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This study aimed firstly to provide a rough estimate of the effects of the economic crisis on five European national libraries (Austria, Denmark, Malta, Portugal and Spain). Secondarily it sought to establish the possible benefits for these libraries of having a strategic plan during that period. The approach consisted in an online survey targeting the directors of European national libraries with membership in the Conference of European National Librarians. The method was a questionnaire contained 14 structured questions under four major headings designed to gather information on the impact of the crisis, libraries’ response and the measures adopted. It also included queries on attitudes towards planning and in particular whether the process was participatory. The findings revealed that the crisis affected libraries with differing intensity. The impact was closely related to the degree to which the respective countries were affected. Having a strategic plan in that period benefitted libraries in a number of ways, but essentially it enabled them to define priorities in a changing scenario. Although many papers have been published on the impact of the crisis on both public and university libraries, none has yet addressed national libraries. While limited to a small sample, the study constitutes an initial approach to the effects of the crisis on European national libraries and reveals inter-country similarities and differences. The study covered only a small sample of national libraries, in the awareness that the situation may differ in others.