Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Librarian Of Congress James Billington On Libraries And The Recovery Of Distinctive Elements Of National Cultures

"Libraries are inherently islands of freedom and antidotes to fanaticism. They are temples of pluralism where books that contradict one another stand peacefully side by side just as intellectual antagonists work peacefully next to each other in reading rooms. It is legitimate and in our nation's interest that the new technology be used internationally, both by the private sector to promote economic enterprise and by the public sector to promote democratic institutions. But it is also necessary that America have a more inclusive foreign cultural policy -- and not just to blunt charges that we are insensitive cultural imperialists. We have an opportunity and an obligation to form a private-public partnership to use this new technology to celebrate the cultural variety of the world.

Through a World Digital Library, the rich store of the world's culture could be provided in a form more universally accessible than ever before. An American partnership in promoting such a project for UNESCO would show how we are helping other people recover distinctive elements of their cultures through a shared enterprise that may also help them discover more about the experience of our own and other free cultures."

Librarian of Congress James Billington "A Library for The New World" Washington Post, November 22, 2005.

Vienna, Austria, Ephesus Museum, Statues from the Ancient Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey: Sophia (Wisdom) and Arete (Excellence)

Photo credit: (c) Professor E.W. Leach and the Trustees of Indiana University.


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