With the technological triumph of the Internet and the associated rapid increase in electronic publications, the old library culture which had survived for millennia saw itself rapidly confronted by an unprecedented herculean task. Beyond local stock management in communal, university and other research and archive institutions the promise of a digital network raised public expectations of online libraries where access was not limited by time or location. A first important step in this direction was the huge task of digitalising card indexes, then putting them online. The Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue), a library meta-search engine, has been available since 1996. Since 2001, virtual specialist libraries have also offered thematically tailored searches. The range of restricted access campus licences for particular electronic publications is continually expanding.
Challenged by book-digitalisation projects (launched on the initiative of their operators) such as Google Books, Wiki Books and Project Gutenberg, the European virtual library Europeana was established at European level in 2008. It was followed by the national counterpart, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB, German Digital Library), which was approved in 2009 and launched online in 2012. A first full version was presented in Berlin in 2014. Both portals aim to provide broad, cross-disciplinary access to cultural heritage. The DDB will eventually be a platform for a total of 30,000 archives, libraries, museums, media centres, historical monument institutions and research facilities.