Six Heads of State Propose European Digital Library

April 29, 2005

Following France’s call for European nations to make their library collections available on the internet, six European leaders have offered a proposal for what they called a “European digital library.”

An April 28 letter signed by French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány asked European Union officials to support the project. The Washington Post reported April 29 that the national libraries of 19 European nations have agreed to back the plan.

“The heritage of European libraries is unequaled in richness and diversity,” the letter read. “But if it is not digitalized and made accessible online, this heritage could, tomorrow, not fill its just place in the future geography of knowledge.”

In the wake of Google’s announcement in December that it would digitally scan books from the collections of five major research libraries and make them searchable online, French National Library President Jean-Noël Jeanneney warned in the January 23 Le Monde of “the risk of a crushing domination by America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world.” On March 16, Chirac asked Jeanneney and Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres to study ways to make French and European library collections available on the Web.