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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Portuguese Public Libraries Network

Luís Oliveira Machado, Direccao de Servicos da Leitura Publica, Lisbon, Portugal


The Portuguese Public Libraries Network has the objective of endowing the population with a facility which, while giving them access to information, also provides them with working and leisure spaces . These factors are essential for the cultural and economic development of the communities.

These Libraries possess a variety of books, periodicals and audio-visual materials such as compact discs and video cassettes, which are on loan. They also promote cultural activities. ln general, th ey are meant to be comfortable pleasant places where useful information can be found.

Cataloguing, as well as loan management and acquisition of documents will be totally computerised. Libraries will be interconnected through the so called "Public Libraries Network" which give s the possibility of access to national and foreign data bases.

This paper presents the major guidelines of the RILP project - philosophy and architecture, standard characteristics and logical support, levels for normalisation, training and support policy, implem entation and financing.


In 1986, within the action promoted by Secretaria de Estado da Cultura, a workgroup was created to define the bases of a national policy concerning public libraries consisting mainly on the r egular and effective implanting and functioning of a public library network as well as the developing of structures which could directly give them better support, central or locally.

On the report then presented by the workgroup, immediate action measures were suggested and also conceptual and programmatic guidelines about the creating libraries were given, which would observe s uperior approval.

Thus, the Instituto Português do Livro e da Leitura (IPLL) developed and aplicated, since 1987, a public library plan using the support for the creation of public libraries. After the fusion with the national library in 1992 - resulting the Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro (IBL) - the plan proceeded. It consists on a project to create a public library network based on city council, including a public library settled in a central area and branches in different spots of the council, according to the number and distribution of the population.

The supported libraries within the project should possess documental funds which in a coherent, balanced, pluralist and actual way cover all knowledge areas and are organised in free access for hous e loan. The should include adequate furniture and equipment, namely informatic equipment. Specialised staff is also demanded in order to achieve good results in these libraries.

The experience gathered along the time led to some adjustments and changes of the initial programs. Therefore, in 1989, three main library model-programs were defined, respectively serving:

The supporting program to the building, equipment and document funds of the Public Library Network includes nowadays 104 Public Libraries. 4 contracts have been signed with Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra an d Braga town halls within the project named Bibliopolis, whose aim is to support libraries in the big centres where other information units, also important and complementary as universities li braries, previously existed. 43 libraries have already been opened and are already working.

The creation of the National Bibliographic Database (PORBASE) in 1987, the need to include public libraries in the national system of bibliographic information, the quick access to different sources of information, in and outside the country, the need to give new libraries the necessary means to its organising effectiveness, made clear that was necessary to rethink there automation of the Publi c Libraries Network.

Thus, the project Rede Informática da Leitura Pública (RILP) (Public Libraries Computer Network) was made in which we find the main guidelines - philosophy and network architecture, computer configurations, basic characteristics of equipment and logical supports, training support, planning, implementation phases, etc.

In general terms, we try to endow the public library network with another facility with which we aim to achieve more productivity, effectiveness and reliability, setting the available staff free fro m the tasks that are long and repetitive, giving them more space to intervene in other activities and to attend users more effectively.

The aims of the project consider two different but complementary levels:

A - Global Level

B - Local level The diversity in the geographic distribution of Public Libraries leads to the necessity of an information system with distributed data processing capacity and diversifying means of access and informa tion switch. Therefore, RILP aims the implementing of a network with distributed data processing and which control is also distributed by all integrated nodes, using packet switching as data transmit ting technique. It seeks, fundamentally, information transfer between all nodes.

This way we are trying to guarantee the automation of the functioning library areas and, in a global level, all systems systems will have the possibility of:

The project also foresees a training scheme - in computer areas and specific and technical aspects - which is to be given by the application supplier and by IBL. On the other hand, IBL will give a f irst support, through TELEPAC network, to the integrated network systems.

One of the points questioned when the project was launched referred to the need of assuring the co-ordination between the different city councils and IBL in order to guarantee the constitution of th e sole process of acquisition of the computer solution and future network management. In order to solve some of these points, the Consortium RILP, between IBL and other councils involved in the first phase of the project, was established in October 1992. Consortium decisions are taken unanimously by their members, assembled in general meeting, presided by the consortium chief, to which function IBL was appointed. The chance of consortium enlargement to new members has also been considered which will have to accept to fulfil the stipulated in the consortium contract. At this moment the conso rtium integrates 16 city councils, respectively 9 from the 1st phase of the project and 7 new members that will make part of the 2nd phase.

The acquisition of the computer solution to equip RILP (first phase) was made through International Public Tender, launched under consortium orientation. The technical commission proposed the award of the public tender to Geac Computers France, which presented the software Advance in a Digital platform. The final configuration to the local systems was adjusted during negotiations with Geac as w ell as final costs of the solution. The parametrization of the system and the training of technicians was ensured by IBL having thus a simulated version of the Advance software been installed. At the moment 6 systems have entered the production phase and it is hopped that by the end of 1995 the 1st phase will be finished.

The award of the 1st phase to Geac Computers France France doesn’t mean that this one will remain indefinitely as a partner in the project. The market evolution and the RILP development impose the a ttainment of a new international public tender to begin in the end of 1995.

The 2nd phase will exclusively be concentrated in bigger libraries (BM2 and BM3) since we have already verified that the existing solution is too demanding for smaller libraries. These will therefor e be equipped with another solution based on PC’s and the software Mini-Micro CDS/ISIS, parametrized in UNIMARC format. This duality will exist until another solution is found, which according to th e demanded qualifications may be installed in a vast series of platforms - from PC’s until medium systems. Only this solution will be able to run vertically through all types of libraries in the exis ting network.

However, in each case, the basic network functions are safely guarded, namely to what concerns the switching of bibliographic data, either by the use of telecommunications or by the use of magnetic supports. This reality includes not only the switching of data between public libraries but also of these with PORBASE, using it not only as a bibliographic tool but mainly as a means of transmission of standard bibliographic information at a national level.