Tuesday

27th Feb 2024

France launches Francophone digital library

The French national library BNF has launched a prototype version of its contribution to a European digital library aimed to be one of the European alternatives to US digitalisation of books and documents.

Europeana – as the cyber library is named – currently offers access to some 12,000 public domain full-text documents but is set to have by 2010 over 6 million books, movies, photographs and other documents from across the European Union countries.

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The creation of Europeana is "for France and Europe an important challenge and a great ambition to the service of spreading knowledge, cultural diversity, keeping the value of languages and the information that is the base of our shared identity," French president Jacques Chirac said according to Spanish daily El Pais.

"We want to make it so that Europe is not entirely abandoned to an American search engine," said Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the head of BNF, according to French press reports.

US Internet search giant Google triggered an international race to build an online library when it announced plans in December 2004 to digitise books and documents from a handful of big libraries.

US Internet and software giants Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon soon announced separate plans while France, angry that private companies took the lead, instead pushed for the creation of a public digital library.

Europeana so far also has the support of 23 public libraries in Hungary, Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain.

Another European library project is also under way and is already receiving co-funding from the European Commission.

The library is to be based on the infrastructure of an already existing European network that allows access to digital resources held in national libraries.

It also aims to display around 6 million books, photographs and films available to all internet users by 2010.

The main difference between the two online libraries is the language of the website itself. Europeana is in French while the European Library is in English.

The Conference of European National Librarians welcomed the move saying the BNF has "created an example of what the future European Digital Library might be," it said in a statement.

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