World Digital Library Provides Access to Global Knowledge

Posted by David T. Killion
December 17, 2009
Screenshot of World Digital Library

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.



Yolonda K.
December 17, 2009

Yolonda K. in Cameroon writes:

The WDL and projects like it are excellent public diplomacy tools. The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde hosted Allene Farmer Hayes, Digital Projects Coordinator at the U.S. Library of Congress, from October 4-10, 2009. Mrs. Hayes conducted workshops to raise awareness of the importance of library and information management in promoting transparency and accountability in governance, and fostering democracy.

She also introduced Cameroonian audiences to projects recently developed by the Library of Congress, including the World Digital Library Project. I hope other PD officers will consider similar programs highlighting digital collections.

Dragomir C.
Colorado, USA
December 18, 2009

Dragomir in Colorado writes:



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