Browsing Libraries From Your Sofa

Today, the BnL has more than 760,000 scientific e-books and 950,000 e-documents (Photo © BnL)

When the BnL, Luxembourg’s national library, added a video-on-demand service to its media menu at the start of April, it was only one step of many in the library’s digitisation journey. Christine Kremer explains.

The public had just a few months to visit Luxembourg’s oldest library, the BnL, when it opened its new premises in Kirchberg at the end of 2019. In March the following year, the pandemic forced its closure. But the closure did not necessarily mean access was blocked to all 40 kilometres of documents held in the new building.

Thanks to a digitisation of the library’s resources begun in 2002, library cardholders were able to access a vast number of e-documents from the comfort of their sofas. Today, the BnL has more than 760,000 scientific e-books and 950,000 e-documents, and it is seeing a strong demand for both from the public and research community.

Cultural Heritage

Besides guaranteeing access to as many people as possible, digitising books helps preserve Luxembourg documents and knowledge for future generations. In 2002, the BnL began scanning its cultural heritage collections and making the results available online via

“Our main goal was and still is to digitise our heritage collections as much as we can and to preserve them for future generations. That is why we also harvest the Luxembourgish webspace and hold the legal deposit not only for printed but also for digital documents,” says Kremer. She adds that digitising documents helps to preserve originals, which may be fragile because of their age or frequent use.

The BnL is responsible for digitising its Luxembourg resources, which include more than 60 Luxembourg newspapers and journals, posters, postcards and books. In parallel, it makes online e-books and scientific journals originating from international providers available to the Luxembourg public through licensing agreements.

Today, this content can be accessed via, a single platform that amalgamates the online resources previously found on, and the library’s online catalogue. In 2006, the newly established University of Luxembourg joined the portal “allowing the offer to expand significantly”. It was followed by other public research centres which now make up a consortium for licensed digital content.

Digital Fragility

Like their paper-based counterparts, digital content requires constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure it remains readable and findable. “It is fragile because of the fast pace of technological change,” explains Kremer. “We also have to constantly check whether digital files have been damaged or altered and, if so, repair them immediately.”

The collection is constantly growing, albeit more slowly for the Luxembourgish offering than for internationally licensed content.

“Our main goal was and still is to digitise our heritage collections as much as we can and to preserve them for future generations.”

Christine Kremer

One factor is the onerous process of scanning documents to ensure that digital copies are sharp and correspond to the original. Any scans that do not meet the Universal Test Target chart are rejected and redone. Here, Kremer says that it would be “important to set up a process to handle the quality of scanned images by an automatable process to assure that they are” conform. In future, her colleagues would also like to implement scanning processes which include layout analysis and optical character recognition (OCR) within documents.

Such a feature would help anyone searching for keywords to better identify them within scanned documents. “For example, if your users are doing genealogical searches it would be very important to detect death notices and model them in order to make them easily researchable,” she explains.

Completing The Collection

Layout analysis and OCR would help the public using the latest content being added to the archive. In November 2021, the BnL digitised all editions of national newspaper the Luxemburger Wort from 1951 to 1980 to and

It is now setting its sights on digitising the national legal registers (Mémorial), specifically the Mémorial A from 1914 to 1940 and Mémorial C from 1961 to 1995, as well as German-language magazine Revue from 1945 to 2020 and over 7,000 Luxembourg language books published from 1985 to 1994.

Adding some 18,000 audiovisual documents such as documentaries, movies and TV series from the menulu feature (accessible via was the next logical step. Established through a partnership with the national audiovisual centre (CNA) in Dudelange, in early April, it “enables users to stream movies without being forced to pay monthly fees.”

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