World Digital Library

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Globe icon of the infobox
World Digital Library
Website logo
Download portal for important documents of world culture
languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
operator United States , UNESCO
editorial staff Library of Congress
Registration openly accessible
Annual income sponsored project
On-line April 21, 2009

The World Digital Library , in German "Digital World Library", is a project of the US National Library of Congress and UNESCO . The World Digital Library makes culturally outstanding documents from all over the world available to everyone free of charge via the Internet.

project goal

The aim of the project is to use the materials to preserve the collective digital memory of mankind and to promote international and intercultural understanding. Nations that do not belong to the western and English-speaking world are also expressly promoted. Particular attention is paid to the cultures of the Middle East.

These cultural resources should be available to teachers, students and other interested parties and contribute to scientific research.

In addition, the amount and variety of cultural content on the Internet is to be expanded and the digital cooperation of the partner institutions between and within the participating countries is to be established and improved.



After an absence of more than 20 years, the USA returned to UNESCO in 2003 to become a permanent member. The head of the Library of Congress James Hadley Billington was nominated as the US National Commissioner for UNESCO . When he first participated in the annual conference in June 2005, he was invited to give a plenary lecture. His talk was titled A View of the Digital World Library and he envisioned that the rich collections of the world's institutions and libraries should be returned.

Google Inc. became the first participant in this public-private partnership and in 2005 donated $ 3 million to develop the World Digital Library.

"[...] institutions, libraries, and museums have preserved could be given back to the world free of charge and in a new form far more universally accessible than any forms that have preceded it."

"[...] Institutes, libraries and museums have kept it and could give it back to the world for free and in a form that is more universally accessible than any other form that existed before."

- James H. Billington speaking to the UNESCO plenary

planning phase

At the 2006 National Commission conference, Library of Congress Senior Advisor John Van Oudenaren presented a project plan. This enabled the Billingtons initiative to become a reality. First of all, the partners involved discussed the basics in four main areas.

  • technical structure
  • selection
  • guide
  • financing

In December 2006, 45 directors and technical managers from national libraries met with other cultural and educational representatives in Paris to discuss the development of the digital world library and to tackle the project. The participants formed working groups for each of these four project areas to formulate the requirements.

Realization phase

The planning process continued with a meeting of the working groups in the first half of 2007, and additional digital library experts were brought in. Computer scientists , specialists from library science and web development , as well as experts in fundraising continued the project work. These working groups put their results together in a WDL group in July 2007 and created a presentation on the structure of the website. This elaboration was presented on October 17, 2007 in Paris at the 34th session of UNESCO as a WDL presentation. The prototype of the digital world library was tested by the UNESCO delegates. During that session, the Library of Congress Director James H. Billington and UNESCO Deputy Director of Communications and Information, Abdul Waheed Khan, signed an agreement for further work.

In early September 2008, the Organization of American States (OAS) decided to work with the US Library of Congress to develop the WDL. Your General Secretary, José Miguel Insulza , signed a collaboration agreement with Librarian James Billington at the OAS Headquarters.

In the following period up to spring 2009 almost 40 partners could be won for cooperation. In addition to the founding members, the national libraries of Egypt, Brazil, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and Uganda are involved. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina participates with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

On April 21, 2009, the World Digital Library in Paris was officially opened by UNESCO Director General Kōichirō Matsuura and the Director of the Library of Congress James Hadley Billington.

Project scope

Manuscripts, maps, rare books, music, sound recordings, films, photos and architectural plans and other types of documents will be included in the project. A search is possible in full text via an input field and also graphically. A timeline can be used to limit the search period. A world map is offered for the selection of regions.

The selected document can be searched with a zoom for details in the high-resolution version. An explanatory text is available for the digitized original documents.

The search specifications are located in the English version at the top of the website

  • Place (place, region),
  • Time (period),
  • Topic (keyword),
  • Type of Item (Category),
  • Institution (partner institute).

The project languages ​​are the six official UN languages ​​Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish as well as Portuguese; the language can be selected by entering a selection. Keywords for a full text search can be entered in a further input field. When the document has been selected, related documents (related items) are offered.

The accessibility was implemented according to the recommendations of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 .

The World Digital Library and the European portal Europeana are two separate projects and have different objectives. Europeana mainly covers digital collections about Europe in European libraries, archives and museums. The World Digital Library will offer culturally and historically particularly important content from all 193 member countries of UNESCO. The objects, which are mainly saved as TIFF and PDF files, are not linked from the original locations, but are located on separate servers of the WDL.

At the start, the WDL contained 1170 objects, just two days later 1358 objects were reported. Billington said, "It's an open process." Accordingly, there is no target.

Partner of the project

German, Austrian and Swiss institutions registered properties at the end of April 2009; some are now involved as project partners.

Library Location
Bibliotheca Alexandrina Egypt
Brown University United States
Center for the Study of History of Mexico United States
Qatar Foundation Qatar
Columbus Memorial Library United States
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions international
National Library and Archives of Iraq Iraq
John Carter Brown Library USA (Rhode Island)
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Saudi Arabia
US Library of Congress United States
Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library Mali
National Archives and Records Administration United States
National Central Library Taiwan
National Diet Library Japan
Egyptian National Library and Archives Egypt
US National Institute of Anthropology and History United States
National Library of Brazil Brazil
Chinese National Library China
French National Library France
Israeli National Library Israel
Russian National Library Russia
National Library of Serbia Serbia
National Library of Sweden Sweden
National Library of Uganda Uganda
Royal Institute for Southeast Asia and the Caribbean of the Netherlands Netherlands
Russian State Library Russia
St. Mark Coptic Library USA (Ohio)
Tetouan-Asmir Association Morocco
University Library of Bratislava Slovakia
Pretoria University Library South Africa
Wellcome Library Great Britain
Yale University Library United States
Library of President BN Yeltsin Russia
Austrian National Library Austria
Bavarian State Library Germany
Berlin State Library Germany
Heidelberg University Library Germany
Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library Germany

Web links

Commons : World Digital Library  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A View of the Digital World Library. Retrieved May 5, 2017 .
  2. ^ World Digital Library Demonstration. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009 ; Retrieved November 17, 2013 .
  3. ^ IFLA website
  4. ^ Spiegel Online : World History in 1170 Pictures from April 21, 2009.
  5. ^ World Digital Library: Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Netzeitung on April 23, 2009 ( Memento from September 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive )