News archive - – Access to knowledge in the Western Balkans has started its work in 1999 with the goal of bringing affordable access to e-resources to former Soviet Union and South-Eastern and Eastern European countries. Today it has a broader programme and more members than ever before. started in 1999 as an initiative of the Open Society Institute (OSI), a private grant-making and operating foundation, part of the Soros Foundation network. Its goal was to bring affordable access to e-resources to the countries in its network through cooperation with local libraries.’s first focus was on the former Soviet Union countries. For this multi-country initiative, the national site license model was adopted: for the stated price per country an unlimited number of libraries could register for access and an unlimited number of users could use the services simultaneously. The intention of this model was not only to address the growing digital divide between East and West and North and South, but also to ensure equitable access to knowledge within each country.

Independant Foundation since 2003
In 2003, became an independent foundation, incorporated in the Netherlands and with a central office in Rome, Italy. Over the last few years has carried out several waves of membership enlargement as well as programme diversification. Negotiations with publishers to provide access to educational electronic resources at affordable prices and fair conditions for library users and the support to sustainable national library consortia remain at the core of’s mission. But additionally, now offers other programs to its membership in the areas of Open Access and Institutional Repositories Copyright for libraries, free and open source software for libraries, as well as many knowledge sharing and networking activities: has been working with the local communities of libraries in the Western Balkan region since its beginnings in the late 1990s. There has been a continued progress in the modernisation of libraries and an enhanced inclusion into the global information society despite a considerable number of challenges to be yet addressed. These efforts have allowed local library consortia to participate in the whole range of programs actively – an encouraging signal that reflects a broadening of their capacities and the growing agenda of their member institutions.

Regional Co-operation in Western Balkans
As a broad regional overview, when started to cooperate with the region, access and dissemination of information was lagging behind with respect to their Western neighbours. This has several reasons, including external factors, such as the worsening economic and communications infrastructure conditions resulting from the war years in the 1990s. At the same time, insufficient linkages with the education and research systems of other countries in the region and internationally contributed to lower the profile of cultural and educational institutions remarkably, although there are few exceptions.

Access to Educational Electronic Resources
While negotiations with publishers to provide access to educational electronic resources at affordable prices and fair conditions for library users constitute the first pillar of work in the Western Balkans, providing assistance in the building and development of local library consortia became the second pillar.
This program began with the explicit objective of encouraging the organisation of local libraries under coordinated efforts in order to share costs, avoid overlapping of initiatives and level up their bargaining status vis-à-vis the information industry. In fact, by engaging with the country-wide community of libraries, has enabled the building of national library consortia in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNMIK/Kosovo, FYR of Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia with a total membership of 373 libraries. Besides supporting the creation of local networks of libraries in almost every Balkan member country, has also attempted and encouraged to foster a greater regional co-operation based on the exchange of knowledge and experiences and showing success stories at national level as an inspiration for others.

Consortium Building Grants
In order to facilitate the set up of the consortia and the kick-off of activities, has awarded several consortium building grants. Once a consortium is formed, the local community of librarians designates a main contact person, the so-called country co-ordinator, whose tasks include keeping abreast of local progress and needs and making sure that news and updates on its services are widely and efficiently distributed at the
country level. and every WBC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Also, a yearly membership fee applies, based on a wide set of socioeconomic criteria and human development indexes, in the attempt to make it as fair and realistic as possible.
Examples of achievements and good practices are highlighted further in the full document provided at

Isabel Bernal

Entry created by Isabel Bernal on April 30, 2008
Modified on May 4, 2008