National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Koninklijke Bibliotheek and Nationaal Archief to move forward together

The Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB: National Library) and the Nationaal Archief (NA: National Archives) of the Netherlands will be integrated into one organization. This was decided by the Cabinet on 23 December following a proposal from Secretary of State Zijlstra (OCW: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science). The integration is a logical continuation of the substantial cooperation between both institutions, and in line with the aim of the Cabinet to make the government more compact. The planned launch date for the new organization is 1 July 2013. Customers of both national institutions may expect even better, well coordinated, services.

Intensification existing cooperation

It is perhaps not generally known that the NA and the KB already work together in a number of areas. For instance, they carry out ‘Metamorfoze’ together, the prestigious programme for the preservation of paper heritage, and have been working together for years in the area of conservation research. In 2005 the Prince of Orange opened the exhibition space ‘The Legacy of the Netherlands’ where both institutions have already held a number of spectacular exhibitions of their treasures. In the course of this year preparations have been made within both institutions to give shape to a more intense cooperation. The KB and NA - located in two interconnected buildings in The Hague - wish to exploit the scale advantages of combining the institutions and so face the challenges of the digital era together.

Administrative integration

The KB is an autonomous administrative authority (ZBO); the NA is an agency of OCW. To realize an administrative integration of the two an amendment of the Public Records Act and the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW) are required. These will be prepared in the coming year. Eventually, both organizations will be merged into one ZBO. The aim is to complete this path in a year and a half, with a launch date for the new organization of 1 July 2013.

Merge of national library and national archive elsewhere

Merging a national library and a national archive was not common practice in the ink-and-paper era. Unpublished (archival) and published (library) documents require different kinds of storage and classification. In the age of digitization the differences are much smaller, and the challenges entailed in preservation and classification are virtually the same. A national library and national archive have been merged before in Canada (2004), a similar merge was announced last year in New Zealand, and a comparable proposal was made last month in Ireland.

Responses of the Directors

Bas Savenije, Director-General of the KB: ‘The future of the provision of information and cultural heritage is digitization. The KB and the NA therefore face comparable challenges with respect to permanent preservation of and access to digital information. Seeking solutions together is a logical next step in the existing cooperation; it will lead to more synergy between the library and information fields and to better services for our joint customers.’

Martin Berendse, Director of the NA: ‘The Nationaal Archief and the Dutch archives sector face enormous challenges in the age of digitization: to keep the paper collection accessible and to become a safe haven for all digital born records. When the next generation in the Netherlands asks us what the NA and KB did to get this substantial job done the answer will be: we joined forces at exactly the right time. I am convinced that the new organization will become a key player in knowledge on digital preservation, open data, research and the exchange of information. Archive creators, the archives sector and users of archives will all profit from this’.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communication Division of the KB, telephone 070-3140908.