Saturday, February 7, 2009

International Children's Digital Library

The International Children's Digital Library is a collection of over 3100 digitized children's picture books and chapter books in 149 languages. Books are selected with two audiences in mind - children aged 3-13 and those in the education field such as teachers, librarians and researchers. The library was created in 2002 as a research project for the University of Maryland in conjunction with the Internet Archive. It is now managed by The ICDL Foundation to continue the research goals of collection development, education, technology, and as on-going, sustainable resource for international children's literature. Materials are selected to represent the "similarities and difference in cultures, societies, interests, and lifestyles of peoples around the world."

Metadata is provided by either authors, publishers or contributors via an online questionnaire. The ICDL's metadata form uses Qualified Dublin Core, ISBD(G) and the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules 2nd Edition. Because the searching options were designed for children, the metadata requires specific genres, reading levels, literary elements (i.e. setting) and abstracts written for children. When a book is selected, a drop-down language menu lets you choose a language to view other children's reviews of the book plus bibliographic information. Links are provided to Amazon, OCLC and other sources. There are also suggestions for other books in the collection that are similar to the one selected. Author and illustrator information are also linked. Usability testing was done with children and much of their feedback became integrated into the search options, such as books based on cover colors, character types, and content ( "Make Believe" , "True Books"). "Book viewers" let readers choose the book's layout. Pages may be viewed individually, as facing pages, or all at once. They may also be viewed in a comic book style or in a spiral style via a Java Web Start that will enable the ICDL Book reader. Comic and spiral views also allow the reader to change backgrounds and borders.

Because this library is designed for children, even the digitization process is explained using age-appropriate vocabulary on the "Digitization Process" page - "Some of the books are scanned for the ICDL are cut up and sucked into a scanner one page at a time to automatically scanned." Books are scanned at the University of Maryland's campus and others are scanned by those who donate them. The overall quality of the images is good enough to allow children to zoom in on details without losing quality. For older books that feature illustrations finely drawn in pen and ink, this feature enhances the books' accessibility.

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