Free education from home: The World Digital Library debuts


The combination of hard times and free resources has turned local libraries into community hotspots, as frugal citizens turn to them for free entertainment and free Web access. Despite this, in city after city, libraries are seeing their hours reduced in budget cutbacks.

Over the past few weeks, though, some of the world's greatest libraries have been expanding. They're just doing it online.

The grandest national archives of 19 countries, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia, have come together to create the World Digital Library, and when it was inaugurated in Paris on April 21, copies of some 1,200 priceless documents were placed online for anyone and everyone to reference. The site, which is funded by private and corporate donations (Microsoft and Google pitched in), is worth hours of absorption for any history nut: You can zoom in and move around on high-resolution images as quickly as if you're playing the world's geekiest video game.

Originally published