Increasingly researchers, and also the general public, expect everything to be available on the web immediately, permanently and preferably free of charge at the point of use. Convergence, or cooperation at a cross-cultural level, where libraries, museums and archives work together in creating digital libraries, and making their cultural heritage collections available online, are emerging.

Examples of these international initiatives are the World Digital Library project and the National Libraries Global project. The World Digital Library project—coordinated by the Library of Congress and sponsored by UNESCO—will make digital resources from all over the world available from one access point.  Under the umbrella of the Conference of Directors of National Libraries, the National Library of New Zealand recently developed a prototype for the National Libraries Global project, which serves the same purpose, but focuses at national library collections. At a European level, Europeana—the protype of which has already been launched—is the project to look at.

The IFLA Congress 2009 will take place in Milan, Italy. Italy’s cultural heritage institutions are heavily involved in cross-cultural projects at an international level, that are interconnected with these large digital library initiatives. Examples of these projects are the European projects MINERVA (Ministerial Network for Valorising Activities in Digitisation), MICHAEL (Multilingual Inventory of Cultural Heritage in Europe), and ATHENA (Access to Cultural Heritage Networks across Europe) which all are contributing to the realisation of Europeana, the European Digital Library.

The purpose of these projects is to create a shared set of standards and guidelines for digitisation of cultural heritage. At a national level, Italy is also developing a cross-domain portals, that also takes into account multilinguality issues: Cultura Italia

With the Working Group on Guidelines for Digital Libraries, IFLA also has taken initiative to focus on standardisation and guidelines in this area. And the IFLA Manifesto on Digital Libraries, that has been endorsed by the IFLA Governing Board in December 2007, is currently in the process of endorsement by UNESCO.

Up till now, very little attention has been given to users perceptions of digital libraries inside the IFLA Sections. To promote this aspect at IFLA’s 2009 Congress, the Italian Government has been so generous to be willing to sponsor a one day conference on this topic that will be liaised with the general IFLA Congress. IFLA’s Professional Committee will co sponsor this event. An Advisory Board, has been created to set up the professional programme of the programme and to invite speakers. The Italian Government will take care of the practical organisation.

The focus of this offsite session will be on perceptions and expectations of users for cross domain and multilingual access to museums, libraries and archives digital resources. To get a strong focus on the user perspective and to be able to move away from the individual digital library initiatives and their service models, the speakers invited for this conference are leading academic researchers who are able to focus on how they use digital information in their research today. The programme promise to give insight in different strategies for digital libraries and the user perspective and hopefully will bring digital collection issues firmly on the agenda of IFLA sections and working groups.