A Europeana Digital Library Initiative for the Cross Border Area of Greece and Albania

The cross border regions of the Prefecture of Epirus and the District of Gjirokastra have a rich cultural heritage partially recorded in books, artifacts and folk songs. However, there is a lack of digitized material and an impeding need to provide modern access to this wealth of cultural content as well as to be in synch with similar activities in Europe. The municipality of Gjirokastra and the public library of Konitsa have identified this need and with the cooperation of the University of Ioannina propose to build Balkaneana. Balkaneana will digitize valuable content from the Public Library of Konitsa, the Municipal Library of Gjirokastra and the overall cross border region, will modernize the facilities and the service model of both libraries through novel technologies and paradigms, In addition, the project will create added value for the growth of the two participating regions using as disseminating platform the Europeana portal. The Balkaneana project aims at introducing novel digital library and data warehouse technologies for developing a usable and efficient representation of the content of the public Library of Konitsa, the municipal library of Gjirokastra that will be fully compliant to the Europeana standards. Both libraries have a significant repository of books and artifacts (nearly 150.000 items) related to the cultural and natural heritage of the cross border area. This content covers popular arts, architecture, tradition, folklore, isopolyphony music, amongst others. All items (not just books) will be digitized, enhanced with cross-references and multimedia material. Besides allowing advanced access to this content, it is also crucial to preserve it in a sustainable manner for the next generations. Furthermore, Balkaneana aims at modernizing the services offered by the two libraries by introducing in their operation innovative information technologies (use of international standards, online index of books, remote access to services, participation to networks of libraries) through specific actions. In addition, Balkaneana will provide a significant added value to the regional cultural heritage preservation, promotion and exploitation, by directly connecting the thesaurus of the local libraries to Europeana and its aggregators. Through the visibility thus offered by Europeana, Balkaneana will create added value for the economic growth in the cross border region both directly (cultural tourism, promotion of traditional artifacts) and indirectly (supporting innovation and sustainability in both regions, reviving of fading craftsmanship, encouraging investment for local commerce). Balkaneana can be the start of a new era for the Western Balkans regions as a future library concept.

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