About the World Digital Library: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How did you select the content?

    The WDL Content Selection Working Group initially developed broad guidelines for selection. In addition, WDL partners worked to include important and culturally significant content about every UNESCO member country. The content is in a variety of formats and languages, from different places and time periods. The WDL focuses on significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other types of primary sources. One of the WDL's content objectives will be to work closely with UNESCO's Memory of the World program to make publicly accessible digital versions of these collections.

  2. How did you translate the content?

    The content is not translated. The primary materials - books, maps, manuscripts and so forth - appear in their original language. We do translate the metadata (information about the materials) that make it possible to search and browse the site in seven languages. The WDL team considers a variety of approaches to translation, including computer-assisted or machine translation, translation by networks of volunteers (the wiki model), or some combination of these. We are committed to providing high-quality translations and will work to improve the translation process. To prepare for the initial site launch, the WDL team used a centralized tool with a translation memory.

  3. Who classified the content by place, time, topic, and type of item?

    Work of this kind normally is done by library professionals known as catalogers, who work according to established rules within any one of a number of widely used national and international cataloging systems to produce bibliographic data (also known as metadata). To the extent possible, the WDL relied upon existing catalog records supplied by the partner institutions, and supplemented this information as needed to ensure adequate browsing. For classification by topic, the WDL relies upon the Dewey Decimal Classification System, which was made available in the seven interface languages by OCLC. The Dewey Decimal Classification System is undergoing adaptation and internationalization to improve its ability to classify content from a multiplicity of countries and cultures.

  4. Why these seven languages? Will other interface languages be added?

    Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish are the official languages of the United Nations. Portuguese is a major world language, and institutions from Brazil, the world's largest Portuguese-speaking country, played an important role in the early development of the WDL. Addition of other languages is under consideration, but should not compete with other pressing priorities, including increasing the volume and diversity of content from and about all countries in all languages and building digital capacity in developing countries.

  5. How can I use the content on this site?

    Content found on the WDL Web site is contributed by WDL partners. Copyright questions about partner content should be directed to that partner. When publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in a WDL partner's collections, the researcher has the obligation to determine and satisfy domestic and international copyright law or other use restrictions. You can find out more information about copyright law in the World Intellectual Property Organization's member states at http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en . Many WDL items contain links to partner Web sites. Partner sites are also linked from the WDL partner page.

  6. How is this project funded?

    The World Digital Library is a collaborative project of the U.S. Library of Congress, UNESCO, and partners throughout the world. WDL partners contribute content as well as curatorial, cataloging, linguistic, and technical expertise. The project has also received private-sector support. More information on these contributions is available on the Financial Contributors and the Acknowledgements pages. The WDL is working to establish additional partnerships with technology companies and private foundations to support the advancement of this project.

  7. Who will use the site?

    Anyone with an interest in the wider world. Students, teachers, scholars and the general public may approach it in different ways, but there is something of interest for everyone.

  8. What libraries and institutions may participate?

    Any library, museum, archive or other cultural institution that has interesting historical and cultural content may participate.

  9. Is my country represented?

    There is some content about every UNESCO member country in the world. The WDL seeks to build capacity, especially in developing countries, to enable institutions from all countries to contribute additional content to the project. This will increase the volume and cultural diversity of items on the site and help to narrow the digital divide.

  10. How can my country (or institution) join the World Digital Library?

    Libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions interested in becoming partners should contact the WDL team. The WDL will work with prospective partners to identify important collections for possible inclusion, survey existing projects and capacities, and develop plans for participation.

  11. How can I get involved?

    The best way to get involved is to identify important collections that represent a particular country or culture and to work with the WDL team to have them included in the project. The starting point is content. We will be glad to provide information about volunteer opportunities and to discuss suggestions for the project with individuals who contact us .

  12. How is this project related to Europeana?

    Europeana and the WDL are separate projects. Europeana focuses on Europe and on collections about Europe held in European libraries, archives, and museums. The WDL has a worldwide focus. Institutions that are part of Europeana are welcome to participate in the WDL.

  13. Who maintains the Web site?

    The WDL site is hosted by the U.S. Library of Congress. A team based at the Library of Congress maintains the site.

  14. What changes are planned for the future?

    We are actively seeking more partner institutions and contributions of content, and working to improve cataloging, translation, and other functions.

  15. Where does the content come from?

    Libraries and other cultural institutions in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America. At the WDL's public launch in April 2009, there were contributions from 26 institutions in 19 countries, including major cultural institutions (mainly national libraries) from the largest Arabic-, Chinese-, English-, French-, Portuguese-, Russian-, and Spanish-speaking countries in the world. A current partner list is available on the WDL partner page.

  16. Who established the digitization standards?

    The metadata, digitization, and file transfer standards were established by the Library of Congress and other WDL partners, with input from the WDL working groups.

  17. How will the site be maintained and governed in the future?

    Sustainable growth will be based on the establishment of a worldwide network for the production, submission, cataloging and translation of content. UNESCO and the Library of Congress have issued a universal appeal for participation and are developing a multilateral charter. The WDL charter will provide for a governance structure, including annual meetings of partners to develop a model for long-term financial sustainability and to develop policies relating to intellectual property, and location and maintenance of host and mirror sites, among other issues.

  18. How can libraries, institutions, private-sector organizations and individuals support this project?

    Partners with culturally important and interesting collections and digitization capacity are needed to expand and diversify the site. Some partners need equipment and training to participate, especially in the developing world. Significant contributions in the following areas would help to build the WDL's capacity and assure its growth:

    • Digitization training and equipment: The challenge is to develop tools and procedures for the creation and processing of large volumes of content without compromising the quality (functionality, searchability, and user experience) of the Web site.
    • Dissemination and public outreach: Print and electronic publicity are needed to direct traffic to the site. Alternative delivery mechanisms (including mobile devices) will boost usage, especially in countries with low Internet and/or broadband penetration.
    • Cataloging and translation assistance: Strategies for engaging communities of volunteers (the wiki model) to help identify and describe primary resources, and to translate metadata, are being considered.
    • Financial Support: Substantial multi-year funding is needed for the establishment of digital conversion centers, the creation and processing of digital content, and further development of the WDL as a production network.

    Contact the WDL team if you are interested in participating in these or other ways.