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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday June 21, 2021

Updated on Monday June 21, 2021

portrait of Céline Leclaire

Céline Leclaire

Strategic content production officer , National Library of France

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

Curious, smart and resourceful: the BnF’s new digital roadmap

The National Library of France (BnF) has recently launched a new digital strategy - we speak to Céline Leclaire, Strategic content production officer, to explore the strategy and what it means for the organisation’s digital transformation. 

The National Library of France’s Digital Roadmap

Title: The National Library of France’s Digital Roadmap

Creator: National Library of France

Date: 2021

Institution: National Library of France

Country: France

CC BY-NC

The needs and resources of cultural heritage institutions and the professionals who work for them are many and varied. When it comes to working with digital material and transforming working practices to take advantage of digital technologies and processes, what stands out is the richness and complexity of today’s networks, and the variety of digital practices. Organisational digital strategies can help an institution to manage its activity in this area, as well as the expectations of its stakeholders and the skills development of its staff.

Today we talk to Céline Leclaire from the National Library of France (BnF) about its new digital strategy, what it means for the organisation and how they’ve used a novel visualisation of it to engage staff and stakeholders.

First of all, please share a little bit about yourself and your day-to-day role.

Since 2015, I’ve been in charge of designing, writing and disseminating various strategic media, mainly dealing with digital issues, on behalf of the Services and Networks Directorate at the National Library of France (BnF). This Directorate is composed of about 600 people. 

What does digital transformation of the cultural heritage sector mean to you, personally? 

It represents an amazing opportunity to thoroughly explore new content, to offer audiences continuous collections all over the world, and, thus, to meet otherness through totally different ways of thinking and creating. It is also a challenge: people need support to shift towards digital tools and practices. 

What led the BnF to creating this 2021 digital strategy? 

As digital technologies and projects constantly evolve at the BnF (see Emmanuelle Bermès interview on Europeana Pro), we decided at the beginning of 2019 to reconsider the digital roadmap launched in 2016. It was not the Library’s first roadmap in this field: the mapping process began in the late 2000s. 

The 2020 Digital Roadmap is the result of a ground-breaking collective approach involving about 150 people and it brings out the increasing importance of issues related to the working environment at the Library, for both staff and users - something we were already thinking about before the 2020 lockdown. 

The National Library of France’s Digital Roadmap

Title: The National Library of France’s Digital Roadmap

Creator: National Library of France

Date: 2021

Institution: National Library of France

Country: France

CC BY-NC
The National Library of France’s Digital Roadmap

What are the key points of the new strategy? 

Five strategic priorities have been defined:

  • Managing the evolution of work
  • Studying, examining and anticipating uses
  • Sharing infrastructures, know-how and skills
  • Managing information technology applications
  • Overcoming the digital divide

They are complemented by a five-fold vision for the future (see more).

Europeana and the BnF have worked together for over a decade.  How is the partnership reflected in the strategy?

If you look closely, you will see partners right in the middle of the map, just near the cartographers at work… Partnership is indeed a key point of the Library’s digital strategy. Europeana  is one of the best examples, as stressed in the fact sheet dealing with IIIF (in French), a technology that helps make any digital library more user-friendly. Topics such as putting content in perspective or developing tools to explore content also echo the Library’s multifaceted work with Europeana.

What change do you hope to see for the BnF as a result of the new digital strategy? 

This strategy rests on core concerns such as access, finding tools that meet current needs, and engaging audiences. So the 2016 Digital roadmap isn’t completely outdated! The 2020 Roadmap displays a panoramic and comprehensive view of the Library’s digital life in order to help people find their way and work together in this complex ecosystem day-to-day. What is important is to stay curious, smart and resourceful in such areas, and to be ready to go further, to deepen your knowledge. In that respect, the 2020 Digital Roadmap represents an invitation, first designed for the BnF’s staff but also available to anyone, worldwide.

How does the strategy address building capacity for digital skills?

In 2019, we quickly realised that it wouldn’t be enough to launch a document: you have to organise workshops and presentations so that people can talk together. A human approach is necessary when dealing with skills improvement, especially in the digital area. Indeed, the map has already been proven to be a relevant background for debates and explanations. For instance, at the Library, the roadmap has been added to the ‘welcome kit’ for new staff members. One of the major strategic axes of the Roadmap is ‘Managing the evolution of work’ and relates to training and recruitment processes, but the Roadmap itself also contributes to such an evolution. 

You’ve used a very visual approach to promoting the strategy - with a map and a set of cards. Why did you choose this approach and how have staff and stakeholders reacted to it? 

The medium chosen in 2020 is quite unusual, drawing inspiration from both the Library’s collections of maps and plans, and from card games. People are seduced by the beauty of the map (you can see it on the walls in many places in the Library), they reuse its drawings in other documents and want to play with the cards. The method is very inspiring too and gives new ideas to our colleagues. But people also tell us that the map is not so easy to understand. We considered making the whole medium interactive, but we also wanted to offer something that could be held in your hands. We hope we’ll soon have the opportunity to propose this rich material to design students: we’ll see how they transform it!

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