How do you select the content?

The WDL Content Selection Working Group initially developed broad guidelines for selection. Partners select content for inclusion, working within those guidelines. WDL partners have worked to include culturally and historically significant content about every UN member country. The content is in a variety of formats and languages and from different places and time periods. The WDL focuses on significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, and other types of primary sources.

How do 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 uses a centralized translation tool with a translation memory. Machine translation is not used. Professional translators are employed, using machine-assisted translation tools that increase productivity and help to ensure quality and consistency.

Who classifies 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 relies upon existing catalog records supplied by the partner institutions and supplements 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.

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 the National Library of Brazil played an important role in the early development of the WDL. Addition of other languages is under consideration, but must compete with other pressing priorities, including increasing the volume and diversity of content from and about all UN member countries in all languages and building digital capacity in developing countries.

How can I use the content on this site?

Content found on the WDL website 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. More information about copyright law in World Intellectual Property Organization member states can be found at Many WDL items contain links to partner web sites, which contain information about intellectual property and re-use. Partner sites also are linked from the WDL partner page.

How is this project funded?

The World Digital Library is a collaborative project of the U.S. Library of Congress and partners throughout the world. The Library of Congress serves as the Project Manager. It relies upon donations from corporations, foundations, and individuals to support the development and maintenance of the WDL website, as well as related project activities, such as partner and working group meetings and capacity building in developing countries. More information on this support is available on the Financial Contributors page. WDL partners contribute content as well as curatorial, cataloging, linguistic, and technical expertise.

Who uses the site?

The WDL is used by 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.

What institutions may participate?

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

Is my country represented?

There is some content on the WDL website about every UN member country. In many cases, this content is contributed by a library, archive, or museum partner in that country. In other cases, content is supplied by a partner institution in another country. The goal of the WDL is to have at least one library or other cultural institution from each country participate in the project by contributing rare and unique documents held in that country. The national libraries and national archives of all UN member countries have been invited to participate.

Because institutions in many developing countries lack the hardware, software, and trained personnel to digitize content for inclusion in the WDL and in other digital libraries, capacity building has been an important focus of the WDL. The project seeks to build capacity, especially in developing countries, to enable institutions from all countries to contribute additional content to the project. Expanding the number of participating institutions will increase the volume and diversity of items on the site and help to narrow the digital divide.

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 collections for possible inclusion, survey existing projects and capacities, and develop plans for participation.

How can I get involved?

The best way to get involved is to identify 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.

How is this project related to Europeana?

Europeana and the WDL are separate projects. Europeana focuses on collections 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, and in fact many do so.

Who maintains the website?

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

What changes are planned for the future?

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

Where does the content come from?

Content on the WDL comes from libraries and other cultural institutions in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. A current partner list is available on the WDL partner page.

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.

How is the project governed and the site maintained?

The WDL operates under a charter adopted by the partners in 2010. New partners join the project by acceding to the charter. The partners elect an Executive Council, which provides leadership and direction. The charter designated the Library of Congress as the institutional project manager for the period 2010-2015. In that capacity, the Library of Congress is responsible for developing and maintaining the WDL website, with assistance as appropriate from the partners. More information about the governance of the project can be found on the project web site, which is

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 website.
  • Dissemination and public outreach: Print and electronic publicity is needed to increase the visibility of the site and ensure that its content is widely used.
  • 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.