The goal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB) is to offer everyone unrestricted access to Germany’s cultural and scientific heritage, that is, access to millions of books, archived items, images, sculptures, pieces of music and other sound documents, as well as films and scores, from all over Germany. As a central, national portal, the DDB is aiming to bring together and network digital content from all of Germany’s cultural and scientific institutions. The DDB should secure Germany’s connectivity and competitiveness in the areas of science, research and education, but also make it possible for anyone to access Germany’s unique cultural heritage and knowledge conveniently via one central point of entry. The fact that this entire wealth of information is now at our fingertips, centrally accessible to anyone who can use a PC workstation with an Internet connection, independent of time and location, constitutes a fundamental improvement to our opportunities in the areas of research, education and the economy.
We have some way to go until this vision is realized in its full potential. The digitisation of Germany’s cultural and scientific heritage is a process which will unfold over many years.
The first, publicly available beta version of the DDB went online in November 2012 and the first fully-fledged version will be launched on 31st March 2014. New functions are continually being added to the portal. The number of participating cultural and scientific institutions - and with them, the amount of accessible virtual content - is set to rise steadily.
We’d love to hear what you think! Send us your suggestions and criticisms, questions and requests by email at: fragen [at] deutsche-digitale-bibliothek.de.
Orientation in the information flood
Scientists, armchair historians, genealogy researchers, journalists, students, school pupils, teachers – the DDB is aimed at all interested parties. Online research of a particular topic – whether professional or private – can be problematic. Popular search engines frequently return too many hits, or too few, and the results are often undifferentiated. And the references cited aren’t always usable. This is often due to outstanding concerns regarding rights, or because the information may not be correct or even authentic.
We have a major advantage: the DDB only makes available material which has been carefully selected and expertly prepared. Users can be sure of the authenticity of content, because all accessible information carries the seal of approval of German cultural and scientific institutions. All of this makes the DDB a point of orientation in the flood of information.
At the same time the portal offers opportunities for discovery and inspiration. Connections reveal themselves to users, unexpected cross-references become apparent. Anyone researching „Beethoven“, for instance, will have immediate access to secondary literature, scores, portraits – and further discoveries are just a mouse-click away.
Those with particular interests and requirements will be able to access culture and knowledge in ways specifically tailored to their needs.
Towards a democratic knowledge society
Bringing together and linking up content from cultural and scientific institutions is an enormous technical and organisational undertaking, a challenge we gladly accept. Because it means representing and communicating the venerable tradition and vibrant continuity of culture and science in this country.
The idea behind all of this is that democracy requires active participation, which in turns requires identification and transparency – information, in other words. Information is the basic requirement of democratic participation. And the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek wants to do its part to ensure that knowledge democracy and the information society can flourish – now and in the future.
Integrated in Europe
Free and centralised access to information is part of a modern, functioning democracy. This insight inspired the creation of the european digital library’s internet portal Europeana, which gives global users access to the cultural assets of the European Union’s member states. Through the DDB, Germany is fulfilling the task of creating a national portal for digitalised artistic and cultural assets and so integrating them into the European cultural memory.
A joint project at federal, state and local levels
Starting in the summer of 2007, representatives of federal, state and local authorities have been working on making the DDB a reality.
It is financed by the Federal Government, by the states and by local authorities. The Federal Government contributed around 8.5 million euros for DDB infrastructure development during the period up to the end of 2011, with federal, state and local authorities guaranteeing an annual operational budget of 2.6 million euros for five years, starting in 2011.
Access to the DDB is free to the user. There are existing copyright agreements and other rights to consider when accessing content. Because the digital content made available by the DDB is not actually held by the DDB but rather by the relevant institution (which is also the point of retrieval), those bodies are consequently responsible for any access monitoring or associated costs which may be required.
At present the DDB is concentrating on making available content without commercial value, and without cost. In the future we plan to work with authors and licence holders such as publishers and picture agencies to provide access to commercially available works at an agreed price. The timetable and other details of this process are still undecided.