NSF-Supported International Children’s Digital Library

November 21, 2002

Led by the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive, a partnership of government, non-profit, industry and academic organizations will launch the world’s largest international digital library for children on Wednesday, Nov. 20, during a ceremony at the Library of Congress.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with additional support from other partners as part of a long-term research project to develop new technology to serve young readers.

The new International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) will provide children ages 3 to 13 years with an unparalleled opportunity to experience different cultures through literature. The new digital library will begin with 200 books in 15 languages representing 27 cultures, with plans to grow over five years to 10,000 books representing 100 different cultures.

“NSF is pleased to provide support that has made the International Children’s Digital Library possible,” said Michael Pazzani, NSF Division Director for Information and Intelligent Systems, who is speaking at the ceremony. “The ICDL is a wonderful result of NSF’s investment in interdisciplinary research that brought children into the design process and explored new territory in information technology.”

The ICDL originated with an NSF Digital Libraries Initiative Phase 2 grant to an interdisciplinary team at the University of Maryland for researching the special needs of children in digital library environments. In addition to experts in computer science, library science, psychology, education, and other fields, the team included elementary school teachers and children aged 5 to 10 years from Yorktown Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland. Together, they considered the unique ways that children access, explore and organize digital learning materials.

While the ICDL’s collection is intended to provide access to the best children’s books worldwide, a primary long-term benefit of the project may be in discovering how children can best interact with digital books.

“Engaging stories help children grow intellectually and emotionally, gain an understanding of who they are and learn about others and the world around them, all while having a great deal of fun,” said Allison Druin, project leader of the ICDL at the University of Maryland. “We believe that the International Children’s Digital Library can provide an important new avenue for children to experience new books and explore other cultures.”

In compiling the 10,000-book collection, the ICDL will also work to understand data acquisition and rights management in the creation of a large-scale digital library. The ICDL will collaborate with industry partners on technologies needed to incorporate copyrighted books while respecting intellectual property laws and rights.

NSF’s continued support for the library is through a $3 million, five-year Information Technology Research award to the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive. The project receives additional support from the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Kahle/Austin Foundation, Adobe Systems Inc. and the Markle Foundation.

For more details, see http://www.icdlbooks.org/.