8.5.09

Launch of the Digital World Library

Cultural treasures go on line: after "Europeana", UNESCO's "Digital World Library" has now been launched, giving free access to 1,300 works in forty languages.
"Germany! What magic lies for us in that word …" is the opening line of the work published in Berlin in 1902, "Deutschland und seine Kolonien" ("Germany and Its Colonies"). It is one of the books contributed by Washington's Library of Congress to the Digital World Library. Anyone can take a critical look at it by downloading it in pdf format free of charge and leafing through it at home on the computer screen. It is one of around 1,300 works contributed by 32 partner institutions from all over the world. The project is backed by UNESCO and managed by the Library of Congress from which it also receives significant funding.

World culture for a wide public
Documents in forty languages can be found at www.wdl.org: historical photos owned by the Brasilia Library, a sound recording of the "Marseillaise" from 1898, manuscripts from China and Egypt, a Japanese parchment from Tokyo dating back to 764, the Bohemian "Devil's Bible" from the Royal Library in Stockholm. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and South Africa are also represented. This underlines the intention of UNESCO that the project should above all improve "international understanding", the "free flow of information" and the "diversity of cultural content offered on the internet". With a deliberately lavish use of illustrations, the items are arranged in very user-friendly format in seven languages and according to world regions, as well as by epochs, subject-matter or type of document, and are presented with zoom and send functions, via Facebook for example.

Direct access with protection of copyright
The idea is for the "world library" to reach a wider public than for example Europe's digital library "EUROPEANA", intended primarily for an academic public. The "World Digital Library", on the other hand, sets out to make the "fundamental documents of cultures" accessible to as many people as possible worldwide. Whereas the access portal for "EUROPEANA" gives references to the already existing pages run by the linked institutions, the "WDL" provides the documents directly. The number of available documents also highlights the difference: "EUROPEANA" already lists more than 4.6 million items. The "WDL" is certain to grow too, but its aims, according to UNESCO, are more of a qualitative than quantitative nature. The Brussels-based Federation of European Publishers has welcomed the new internet library: "As long as copyrights are respected, as is the case with the WDL and EUROPEANA, we don't have a problem". UNESCO says in this regard: "The rights for all the accessible documents are held by the libraries which have made them available to us".

(Fuente: Frankfurt Book Fair Newsletter, 9/5/09)