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Frank ter Reehorst photoLizzy Komen photoIn 2007 the collection descriptions from the European national libraries were only available in the native language and in English via The European Library portal. The European Library Office aimed to have all 330 collection descriptions available in 27 languages by mid 2008. To fully understand the scope of the project, it is important to know what a collection and a collection description is. It is common understanding that a collection covers the total accumulation of books or other materials owned by a library, organized and catalogued for ease of access by its users. A collection description allows the owners or curators of collections to disclose information about their existence and availability.

ClientSide News Magazine pictureGiven the regular workload of The European Library, the translation project was too sizable to coordinate and process internally. Consequently, it was decided to outsource to a translation services provider. Price quotes were asked from 10 geographically dispersed translation agencies (in the UK, India, USA, Netherlands, Latvia, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain). In June 2008, Scriptware was selected as the agency of choice.

Currently 8 new languages are being added, scaling up the project to a Europe-wide exposé as far as the Southern boundaries of the Caucasus.

The funding for this project comes from co-funding of European Commission through the TELplus project and the Conference of European National Libraries.

Organizational Profile

The European Library is a free service that offers access to 150 million books, magazines, posters, images, maps, videos, etc. of the 48 national libraries of Europe. A national library is the library specifically established by a country to store its information database. National libraries usually host the legal deposit and the bibliographic control centre of a nation. The user interface of The European Library is currently available in 35 languages [Image 1] and the collection descriptions are part of this service.


  • The 48 European national libraries participating in The European Library are all members of the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL), a foundation aiming at increasing and reinforcing the role of national libraries in Europe. Members of CENL are the national librarians of the Council of Europe Member States.
  • Currently The European Library gives access to 150 million entries across Europe. The amount of referenced digital collections is constantly increasing. Quality and reliability are guaranteed by the 48 collaborating national libraries of Europe. The European Library is a non-commercial organization.
  • To encompass its vision, The European Library ad dresses a political dimension by providing multilingual content.
  • The European Library is the organizational model for the “European digital library” [Now known as Europeana]. This European Commission initiative will encompass not only libraries but also museums, archives and other holders of cultural heritage material.

Home Page The European Library

Image 1. Home Page The European Library

Technical Overview

The European Library first translated the user interface through the support of the associated national libraries. For the translation of the titles and descriptions, however, a translation service provider was needed. This was because of time and resource constraints, review requirements and the large volume of translatable content. In line with The European Library’s vision localized collection descriptions were needed, besides a localized interface.

“This unique multi-language project required the right approach. The idea of a translation portal where all the partners involved could interact was very appealing. Consequently, we asked Scriptware to employ their TransiBar portal” says Lizzy Komen, The European Library project coordinator.

Consequently the decision was made to free funds that would allow a full-blown localization project. The choice for a translation environment was based on the following technical conditions:

  • proven experience with XML files, and Unicode
  • re-use of existing Word translations in some major languages by creating translation memories
  • clear workflow and a centralized translation system
  • review functionality that would enable librarians in all national libraries to check the translations

Business Benefit

It was expected that the use of an XML-based translation tool would largely facilitate the translation of the xml files. In addition it was likely that there would be repetitions in the search records. Given the volumes, the European Library office decided that this project needed to be outsourced.

In August 2008 all translations were realized and linguistically checked by Scriptware Language Engineers. After a full review round by representatives from the national libraries, the project was delivered by September. By early November 2008 the 330 translated collection descriptions were accessible via The European Library portal in 27 languages. The European Library stakeholders were pleased with the outcomes; full translation of all collection descriptions will require further analysis to fully measure the end-user benefits.

Currently the second translation phase has started involving 8 new languages, like Azeri, Albanian and Ukrainian. For maintenance purposes, The European Library will be able to export new collection descriptions and start up an update project in 35 languages instantly.

The European Library Users

It is in the vision of The European Library to provide equal access to the richness and diversity of European learning and culture. Equal access to the public implies a translation mission. This is also reflected in the language policy and this is why The European Library undertakes the translation of collection descriptions.

The European Library primarily targets its service to librarians and members of the academics community. Both the CENL libraries and their customers will benefit greatly from the translated collection descriptions and titles in The European Library. There will be benefits for:

end users:

  • better search and retrieve functionality as searching of the collections can be done in the native languages improving resource discovery of native resources held in other countries, especially for non-English speakers.
  • will better understand (in their primary or secondary languages) what foreign collections cover.


  • wider access to and promotion of all the libraries’ collections and objects, irrespective of language. Bigger potential audience, more traffic.
  • increase in multilingual content, better exposure for The European Library to search engines.

User studies from the TELplus project show that users appreciate the functionality of a multilingual service. One of the first things users do when entering the portal is change the language of the interface. In addition statistical data [Image 3] of the website usage shows the most popular languages selected for services such as the 1st Time User Guide and FAQ, which shows a need for multiple language offering (source Awstats).

