National Library of Spain: living memory of the Spanish language

  • Culture

National Library of Spain: living memory of the Spanish language

The National Library of Spain, standing on Paseo de Recoletos, Madrid. Photo: EFE/Kote. (EFE)
The National Library of Spain, standing on Paseo de Recoletos, Madrid. Photo: EFE/Kote. (EFE)

Standing on Paseo de Recoletos in Madrid, the National Library of Spain (BNE) houses, preserves and disseminates the printed memory of Spain, as the reference documentation centre for the written culture in Spanish at the national and global levels. Opened in 1712, the National Library is one of our country’s most valuable cultural and architectural treasures.

Our National Library boasts a few unique bibliographical gems and a vast collection of manuscripts, engravings, photographs, maps, films and videos. The most valuable books and documents are kept in a safe vault – the codices of Cantar de Mio Cid, Don Quixote, Dante’s Divine Comedy and two works by Leonardo da Vinci, or Jorge Luis Borges’s manuscript of El Aleph. On top of its historical records, the library has at least one copy of every book published in Spain, so that its collection amounts to more than 33 million documents.

All this vast knowledge in the form of written documents is shared through the BNE catalogue, which currently includes more than 4.5 million references to 10,381,311 books and documents.

Moreover, the BNE records are requested by other libraries: 7 million downloads a year, 5 million from foreign institutions. This gives an idea of the vastness and relevance of the BNE funds.

Going digital

Over the past few years, the National Library has been producing digital versions of the books and documents in its funds with the aim of facilitating access to them. The most obvious result of this endeavour is the Spanish Digital Library (BDH), offering more than 180,000 digital books and other documents. Today, with 6500 daily users, BDH is the main channel to access the BNE collections.

In an effort to make available as much information as possible, BNE has joined the challenge to offer data from external web sources in RDF (Resource Description Framework) format under Linked Data and Semantic Web standards.

In this, our National Library follows in the footsteps of its counterparts in France, UK, Germany or USA (Library of Congress), seeking to add external data to their own collection and make all of them available to users in reusable, interoperable navigation software.