By JOHN VAN OUDENAREN
The Library of Congress and the National Library and Archives of Egypt—founding participants in the World Digital Library—reached a milestone with the opening in the fall of a state-of-the-art digitization center at the National Library in Cairo. The Library of Congress provided equipment and training to the National Library of Egypt to enable it to digitize rare and unique materials in its collections and make them accessible on the Internet.
Representing the National Library and Archives of Egypt at the opening ceremony were Saber Arab, chairman of the National Library and Archives of Egypt, and Sherif Shaheen, head of the National Library. Representing the United States were Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone and Michael Albin, director of the Library of Congress Cairo office, who spoke on behalf of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Staff from the National Library of Egypt and the Library of Congress then demonstrated the equipment to invited guests and members of the press. A five-person Library of Congress team headed by Michael Neubert (Library Services, Digital Conversion Team) spent 10 days in Cairo to assist with the installation of the equipment and to train National Library of Egypt staff on use of the equipment and digital library techniques in general.
The equipment at the National Library initially will be used to help complete a joint presentation titled "Islam and Science: A History in the Manuscripts of the Library of Congress and the National Library of Egypt." This bilingual, Arabic-English Web site will document the history of science in the Islamic world from 800 to 1600 A.D., as portrayed in the Arabic manuscripts from the collections of the two institutions.
Funding for the equipment installed at the National Library was provided by the World Digital Library initiative, and is part of a broader planning effort to determine, through selected pilot projects, the technology, training and managerial requirements for building digital libraries in developing countries.
John Van Oudenaren is senior advisor for the World Digital Library initiative at the Library of Congress.