3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Nov 15, 1996 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on November 15, 1996. This particular issue originally was distributed in two parts, as indicated below.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45 -- $35 until January 1, 1997 -- payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us .


From kessler Fri Nov 15 10:42:14 1996

Subject: FYI France: Internet Digital Libraries, "France" chapter, pt.1/4

This issue of FYI France presents two items:

1) FYI France Online Service -- http://www.fyifrance.com -- New Rapid - Access indexpage now in place!; and,

2) _Internet Digital Libraries : The International Dimension_ book excerpt -- its chapter on "France", part 1/4.


1) FYI France Online Service: Rapid Access indexpage

The FYI France Online Service, at http://www.fyifrance.com , now has a newly - designed "Rapid Access" indexpage, for those of you who love the images but do not love their response time. You now reach the Rapid Access indexpage first. From there you can go on to the prettier homepage, or direct to the 12 content pages. Please try it out and let me know what you think: access still is free of charge until the end of this year.

2) Internet Digital Libraries excerpt.

This month's FYI France issue excerpts the chapter on France from my forthcoming book, Internet Digital Libraries: the International Dimension (Boston and London : Artech House, Dec 1996).

The purpose of the book is to present an international assortment of current "digital library" projects, to investigate what the "library" part in the often - heard "Digital Library" label really means. The excerpt here has been edited heavily for this email version. This also is an early version, from before my able editors got to work on it. The full outline of the book appears at the end of Part 2 of this issue. For now, here is what it says about France and the French:

Chapter 4: France -- Flexible Centralization -- 137,217 Internet hosts as of January, 1966: 1 Internet host per 422 French people (per Network Wizards, http://www.nw.com, and CIA World FactBook 1995, http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/95fact/index.html ).

[189,786 Internet hosts in France as of July, 1996: a 38% increase in 6 months! JK]

The idea of "library" in France has a long and special history. The French record with their "bibliothèques" not only is political but is inter - related, intimately, with the historical development of the French monarchy and the political viability of the French state [1].

Some of the oldest and still often - repeated stories of the French Bibliothèque Nationale concern an invasion of France by the English, and the seizure and dispersal of the collected books by the invaders.

Modern French book collections trace their existence, in most cases, to political upheaval: to Viking invasions and the flight of manuscripts from one monastic armarius / book - chest to another, to threatened and real burning at the hands of some faction during the Wars of Religion, or to "liberations" of "First" and "Second" Estate collections by the "Third" during the Revolution.

This political history -- one might say political and national and generally governance - oriented history -- still is very much in mind among the modern French. Regional collections jealously guard their independence of Paris, remembering the political dangers in the capital which their collections were spared by having been sequestered in the provinces during the Revolution.

In Paris itself, decisions which might never be made in the provinces are made and executed with alacrity: Parisians are moving one of the world's largest libraries across the city in 1996, the result of a policy being executed only eight years after it was first suggested: such speed on such a major project rarely is found in other national capitals elsewhere in the world, much less in a French provincial government center.

As with book libraries, so with online services and other things in France: one always must be aware of an active political component -- of the active involvement of government and the governors, in fact, and not just of the usual political process. In France, moreover -- not a small country -- the central government exerts a strong and direct control.

An online bulletin board service physically located on a mountain - top in Haute - Savoie has much to be concerned about in the government debate and policy - making in Paris. That such central government policies have been flexible, enough to permit and in fact to promote much of the Digital Libraries activity described in what follows, does not suggest that French developments in this area have been any less centrally - controlled, or any less political.

* The Bibliothèque Publique d'Information / BPI -- general - purpose, central city, general public access Digital Libraries

The Bibliothèque Publique d'Information -- at the Centre Georges Pompidou in the center of Paris -- was founded in 1977, with a mandate to expand French library services in a non - traditional way. Its architecture alone was revolutionary. But even more revolutionary were its open access, overt appeal to the general public, and commitment from its beginnings to non - traditional information media.

The BPI went online early, on the Minitel, at 3615BPI and on the Internet, at telnet://terminus.bpi.fr:2300 . Today it has an established online presence, linking its numerous services, on W3: at http://www.bpi.fr .

