Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Library of Congress Plans World Digital Library

From the press release:

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin announced today that Google is the first private-sector company to contribute to the Library's initiative to develop a plan to begin building a World Digital Library (WDL) for use by other libraries around the globe. The effort would be supported by funds from nonexclusive, public and private partnerships, of which Google is the first.

The concept for the WDL came from a speech that Billington delivered to the newly established U.S. National Commission for UNESCO on June 6, 2005, at Georgetown University. The full text is available at www.loc.gov/about/welcome/speeches.

In his speech, Billington proposed that public research institutions and libraries work with private funders to begin digitizing significant primary materials of different cultures from institutions across the globe. Billington said that the World Digital Library would bring together online "“rare and unique cultural materials held in U.S. and Western repositories with those of other great cultures such as those that lie beyond Europe and involve more than 1 billion people: Chinese East Asia, Indian South Asia and the worlds of Islam stretching from Indonesia through Central and West Asia to Africa."

Google Inc. has agreed to donate $3 million as the first partner in this public-private initiative.

To lay the groundwork for the WDL, the Library will develop a plan for identifying technology issues related to digitization and organization of WDL collections. These might include presentation, maintenance, standards and metadata schemas that support both access and preservation. The plan will also identify resources, such as equipment, staffing and funding, required to digitize and launch an online presentation of a WDL collection.
In their commentary on this, Danny Sullivan and Gary Price note:
Over the past year, Google has digitized about 5,000 public domain books from the Library of Congress, material that may ultimately end up in Google Book Search, though it's not currently listed there yet. Google will continue scanning public domain books from the Library of Congress Law Library. Google said it's too early to tell if any of the scanning work it has already done will end up in the WDL.
Now we have several big projects underway. It will be interesting to see how they all fair.

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