It is barely bigger than a matchbook. Its tiny spine is hand-sewn with string. Published in the mid-1800s, its eight pages are softly tattered and dappled brown with age.
Until recently, the only way to see this miniature illustrated children’s book at the Boston Public Library was to visit the rare books department, accompanied by a librarian, and view it in a private reading room.
But now, “Gems for Children,” which extols the joy of school and virtue of doing right, is available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. With a mouse click, it can be read – page by page, picture by picture – in the International Children’s Digital Library, a website aiming to become the world’s largest collection of online children’s literature.
[…] “This provides a way for us to reach many, many more children, teachers, and parents,” said Tim Browne, executive director of the International Children’s Digital Library Foundation, the Manchester nonprofit that operates the site in collaboration with the University of Maryland. “In very remote villages, we can for the first time expose children and educational systems to real, educational books.”
The nonprofit relies heavily on volunteers to identify worthy books to add to its collection, secure copyright permission if necessary, and send the books to the foundation physically or digitally. Books are digitized by scanning them page by page, a process the library sometimes outsources to places like the Internet Archive.