Alphabetica: The new portal to explore the cultural heritage of Italian libraries

On 16th December the Alphabetica portal ( was launched. It is a new digital ecosystem of national bibliographic services, created by the Central Institute for the Union Catalogue of Italian Libraries (ICCU), Ministry of Culture (MiC). ICCU is a partner of the BIBLIO project.

Alphabetica is a new research tool, which allows citizens to access simultaneously and in an integrated way all the databases managed by ICCU in a single general catalogue with millions of bibliographic information and digital materials related to cultural heritage preserved in the more than 6,500 Italian libraries that participate in the National Library Service and hundreds of partner institutions of the various projects of ICCU.

What are the databases managed by ICCU?

  • OPAC SBN catalogue of the National Library Service (SBN), which shows online more than 18,5 million bibliographic information, the result of the work of more than 6,500 libraries participating in the National Library Service.
  • Manus Online which makes available 200,965 records, 40,815 images and 302,206 names related to the world of manuscripts
  • EDIT16 – the National Census of Italian editions of the 16th century today contains 69,367 bibliographic information, 25,736 information related to authors, 5,794 information related to editors
  • the Digital Aggregator and SBNTeca 17 million of digital objects resulting from digitization activities conducted by 280 partner libraries of Internet Culturale
  • Italian libraries database – 12,649 libraries are currently registered in the database

The launch of Alphabetica also led to the renewal of OPAC SBN, Manus Online, EDIT16, the Digital Aggregator and SBNTeca. The use of API, the use of the IIIF standard for images and the Mirador viewer make the renewed digital ecosystem of national bibliographic services interoperable with other digital realities coordinated by ICCU.

The Alphabetica portal allows the user to directly launch free text searches throughout the bibliographic ecosystem, or to browse the general catalogue through one of 9 specific paths: Protagonists, Music, Books, Manuscripts, Audio and Video, Cartography, Periodicals, Graphics, Libraries. The results are organized in boxes that make them easier to consult, also through advanced functions to better refine the search. The main strength of Alphabetica lies in the enhancement of the links between resources, also through dedicated widgets. The personal area allows those who register for free to create personalized collections and share them in the network, making the portal a useful tool also for education purposes.

Alphabetica has been created thanks to more than thirty years of collaboration with the National Library Service Network and with the support of the Sapienza University of Rome, the National Central Library of Florence, the National University Library of Turin, the Emilia Romagna Region, the Liguria Region, the Library System of the University of Padua and the Apostolic Library Vatican together with the technical partners of this project.

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