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04 November 2007

The World Digital Library Exhibition

A prototype of the World Digital Library was unveiled at the 34th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, which took place from the 15th to the 19th of October 2007.

The Library of Congress and UNESCO with five other partner institutions: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the National Library of Egypt, the National Library of Brazil, the National Library of Russia, and the Russian State Library have cooperated to create this prototype, which is in seven languages and contains books, charts, manuscripts, reproductions and photographs of films as well as sound recordings of various cultures.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, proposed the creation of a World Digital Library in June 2005. The idea was presented at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December 2006. Partners in the project include UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and major libraries in Asia, Europe, Africa and North and South America.

The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, expand the volume and increase the variety of content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and build capacity in partner institutions in ways that will narrow the digital divides within and between countries.

The event included a WDL Exhibit, where the prototype was shown in the week of October 15-19, on large plasma screens. Computers and monitors was available for hands-on exploration of the prototype. Furthermore, the Prototype Launch Reception took place, in which the WDL prototype was unveiled. A mirror site which is operated by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina which was featured throughout the week.

James H. Billington and, Ismail Serageldin have previously signed an agreement on the 10th of April 2007 at the Library of Congress, outlining four areas in which the two institutions will cooperate in building a World Digital Library. Along with other libraries and cultural institutions from around the world, both institutions will contribute content to the World Digital Library. In addition, the two institutions agreed to work together on the design and implementation of the architecture of the World Digital Library and to cooperate in developing the mirror sites, which are hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington and at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. They also agreed to work together on the design and implementation of the database, search engine and interface for the project. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina will contribute its particular expertise in the search and display of Arabic texts.

Being chosen as a partner in a project of this scope can only be a testament to the BA’s excellence and merit, despite its short five years of existence. The BA has done its best to contribute to the WDL project, providing aid through its expertise in dealing with Arabic texts, thus expanding the scope of the entire project. The BA is also contributing largely to the general architecture of the site, most notably in the part that concerns the search engines, as the BA has implemented a full textual word search in almost all its previous digitization projects.