In 2016 the Danish government decided to merge the two biggest Danish research libraries: the Royal Library in Copenhagen and the State and University Library in Aarhus. This resulted in the creation of the new Royal Danish Library (RDL) which serves as Denmark’s national library, the university library for Aarhus University, Copenhagen University and Roskilde University, as well as the loan center and depository library for public libraries.
Svend Larsen was appointed as Chief Executive of RDL. LIBER recently had a chance to speak with him about this unique transition. He explained that the merger came out of a need to find the most effective way for the Royal Library and the State and University Library to deliver high-quality, modern services while at the same time coping with budget cuts.
“I was part of that discussion, looking how to get the best out of the digital solutions and how best to manage the situation where resources are becoming more and more scarce because of cuts. How can we continue to deliver effective services? And how do you do that: do you have libraries working together to deliver certain services, or do you make an entirely new organisation to do that? That was the question,” said Larsen.
“The merger is an answer to that question. To get the most efficient shared solutions, you have to do something at an organisational level and that was the merger.”
The merger is being rolled out over the course of 2017, and it continues to expand in scope. Roskilde University and the remaining three faculty libraries of Aarhus University have recently joined RDL. Aalborg University may join in 2018, if negotiations succeed.
According to Larsen, this consolidation is already yielding results.
“Between the two national libraries there were a considerable amount of double functions. We have already made some decisions to reduce double work and duplication of systems already. For example, the repository for digital collections. We had two systems for that: one in Aarhus and one in Copenhagen. Now we are working in one repository. For the users, soon they will have one system. They can order what they need from that system and have it, instead of looking it up in one system and booking it in another.”
New services are also being developed as a result of the increased power of a larger library, with its pooled resources. These include a new big data service.
“We’re counting in petabytes. It’s very big. And we’re giving researchers access to this and helping them find ways to use this material. So it’s not only the material, it’s the machines and tools you can use to map the data or find new ways of understanding this material – in fact transforming the classical university subjects,” said Larsen. “Individual university libraries could not develop and sustain such a service. Only a relatively large organisation can do this.”
Specific strategic goals, beyond the broad aim of delivering more value for money, have not yet agreed. Three focus areas have, however, were outlined in a recent briefing. They are:
- More Digitisation: In 2017, RDL will finish its biggest digitization project: digitizing 35 million pages from Danish newspapers (almost half of the national newspaper collection). RDL has a digitization-on-demand service (filling loan requests on books published before 1900 by supplying a digital copy), and has launched a digital article service. RDL will continue along these lines, as it believes digitization is the key to greater outreach.
- More National Shared Library Services for Universities – A unified library system (catalogue and discovery system) will be established for all Danish universities served by RDL. Deliberations have been started as to the future role of RDL in administration of joint purchases of licenses for the higher education sector.
- New e-Science and e-Scholarship Services – RDL is home of a supercomputing facility for cultural heritage, the National Cultural Heritage Cluster. It facilitates quantitative research projects in cultural heritage such as radio and television programs, archived websites and newspapers. The Cultural Heritage Cluster is the basis for development of new services in the field of e-sci-ence/e-scholarship.
With all of this in mind, how does Larsen see the RDL evolving over the coming decade?
“I think we’ll see much more digital material, and we’ll have developed many more services in e-science and e-scholarship. Those are key issues. Printed materials are also important, not least of all because you can distribute them all over the country which you can’t do with e-Books because of all kinds of rights issues. But primarily we’ll be using digital cultural heritage in ways which we don’t currently, and making digital cultural heritage an asset for society.”