April 10, 2007 Library of Congress and Bibliotheca Alexandrina To Cooperate in Developing World Digital Library

Contact: Guy Lamolinara, Library of Congress (202) 707-9217; Heba El-Rafey, Bibliotheca Alexandrina +20-34-839-999

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Ismail Serageldin signed an agreement today at the Library of Congress outlining four areas in which the two institutions will cooperate in building a World Digital Library.

Along with other libraries and cultural institutions from around the world, both institutions will contribute content to the World Digital Library. In addition, the two institutions agreed to work together on the design and implementation of the architecture of the World Digital Library and to cooperate in developing mirror sites, to be hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington and at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. They also agreed to work together on the design and implementation of the database, search engine and interface for the project. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina will contribute its particular expertise in the search and display of Arabic texts.

"The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is one of the great libraries of the world," said Billington. "The rich culture of Egypt will join cultural materials from other nations in this extraordinary global undertaking."

"We at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, heir to the famous ancient library of yore, are proud to be associated with this enormous enterprise, to bring our expertise and our efforts in support of the leadership of the Library of Congress to achieve these worthy goals," said Serageldin.

Billington proposed the creation of a World Digital Library in June 2005. The idea was presented at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December 2006. Partners in the project include UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and major libraries in Asia, Europe, Africa and North and South America.

The objectives of the project are to promote international and intercultural understanding, to expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet and to contribute to scholarly research. The project will digitize unique and rare material, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints, photographs and architectural drawings from libraries and other cultural institutions around the world and make these materials freely available on the Internet. A key aspect of the project will be to build digital library capabilities in the developing world, so that all countries can participate and be represented in the World Digital Library.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the New Library of Alexandria, was inaugurated in 2002 and is dedicated to recapturing the spirit of the ancient Library of Alexandria, a center of world learning from 300 B.C. to A.D. 400, by serving as a new center of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge through the use of digital technologies.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States, and the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items in more than 450 languages. Its collections are universal in scope and are in all formats in which information is recorded.

Additional information about the World Digital Library can be found at www.worlddigitallibrary.org.


PR 07-069
ISSN 0731-3527