Norway's entire National Library will soon be be stored online

Once the library is digitized, the books in the National Library will all be available for searching and reading online, though copyrighted works will only be available to Norwegian residents.

Joran Waerdah/Oslo Visitors and Convention Bureau
One building of Norway's National Library is located in Oslo.

Imagine being able to search, access, and read the country’s entire collection of books online.

In Norway, that will soon be a reality.

That country’s National Library is in the process of digitizing all the books it holds and making them free, searchable, and available to read online, to all Norwegians.

Because Norway’s National Library is a “legal deposit library” and holds a copy of all books published in the country, the project will digitize the entirety of Norwegian literature – which reaches into the Middle Ages – into an electronic archive, eventually accessible on the cloud, as the UK’s Independent pointed out.

“This means that large part of Norwegian culture and knowledge dating back as far as the Middle Ages…will be made available in the Digital National Library,” the National Library of Norway’s website announced.  

It’s an ambitious and massive project. The library has estimated it will take 20 to 30 years to complete the digitization. The project, which launched in 2006, has so far digitized 350,000 newspaper editions, 235,000 books, and 240,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts as well as some radio broadcasts and TV programs, according to the Huffington Post.

There is some controversy here: the project will digitize both copyrighted and non-copyrighted material; the former will be available only to Norwegians (recognized by their Norwegian IP address), while the latter will be free and available to all Internet users. 

In the US, some groups are struggling to digitize English-language works while battling publisher and author groups regarding copyright and fair use. It was just one month ago that Google Books, Google’s massive digitization project, was declared legal by a US circuit judge after nearly a decade of legal battles and project setbacks.

As the Verge pointed out, Norway is not alone in its digitization efforts. Similar projects are underway in the UK and Finland, though these won’t be as accessible as Norway’s digitized works.

(Norway has also begun another very cool project highlighting its forward-thinking approach: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which contains more than 10,000 seed samples in a chamber built inside a mountain on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen. It’s designed to preserve Norway’s biological diversity as well as act as a safety net in the event of a global catastrophe. Talk about progressive. And prepared.)

By creating a “national memory bank” of sorts, Norway is setting the gold standard for other countries and their literature collections. Its project will preserve its national works in a far more permanent – and searchable and accessible – way than ink on paper.

Which, as The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal points out, might, in future, put other countries at a disadvantage.

What might future digital archeologists find among the ruins of 21st-century civilization?

“…some scraps of Buzzfeed and The Atlantic, maybe some Encyclopedia Britannicas, and then, gleaming in the data: a complete set of Norwegian literature.” 

Time to get digitizing, America.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Norway's entire National Library will soon be be stored online
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2013/1212/Norway-s-entire-National-Library-will-soon-be-be-stored-online
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe