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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 024-141-E
Division Number: IV.
Professional Group: Bibliography
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 141.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   Yes

Remote access electronic serials and the National Library of Norway

Anne M. Hasund Langballe
Bibliographic Services Department
University of Oslo Library
Oslo, Norway


According to the Norwegian Legal Deposit Act (1989) electronic documents are subjects to legal deposit at the request of the National Library, Rana Division (NBR) in each case. A plan for the handling of deposited electronic material was published in 1995. According to the plan, NBR keeps an inventory of Internet serials with access to the web sites of the serials. From 1994 the University of Oslo Library catalogues the Internet serials, also with access to the web sites, for the Norwegian national bibliography database Norper.

As of November 1997 Norper included the descriptions of 299 different Internet serials. These were searched at their web sites in November and December. 74 were not found at the original or a new site. Of the 225 serials found, 53 were probably ceased, as they had no numbers or news dated 1997 (and in some cases 1996).

Bibliographic control of remote access electronic documents must include checking by library personnel as well as by search robots. Legal deposit cannot be based on access to the publishers' servers.


Part 1. The handling of remote access electronic serials in the National Library

The Legal Deposit Act of 1989 and related documents

The Norwegian Legal Deposit Act of 1989 (in force from July 1, 1990) comprises all types of documents accessible to the public, regardless of medium. Thus also electronic documents, as well the hand-held as the not hand-held, are subjects to legal deposit.

Nevertheless, the special situation of the online electronic documents was commented upon in the Proposition to Parliament (no. 52, 1988-89). The Proposition states that a complete deposit of online electronic documents seems unrealistic and that it is necessary to work out criteria for selection. The Regulations of the Act state that the online documents are subjects to deposit only at the request of the recipient in each case. It also makes the Rana Division of the National Library (NBR) the recipient of all document types except films, videos and sound recordings of music.

NBR is responsibile for forwarding copies to the university libraries plus one extra copy to the University of Oslo Library (part of which is to become the Oslo Branch of the National Library (NBO) from January 1, 1999), for storing the documents, and for preliminary cataloguing in the BIBSYS database. BIBSYS is an electronic library system shared by about 70 Norwegian university, college and research libraries, among them NBR and the University of Oslo Library (and the future NBO).

Plan for the National Library's handling of deposited electronic material

In 1995 the National Librarian appointed a Working Group with representatives from the National Library Administration, the NBR and the NBO to look into the special problems connected to legal deposit of electronic documents. The Working Group's report was published in December 1995 under the title: Forslag til plan for Nasjonalbibliotekets arbeid med pliktavlevert elektronisk materiale mot Śr 2000 [Plan for the National Library's handling of deposited electronic material towards year 2000 : a proposal] . The Working Group looked into the text of the Act and connected legal documents, copyright problems, established practice in the period 1990-1995, different criteria for selection, problems concerning storing, cataloguing rules, work organization, and future priorities.

In connection with this study on Remote access electronic serials and the National Library of Norway, section 4.3.3 of the Plan is relevant: In 1994 NBR began an Internet Inventory of Internet serials, which held 4 titles in December 1994 and 121 titles in August 1995 [and 582 in December 1997]. These titles were accessible at the publishers' servers via the NBR Inventory [World Wide Web site: http://www2.nbr.no/eltids/]. From the autumn of 1994 e-mail journals distributed via e-mail were deposited at NBR. NBR became a regular subscriber and received the journals at a server in the library.

As the remote access serials are usually accessible via Internet, the term Internet serials will be used hereafter.

Procedures of handling the Internet serials

After the publication of the Plan, the National Library has developed the following procedures for handling the Internet serials:

  1. NBR keeps the above mentioned Inventory of Internet serials. The library gets to know about the existence of serials in different ways:

  2. NBR keeps a list of changes to the Inventory, which lists removed serials, title changes, merged titles etc. A weekly program checks all the World Wide Web sites (URLs) and generates a list of "dead" URLs. NBR then tries to find out what has happened to the "dead" URLs. According to NBR statistics more than 20 % of the serials get a new URL during a year, whereas about 10 % will disappear. "Dead" URLs are checked regularly in case they turn up again. The list of changes is reliable where the existing of the controlled URLs is concerned, but it does not necessarily pick up serials which exist at new URLs, or which are ceased.

