By ERIN ALLEN
More than 100 news outlets were in attendance at the April 21, 2009, press conference at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris to announce the launch of the World Digital Library (WDL) website. (See story on page 87.)
“Our international press-monitoring service picked up 1,734 articles this morning, an absolute record for us,” reported Roni Amelan, a UNESCO press officer, in an e-mail from Paris to the Library’s Public Affairs Office at 4:49 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, April 22.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington spoke with Associated Press reporter Angela Charlton for her story running the day of the launch. He said the idea behind the WDL is not to compete with Google or Wikipedia but to pique young readers’ interests and get them reading books. “Books have to be read so you can appreciate these treasures.”
“A globe-spanning U.N. Digital library seeking to display and explain the relics of all human cultures has gone into operation on the Internet for the first time, serving up mankind’s accumulated knowledge in seven languages for students around the world,” proclaimed Washington Post foreign correspondent Edward Cody in an April 20 story, datelined Paris.
A Paraguayan blogger titled his commentary “Alejandria 2.0,” likening the WDL to the digital recreation of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Another headline proclaimed “El mundo en un click” (“The world in a click”). The Guardian (London) described the site as “an online intellectual cathedral, an unprecedented assembly of digital approaches to the world’s finest treasures” and Voice of America named the WDL the “Website of the Week.”
In her review of the site, Time reporter Frances Romero said, “For most people, the WDL will likely be more of a thing to admire at leisure, when maybe visiting the museum of institution that houses a rare manuscript would be more time-consuming than clicking on an image and zooming to the parts that seem most interesting.”
Other major pieces ran in The New York Times, Roll Call, the Washington Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Agence France-Presse, Le Figaro, The Independent (London), Japan Economic Newswire, Thai Press Reports, the CBC, Daily News of Egypt and several publications in Canada, Australia, South America, the Middle East and Russia.
Also announcing the WDL were a variety of blogs and websites, including Techweb, InformationWeek, artinfo, nextgov, InfoProd and I-Tool Tips.
The Library’s efforts to make its resources available on Internet sites like YouTube garnered press attention. (See Information Bulletin, April 2008.) The Library’s channel on the video service highlights such fare as 100-year-old films from the Thomas Edison studio, book talks with contemporary authors and early industrial films from Westinghouse factories. The news made a big splash on the web via blogs and technology websites, such as the Tech Daily Dose column on nationaljournal.com, nextgov, Radio World, Network World, Federal Computer Week, School Library Journal, Wired and CNN.
“Not only is it the coolest thing around, it’s the perfect Friday time-waster,” quipped NPR.com reporter Maureen Clements.
Rollcall.com reporter Emily Yehle noted that the Library’s website has already seen an increase in visitors as a result of its YouTube presence, according to Director of Communications Matt Raymond.
“For most of us, the Library of Congress has never been a bastion of technological innovation—more of an archive for signposts of time past that warrant recognition. But with such an amazing collection, it only makes sense that the organization would
use all channels available to spread the wealth,” observed a blogger on AppScout.com, the blog devoted to “stalking the killer app.”
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.