Norway digitizes all its books

"The National Library has not been provided with any new funds to implement this digitization project. What we have done is to reallocate funds of our own for going digital" says Solbakk.
In this room stands the National Library scanners for fragile or rare books and documents. NB has two different scanners that scans slightly differently. Photo: Sindre Skrede
Vorsprung durch Technik, standing next to books that have been selected to be scanned. Photo: Sindre Skrede
National Library of Mo i Rana, Norway

We have chosen not to spend time selecting what to digitize. We have just as well said that we will digitize everything, says Svein Arne Solbakk, who is director of ICT and digitization at the National Library.

It is an ambitious goal, but using a large, and largely automated digitization project, it appears that the National Library manages the task. Where previously had to meet up at the library, may be waitlisted or have the patience for it you would have sent from another library, you can now go to and "borrow" almost exactly what you want of Norwegian literature.

But how is that possible?

Beginning with books
Since most of the content on's books, we begin in bokavdelingen. The books to be digitized retrieved from the archive, which is a fully automated shelving system commonly used in large warehouses. On the shelves there are metal boxes with room for about 15 books. The boxes are labeled with a barcode, and in each box are the books in a particular kartotekmappe which is also marked with a barcode.When each book also has its unique ID, it is easy for the robot to retrieve the particular case where the particular book is.

The National Library shall have at least three copies of each book in stock - ideally.

- In cases where we have more than three copies, we cut the back of the books, so that we finally get a stack of individual sheets, which we can easily digitize, tells Solbakk.

The cut binder is also digitized and put together with the scanned pages when the book is published on the bookcase. The sides of such slaughtered books scanned using a fairly standard duplex scanner, which can be fed with a book (or all pages of a book) at a time.

In cases where the National Library of not more than three copies of the book, the book can not be cut into pieces. Then the digitized as it is, which can be a slow affair about to do it manually.

- Fortunately, there are companies out there who make robots for the digitization of books and manuscripts. They are both gentle and effective, and also makes the whole project possible, said Solbakk, as he takes us into the room where the special bokscannerne, developed in Austria, is located.

Here scanned old documents, books that are only available in limited numbers or books that are too fragile for the duplex scanners. National Library currently has two different types of scanners. In both cases, the book with the back downward, and is approximately half way open. One type of scanner has a mechanical "finger" that browsing books. The pages are scanned at two SLR cameras taking pictures of each page:

The second type of scanner takes hold of each side using pressure and lift the document face up while the page is scanned:

After the books are scanned, either one way or the other, occurs much automatically, they are now digital books put together, and the content of the book is indexed. The position of each letter and each word will be logged, and in addition, the book's index pages recorded. If the programs that perform this task are experiencing bugs or problems, this is logged.

When the indexing and the composition is complete, the result is reviewed for final "approval" before the digital books transferred to the digital bookshelf. In addition, applied book the author, title, subject and various katalogiserigstagger.

The very delicate documents must be digitized by hand, where the document should be handled by a person who gently scroll from side to side and take pictures using a fixed camera.

Overall digitizer National Library 1,000 books per week.

One of the last projects that have been completed, digitizing, indexing and cataloging of all proposition, which is now more accessible and more easily searchable than before, dating back to Parliament's first year. Photo: Sindre Skrede

- The National Library has not been provided with any new funds to implement this digitization project. What we have done is to reallocate funds ours for going digital, saying Solbakk.

Digitizer whole heritage
It's not just books that are being digitized by the National Library. Photographs, newspapers, magazines, sound and film - all National Library takes care of scheduled digitized. Every day digitized such a large amount of daily newspapers, such as the National Library of getting into.

- Actually, we want to get the digital edition of newspaper publishers, such as the version they send to the printing anyway, but it's not all that gives us that. Then we need to digitize a printed yourself, here with us, says Solbakk.

See video of one of the National Library newspaper scanners here:

Steel wire with music - a device invented by Valdemar Poulsen Dane in 1898. Player in the background is the magnetic tape. Photo: Sindre Skrede

Although much can be done using today's technology, there are many of the old formats, such as on the music front, which can be played on other than original equipment.

He shows off a reel with razor wire.

- This was a Danish invention, and is basically a kind of magnetic tape. I do not think the product took off, but we have some coils in our archive that may be digitized. Finally we got hold of an original player, so now saved content, tell Solbakk.

National Library kinda is all a huge collection of partly whimsical play equipment, which is either purchased in working condition or composed of parts you've managed to get in.

- We sit a lot on ebay, to put it that way - that's pretty much where we get hold of the old play equipment, says Solbakk.

Kristian Granheim digitizer music, and is currently working on a 78-discs. As a former engineer at NRK, he believes to have found your dream job between vinyl pencil and digital technology.Photo: Sindre Skrede

Film is also something the National Library digitizer. Here, there, as the music front, many different formats, and the originals can be very different condition. In the film room tells the story of old nitrate film that can spontaneously catch fire if film that shrinks or stretches, or old storage boxes rust and ruin the film.

How should rather not look.Here carton movie has been in the rusted and broken parts of "Thor Solberg's flight across the Atlantic Ocean" from 1930. Photo: Sindre Skrede

Nevertheless cleaned and patched films as well as possible, before they run through a film scanner which scans films in 4k resolution. Nasjonalbiliotekets scanner can digitize film in real time (which is not yet as common in 4k world), and can record audio simultaneously. After scanning the films are processed digitally to remove color cast, scratches and the like.

The great digitizing job exacts storage. Currently, the National Library has digitized material enough to fill 10 petabytes - or ten million gigabytes. It generated so far about 3-5000 gigabytes per day.

When the film digitization seriously get started, calculates that this will generate about 1 gigabyte per second, which will place even greater demands on file management and storage.

- We store data on a fairly standard server setup inside the cavern spring, says Solbakk.

- In addition we have two backups on tape, or magnetic tape. A tape machine is in the cavern, the other in the basement of the main building. We want also an off-site backup, and working to achieve it, he said.

The National Library's cavern we also meters upon meters of the analogue material - all that either has been or will be scanned.

In the mountain halls we find, besides data storage in the form of servers and a robotic tape archives where all of storing paper. This is from the journal hall. Photo: Sindre Skrede

Rights and future
When it comes, accessibility and adaptation tells him that the elastic fabric is enough as far as possible.

- I did not participate in the negotiations themselves, but understand them was that we hardly had prepared a better deal, right wise, than the one we have now, says Solbakk.

He says, however, that working with the Norwegian Association of the Blind to bring about a solution that makes the bookcase better to use for blind and visually impaired, for example.

- The reason we can digitize material to the extent we do is really that Norway is a very small country. Other countries where collections are much larger, have hardly enough opportunity to digitize absolutely everything, so we think, says Solbakk.

Digitizing work is a big job, and Solbakk tells of a long-term perspective.

- We have now worked on digitization for six years, and plan to stay on for 25 to. There are a lot of material to be digitized, says Solbakk.