If the World Digital Library works out as planned, it’ll make Alexandria look like a Buck-a-Book. The UN project hopes to collect primary sources from around the world in every medium, digitize them, and offer them online, free, in seven languages. “What they are doing is building an intellectual cathedral, and it may never get finished,” one tech forecaster said.
The US Library of Congress will provide much of the catalogue, with six other national libraries joining in to create a vast database, searchable by time, place and medium. The resulting cultural cross-referencing should, librarians hope, foster international understanding. The technology is there, but funding could be a problem. The librarians are hoping for private donations—Google has already provided $3 million.