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Efforts are on by the French National Library to digitise various literary works for future generations. By Arjita Mishra

A paper can last for few years only thus, we cannot save our cultural literary work for a longer period of time. To save our cultural heritage for life long, Bruno Racine started an initiative to digitalise the literary work so that it can be read by the generations.

Racine, the chairman and chief executive of the French National Library (Bibliothèque nationale de France), started a project to digitalise the literary works of France, audio-visual archives and historical documents to keep them safe and secure for a longer period of time. According to him, “A paper can last for a years but, a digital document can last for centuries and that is the reason digitalisation is important.”

It was a difficult task to achieve for Racine as the technology was not so developed when the idea was evolved. “In early 90s, we had an idea to make a digital library but at that time it was too visionary and practically, it was just opposite because at that time technology was not so advanced,” he said.

The target of the members of BNF was to digitalise around 10,00,00 books in a year but it could not happen and they were able to digitalise 5,000 to 8,000 books in a year.

Earlier, the books selected to be digitalised were on the basis of the interest of the readers but later on, they decided to digitalise old books of French poets and removed the books which were under copyright. “In 2009, I wanted this method (of selection) to come under a special collection which comprises of maps, photographs and periodicals,” said Racine.

The France government grants BNF with six million euros every year to help them to digitalise literary works. Today, there are more than three million write-ups in digitalised form. Not only have they digitalised the books and written documents, but also audio–visual and microfilms.

At BNF, the library of upper garden is open to all, that is, if it used at initial stage then it is free of cost but, if you have to use it for research purpose than you have to subscribe for it. The funding is also being done by the private organisations.

According to Racine, digitalisation must be a collective work of libraries, archives and museum for better result. 

In France, copyright of a book is a sensitive issue. “We have taken a risk because legally, a book cannot be put online without the consent of the right-holder,” said Racine. To digitalise the book is a huge task because the information which is to be collected must be accurate. The library is open for everyone worldwide and it is still being upgraded with the help of improved technology.

There is also a controversy related with BNF that it is being compared with the method or process of Google. The main aim of the BNF is to transform the world with the cultural heritage through the process of digitalisation.

 
 
 

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