EU-wide web library to 'strengthen diversity'

Some six million books and other documents will have been added to the Europeana digital library by 2010

In a bid to strengthen cultural diversity, French national library BNF has created a new Europe-wide cyber library, with access to some six million books, movies and documents. Called Europeana , the digital library is intended as a European alternative to the US libraries that have been digitising books and documents during past years.

Europeana currently offers access to some 12,000 public full-text documents, but by 2010 it is set to have over six million books, movies, photographs and other documents from across the European Union countries.

The creation of Europeana is "an important challenge and a great ambition to the service of spreading knowledge, cultural diversity, keeping the value of languages and the information that is the base of our shared identity," French president Jacques Chirac told Spanish newspaper El Pais .

Following Google 's announcement in 2004 that it was to create an online library by digitising books and documents from a handful of US libraries, the likes of Amazon , Microsoft and Yahoo have also announced separate digitisation projects.

France, angry that private companies took the lead in the digitisation process, has instead pushed to create a public digital library.

"We want to make it so that Europe is not entirely abandoned to an American search engine," Jean-Noël Jeanneney, head of BNF, told French newspaper Le Monde .

Partly funded by the European Commission , Europeana so far has the support of 23 public libraries in Hungary, Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain.

The Conference of European National Librarians welcomed the move stating that the BNF had "created an example of what the future European Digital Library might be".