  3. NBR does not yet download Internet serials. A pilot project was finished autumn 1997, when 20 serials from the Inventory were deposited. Only minor technical problems have to be solved before a general deposit of Internet serials to a computer in the library can start.

  4. A selection of the titles in the Inventory are catalogued by NBR in the BIBSYS catalogue.

  5. The University of Oslo Library (the future NBO), which is responsible for the Norwegian National Bibliography, catalogues a selection of the Internet serials in NBR's Inventory in the national database of serials, Norper . The selection follows the general criteria for inclusion in the database. If Norper is searched via World Wide Web, there is direct access from the bibliographic record to the serial itself.

Part 2. A study of the Internet serials catalogued in the national database of serials (Norper)

Methods and aim of the study

The following study is based on titles of Internet serials found in in November 1997 and searched on Internet in November and December. Serials not found at the URL given in the bibliographic description, were sometimes found at a new URL left by the publisher at the old site, sometimes found at another URL by a search robot. Titles which were not found, were compared with the NBR list of changes. If they were not in that list, they were searched for again a month later and then included in a "not found" group if they were still not found.

On the other hand, several titles marked "removed" at the NBR list of changes, were found at the given URL during my study. They were thus accessible again after being inexplicably absent for some time.

Norper includes Internet serials from 1994. Some of these have commenced earlier than the year of inclusion (the earliest year of publication is 1990). In November 1997 Norper included 310 titles of Internet serials. 11 of the titles represent title changes, so this study deals with 299 serials.

The aim of the study was primarily to see how constant or inconstant the not hand-held electronic serials are, but a number of other circumstances have been looked at as well.

Results of the survey of 299 Internet serials

The results are based on information given in the bibliographic description, supplemented by finds from the Internet searching.

In order to discover the increase of these serials in the national bibliography, they were grouped according to the first year of publication given in the bibliographic record. If the year was unknown, the year of the cataloguing source was used. In two cases no year or source was given and the publication itself had disappeared.

Of the 299 serials registered in Norper , 74 were not found on Internet. Of the 225 serials found, 53 were probably ceased, as no numbers or news dated 1997 (and in several cases earlier years) were found. Only two of these 53 carried that information in the bibliographic description in Norper .

The following table shows a grouping into rough categories, termination and disappearance of the 299 serials:

					Total number		Ceased 		      Not found

Newspapers					28		  1			  7		
Weekly or fortnightly magazines	 		 9		  0			  0
Scientific journals				22		  6			  1
Company journals				41		  8			 16
Serials published by civil services		32		  3 			  5
Serials published by political corporations	 6		  1 			  0
Serials published by religious corporations	12		  2 			  6
Serials published by other corporations		64		 12 			 19
Student journals				36		 11 			  5
Serials published by polytechnics/
     universities/scientific institutes		45		  9			  11
Serials of unknown type				 4 		  ?			   4	
Sums					       299		 53			  74

The aim of this study was primarily to see how constant or inconstant the not hand-held electronic serials are, but also in general to get more information on the Internet serials. The general impression that they are very unstable is confirmed. Anther impression, not proved by any details in the text above (but shared by the cataloguers) is that the characteristica of a printed serial (divisions into year and/or volume, issue) are much less distinct in later years than in the earlier years. In several cases it was difficult to find out if the serial had got a new "issue".

This study also supports what is experienced by other libraries: bibliographic control of remote access electronic serials is a very demanding operation that cannot be based solely on checking by electronic programmes and search robots. Regular checking by library personnel is also necessary.

Legal deposit of remote access electronic serials cannot be based on access to the publishers' servers. Of 299 Norwegian such serials registered in the national bibliography Jan. 1994 - Oct. 1997 only 225 can be studied at their net site today. What is left for the general public of the other periodicals, is probably only the bibliographic description - which in these cases has itself become a small historic document.