By Eric Auchard
Library of Congress plans world digital library
The U.S. Library of Congress is kicking off a campaign on Tuesday to
work with other nation's libraries to build a World Digital Library,
starting with a $3 million donation from Google Inc..
Librarian of Congress James Billington said he is looking to attract
further private funding to develop bilingual projects, featuring
millions of unique objects, with libraries in China, India, the Muslim
world and other nations.
This builds on major existing digital documentary projects by the
Library of Congress -- one preserving an online record of Americana
and another documenting ties between the United States and Brazil,
France, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.
"The World Digital Library is an attempt to go beyond Europe and the
Americas ... into cultures where the majority of the world is,"
Billington told Reuters in a telephone interview.
As an example, Billington said the Library of Congress is in
discussions with the national library of Egypt to include a collection
of great Islamic scientific works from the 10th through the 16th
Century in the World Digital Library.
"We are trying to do a documentary record of other great cultures of
the world. How much we will be able to do will depend on how many
additional partners we attract," he said.
Over the past decade, the American Memory Project of the Library of
Congress has digitized more than ten million items to create a
documentary record of Americana. A link is located at:
These include manuscripts, maps, audiovisual recordings, cartoons,
caricatures, posters, documentary photographs, music, and, to a lesser
extent, historic books. The World Digital Library would draw on a
similar variety of multimedia objects.
A second project, known as the Global Gateway and introduced in 2000,
involves collaborations with five national libraries in Europe and
Brazil that focus on documenting ties between each of those countries
and U.S. culture. Please go to:
By contrast, the World Digital Library will focus on creating records
of global cultures. The Library of Congress will contribute its own
body of works to a blended collection with other countries. More than
half of the printed volumes in the Library of Congress are in
languages other than English.
"It will deal with the culture of those people rather than with our
contacts as Americans with those cultures," Billington said.
Web search company Google has agreed to work with the Library of
Congress on developing standards for indexing the digital collections
and by providing computer equipment.
The Library of Congress push adds momentum to a variety of competing
projects by leading Internet companies and some of the world's
greatest libraries to make available online a range of historic
literature, audio recordings and film archives.
The plans unveiled over the past year mark the most sustained drive
yet to make good on the vision of Internet pioneers to open the
world's library collections to a global online audience. The dream
suffered from a lack of funding and the distractions of the dot-com
era's get-rich-quick schemes.
Among these are a major push by Google with five major academic
libraries to digitize their book collections.
Meanwhile, the Open Content Alliance, backed by Yahoo Inc., Microsoft
Corp., the non-profit Internet Archive and other major libraries, is
looking to create an online clearinghouse for historic books, audio
The Google Print project has been met with lawsuits by the New York-based
Authors Guild and five U.S. publishers who are seeking to block
Google's plan to create an online card catalog of copyright works in
the collections of its library partners.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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