The first thing which any user notices, on connecting to the Bibliothèque Publique d'Information / BPI via its service on W3, is the inline image of the enormous, hi - tech - barn - like, very un - library - like interior of this now very popular Paris library.

The second thing which a foreign user notices, however, is that an "English version" of the BPI's online access is available, the link for this tucked in immediately after the initial image. An American particularly notices this: one doesn't find "French" or really any non - American - English abilities appearing on American libraries' online services at all, much less as an initial feature.

A first thought is that France, known so well for its jingoistic approach to language, seems to be an unlikely candidate for such linguistic flexibility, and yet there the link is, and choosing it leads to a very good rendering of the main library entry point, thus accessible to foreign English language users.

A third thing noticeable initially, about the BPI online W3 service, is the variety of resources which it offers, all in addition to that which an online user normally seeks in consulting a library. A traditional library contains printed books and their bibliographic records: the initial entry point for most users is the catalog of these records.

Yet the BPI features many other resources on its opening online screens. There is a general description of the BPI itself: how many library users have read books in a library for years without knowing much about the library itself? There are announcements, a calendar of events, lists of other libraries in France and elsewhere -- with live links to them -- BPI publications lists, and an online images database.

Most of these resources and announcements have been presented by printed book libraries in the past, but in a service ancillary to their basic occupation of providing the books. These extra services were things posted on thumbtack - filled bulletin boards, at which users at best glanced as they waited for their books.

One wonders whether with increased online usage the tables might be turned, and the "community bulletin board" library function will become more of a primary Digital Libraries activity, taking precedence over an increasingly - ancillary function of providing access to the old printed book collection?

The BPI online library catalog, finally, also is available: the bibliographic records of the printed books and other documents in the collection. For this, by contrast to the BPI W3 page, a foreign user notices initially a lack of non - French access. The screens obtained via the telnet link for the catalog do not resemble the screens obtained on the W3 service, or on other telnet - available library catalogs.

There is a similar library - logic to the command structure which a user must follow to find an item: a familiar - sounding "TIT / title", "AUT / author", "A-T / author - title", etc., typology to follow. But it is clear that the exact procedures, and the format of the bibliographic records thereby obtained, are unique: perhaps to France, perhaps to this BPI institution alone.

So, by contrast to the immense standardization of its initial W3 access -- so much of the WorldWideWeb appears to a user still to be standard, if only because of the continuing domination of the single Mosaic / Netscape browser -- the BPI catalog access, with its specialised vocabulary, command structure, and interface, appears positively eccentric to a foreign user.

* INIST / the Institut National de l'Information Scientifique et Technique -- PASCAL / FRANCIS -- the stand - alone database

Like the science establishments in other countries, the French scientific community was an early user of online digital information. Researchers attached to the giant Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / CNRS have had access to most digital technology as it has developed and evolved, in France and elsewhere.

Traditional library functions have been among those developed in French scientific online digital information. The Institut National de l'Information Scientifique et Technique / INIST was established in 1988 -- building upon a precursor which had been established in 1970 -- to coordinate these French science information activities.

An initial view of the INIST W3 service shows the immense range of digital information and services which it provides online: descriptions of pan - European cooperative research projects in the sciences, thesis and general grey literature bibliography and publication, documentation collections (periodicals, scientific reports, conference proceedings), document delivery and translation and research services, newsletters and online conferencing. Among the various INIST projects has been the digitization of the large citation and abstract service provided since the second World War by the printed series "Bulletin Signalétique", re - christened for its digital and online incarnation as PASCAL (sciences) and FRANCIS (humanities): these contain a combined total of over 13 million citations, with multi - lingual searching and abstracts.

via W3 to http://www.inist.fr

* Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon -- a "local" French state library effort

Other early leaders in the provision of Digital Libraries information in France have come from the ranks of the "bibliothèques municipales". This term, often mis - translated as "public library" in the US, in fact refers to very large research institutions and collections, located in most of the nation's major cities, which house some of the oldest and rarest books in the country, items which most certainly are not provided in open access to the general public: a French bibliothèque municipale is more like the New York Public Library than it is similar to normal public libraries in US cities.

