European Environment Library Network - EELNET (NICE Europe*) - A Scoping Study
Lilian Mex-Jørgensen, National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), Silkeborg

Descriptors: Environmental library network, European Environment Agency (EEA), Internet, environmental resources, free access to information, information quality, citing electronic resources, search tools.

*) Note of the Editors: NICE Europe (NICE = Network of Information Centers for the Environment) has finally been chosen as name of the network. Credits for this nice name go to Wouter B. Van Nieuwpoort from the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM).

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The project is a scoping study on the establishment of a European environment library network (EELNET) in order to support the library of the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Copenhagen. It is one of the Danish support projects that are part of the hosting agreement between Denmark and EEA.

The library/information centre contact persons have been identified via the 17 EEA National Focal Points. A questionnaire was forwarded to the library contact persons and the project report is mainly the result of surveying the answers.

The results of the scoping study has lead to the creation of a prototype of a common environmental pilot home page that is one of the core elements of the EELNET.

The common home page is a European environmental information window including listings of European and national state of the environment reports, news of common European interest, and links to selected and evaluated European environmental resources on the Internet. Further the common home page informs about the participating libraries, links the already existing library home pages, and interconnects the EELNET contact persons via a selected electronic conference.

The conclusion of the project report contains recommendations for co-operation, for information providing, for establishing home pages, and for extending the network to other related environmental libraries with a view to establishing a virtual European environment library network. The final report will be printed and forwarded to the EEA in July 1996.


The project is one of the Danish support projects that is part of the hosting agreement between Denmark and the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The objectives of the project have been to describe, discuss, and plan the elements of a European environment library network, EELNET.

It is stressed that I have approached the project from a pragmatic angle.

The reason for suggesting the project was that I found that the establishment of an information unit at the European Environment Agency (EEA) would be highly dependent on an effective information network. I am very happy that the project was considered to be important and thus chosen as one of the Danish support projects to the EEA.

Methods and results

The elements of the European Environment Library Network, EELNET, are a combination of

Contact persons

A contact person from 14 of the 17 EU countries has been identified via the EEA National Focal Points (NFPs). There are representatives from libraries of different size and administrative affiliations. In order to establish a useful network, the role and the tasks of the contact persons must be defined by reciprocal agreements. The contact persons are thus all willing within reasonable limits to co-operate on information delivery and inter library loans (ILL). The contact persons are expected to contribute to the contents of the common home page described below.

Electronic EELNET Conference

In order to facilitate communication a restricted electronic conference, the EELNET Conference, has been established. The conference is among other things expected to solve rush requests for information, to be a forum for discussion and exchange of (Internet) experience, and to be a complementary information source to the common home page. The study has shown that today only four of the participating contact persons use electronic conferences though it is a very convenient way of exchanging information.

Common home page - European environmental information window

A home page prototype, which is common to all 17 contact persons, has been created. The common home page is intended to be the European information window on selected environmental matters. The amount of information is overwhelming and the word "filtering" is therefore a keyword as to common home page contribution. The contents of the home page must be short, selected, and sufficient to meet the users' need for environmental information of a certain quality.

The home page has been created as a pilot project with links to the National Environmental Research Institute (NERI) library pilot home page. The common home page with URL: is placed on the NERI server, but will be implemented on the EEA server later.

The common home page is a contribution to the idea of giving the European Community free access to environmental information. The home page media is very convenient for the dissemination of always-up-to-date-information. To the users this gateway will be an important tool when searching for reliable environmental information, in addition to the EEA home page which is well on the way to becoming an authorithy to consult.

The benefits to be gained by supplying information to the European environmental information window should be evident.

The common home page

Connection to the library home page of the participating partners will gradually be established. The survey has revealed that the libraries or information centres involved are at the edge of the home page era.

As the project is also ahead of the state of immediate interlinking of library home pages it is very likely that the libraries with no home page will be offered space on the EEA server for a transitional period. It has been decided which information is to be found on the common home page and which to be found on the individual library home pages.

The different co-operating partners are expected to transfer their information to the common home page (in a certain standard (html) format) and thus have their publications advertised in the European information window, but also at their own library home page when possible. Supplying of information to the common home page should begin in the near future when the final report has been forwarded to the EEA.

It is suggested to consider co-operation on the technical level with Environment Information and Observation Network, EIONET. All NFPs will have installed a server hopefully by the end of 1996/beginning of 1997 and they will be equipped with identical software products.

It appears to be a good idea to gather selected information under the headlines: "New publications" and "Information of common European interest". They will cover published as well as selected environmental information regardless of publication media. It will be even easier to keep an eye on new European initiatives when information can be found in one place only. Examples of information to be included are national initiatives on campaigns on different environmental topics, information on new national short video films describing environmental questions, contributions by the EEA, selected information on EU environmental legislation, etc.

Access to environmental information and publications

Some of the home page headlines described above are partly covering the last element to be described: access to environmental information.

It cannot be foreseen to which information the EEA Information Centre - and the participants - will need easy access. Depending on the type of information searched for, different sources should be consulted, e.g. personal networking, a common database, individual library/publication databases, common home page news, selected environmental resources on the Internet, etc.

Access to information and publications will partly be covered by an EEA library database containing - to begin with - state of the environment publications and related publications. The common home page will provide up-to-date information on the environment. The libraries wishing to give access to own library or publication databases will do it from their own library home page.

The "Connection to environmental resources via the Internet" is a selection of important links to environmental resources:

While selecting and gathering these resources I had hoped to find literature evaluating environmental resources on the Internet but unfortunately I did not find the answer.

To begin with it is therefore suggested that the decision as to the inclusion of environmental resources on the home page should be based on criteria such as updating frequency, reliability of the information provider, and accessibility (the ease of using/accessing the resource).

Information quality has been discussed for several years, but usually with respect to printed matter. The question of information quality on the Net, and how to evaluate it, is a relatively new field of investigation. In this context it should be remembered that information quality not only concerns what is found on the Net, but also what the EELNET participants as information providers present via the common home page.

The future

For a trial period of one year the 14 (of 17) contact persons will consolidate their knowledge on networking, work load, external requests, etc. It is evident that the continuation of the project depends on the willingness of the contact persons to participate and co-operate. It will then be decided how to continue the network. The final report schedules when to extend the network to recommended related libraries or information centres.

A detailed proposal on the project will be published in July 1996. At present a preliminary report has been discussed with 5 of the contact persons at EEA in Copenhagen. A draft report has been forwarded for comments to all the 17 libraries/information centres and their comments will be included in the final report.

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