From owner-e-docs@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU Mon Mar 21 14:00:16 2005
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 13:00:23 -0500
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Subject: E-DOCS: e-France (R. Jensen)
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 11:49:46 -0500 http://chronicle.com/daily/2005/03/2005032101t.htm
President Jacques Chirac of France has asked the head of the country's national library and the minister of culture and communication to plan a French-led project that would make millions of European literary works accessible on the Internet.
The move appears to be a response to a warning from Jean-Noël
Jeanneney, president of the National Library of France. In an essay in
the newspaper Le Monde in January, he said that plans by Google and
five leading academic institutions and libraries in the United States
and Britain to digitize and make available online the content of
millions of volumes posed a
risk of a crushing domination by
America in defining the idea that future generations will have of the
world (The Chronicle, March 4).
Mr. Jeanneney and Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the culture minister, met last week with Mr. Chirac, who told them to begin laying the groundwork for a European endeavor similar to the Google project.
In a statement released by his office, Mr. Chirac said that he had
asked Mr. Jeanneney and Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres to
conditions in which the wealth of the great libraries of France and
Europe could be made more widely and quickly accessible on the
Internet. Mr. Chirac said that because of their
rich cultural patrimony, France and Europe must take a determining
role in such a project.
In an essay,
Google Is Not the End of History, that ran in Le
Monde the day after his meeting with President Chirac, Mr. Donnedieu
de Vabres described as
a clap of thunder in the numeric sky the
that a powerful, efficient, and popular
American search engine was going to digitize and put online 15 million
books from the patrimony conserved by some of the most prestigious
The event comes in an intellectual and cultural climate in which
the digitization of documents and works seems to be the key to all
problems, Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres went on. He stressed that
facilitating online access to such resources is one of his priorities
as minister and cited existing projects to digitize artwork in French
museums and 19th-century magazines and newspapers in the national
We probably have a lot to learn from Google, whose success comes
largely from the simplicity and ease of access it offers,
Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres acknowledged.
Yet French officials insist that their project should be seen not merely as a reaction to Google, but in the context of existing French and European efforts to make information available online.
I really stress that it's not anti-American, said an
official at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, speaking on the
condition of anonymity.
It is not a reaction. The objective is to
make more material relevant to European patrimony available.
Everybody is working on digitization projects, the official
continued. Google's announcement made a big splash, but it
not yet digitized one book, to my knowledge, he said.
French National Library was founded by Charles V in the 14th
century. It cannot compare itself with Google, which was founded in
1998. We don't know whether [Google] will be there in five
But future cooperation between Google and the European project could
well occur, the official said.
The worst scenario we could achieve
would be that we had two big digital libraries that don't
communicate, he said.
The idea is not to do the same thing, so
maybe we could cooperate, I don't know. Frankly, I'm not sure
they would be interested in digitizing our patrimony. The idea is to
bring something that is complementary, to bring diversity. But this
doesn't mean that Google is an enemy of diversity.
A spokeswoman for Google responded to the French announcement by
we are supportive of any effort to make information
accessible to the world.
Sidney Verba, director of the Harvard University Library, one of
Google's collaborators, also welcomed the French
It's a fine idea, he said.
The more of this
sort of work that can be done around the world, the better off
everyone will be. And I certainly wish them the best of luck.
The other institutions involved in Google's project are the New York Public Library and the libraries of Stanford University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the University of Oxford, in England.
Mr. Jeanneney and Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres are expected to present a
preliminary proposal as early as May 2, when Paris will play host to a
European cultural summit, with representatives from the 25 European
This subject is one of the key issues in this
meeting, the ministry official said,
and there will be some
announcement at that point.