January 12, 2001 Library to Lead National Effort to Develop Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program

U.S. Congress Provides $100 Million Special Appropriation in Support of Project

Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

The Library of Congress has been empowered by the U. S. Congress to develop a national program to preserve the burgeoning amounts of digital information, especially materials that are created only in digital formats, to ensure their accessibility for current and future generations.

The Library of Congress began in 1998 to develop a digital strategy with a group of senior managers assessing the roles and responsibilities of the Library in the electronic environment. At the same time, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington commissioned the National Research Council Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to evaluate the Library's readiness to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving digital world.

The NAS report, LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress, recommended that the Library, working with other federal and non-federal institutions, take the lead in a national, cooperative effort to archive and preserve digital information.

"This collaborative strategy will permit the long-term acquisition, storage and preservation of digital materials, that will assure access to the growing electronic historical and cultural record of our nation," said Dr. Billington. "Just as the Congress enabled the Library of Congress to begin the last century by making its printed catalog cards widely available, the Congress has enabled its Library to begin this century by building a digital record and making it available in the information age." In December 2000, the 106th Congress appropriated $100 million for this effort, which instructs the Library to spend an initial $25 million to develop and execute a congressionally approved strategic plan for a National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. Congress specified that, of this amount, $5 million may be spent during the initial phase for planning as well as the acquisition and preservation of digital information that may otherwise vanish.

The legislation authorizes as much as $75 million of federal funding to be made available as this amount is matched by nonfederal donations, including in-kind contributions, through March 31, 2003. The effect of a government-wide recission of .22 percent in late December was to reduce this pecial appropriation to $99.8 million.

The Library will consult with federal partners to assess joint planning considerations for shared responsibilities. The Library will also seek participation from the nonfederal sector and will execute its overall strategy in cooperation with the library, creative, publishing, technology and copyright communities in this country and abroad.

The legislation calls for the Library to work jointly with the Secretary of Commerce, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Archives and Records Administration. The legislation also directs the Library to seek the participation of "other federal, research and private libraries and institutions with expertise in the collection and maintenance of archives of digital materials," including the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, the Research Libraries Group, the Online Computer Library Center and the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Laura Campbell, the Library's recently appointed Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives, will oversee these efforts. She noted that, "as the national library and home of the U.S. Copyright Office, the Library of Congress must lead this effort, which poses enormous challenges and exciting opportunities. To succeed, we must have broad participation from the public and private sectors."

The Library of Congress, through its National Digital Library (NDL) Program, is one of the leading providers of noncommercial intellectual content on the Internet www.loc.gov. The Library's American Memory Project has raised funds from Ameritech to enable 30 other American institutions to add some of their materials to those that the Library has digitized. During the Library's Bicentennial in 2000, this project reached its goal of making freely available online more than 5 million American historical items. The Library's popular Web site also provides a wide range of public information services, including its online card catalog, legislative and copyright information, and its exhibitions. A popular new Web site for families, www.americaslibrary.gov, is the first library program ever to be supported by the Advertising Council through a multi-year pro bono advertising campaign.


PR 01-006
ISSN 0731-3527