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June 21, 2010

New International Institutions Join World Digital Library

New Participants in Sub-Saharan Africa, Former Soviet Republics/Eurasia

Under a $2 million grant awarded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Library of Congress has completed the first stages of a three-year effort to enable cultural institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and the countries of the former Soviet Union to join the World Digital Library (WDL), an award-winning project initiated by the Library in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) to provide free, multilingual access to important cultural and historical documents from all 193 UNESCO member states.

The WDL now has 85 partners from 55 countries. More than 10 million users from every nation in the world have visited the WDL – www.wdl.org – since its launch in April 2009.

In connection with the first official meeting of the WDL partners, to take place in Washington, DC on June 22-23, Carnegie Corporation of New York today will support a conference of directors and technical staff from libraries, archives, and museums in 11 countries of the former Soviet Union – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan -- to identify important documents and collections from these countries that should be added to the WDL. The conference will identify the personnel and infrastructural needs these nations must fulfill to participate in national and international digital library projects. It will also seek to map out a strategy to ensure that the cultural richness of the Central Asian and Caucasus countries as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus are reflected in the WDL. Representatives of Russian libraries already participating in the WDL will take part in the conference as observers.

Under the same Carnegie Corporation of New York grant, which was awarded in July 2009, the Library of Congress worked with the National Library of Uganda (NLU) to establish a Digital Conversion Center at the NLU in Kampala. This center, the first of its kind in Uganda and one of very few in sub-Saharan Africa, is enabling the national library to digitize documents relating to the history and culture of Uganda for inclusion on its own website and on the WDL. The items digitized are from the NLU and other cooperating institutions in Uganda. They include such documents as those that led to the first constitution of Uganda and several related to the movement for independence; early accounts of missions to Uganda; and the original of the 1898 treaty between Great Britain and the Kingdom of Buganda.

The Library of Congress and Carnegie Corporation of New York provided digitization equipment and software to Uganda’s NLU and helped the institution in Kampala recruit a dedicated digital conversion staff. That staff was trained by a five-person team from the Library of Congress in content selection, preservation, digitization and metadata creation. Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa, Director of the National Library of Uganda, will address the WDL partner meeting on her institution’s experience in establishing the digital conversion center and the experience gained and lessons learned for capacity-building in other developing country libraries. Future activities planned under the grant include efforts to build capacity at libraries in South Africa so they, too can contribute collections to the WDL.

"We are very grateful to Carnegie Corporation of New York for its support in these two important regions," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who approached UNESCO with the original concept for the World Digital Library. "Capacity-building is a crucial element of the WDL, which is more than just a very high-tech website. In order to ensure participation by all countries that wish to share their cultural heritage with the world via the WDL, we need to assist them with training, equipment, and software. The Carnegie grant makes this possible. The results are concrete and immediate: cultural treasures about and from these countries, digitized by people in these countries, are now or soon will be universally accessible on the WDL."

"Libraries are as old as civilization. They are the diaries of humankind," said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. "They preserve the heritage of the entire human race, recording both its triumphs and failures, protecting and cherishing the legacy of the intellectual, scientific and artistic achievements of men and women around the globe and across time and distance," Gregorian said. "The library represents humanity’s collective memory and it is the university of universities."

Gregorian continued, "Andrew Carnegie, the founder of Carnegie Corporation of New York, helped to build over 2,500 libraries in the U.S. and abroad because he believed deeply in the idea that when one walked through the door of a library, the knowledge and education that became available to each individual provided unlimited opportunity to advance in the world, no matter what your starting point. Hence, Carnegie Corporation is proud to be a supporter of the World Digital Library Project, which expands on Andrew Carnegie’s vision of opening the library doors of the world even wider and increasing access to knowledge and wisdom for all."

Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do "real and permanent good in this world."

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via the World Digital Library at www.wdl.org.

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PR 10-143
06/21/10
ISSN 0731-3527

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