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World Digital Library officially launched
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15:21, April 22, 2009

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On April 21, www.worlddigitallibrary.org, the official website of the World Digital Library, was officially launched in Paris, where the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has its headquarters. The library aims to provide important source materials collected from all over the world freely to readers worldwide in multiple languages over the Internet.

On the same day, US Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that although there is not a large amount of data in the World Digital Library at present, existing data is high-quality and all provides an essence of world culture. In the future, the World Digital Library will further expand its scale.

The World Digital Library has an all-inclusive collection, from books to all types of archives. Users can make queries in seven different languages, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The library offers services whereby users can search and browse according to various criteria, including time, location, subject and donator.

The World Digital Library was jointly established by UNESCO and 32 other public organizations, and its development was led by the US Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. In June 2005, Librarian of Congress Billington put forward a proposal to create a world digital library. UNESCO offered support to this idea and decided that it would begin preparations for the development of the library on the basis of the Memory of the World Program it initiated back in 1992.

The Memory of the World Program was aimed at advancing the international community's attention to and protection of document heritage that has been of global significance to the progress of human civilization. Such document heritage, including manuscripts, precious documents and historic records, embodies the diversity of languages, ethnic groups and cultures and serves as a mirror to reflect the world and its memory. However, this type of memory is rather fragile, and some irreplaceable document heritage is becoming extinct with each passing day. Digitalization has already become a means of heritage protection recommended by the Memory of the World Program.

The purpose of establishing the World Digital Library is to facilitate understanding between different cultures, enhance the quality and diversity of online cultural content, and provide literary resources for educational and academic circles. One of its priorities is to raise developing countries' capabilities of establishing digital libraries and encourage all countries and regions to participate in this worldwide cultural endeavor.

To date, the countries that have joined the project's collection and technological cooperation include libraries and cultural organizations in Brazil, the UK, China, Egypt, France, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US, South Africa, Iraq, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Uganda, the Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia, Slovakia and Sweden.

The National Library of China (NLC) has actively participated in the founding of the World Digital Library project. According to NLC employees, the NLC has already become one of the libraries in the world with the most abundant digital resources.

Starting on April 21, the first collection of 20 kinds of valuable documents was specially selected by NLC, including oracle bone inscriptions, manuscripts, documents about the Dunhuang Grottoes as well as ancient books and records of minority groups. Users across the world can access these documents using the convenient services of the World Digital Library.

By People's Daily Online


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