United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO and US Library of Congress host meeting on World Digital Library project

UNESCO and the Library of Congress will host a meeting to pave the way for the launch of a World Digital Library, an internet-based, repository of knowledge from all cultures and in all languages.

The meeting will seek to establish a network of experts and partners who will work on the project. It is hosted by UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Abdul Waheed Khan, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver, and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who first proposed the idea for a World Digital Library in 2005. It will be chaired by Claudia Lux, President-elect of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Other participants include representatives of national libraries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. They will review major national and regional digital library initiatives already underway and discuss how these initiatives might relate to a World Digital Library.

They are also expected to discuss the prototype of a World Digital Library website that will feature multilingual search, retrieval and display capacities, and such tools as time lines, maps, and in-depth presentations by scholars and curators.

“I am pleased UNESCO, the United States and other partners continue moving forward on this important initiative,” said the Director-General. “We must encourage all Member States to pool efforts at all levels to protect unique and endangered books, manuscripts, archival documents and audio-visual materials through the use of state-of-the art technologies,” added Mr Matsuura.

The World Digital Library is to be developed in cooperation with UNESCO and other libraries and cultural institutions from around the world with the aim of promoting international and inter-cultural understanding, expanding non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and contributing to scholarship.

The project will focus on digitizing unique and rare material and making it available freely on the Internet. This material is to include manuscripts, maps, books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs, and architectural drawings from libraries and other cultural institutions around the world.

A key aspect of the project is to build digital library capabilities in the developing world, so that all countries and parts of the world can participate and be represented in the World Digital Library.

“For UNESCO, libraries – be they paper-based or digital – have always played a crucial role to fulfill its mandate to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image and to maintain, increase and spread knowledge”, said Abdul Waheed Khan announcing UNESCO’s support to the initiative.

James H. Billington said: “A World Digital Library will promote intercultural dialogue and international understanding and increase the volume of freely available high quality content on the Internet. Primary documents of culture have a human appeal that transcends politics.”

Source Press Release N°2006-147
Editorial Contact: Abdelaziz Abid, Information Society Division, tel. + 33 (0)1 45 68 44 96
- Email a.abid@unesco.org
Publication Date 30 Nov 2006
© UNESCO 1995-2007 - ID: 35949