The Conference of European National Librarians (short ‘CENL’) is a network of 49 national libraries in 45 European countries.
Members of the CENL are national librarians of the member states of the Council of Europe. Since 1987, CENL has worked to advance the cause of Europe’s national libraries, reinforcing our special role in preserving the continent’s cultural heritage and making it accessible to all.
Our mission is to advance the cause of Europe’s national libraries, working better together and achieving more than we can do alone.
We believe that as world-leading memory institutions, Europe’s national libraries play an important role in the intellectual, educational, cultural, social and economic development of the continent, countries and communities they serve.
As a foundation under Dutch law we meet once a year for a special conference to discuss projects, initiatives and topics of common interest. We strive to form a strong community, supporting one-another through skills and knowledge exchange.
National libraries have special responsibilities, often defined in law, within a nation’s library and information system.
These responsibilities vary from country to country but are likely to include: the collection via legal deposit of the national imprint (both print and electronic) and its cataloguing and preservation; the provision of central services (e.g. reference, bibliography, preservation, lending) to users both directly and through other library and information centers; the preservation and promotion of the national cultural heritage; acquisition of at least a representative collection of foreign publications; the promotion of national cultural policy; and leadership in national literacy campaigns. National libraries often serve as a national forum for international programmes and projects.
They may have a close relationship with national governments, may be concerned with the development of national information policies, and may act as a conduit for the views of other sectors of the profession. Occasionally they also serve the information needs of the legislature directly.
National libraries need to secure their own position in order to establish the conditions necessary for free and unhindered access to information and documentation. This information must be, as far as possible, complete, clearly organised, prompt, and reliable. More than ever before, it is therefore necessary to develop new models of cooperation, to divide work tasks and share resources. National libraries can act as a focus within a cooperative network.
Experience clearly shows that European national libraries are especially suited to furthering cultural and scientific understanding. They represent the European heritage in a concentrated manner with a profound historical dimension. Along with the political and cultural significance of national libraries, there is an effective organisation of services inclusive of the information, research, teaching, education and training sections.
In 1991 CENL organized the first East-West conference with national libraries of Eastern Europe in Vienna in order to establish closer links and a defined partnership. It was a very successful meeting with concrete results leading to an ongoing dialogue.
Fast forward to the present day, the topics which are discussed at the annual meetings and are worked on within groups and projects were already identified at the very first meeting and evolved with the development of technology and library organisation:
Bursaries are available for CENL members to share skills and knowledge. They are up to the value of €1000 per application.
Support national libraries to increase their impact and to be strong organisations across a wide range of activities including; custodianship of collections, education, research, culture and heritage.
Develop national library services to meet the evolving needs of our diverse audiences including; the general public, learners, researchers and cultural visitors.
Develop as memory institutions to improve standards of stewardship and access to our physical and digital collections.
Strengthen CENL as a community in order to further support its members.
Members of CENL are the national librarians of the member states of the Council of Europe. Since 1987, CENL has worked to advance the cause of Europe’s national libraries, reinforcing our special role in preserving the continent’s cultural heritage and making it accessible to all.
Our Executive Committee is appointed for a period of at least three years, driving forward CENL’s strategy and action plan. Since 2015, the Chairmanship has been filled by the Chief Executive of the British Library in the United Kingdom.
The CENL Secretariat is currently being administered by the International Office in the British Library in the United Kingdom. The CENL secretariat executes the daily administrative tasks related to the operation of CENL, across the areas of finance, bursary management, communications and meetings.