Monday, April 21, 2008

The International Children's Digital Library


The ICDL Foundation's goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children's literature from the world community.

• Organization

ICDL is a project of the Human- Computer Interaction Laboratory at University of Maryland and was founded with the Internet Archive.

• Description of what was digitized (partially excerpted from an article on the ICDL in the Boston Globe -- http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/02/21/literary_treasures_kid_friendly_format?mode=PF

Run by a local nonprofit, the electronic database contains thousands of digitized historic and contemporary children's books in dozens of languages, from Chinese to Croatian, including rare and fragile works that have been largely hidden from public view. …

Most important, it is easy-to-use. Rich with simple graphics and primary colors, the kid-friendly website enables visitors to search for, say, books with red or yellow covers, or fairy tales, or stories about imaginary creatures, or books with chapters and pictures…

Designed using feedback from children, the site recognizes that young readers rarely search for books the way adults do, such as by title or author. As a result, it lets children choose books by age level (from 3 to 13) or length ("short," "medium," or "long"), or tales that are happy or sad, or stories that include poems and rhymes. They can also select not simply animal books, but books specifically about ducks, or bears, or magic dogs….

The website, which lets children choose passwords guarded by monsters, is also making literary treasure troves widely available to the public for the first time. The BPL, for example, is sharing a grant with the digital library to post online a portion of its Alice M. Jordan Collection, a 160,000-volume storehouse of children's literature that is not available for general circulation….

Because the website's collection is available in multiple languages, it can be used worldwide - including in obscure places where, paradoxically, an Internet connection can be more common than a public library, thanks to organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that are working to spread technology. In a partnership with the World Bank, for example, the digital libary recently created its first "branch library" in Mongolia by digitizing more than 250 Mongolian children's books and installing a computer server in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital….

The website has appeal to large urban US school systems, whose student populations speak dozens of languages. It also provides a solution for parents who may not have time to take their children to a library, or for parents whose first language is not English and who want their children to read books published in their native tongue.

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