As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
In the course of its activities SURF has become a nationwide supplier of services and innovation. The services are primarily provided through its operating subsidiaries: SURFnet bv and SURFdiensten bv. SURFnet manages the computer network of the same name. SURFdiensten deals with licensing agreements in the fields of software, hardware, course ware and information services. During the past few years, intensified cooperation with Pica (Centre for Library Automation) and the Royal Library has substantially broadened the provision of information services on the network.
In recent years, the main effect of ICT in the supply of information has been one of substitution: existing functions were carried out more efficiently. This applied to online catalogues which replaced card indexes and microfiches, but it also applied to data storage on cd-rom to optical character recognition and electronic document transmission via email, file transfer and fax. Publishers and libraries were very keen to use these tools as they are easily integrated into existing processes. Their advantages are indisputable and easily measured.
Secondly, such digital information is independent of time and place thanks to the worldwide infrastructure which extends to the workplace. Researchers need no longer leave their desks to search for and consult the literature.
The advantages for scientists in their role as researchers and authors are selfevident: not only do they have faster access to vast amounts of information which, in addition, is available in much 'richer' formats, but their own publications also benefit from these innovations.
Digitized information can lead to an identity crisis in scientific libraries. Traditionally, libraries derive their right to existence from their own collection, but shortly end users will be able to get their information from America just as easily as from their local institutional library. This also weakens the university's position.
In addition, publishers and national centres are increasingly assuming those tasks which were performed by libraries (title descriptions and subject retrieval). On the other hand, owing to the abundance of information, end users will require intensive support. The libraries will be able to provide such support.
Not only scientific, but vast economic interests are involved in the availability of information selected on quality and relevance. This is clearly demonstrated by the turnover and profit figures of the large scientific publishers like Elsevier Science. The high cost of their publications are mainly due to the fact that publishing is a people's business and therefore expensive.
ICT will not essentially alter this, even when paper is substituted by bytes on a large scale. For this reason it is essential that libraries continue to cooperate in some or other form in collecting and providing access to digital information.
In their turn, publishers are entering into partnerships with media corporations while software companies are starting to offer information services. As yet it is unclear where these developments are heading, but no doubt the market mechanism will be playing an increasingly significant role in the information supply chain.
All this combines to give shape to a virtual Netherlands Scientific Library. In 1993, in the same time when in England an investigation was undertaken into how to deal with the pressures on library resources caused by the worldwide explosion in academic knowledge and information which resulted in the "Follett" report, in The Netherlands a steering committee on this subject was founded, first as an autonomous Committee, later as a committee of the SURF Foundation.
The Stuurgroep Innovatie Wetenschappelijke Informatievoorziening [Steering Committee for Innovation in Scientific Information Provision] (IWI), which is elected from board members of the universities, the Royal Library, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Scientific Academy, has presented last year a number of innovative proposals in its 1996/1998 Planning Report which will contribute to this. The present facilities appear to fulfil a distinct need of the users, as the rapid increase in SURFnet traffic is mainly due to searching online catalogues, databases and information servers.
The Stuurgroep IWI aims at the stimulation of the innovation of the supply of scientific information.
Technical innovation and standardization