Even in university libraries with a European Documentation Centre (EDC), students frequently experience difficulties in identifying and locating official publications on European Union (EU) policies. Competition between students for a single copy often leads to theft and vandalism. Fewer than half of the universities in the UK have an EDC and a database of the texts of the key documents for each EU policy would be a major contribution to teaching and learning about the European Union.
The principal aims of the Eurotext  project, whose partners are the universities of Hull, Ulster and Lincolnshire & Humberside, are to create a database of the texts of key documents on the EU, appropriate to students' needs and selected by academics; to make them available on the Internet; to facilitate access to a difficult category of material; to encourage the use of electronic resources for European studies and to develop a national service by the end of the three year project - September 1998.
The policy documents selected for inclusion are principally taken from the European Commission's COM Documents series as these include most of the documents relevant to the development of policies: green papers, white papers, action programmes and reports. Copyright was not expected to be a problem as it is the established policy of the European Commission to encourage re-use of its copyright material. Reproduction of most publications, except for commercial purposes, is freely allowed, provided that the source is acknowledged. The one restriction, that texts taken from the Official Journal and the COM Documents series must not be in facsimile, means that we cannot use PDF format for the documents. As the original documents are often of poor quality - variations in print density on re-cycled paper with columns or tables to contend with - scanning, editing and checking have proved to be a very labour-intensive feature of this project.
The policies for which a wide range of texts are now available on Eurotext are: the environment, transport, trans- European networks and European integration. Currently being added, for the EU's social policy, are documents on the Social Charter, health and safety at work, employment/unemployment, public health (including AIDS, cancer, drug abuse, smoking), social protection, women and equality, the disabled, the elderly etc. which will bring the number of pages converted and uploaded to around 5,000. Economic and monetary union, regional policy, agriculture and fisheries are the next policies we will cover.
A frames-based interface, with one frame for navigation buttons and the other for the texts, facilitates movement between the various sections of Eurotext which include texts of documents, search options, links to other Internet resources and project information. Students generally like the interface. Individual documents can be retrieved in 3 ways: lists of documents for each policy area, a bibliographic search (by title, document number, policy, etc.) or by keyword search.
While the number of texts available is growing at a steady rate, the interface is in the process of development and project staff have benefited considerably from the input of users. Focus groups of students are the principal ways in which the appearance, content and user-friendliness of the database are being assessed. Meetings have been held with students from the universities of Hull, Lincolnshire & Humberside (both the Hull and Lincoln campuses), Leeds and Ulster (Coleraine campus). Improvements have been suggested and implemented; specific problems are being addressed. Further work is needed on both the keyword and bibliographic searches as some students have either found them confusing or are not confident about the results of their searches. A structured Help section is now being developed. Further evaluation activities will involve librarians in assessing the potential value of Eurotext in the context of other electronic resources available for European studies, and academics in assessing whether there is evidence, in students' work, of educational benefit.
Eurotext is now accessible to the UK academic community.