Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec's participation in the Réseau francophone numérique
Upon the initiative of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), the Réseau francophone numérique (RFN) was created in February 2006 by the Belgian, Canadian, French, Luxemburgish, Quebec and Swiss national libraries. In creating this network, these six national libraries of the Francophonie recognized the crucial importance of digital programs to showcase Francophone culture and the French language. In 2008, the RFN expanded to all heritage institutions responsible for preserving and disseminating Francophone documentary heritage.
In September 2006, the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) supported the creation of the RFN in the Bucharest Declaration, which concluded the 11th Francophonie Summit. The IOF acts as an observer memberofthe RFN.
The RFN has a three-pronged mandate:
1. through digitization, preserve a precious form of heritage that is often at risk of disappearing and disseminate it to a large audience;
2. ensure that knowledge is transferred to a growing number of Francophonie documentary institutions by organizing training internships, developing teaching tools and establishing a permanent information exchange;
3. provide Francophone heritage institutions with a discussion forum on issues for the digital age.
After being mandated to do so by RFN, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) designed a web portal (available in French only) that was launched in 2008. This portal provides centralized access to digitized heritage documents from national museums that are members, which includes 26 institutions. BAnQ is a member of the RFN steering committee and is responsible for managing and contributing to the RFN portal.
The RFN's cooperation actions mainly involve holding training missions and intemships for digital technologies for staff at institutions in southern countries. The ultimate objectives of this initiative include:
- supporting the digitization of documentary heritage locally to preserve it and allow for greater online dissemination;
- ensuring a North-South knowledge transfer;
- providing basic digitization equipment;
- contributing to local political authorities' becoming aware of the importance of digitizing documentary heritage in countries where heritage documents may be at risk of disappearing because of conservation conditions (buildings, equipment, climate, conflicts, etc.);
- helping to conserve involved countries' cultural and historical memory for future generations.
BAnQ participated in internships and missions by providing, from its own human resources, digitization experts, while the IOF contributes to the travel of representatives from partner countries in the South as well as funding the purchase of materials.
From 2010 to 2014, Guy Berthiaume, the then CEO of BAnQ, acted as the secretary general of the RFN.
In 2011, a digitization training mission was carried out by BAnQ and the BnF in Dakar, Senegal that brought together 26 interns from the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'lvoire, Mali, Senegal and Toga. In 2012, a mission was carried out in Rabat, Morocco with 18 interns (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'lvoire, Mali, Morocco and Senegal). lntemships and missions were also carried out in Cote d'lvoire and Burkina Faso in 2013.
In spring 2016, the new RFN library went online in beta format. The new library, which will officially be launched in fall 2016, should allow for greater dissemination of digital Francophone content and become an indispensable reference for the Francophonie, both for North and South countries. In addition to contributing to implementing this digital library and participating in training sessions, BAnQ will upload digital documents from its heritage collections and archives; several documents that will be accessible have been or will be digitized thanks to funding from Quebec's Digital Cultural Plan. BAnQ and BnF will each hold the position of vice-chair of the executive committee for the new governance structure of the RFN adopted in April 2016.