Title:Juried Papers 8: Digital Libraries and Librarianship
Program Session #: 4.3

Date: Thursday, January 10, 2008
Time: 10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.


Ann Carlson Weeks, Ph.D.

Professor of the Practice

College of Information Studies

University of Maryland

College Park, MD 20742


[email protected]




Creating a Digital Library for the World’s Children through Collaboration



In the five years since its creation, the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) (www.childrenslibrary.org) has become a library “for the world’s children.”  Every aspect of its development -- from the make up of the research team to the hundreds of librarians, teachers, and parents around the world who have volunteered to be “ICDL Ambassadors” -- has been a collaborative effort.  The research team that created the ICDL is interdisciplinary and intergenerational and includes computer scientists, librarians, educational technologists, classroom teachers, and graduate students from the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies (CLIS) and the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL), a leader in children's interface design.  Throughout the creation and development of the ICDL, important contributors to the research have been the members of the Kidsteam, children ages 7-11, who work regularly with the adults in the Lab.  Through a multi-year research project, the ICDL Kidsteam concept has been extended to groups of children beyond the U.S. to teams in Germany, New Zealand, and Honduras.



Among the most fundamental, and yet challenging, aspects of the project has been the collaborative collection development effort.  In the early days of the project, it was determined that it would be neither appropriate nor practical for members of the research team in the United States to identify the most important historical children’s books nor select the best-loved contemporary children’s books from outside the United States to include in the Library.  In addition, it was recognized that individuals from within the country or culture would have more credibility and probably would be more successful in convincing rights holders to contribute their books than would unknown individuals from the highly suspect “capitalist USA.”  If the collection was to be representative of the best in children’s literature from around the globe, it would be important to engage librarians, authors, illustrators, children’s literature experts, and children themselves in creating the collection.  In retrospect, this decision was the correct one; however, it has resulted in a number of unanticipated challenges.  For example, how does one create a collection development policy for its library community when that community can extend to everyone in the world with Internet access?   



A key measure of the ICDL’s success is the willingness of children, parents, teachers, librarians, and scholars to use the collection.  However, because the ICDL is first and foremost a research project, promoting its availability has resulted in significant challenges.  In the last year alone, there have been almost one million visitors to the Library.  During May 2007, visitors came from more than 180 nations around the world.  Not surprisingly, the largest number of visitors came from the United States; however, the next largest numbers came from India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Iran, Egypt, China, and Indonesia.  And yet, how does the research team assess its value to children? to families? to scholars around the world?  Efforts made over the past five years to address these and other questions and lessons learned through this worldwide collaborative project will be addressed in this paper.






Program Description



Creating a Digital Library for the World’s Children through Collaboration



The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) was created through international collaboration.  This paper describes the challenges and opportunities inherent in working on an interdisciplinary, intergenerational, international, multilingual project.