French bibliothèques municipales, moreover, benefit from national and international prestige, and French central government participation and direct financial support, which public libraries elsewhere lack. From its beginning in France, the Digital Libraries effort has seen the involvement of numerous bibliothèques municipales. That of Lyon, for example.

As with other online Digital Libraries offerings, that of the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon strikes the user first with an image devoted to its monumental architecture. Unlike national efforts, in the French capital, the BM Lyon seems less - concerned with non - French - language access, and does not show the English - language option which, for example, the BPI does.

The BM Lyon is just as concerned as is the BPI, however, to show users all the non - printed book resources which it has to offer: links to Lyon's remarkable Musée de l'Imprimerie et de la Banque, and to various online databases and fulltext publishing experiments, as well as to community announcements and detailed online exhibits of the library's varied special collections, rare books -- the BM Lyon's oldest book was given to a predecessor collection by Charlemagne -- new acquisitions and exhibitions, and modern and ancient documents of Lyon and its region.

The BM Lyon online catalog, however -- like that of the BPI, also online via Minitel and telnet -- suffers from the same standardization drawbacks which confront the BPI online catalog, however. As with the BPI online catalog, the foreign user confronts a seemingly - familiar command structure which, however, retrieves records markedly unlike those found in similar online catalog efforts in Asia and the Americas and even in the rest of Europe.

From the great standardization of Mosaic / Netscape pointing - and - clicking, the BM Lyon Digital Libraries effort proceeds to a highly non - standard basic cataloging resource: non - standard, that is, to any user not familiar with Lyon or with basic French online cataloging technique -- which describes most of the potential BM Lyon Digital Libraries users on the Internet.

via W3 to http://www.bm-lyon.fr , Minitel to 3615BMLYON , catalog via telnet to telnet:// .

(A full list of other French bibliothèques municipales which may be found online appears in the book's appendix.)

In Part 2: FRANTEXT / ARTFL , the IRCAM / Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique - Musique, Minitel, the Ministry of Culture's work, and the BIBLIO-FR econference.


FYI France: Internet Digital Libraries, "France" chapter, pt.2/4

(This is a continuation of the excerpt from Internet Digital Libraries : The International Dimension -- its chapter on "France". Part 1 contained the chapter's general introduction, and its descriptions of the Bibliothèque Publique d'Information, INIST, and the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. Here in Part 2, FRANTEXT / ARTFL, the IRCAM / Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique - Musique, Minitel, the Ministry of Culture's work, and the BIBLIO-FR econference are described.)

* FRANTEXT / ARTFL -- fulltext online digital information techniques

One great logical conundrum of the Digital Libraries effort -- as yet unaddressed, let alone solved -- is whether and to what extent Digital Libraries will have to adapt traditional, pre - digitization, information - finding techniques, like the MARC / Machine Readable Cataloging formats, or will be able simply to ignore them and proceed directly to providing fulltext to the user online, rather than any bibliographic records which merely describe and represent them. "All this leads one to think that, in a short while, access to fulltext might render useless any new work on the MARC format," wonders the president of the French Conseil supérieur des bibliothèques, Michel Melot [2].

The French are forging ahead with both. The BPI and the BM Lyon (above) show examples of the traditional approach: imperfect perhaps, it can be observed, for their lack of standardization. But there also is French fulltext -- perhaps unhampered, perhaps not, by traditional bibliography as an intermediary -- to be found at:

* FRANTEXT, digitized fulltexts assembled for the massive French dictionary effort -- TLF / Trésors de la Langue Française [3], by the Institut NAtional de la Langue Française / INALF -- nearly 2000 French full texts drawn from various centuries and disciplines.

via W3 to http://www.ciril.fr/~mastina/FRANTEXT

And then, in addition or perhaps instead,

* ARTFL Project at the University of Chicago: the "project for American and french Research on the Treasury of the French Language", which includes the FRANTEXT fulltexts with a different search - engine than that used by FRANTEXT itself, along with many other French scholarly resources -- a Provençal poetry database, linguistic tools for FRANTEXT, a project to mount Diderot's Encyclopédie online, a number of ARTFL imaging projects, and links to others.

via W3 to http://humanities.uchicago.edu/ARTFL.html

As with the printed - book libraries -- the BPI and the BM Lyon -- one notices immediately questions of standardization and language: what standard will be used in providing online fulltext? what language -- whose, and which version of that? ARTFL even has seen it necessary to provide an entirely different search engine, presumably in some part to suit the different needs of its essentially - North American users. The question of multi - lingual access is answered by ARTFL, but not addressed by the French - language - only Frantext.

