computerized systems of the national libraries, acquisition policies, preservation and conservation, and financial issues of national libraries. The national librarians continued to meet annually and the group grew steadily.

In 1991 CENL organized the first East-West conference with national libraries of Eastern Europe in Vienna in order to establish closer links and a defined partnership. It was a very successful meeting with concrete results leading to an ongoing dialogue.

In 1998 CENL adopted its statutes and was transferred into a foundation under Dutch law.

The topics which are discussed at the annual meetings and are worked on in working groups and projects were already identified at the very first meeting and evolved with the development of technology and library organisation:

  • Harmonisation and innovation of national policy concerning libraries;
  • Implementation of new information technology in the libraries;
  • Standardisation of data structure and communication interfaces within a European network;
  • Preservation and conservation of important collections in Europe.