Wednesday, April 18, 2007

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The World Digital Library Initiative

John Van Oudenaren, Senior Advisor, World Digital Library,,

The 2005 Press Release:

2005 - Librarian of Congress proposes initiative to UNESCO, recieves $3 million from Google for planning
2006 - Agreements with partner institutions in Brazil, Russia, and Egypt, draft proposal to UNESCO
October 2007 - World Digital Library Initiative unveiled at UNESCO General Conference
September 2008 - projected full-scale launch of project

Vision - "To create a digital library of significant original materials representing all of the major cultures from across the globe and make it accessible to students, ecucators, and the general public."

Description: Not a book digitization project! Rather, a repository of cultural materials of unique value, in order to promote intercultural understanding and awareness, provide a resource for educators that matches the needs of a globalized, wireless world, and acquire rare and unique content. With some focus on utility to k-12 educators in particular, and on acquiring original content of value to scholars and the general public.

American Memory Project - the original project, provided experience for others
Global Gateway Project - six bilateral international projects started in late 1990s -

Current Partners -
UNESCO - 6 National Libraries and othre cultural institutions, mainly the six bilateral partners from the Global Gateway
Technology Partners - Google, Yahoo, Apple, Stanford University

Pillars - content acquisition, construction of sustainable international network for production and distribution of content

Content Acquisition:

  • Digitize content in places where little or no scanning is being done, bringing to light "hidden treasures."
  • Maintain and build on existing scanning operations in Russia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
  • Make existing scanned content accessible through the World Digital Library.
Multilingual Translation
  • Creation of Network Nodes for digitization, cataloging, translation, development of editorial and educational content, and distribution. With central and mirror sites around the world.
  • Content will be in the language of translation, with ultimately translations in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Design: Present cultural content in a way that appeals to a new gneration of internet users in the US and internationaly - fast, seamless, user experience, searchable and browsable.


  • Multiformat, with manuscripts, maps, photos and pictures, rare books, sound and video, 3-D presentation of architectural monuments
  • Special features with experts scholars and curators
  • Educational content for teachers and students
  • Social networking features, including blogs, chat rooms, tagging features
  • Adaptations for developing countries, like low-bandwidth and mobile device solutions

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