October 17, 2007 Library of Congress and UNESCO Sign World Digital Library Agreement
Contact: Guy Lamolinara, Library of Congress (202) 707-9217
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and UNESCO Assistant Director for Communication and Information Abdul Waheed Khan today signed an agreement at UNESCO headquarters in Paris pledging cooperative efforts to build a World Digital Library Web site. The World Digital Library will digitize unique and rare materials from libraries and other cultural institutions around the world and make them available for free on the Internet. These materials will include manuscripts, maps, books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs. The objectives of the World Digital Library include promoting international and intercultural understanding, increasing the quantity and diversity of cultural materials on the Internet, and contributing to education and scholarship. Under the terms of the agreement, the Library of Congress and UNESCO will cooperate in convening working groups of experts and other stakeholders to develop guidelines and technical specifications for the project, enlist new partners and secure the necessary support for the project from private and public sources. A key aspect of the project is to build digital library capabilities in the developing world, so that all countries and regions of the world can participate and be represented in the World Digital Library. To test the feasibility of the project, the Library of Congress, UNESCO and five other partner institutions -- the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt; the National Library of Brazil; the National Library of Egypt; the National Library of Russia; and the Russian State Library -- have developed a prototype of the World Digital Library. The prototype is being demonstrated to national delegations at the UNESCO General Conference currently underway. The World Digital Library will become available to the public as a full-fledged Web site in late 2008 or early 2009. The prototype functions in the six U.N. languages -- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, plus Portuguese -- and features search and browse functionality by place, time, topic and contributing institution. Input into the design of the prototype was solicited through a consultative process that involved UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and individuals and institutions in more than 40 countries. “UNESCO has been an exceptional partner of the Library of Congress during the development of this important global resource,” said Billington. “We look forward to strengthening our collaboration with UNESCO as we work with current and future partners in this exciting enterprise to bring the cultural treasures of the world to the world." 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 available in all formats in which information is recorded. The Library seeks to further understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge and by celebrating human achievement. Additional information about the World Digital Library can be found at www.worlddigitallibrary.org.