Statistics about the usage of the translated collection descriptions will be part of future user analysis, following adequate promotion of this service.

Most Popular Languages

Image 2. FAQ’s + USER GUIDE: Most Popular Languages
(Jan 09-Mar 09 - Total)

Dissemination of the translation project took place in the first instance via the TELplus project, which reports the project outcomes to the European Commission. The 8availability of the translations was also distributed via The European Library newsletter, to the library partners and wider audience of The European Library. Additionally the national libraries translated The European Library press release issued in April 2009, which announced the increase of multilingual facilities.

TransiBar On-line Services

Scriptware developed a web portal called TransiBar. A XML-based platform that allows customers, project managers, translators and local reviewers to collaborate.

Home Page TransiBar

Image 3. Home Page TransiBar

TransiBar was first announced beginning 2008 as a ‘closed’ portal that required a Login and Password before entering. Basically it functioned as a webtool that allowed customers to get a quote after uploading their files and clicking the [I agree] button to get started. TransiBar consisted of three basic user groups: customer coordinators, project managers and translators.

The main idea was to reduce the number of necessary steps between customer and translator. By virtue of the middle position of the language service provider this could easily be up to 4 to 5 layers, that would each store a copy of the source file and target languages. TransiBar was meant to improve efficiency, facilitate project management and to allow customers to get a direct quote.

The application was built on a Java platform, a web content management system and SQL database. It is hosted in a data center to create uptime guarantee and internet backbone speed. The application revolves around XTM, an xml-based innovative translation memory (TM) engine. This module controls the centralized TM and automates many of the traditional processes involved in using it. By using XML with advanced database and web search technology it outperforms traditional translation memory systems, enabling substantial reductions in through put time and translation cost during a typical document life cycle.

Other functionality includes:

  • SSL secured, web-based application
  • Direct upload facility of (XML) files by a customer project coordinator.
  • Automatic quote based on repetitions and database match of previous translations.
  • Centralized translation platform for translators.
  • Complete translation software functionality based on open standards.
  • Online local reviewer functionality for quality control purposes.
  • Terminology support.
  • Full Unicode.

“This is the first time we have had 27 languages in one go in TransiBar. It is a significant development, particularly as we have now submitted the translation to online review by locally-based reviewers in each of the national libraries”. Frank ter Reehorst, Managing Director of Scriptware

TransiBar and Industry Developments

“The Web environment offers new challenging business models to the translation industry”, says Frank ter Reehorst, Director at Scriptware. In his view, the translation industry is rapidly changing and challenging new business models are being launched. Name-your-price, a choice in price, quality or speed and crowdsourcing are but a few of those directions.


The European Library project has been a showcase for TransiBar. It has proven that XML content is well geared for online translation. The combination with representatives from the national libraries that could review and correct the translations created a smooth workflow that enabled all TransiBar users to collaborate intensively. Future updates will be easy and fast.

As of summer 2009, The European Library collections will be searchable in 36 languages (including English). It will open up 48 priceless jewel boxes and unveil the European cultural heritage to all European citizens.

Author Bios

Lizzy Komen, Project Coordinator for The European Library and Europeana.

Lizzy Komen photoLizzy Komen joined The European Library office in August 2007. She was born in Haarlem and finalised her Masters degree in Cultural Studies at the University of Amsterdam in 2007; her interests lay in the area of ethnology, museums, photography and colonialism (in particular the Shared Cultural Heritage between The Netherlands and former Dutch colony Indonesia). Before joining The European Library, Lizzy worked as an intern at The Tropical Museum in Amsterdam. She is responsible for the coordination of the translation of collection descriptions into all 35 available languages besides English to The European Library portal. She is also the project coordinator of the FUMAGABA (2008-2009), a project of The European Library that aims at integrating the collections of the national libraries of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Azerbaijan. In addition she is project coordinator for EuropeanaLocal and BHL-Europe, which are both Europeana related projects. Lizzy loves playing the guitar, photography, movies, cooking and of course travelling.

Frank ter Reehorst – General Manager Scriptware translations - The Netherlands.

Frank ter Reehorst photoStarting with IBM after an MBA graduate at the Rotterdam school of Management, Frank worked in marketing and management positions in a number of international companies from IT to casual wear clothing. When joining Scriptware late nineties he saw the need for industry change. After taking over the company in 2003, Frank co-founded and realized a unique new Software- as-a-Service (SaaS) venture in the US and Europe by integrating CMS and localization functionality. As of end 2008, Scriptware offers another SaaS-like portal called TransiBar, a translations webshop with full workflow capabilities for clients, project manager and translators. In a changing localization industry, Frank’s focus is on changing the company and the business model. In his spare time, he loves to play golf, soccer and singing jazz music.

Published - July 2009

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