Digital Libraries

Digital Libraries

“We… declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life...”

Declaration of Principles, United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, 2003.


Organisations in more than 60 countries worldwide use Greenstone Digital Library software created at the University of Waikato, making the project’s website Google’s number one hit for “Greenstone”.

Developed and distributed in cooperation with UNESCO for humanitarian purposes, this open-source software allows users of different computer operating systems to create their own libraries in electronic format for web publication or distribution on CD or DVD. Collections of up to 2000 fully-illustrated books in different languages can be carried “into the field” on a single CD. Greenstone software has been used to collate information for disaster relief operations in Latin America, for combating AIDS in Africa, and for development project work in French sub-Saharan Africa. Organisations wanting to collate and preserve libraries of social, cultural and historical significance are also turning to Greenstone, such as Kabul University’s Greenstone-based library of 37,000 documents preserving Afghani literature, music and cultural heritage, and Chicago University Library’s significant collection of early edition works by Chopin.

An early in-house Greenstone project was the Niupepa collection of Māori- language newspapers from the Alexander Turnbull Library. It is the largest collection of online Māori documents in existence and has been used by Māori in pursuit of land claims as well as for legal and linguistic research.

The original Digital Library project team led by Professor Ian Witten and Dr David Bainbridge from the University’s Computer Science department is now moving in two new directions. Greenstone is focussing on new user-friendly ways to create and browse multi-media digital libraries. A spin-off project (Flax) will allow teachers of English as a second language to create instant interactive resources from web-based digital libraries.

External funding gratefully acknowledged: NZ Lotteries Board, four Foundation for Research, Science and Technology grants, Marsden Fund, Ministry of Education, UNESCO, Google Inc., and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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