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UNESCO and Library of Congress sign agreement for World Digital Librarynews
18 October 2007
UNESCO and the US Library of Congress will join forces to build a World Digital Library, following the signing of an agreement by Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO''s assistant director-general for communication and information, and the librarian of Congress James H. Billington, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 17 October 2007.

The World Digital Library initiative will digitise unique and rare material from libraries and other cultural institutions around the world and make them available free of charge on the internet. These materials include manuscripts, maps, books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs.

A prototype of the World Digital Library will be demonstrated and tested before delegates of UNESCO''s 193 member states attending the organization''s general conference. The prototype was developed by 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.

The World Digital Library initiative has been designed to promote international and inter-cultural understanding, increase the quality and diversity of cultural content on the internet, and contribute to education and scholarship. Individuals and institutions in more than 40 countries and the IFLA have participated in working groups and expert meetings to plan the World Digital Library.

"Libraries are key actors for ensuring universal access to information and building knowledge societies," said UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura. "We are very pleased to build on the excellent partnership that we have long enjoyed with the Library of Congress to work in innovative ways to preserve and make accessible the memory of the world."

"We look forward to continuing and deepening our collaboration with UNESCO," said Billington, "and to working with the Organization and its staff to ensure that libraries, archives, and museums from around the world join with us in making their cultural treasures accessible online."

Under the terms of the agreement, the Library of Congress and UNESCO will cooperate in convening working groups of experts and other stakeholders to develop guidelines and technical specifications for the project, enlisting new partners, and securing support from private and public sources.
A key aspect of the project is to build digital library capabilities in developing countries, so that all countries and all regions can participate and be represented in the World Digital Library.

The project pursues work already undertaken by UNESCO''s Memory of the World programme, which seeks to preserve documentary heritage. This heritage reflects the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures and is the mirror of the world and its memory. But this memory is fragile; every day, irreplaceable parts disappear forever. UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme to guard against collective amnesia by contributing to the preservation of archive holdings and library collections all over the world and ensuring their wide dissemination.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States of America, and the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items in more than 450 languages. Its collections are universal in scope and are in all formats in which information is recorded.

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UNESCO and Library of Congress sign agreement for World Digital Library