CIL 2007 – World Digital Library Initiative – John Van Oudenaren

John Van Oudenaren is Senior Advisor, World Digital Library Initiative at the Library of Congress.
Vision – to create a digital library of significant original materials representing all of the major cultures from across the globe and make it accessible to students, educators and the general public.


  • promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness
  • provide a resource for educators that matches the needs of a globalised, wireless world
  • acquire rare and unique content of interest to scholars and the general public

Partners: UNESCO, National Libraries and other cultural institutions (not Oz) and the technology community, including Google, Yahoo, Apple and Stanford University.


  • June 2005 – World Digital Library proposed to UNESCO
  • November 2005 – Google gives LC $3 for planning phase of the project
  • 2006 – Conclusion of agreements with partner institutions internationally
  • December 2006 – Site mockup and draft proposal presented to UNESCO
  • 2007 – conclusion of agreements with UNESCO and additional partner institutions
  • October 2007 – World Digital Library prototype will be unveiled at UNESCO General Conference in Paris
  • September 2008 – Completion of World Digital Library plan and full-scale launch of the project

Creating not just a big website. Three pillars: content acquisition; construction of a sustainable network for production and distribution of content; the website –

Content acquisition – work with partners to digitise content in places where little or nothing is being done – bring to light ‘hidden treasures’. Maintain and build on existing scanning operations. Establish additional scanning operations. Pursue other methods of content acquisition – repurposing of already scanned material.

Construction of the network – both a technical and infrastructure and a community of institutions, scholars, curators, linguists and technologist. A lot of translations to be done. Network nodes for creation, including digitisation, cataloguing, translation, development, etc of the WDL and for distribution, including mirror sites.

Web Site – must appeal to all users, both in the US and internationally. Prototype under development, multilingual (7 languages), high quality user experience – fast and seamless, ability to search and browse a large volume of content. Prototype will show multilingualism and fast search and browse. Will be able to search in the 6 official UN languages (Eng, Ara, Chi, Fre, Rus, Spa + Portugese) as well as searching content that is digitised in other languages.

Multi-format – print, maps, 3-D presentations, sound and video clips. Special features with experts, scholars and curators, educational content for teachers and students. Will include social networking features, such as blogs, chat spaces, tagging etc – My Digital Library type initiative. Adjustments to developing country conditions: ie low bandwith and mobile device solutions.

Showed a great video at the end which showed the vision of the World Digital Library. Check it out on YouTube.