Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

To constitute, from existing digitization programmes, a large distributed virtual collection of the knowledge of mankind, available to the public via networks (this includes a clear perspective towards the establishment of the global electronic library network which interconnects local electronic libraries).


During the G-7 Ministerial Conference devoted to the Information Society (Brussels 25-26 February) the G-7 members, along with the European Commission, decided to launch 11 pilot projects which are designed to demonstrate the potential benefits of the Information Society and to stimulate its deployment.

The key objectives of the pilot projects are to:

- Support international consensus on common principles for applications, access, and interoperability of networks;
- Establish groundwork for cooperation among G-7 partners to create a critical mass to address the global Information Society issue;
- Create an opportunity for information exchange leading to further development of the Information Society;
- Identify and select exemplary projects with tangible, understandable, and demonstrable social, economic, and cultural benefits;
- Identify obstacles to implementing applications related to a global Information Society;
- Help create markets for new products and services.

The purpose of the Electronic Libraries project is to help create an advanced infrastructure for the interconnection of libraries. This will make available the major works and artefacts of the world's cultural and scientific heritage via multimedia technologies, thus helping to foster cross-border dialogue and enhance services to end users.

The project provides a practical framework for international cooperation, which has the potential of addressing technical and administrative interoperability problems and creating an open environment capable of facilitating participation beyond G-7 countries. Based on a cooperative approach, the Electronic Libraries project consists of the following:

- Mutual collaboration on compilation of databases stored in electronic library systems;
- Exchange of bibliographic information via international networks;
- Exchange of technology information concerning the electronic library systems and standards;
- Structuring of networks for pilot electronic library networks including national/parliamentary and research libraries which will contribute to the development of standards.

The project should strengthen the function of libraries and improve availability at international levels of digitized resources, including both bibliographic records and information content itself (integrating text, graphics, still images, sound and video information). It will promote the large-scale digitization of materials on electronic library systems. Furthermore, it should demonstrate how integrated digitization techniques support long-term preservation as well as enable immediate, easy access to such documents, including the linguistic dimension.

The other pilot projects which were launched at the Brussels G-7 Ministerial Meeting cover the following theme areas: Global inventory; Global interoperability of broadband networks; Cross-cultural education and training; Electronic museums and galleries; Environment and natural resources management; Global emergency management; Global healthcare applications; Government online; Global marketplace for SMEs; and Maritime information systems.

Steps are to be taken to ensure the coordination of the Electronic Libraries projects with the other G-7 themes.


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France and Japan are responsible for the operational coordination of the Electronic Libraries project. The secretariat, which is also assured by France and Japan, will define an agenda and create working groups. An international steering committee is to be established to ensure international liaison between the relevant nominated national/regional/local agencies in the area of library and international networking.

The Electronic Libraries project is open to any country wishing to participate. The implementation of the pilot project is based on international networking and will take advantage of existing standards in the field of text, image and sound digitization, and standards for communication protocols. (This implies the use of common interfaces for retrieval and navigation tools.) The advanced infrastructure to be developed for the interconnection of libraries is to be made available on existing telematic networks.

The project draws from existing activities already undertaken by libraries to interconnect their catalogues and rationalize public access to services. The works selected for inclusion in the global Electronic Libraries project are proposed in their native language with an image and voice environment. Specified documents would belong to the public domain. This digitization effort will have to be carried on for several years before there is a sufficient volume of works.

Specific attention is to be paid to the problems related to the authentication and protection of intellectual property of works (from old materials to research-related information) accessed and distributed in digital forms via networked libraries.

A World Wide Web server is to be installed to provide complete and updated information about the Electronic Libraries project, its policies and achievements.
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