National Digital Libraries

Earlier this year, I wrote a column calling on the Canadian government to create a national digital library. The concept was simple — Canada should become the first country in the world to to create a comprehensive national digital library. The library, which would be fully accessible online, would contain a digitally scanned copy of every book, government report, and legal decision ever published in Canada.
If a similar initiative by Google is any indication, such a project is both realistic and affordable.
This morning comes word that we may need to move quickly if we want to claim to be the first to do this. French President Jacques Chirac has told France's national library to draw up a plan to put European literary works on the Internet. Chirac gave the go-ahead for research into the project after Jean-Noel Jeanneney, who heads the national library, expressed concern that Google's plan to put books from some of the world's great libraries online would favour the English language. Rather than dithering on harmful copyright reforms, our policy makers should be setting out a vision of access and promotion of Canadian culture. A national digital library would be a great place to start.

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