April 23, 2007

Computers in Libraries: Day 3 keynote

World Digital Library Initiative by John Van Oudenaren, Library of Congress.

A real vision for the future of the web, create a dl of significant original cultural materials from around the world. And make it accessible to everyone in all the official languages of the UN (plus Portuguese -- Brasil is a partner). Daring and ambitious, a truly worthy project, this is one worth watching over the next number of years to see how it fares, if it gets properly funded and if they can make a real stab at the logisitical nightmare of gathering, translating and making accessible all that material.

Obejctives are to promote intercultural awareness & understanding, create resources for educators & general public for a global, wireless world and to acquire rare and unique materials. The LOC's partners are Unesco, bilateral agreements with Russia, Brazil, Egypt, the tech community -- google, yahoo, apple, Stanford. Hope to launch Sept 2008.

And they're hoping not to be just a big website. Their three pillars are content acquisition, especially in developing countries where there are no digitization projects and in languages other than English; they also want to create a sustainable networlk for production & distribution and, of course, the web site itself: www.worlddigitallibrary.org.

Content acquisition: a key objectivve is to work with partners to digitize material at four centers in Cairo, Rio, Moscow and St. Petersburg and one mobile scanner at Novosibivisk (sic?). Bring light to hidden treasures, establish editorial scanning operations, pusue other methods to acquire materials including repurposing stuff already scanned.

Construction of a sustainable network: need to get buy in from partners and others, distributed centres most economical, combine machine translation with human translation, each network node can create, catalogue, translate & develope editorial and educational content.

The web site: key objective is to present cultural content in a way that appeals to young users, to have good search and discovery tools. A prototype is under dev, multilingual: English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish (UN Lnaguages) and Portuguese. A high quality user experience, fast & seemless able to search & browse a large volume of material. It will be multiformat: manuscripts, maps, audio, video, with special features with subject experts and educational content for teachers. There will be social networking features like tagging, comments and a "myWDL" but they will keep a strict control on the content itself, it will all be curated. It will also be designed to accomodate developing world condition like low bandwidth.

The presentation ended with a really nice video showing the vision and some features -- this is an incredibly ambitious project. Take a look at the video, it's amazing.

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