France : Bibliothque nationale de France

Author info

Institution/Company Bibliothque nationale de France
Address Quai Franois Mauriac
Post code 75704
City Paris
Country France
Telephone +33 1 53 79 59 11
Name Freyre, Elisabeth
Function European Project Coordinator

1. Mission statement:

The Bibliothque nationale de France has four fundamental missions:

– The constitution and enhancement of collections

– Processing: the description of documents, their form, contents and when pertinent, their history

– Conservation: the restoration, reproduction and preservation of documents to ensure that they remain accessible to future generations

– Communications and promotion: developing awareness of the collections and making them available to the public.

2. Computer networks and Internet connectivity

a. In general HW, SW:

In October 2003, the integrated, open and multimedia system was completed after around 10 years of development.

– User applications: general information for the public, reader registration, seat reservation, catalogue consultation, remote and on-site requests for items, access to a network of around 200 CDROMs and the Internet, access to BnF digital collections.

– Internal applications : document delivery management, catalogue production, management and delivery of bibliographic products, human resource management, office and ICT (information and communication technology) systems

– Equipment: 3600 workstations including 856 public workstations, 240 servers (147 Windows NT, 93 Unix), a 100-megabytes per second high speed internal network (Ethernet) for the workstations and 1 gigabit per second for the servers (backbone), Internet access via RENATER (10 megabytes per second on the workstations and 100 Mbs for the Internet applications (Gallica, Catalogues)).

(figures 2003)

Besides this integrated system, 3 specific systems were developed:

– Automatic document delivery system,

– Self-service ticket machine and security gate control

and especially,

– Audiovisual system for the consultation of audiovisual and multimedia material.

b. New HW, SW; connectivity upgrades:

A 5-year plan for the change of the hardware and software (Windows NT to Windows XP, Lotus version 6) infrastructure has been carrying out and will be completed in 2007.

3. Library automation

a. In general HW, SW:

The integration of some 800,000 records of audiovisual materials into the BN-OPALE PLUS catalogue represents an important step towards constituting a single bibliographic database.

The retrospective conversion for the specialised collections (manuscripts, maps and plans, music) is being processed.

A study about the cataloguing of manuscripts in XML using the EAD DTD is carried out.

Online bibliographic products: The French National Bibliography Books and Periodicals are only available online as an HTML publication. The publication process uses the XML and XSLT technologies from a UNIMARC export of the cataloguing system. In 2003, the French National Bibliography Music was added.

The records of these bibliographies can be downloaded into UNIMARC ISO 2709.


4. Union catalogue

a. Software used:

The French Union Catalogue (CCFr/Catalogue collectif de France) gives access via Z39-50 to the main French document resources on the Internet:

– BN-OPALE Plus, the BnF’s catalogue of printed, audiovisual and digitised documents,

– the SUDOC, the catalogue of university libraries and major institutions,

– the catalogue of computerised ancient and/or local holdings of public and specialised libraries.

In all, it represents more than 15 million documents held by more than 160 of the main public, university and research libraries in France.

The CCFr provides practical information and descriptions of specific holdings in more than 4,000 French libraries of all kinds and sizes.

It also provides a free document supply service for libraries through which documents can be borrowed and duplicated easily via the Internet.


5. Digital library

a. Based on your own production of digital documents:

The three-year digitisation plan (2002-2004) has 3 objectives:

– completion of the digital library of encyclopaedic and reference resources which was set up in 1992,

– creation of thematic sets and anthologies (“Travels in Italy”, “Anthologie des collections : Mille trsors de la Bibliothque nationale de France” which is an encyclopaedic introduction to the entire collection of the BnF)

– coordination of digitisation programmes in partnership with other institutions (“Le rve” by the French writer Zola, periodicals and monographs on Mathematics).

Mandragore (, the catalogue of 80 000 Occidental illuminations, launched in April 2003, represents a virtual encyclopaedia of medieval illuminations. 7 500 illuminations are already available online.

Two million pages were digitised in 2003 bringing the total number of non copyrighted digitised pages to 18 million. The storage capacity was increased to 7 Tera-octets.

The BnF conservation department is moving towards using digital surrogates instead of analog reproductions for preservation and access; in a first step, only colour reproductions are concerned. In addition to the Gallica programmes, new digitization programmes will be dedicated for preservation purposes.

The BnF has also been carrying out research and development programmes on collecting, harvesting, access and long-term preservation of electronic documents such as:

– structuring literary manuscripts in XML to allow annotations and critical analysis by researchers,

– experiments of the Open Archive Initiative (OAI) protocol in 2003. An OAI metadata server ( will be available for the Gallica collections by the end of June 2004. First, only the monographs will be concerned. Then, all the materials will be included by the end of 2005. The metadata will be provided in simple Dublin Core with a persistent link to the digital objects.

At last, an International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), headed by the BnF, was signed on July 2003 for a 3-year period between the national libraries of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy-Florence, Norway, Sweden, The British Library, the Library of Congress and Internet Archive. This consortium aims to identify, develop and facilitate implementation of solutions for selecting, harvesting, collecting, preserving and providing access to internet content now and in the future.


d. Important commercial web services accessible to your users:

The Picture collection site was launched. It comprises 60,000 images and allows one’s to order reproduction online images.


9. Research and technology development projects

The BnF is involved in a national research project called WATSON (Web : Analyse des Textes, Slection, et Outils Nouveaux) (2003-2004) which is funded by the French Ministry of Research in the framework of the Technolangue programme. The project is coordinated by the Lingway company in association with two university laboratories. It aims at developing and adapting linguistic tools to web pages content analysis for very large corpus analysis. The BnF is applying the results on automatic web archiving pre-selection and processing.

The BnF was involved in the European project METAe (September 2000 – September 2003) which developed tools which enable the following tasks to be performed automatically: logical structuring of documents, character recognition, generation of descriptive and technical metadata as well as conversion of documents into XML exchange format.


10. Other important projects

The BnF is also involved in the MACS project which enables users to simultaneously search the catalogues of the project’s partner libraries in the language of their choice (English, French, German).


Beginning of 2004, the BnF decided to join The European Library consortium.


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