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By Jill R. Aitoro April 7, 2009

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Kudos to the Library of Congress for understanding just how to meld information technology with its mission. The largest library in the world, which currently touts nearly 142 million items in its collections, will launch a Web site on April 21 featuring unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world.

The World Digital Library, which is a joint initiative between the Library of Congress, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and 32 other partner institutions, will make manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, and prints and photographs available to the public unrestricted and free of charge. Visitors will be able to browse and search the content of the site, which will function in seven languages.

This isn't the first example of the Library of Congress putting the Internet to use. The agency already uses the photo sharing Web site Flickr to share its vast collection of photographs, and in August 2008, the Library announced plans to preserve 100 million Web pages from President Bush's second term for historians, researchers and the public. While smaller in scope, similar projects took place in 2000 and 2004, following Clinton's second term and Bush's first term, respectively. A monthly online newsletter was launched in March as part of the Library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program to provide a digest of recent news, with links to stories on the program's Web site.

In March, Obama's federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra spoke about plans for a Web site -- Data.gov , scheduled to launch in late May -- that will make an array of government information available online in downloadable formats. Maybe the administration should get some tips from the Library of Congress.

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