The library of congress and the national digital library in the U.S.A.

Winston Tabb


National libraries have multiple roles depending on the history and tradition of their nation, the country's information infrastructure and policies, and the responsibilities of other libraries within the country. But national libraries also have much in common, as indicated in UNESCO's definition of national libraries as: Libraries which, irrespective of their title, are responsible for acquiring and conserving copies of all significant publications published in the country and functioning as a deposit' library, whether by law or under other arrangements. Among the most important responsibilities of a national library is acquiring (often through copyright deposit or deposito legal), preserving and making accessible the comprehensive creative record of its citizens. This traditional role continues to be of primary importance, but must constantly be re­ examined and adapted as new forms of creativity and communication emerge, while resources remain steady at best.
The Library of Congress conducts a number of programs to assure that it can continue to meet its traditional national library responsibilities with digital media. Its National Digital Library Program is a partnership between the public and private sectors. The Library of Congress also has established cooperative arrangements with other research libraries, publishers, and corporations to ensure that digital resources are acquired and made enduringly accessible.
As the de facto national library of the United States, the Library of Congress has a leadership role in the U.S. national digitization project to preserve America's cultural and historical heritage for future generations through digital means·' and to collect new materials being produced in digital formats in order to ensure that such current digital materials are available to the Library's main constituencies: the Congress of the United States, the scholarly research communities of the U.S. and other countries, and America's 25,000 other libraries and their users. For the Library of Congress, digitization projects are a natural extension and expansion of its traditional responsibilities to acquire, preserve, and make accessible a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for present and future generations - responsibilities the Library embraces in its mission statement and strategic plan. The Library is carrying out its digitization projects in a climate in which staffing resources and federal government funding remain steady at best and may decline in future years; this awareness has encouraged the Library to seek private-public funding partnerships and cooperative enterprises with other U.S. libraries in order to ensure support for the national digitization project.
The Library of Congress is enjoying success and wide acclaim for its retrospective digitization project, American Memory, an extensive, multiyear project to convert a critical mass of Americana from its collections and those of other selected institutions to digital formats. Prospectively, the Library is leading the way with CORDS, its Copyright Office Electronic Registration, Recordation, and Deposit System, which obtains original digital materials through the Library's traditional function as the United States Copyright agency, and the recently launched Electronic Resources Project to obtain and provide access to online materials including databases and electronic serials. Because in today's environment of steady resources and burgeoning quantities of converted and original digital materials no single library can hope to keep up on its own, the Library of Congress participates in several partnerships, such as the LC/Ameritech Digital Library Competition, the Digital Library Federation, and the Digital Libraries Initiative Phase II. For the same reason, the Library has expanded the traditional national library function of issuing standards--e.g. for cataloging--to include adopting and promoting standards for use in the digital library.

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