* IRCAM / Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique - Musique / Institute for Research and Acoustic - Music Coordination -- online sound techniques

Lest anyone forget, sound as well as text and images is being digitized and provided online actively by Digital Libraries. The IRCAM is part of the giant "Centre Pompidou" cultural complex in Paris, which also contains the BPI. Its online offerings include a music software users' group, music and sound software evaluations, bibliographic access to a library of books, music scores, recordings, and multimedia resources, and descriptions of projects such as "Le tunnel sous l'Atlantique", for "interactive music" between Paris and Montréal.

Like the other institutions of the Centre Pompidou, and of France generally, IRCAM presents its online information in English as well as in French, and it is very much a product of the French central, national, government: created in 1969 by the French President Georges Pompidou and the composer Pierre Boulez, and continuing under government ministry aegis.

via W3 to http://www.ircam.fr

* Minitel -- the online service: the organization and delivery of information

Minitel is an integral part of the French Digital Libraries infrastructure, and it is one of the largest and earliest global providers of online digital information generally: earlier than the Internet by a decade. Today over 7 million Minitel terminals and several million more terminal - emulation hookups, worldwide, provide general public users access to nearly 25 million online digital information products and services, including hundreds of library resources.

(A list of the Minitel "library" resources -- specifically so - called - - is provided in the Appendix. There are hundreds of other resources, however -- "documentation centers", "archives", "booksellers services", and thousands of general reference resources -- which also provide library service on the Minitel.)

The Minitel was developed, during the late 1970's and early 1980's, by the national French telephone monopoly, France Télécom, as France's entry into the race for computerization / automation / informatisation. This is a race keenly felt by the French, surrounded as they are by European hi - tech competitors -- Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, and above all Germany -- and over - shadowed as they feel themselves to be, in this and other fields, by "le défi américain" / the "American Challenge" posed by the US.

An early Minitel application -- by no means ever the only one, and never intended to be the most important -- was the French national telephone book, which was loaded online onto Minitel at the same time as, unconfirmed marketing legend has it, the printed version became "very hard to obtain" for a while in France. Early developments included the growth of the infamous Minitel Rose, with its "sex - chat" and various sex services. Eventually, however, public sector and commercial service activity replace both the "annuaire" and "Minitel Rose" as the most important engines of Minitel's growth.

Among the services rendered by the national government in mounting Minitel was the provision of universal access to general public users. The well - organized Minitel "kiosk" system also effectively subsidized the billing component, one of the largest and most difficult portions of any retail mail order or distribution operation, by allowing consumers to charge service usage to their normal telephone accounts.

Less easy to see at the time, however -- certainly less easy to see then as a goal of public policy -- was the provision of Minitel as a basic, simplistic, but highly "user - friendly" service for general public online usage, anticipating the development of similar techniques for the Internet today.

The relatively - primitive state of Minitel's "videotext" technology at the time was more than counter - balanced by the foresight of France Télécom and Minitel's creators in aiming the service at the "un - interested" general public user, at a time when the Internet was in use only by engineers.

Now that the Internet at last is opening, its development of Mosaic / Netscape interfaces and hypertext / WorldWideWeb links, and general public - oriented commercial applications, represents a prime example of hi - tech "convergence", in this case of Internet technique with the original Minitel "general public" orientation and approach.

via W3 to http://www.minitel.fr ; or via telnet to telnet://minitel.fr , or (in North America) via voice telephone to 1- 800 - MINITEL , or through any France Télécom office.

* Ministry of Culture -- "French Culture, Inc.", online

The French National Ministry of Culture is perhaps the best place to visit online to appreciate the "flexible centralization" which characterizes Digital Libraries efforts in France.

Few countries anywhere even have a high - level "Ministry of Culture" (even fewer have one also devoted to its national language, as the official title "Ministry of Culture and Francophonie" indicates). This particular central government ministry not only has one of the most comprehensive and best - presented online presences itself, but it was an early leader in online work generally.

