The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has officially launched the World Digital Library, an Internet-based library that aims to display and explain the wealth of all human cultures. The library's contents, which are available in seven languages, includes a collection of primary documents and authoritative explanations from the world's leading libraries. UNESCO, the U.S. Library of Congress, and 26 other libraries and institutions in 19 countries already have provided material for the library.
The World Digital Library features a Japanese work that is considered to be the first novel in history, the Aztec's first mention of Christ in the New World, and the works of ancient Arab scholars deciphering the mysteries of algebra, with matching commentary from modern experts. The library started small, with about 1,200 documents and explanations from scholars in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian, but is designed to accommodate an unlimited number of texts, charts, and illustrations from any country or library that wants to contribute. The main target audience is children, says James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress who launched the project four years ago. Billington believes that children around the world will naturally turn to the Internet for answers, provided they have high-speed computers and Internet connections.
The site was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with technical help from the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt. Currently, the library's main server is in Washington, D.C., but there are plans to establish regional servers around the world.
From The Washington Post
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