TITLE: Gabriel: The Gateway to Europe's National Libraries

ACCESS: http://www.bl.uk/gabriel/

Established in 1997, Gabriel is the official Web site of the national libraries in Europe. It offers a gateway to the bibliographic holdings and treasures of 41 national libraries, representing the 39 member states of the Council of Europe. The cooperative effort to develop and maintain the site is handled by the Conference of European National Librarians, a group created to expand and promote the national libraries' role in Europe.

Gabriel offers access to the Web site in English, French or German. Self-described as "the only trans-European library service on the World Wide Web," its menu is straightforward and easy to navigate. One useful feature is the menu bar for "National Libraries of Europe," which takes the user to a page with links to all national libraries. This offers a starting point for review of the many resources of these nations. The user can select any country, in alphabetical order from Albania to Vatican City, and then get a detailed record of the library's collections, size, hours, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. This information could be vital for librarians seeking to contact particular manuscript departments or interlibrary loan offices for a particular national library.

Another key tool is the menu option "Online Services," which provides links to the online public access catalogs of the national libraries, as well as "National Bibliographies" and "National Union Catalogues." Many of these resources are Web-based and have English-language access, so researchers can review holdings from across Europe from their desktop. The "Online Services" option also lists "Periodical Indices" maintained by the national libraries, as well as "Digital Collections." These digitized materials cover a variety of formats, ranging from German legal resources to Finnish historic newspapers.

One final noteworthy resource found here is called "Online Exhibitions," which highlights treasures of the national libraries of Europe. Users can view historic materials by document type or topic. A general index lists individual treasures such as Chopin's Preludes, or a 16th century atlas from Portugal.

For librarians who work in the humanities or area studies, and for students of European culture and history, Gabriel is a very useful Web site. It successfully serves as a bridge to the rich resources of Europe's national libraries, and offers a streamlined means of accessing their numerous catalogs and collections.

Barbara Hillson
George Mason University

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