About the Author: Ambassador David T. Killion serves as U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO.
At a time of year when many are writing term papers or cramming for end of semester exams, students can find invaluable support through the World Digital Library. The Library, a unique partnership between UNESCO, the Library of Congress, and libraries around the world, is a free site dedicated to improving and extending access to important primary sources from the world’s cultures and histories. UNESCO headquarters launched the World Digital Library website in April of this year, and was inspired by the success of the U.S. National Digital Library Program, which provides such access to more than 15 million U.S. historical records.
The range and quality of materials in the Library is dizzying, and is growing all the time. Take a look, for example, at the images of the U.S. Constitution, or 19th century photographs of Kyrgyz wedding rites. Exploring the Library is an exercise in discovery.
The Library was originally proposed by U.S. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in a speech to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in 2005. UNESCO warmly welcomed the idea as a means of strengthening cross-cultural interaction and understanding, as well as promoting cultural diversity on the Internet. To date, content has been provided by libraries in more than twenty countries, spanning six continents. Google, Microsoft, the Qatar Foundation, King Abdullah University, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York all contributed to cover the Library’s development costs.