An ambitious plan for a World Digital Library seeks to achieve some of the furthest-reaching hopes expressed for the Internet. The project will digitize material from libraries and other institutions and make them available for free online, hopefully in late 2008 or early 2009.
Organizers expect rare or unique materials that include manuscripts, maps, books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints and photos.
“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,” stated the Library of Congress.
Librarian James H. Billington is one of the movers of the project. He and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Abdul Waheed Khan signed an agreement in Paris this week pledging cooperation.
“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,” the officials stated.
A prototype is being demonstrated at the UNESCO General Conference. Participants include the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt; the Biblioteca Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the National Library of Egypt in Cairo; Rossiiskaia Natsional’naia Biblioteka in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Rossiiskaia Gosudarstvennaia Biblioteka in Moscow.