Norwegian Library to Bring African Literature to a World Audience

Ambitious Project Digitizes Nigerian Books

Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library of Norway Motiv/Motif: Reading room at the National Library of Norway Dato/Date: 2007 Foto/Photographer: Ketil Born Sted/Place: Henrik Ibsens gate 110, Oslo Eier/Owner Institution: National Library of Norway

Image: National Library building in Oslo, Av Hans-Petter Fjeld – Eget verk, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1066628

A unprecedented digitization project, sponsored by the National Library of Norway in Oslo, demonstrates Norway’s commitment to ensuring that a diverse global population will have access to literature in their mother-tongues, no matter where in the world they live.

As a first step in establishing a full African digital library, the Nasjonalbiblioteket, the national library of Norway, is partnering with the national library in Nigeria to digitize all of the literature in the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages that Nigeria can supply. Literature in other African languages will follow.

Aslak Sira Myhre, director of the Nasjonalbiblioteket, explained the Norwegian-Nigerian project as being founded on the belief in the right of any Norwegian citizen to access any and all available information on their histories, languages and cultures, regardless of their ancestry. Norway has a place in the African diaspora, but director Myhre says that the library has fewer than 30 texts in Nigerian languages, “which means that Nigerian-Norwegians cannot access publications in their native tongues,despite their State-secured right to information in their home languages.

The Nigerian library will provide texts, the embassy of Norway in Nigeria will transport them to the Norwegian town of Mo i Rana, near the Arctic Circle, and the Norwegian library will do the digitization.

Aslak Sira Myhre during the demonstration against the Data Retention Directive. Oslo, April 10, 2010, By Kjetil Ree [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Mo i Rana is a former mining town with a giant, hi-tech repository of books stored deep in a hyper-modern mountain vault. Every book ever printed in Norwegian is accessible to readers through Norway’s exceptional library system. Over 1.2 million books are stored in a robotics-managed system that aims to fulfill every book request with delivery in 48 hours or less. The National Library’s digitization facility is comparable to that of Google, with more than 20 petabytes of digital information.

Aslak Sira Myhre will travel to Nigeria this June to meet with his counterpart, Professor Lenrie Aina, to officially begin the cooperative project.

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