The projects which the Ministry of Culture encourages and often directly supports include most of the library, museum, and archival experiments in digital media going on throughout the country.

Most remarkable, for a government Ministry officially devoted to linguistic nationalism, the French Ministry of Culture itself offers online access to its resources and services in, of all things, the much - maligned "anglo - saxonne" language, English: few more dramatic proofs of the flexibility of the French, even in their intense centralization, might be provided than this -- even as "French Culture, Inc.", online, the supposedly - jingoistic French very pragmatically offer English.

Even if the US had a Ministry of Culture, one somehow doubts that it would bother to translate all of its W3 homepage screens into French, into any other non - English language, or even into English English for that matter: "color" never would become "colour", "catalog" would not be "catalogue". French relative flexibility in language matters is a seldom - recognised thing.

via W3 to http://www.culture.fr

* BIBLIO-FR -- electronic conference discussions online, and their archives

One new and virtually unrecognised resource of the global Digital Libraries effort is the well - run online electronic conference, and its invaluable archive. In an age when so much is being invented anew, very little exists yet in traditional media -- in print, on film -- which can inform a user about Digital Libraries.

Online e - conferences, however -- when they are well - disciplined efforts, governed by special Listserve or List Processor software and a flexible but firm human moderator -- have been assembling enormous stores of accumulated knowledge and often wisdom about Digital Libraries efforts.

Online archives of these e - conference discussions, which in some cases take place among thousands of individuals located in dozens of countries, are stored and searched easily.

BIBLIO-FR, the French librarians' e - conference, was created in 1993 and since has grown to include membership and postings from most librarians and archivists in France who use digital media at all, substantive discussion of most Digital Libraries issues, enthusiastic participation by francophone librarians -- most francophile, a few francophobe -- located in various countries, and even an occasional posting by a French ambassador and by the Minister of Culture himself.

There are few better starting or continuation points for any pursuit of French Digital Libraries knowledge than a free - of - charge subscription to BIBLIO-FR.

BIBLIO-FR has not chosen, as have so many other French Digital Libraries resources, to make its discussions available in English - language translation.

The BIBLIO-FR intent is, after all, to be a professional discussion group for librarians in France, and the primitive state of machine translation is such that the task of keeping up with the extemporaneous style and enormously - rapid growth of something like an e - conference discussion appears for now to be impossible.

An e - conference might manage such an effort relying on volunteers, however: e - conference email communication is informal enough that subscribers simply might translate each other's postings.

Two versions of both the BIBLIO-FR current postings and the archives are maintained: one with the French diacritical marks, which requires special software to be read at terminals, and one without. This is done to some extent to accommodate French users who simply don't possess the necessary software.

To a greater extent, however, such accommodated users are non - French people online who have no other need for the software but still would like to read the messages. It is interesting that even BIBLIO-FR has tried its best to accommodate the outside, non - francophone world: multi - lingual e - conferences, and even mono - lingual e - conferences which go to this length to accommodate foreign users, still are a very rare thing online.

Next month: Parts 3 & 4 of 4 -- The BNs de France and d'Art(?!), and some common themes in "Digital Libraries" work in France.


The book's full outline:

Internet Digital Libraries: The International Dimension

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

ISBN 0-89006-875-5. Artech House is at telephone 1-800-225-9977, or, http://www.artech-house.com/artech/html/catalog/book_html/0-89006-875-5.html?d8h3f9


FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

      |           FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter,
      |           published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal,
      |           experiment, in the creation of large - scale
      |           "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material
     / \          written by me which appears in FYI France may be
    -----         copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so
   //   \\        long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail
  ---------       address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if
 //       \\      if it is going to make them money, they must get my
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which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their
permission. FYI France archives are at  http://infolib.berkeley.edu
(search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to  infolib.berkeley.edu 72
(path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or
http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTES/biblio-fr@univ-rennes1.fr/ (BIBLIO-FR
econference archive), or via telnet to  a.cni.org , login  brsuser
(PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at  http://www.fyifrance.com .
Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen
letters all will be gratefully received at  kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.

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Last update: January 12, 1997.