April 20, 2018

World Digital Library Launches

Better a day late than a dollar short, I say, especially in this economy. Yesterday the World Digital Library, long in preparation by the Library of Congress, was officially inaugurated at UNESCO in Paris to great fanfare.

Although one might think that something with such a title would encompass more than the 1,170 items presently there (from 26 partner institutions), these are clearly selected cultural treasures — not just a compendium of everything possible. Primarily set up for browsing, the main page offers a geographic browse on a depiction of the world, with item counts by large region. Also available from the main page are browse options for:

These categories also provide the facets in the lefthand column of search or browse results so users can easily select what they want to see.

But where it really gets impressive is the care taken to make the site completely usable in seven different languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Once you select a language, everything is translated, including the descriptive metadata for each item. The tool to view images provides ways to zoom in and pan but you can also download the entire file.

Leslie Johnston reports on some technical details:

The site was built using the Django Python framework, nginx, Lucene/Solr, and a mySQL database. The zooming in the imageviewer and pageturner is Seadragon Ajax. There is heavy use of Javascript and JSON and underlying XML. Check out the image carousels and timeline tool! The project also developed a cataloging tool to manage the metadata and cataloging process and interact with the Lingotek translation system via their API.

As reported on Twitter by the Library of Congress, the site had seen "More than 2 million page views today as of 1500 GMT". They also reported on Twitter that the inauguration of the site was held in the Paris Hilton. I’m telling you, I can’t make this stuff up.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Roy Tennant says:

    Seen on Twitter later the same day…”5.3 million page views today so far. I’ll stop counting soon, but it’s unlike anything most of us have seen before.” – twitter.com/librarycongress