Welcome Letter to our users

November 1998

Concerns: Invitation to participate in the worldwide Humanity Libraries Project. Information about this 2.0 CD-ROM library with 1.230 publications totaling 160.000 pages.

Dear Friends and Partners,

Welcome! Please find as ordered, as a present from a friend, or as a first step towards cooperation, one full version of the CD-ROM Humanity Development Library 2.0 for Sustainable Development and Basic Human Needs. It contains the equivalent of 160.000 pages / 340 kg / 20.000 US$ worth of useful books and newsletters on this single CD-ROM of 25 grammes.

The concept : providing a complete low-cost CD-ROM library of 3.000 essential books and solutions for 30 US$ or less

The goal of the non-for-profit Humanity Libraries Project (formerly known as Humanity CD-ROM Project) is to provide persons or groups in the South owning a PC / CD-ROM set (and soon DVD set), access to a complete basic library of +/- 3.000 essential books at the lowest cost possible.

This low-cost CD-ROM set will contain most multidisciplinary solutions, know-how and ideas they need to help themselves or to help other people. The initial language will be in English, soon other languages will follow. This is a very powerful Library. Every person with a few hours practice can find any book or information within 15 to 30 seconds. In a further stage we want to make this an even more practical knowledge tool, with 3.000 hyperlinked answers to 3.000 "how to’s", guided hyperlinked tours adapted to knowledge level and a possibility to search for information by clicking on images.

The equivalent knowledge of 16 full university degrees available at fingertips

An average university degree of four years requires integrating about 10.000 pages of information and knowledge. This HDL library 2.0 contains 160.000 pages, all accessible within seconds. This means the equivalent knowledge of about 16 full university degrees available at fingertips to any person.

5.000 PC’s can guarantee a continuous High School level education of 60.000 persons

We claim that, in whatever developing country, a decentralized basis of 5.000 PC’s with CD-ROM drives, dispersed over 1.000 NGO’s, schools and other places, will provide a continuous education base equivalent to a High School level to 60.000 persons. This will improve the basic know-how and practical education level of an entire developing country in a few months. The CD-ROM library increases the know-how of the user, promotes computer usage, enhances English grammar, and immerses the user into thousands of ideas and solutions for basic needs and sustainable development. We suggest one PC could be used in three shifts of 32 hours during 13 weeks by three persons, under the supervision of one teacher per five to ten PC’s, so 60 persons / year per 5 PC’s.

Creating ready-to-upload directories for hundreds of servers in developing countries: NZDL

Besides the library project of 3000 books, we are collaborating with our partner the New Zealand Digital Library Project, to create free ready-to-upload libraries with the Greenstone software, hybrid for CD-ROM and Internet, and to upload them royalty-free on many of the thousands of servers which will appear soon in many cities of developing countries. It is also possible to translate the userinterfaces and the indexing tool to many local languages in order to create adapted humanitarian titles for each country and culture.

Update of the current situation

1) plans to create similar libraries in co-production for other languages and for different cultures : each partner, NGO or university could add its publications or help translate books
2) There are books from 60 organizations, to which part of the credit and thanks must go. For clarity : for each of the books we got explicit copyright permission for inclusion from concerned dpts.
3) A complete distribution network has to be build in developing countries : do you want to help?
4) The software is compatible with Win 3.1, Win 3.11, Win 95, Win NT & 98.

Request to you and your organization: can you help the co-distribution of these CD-ROM libraries in your country? This will benefit many people

The first priority is to create a critical mass and to distribute 50.000 of these (six-monthly updated and improved) CD-ROMs out the following 6 months. We count on the numerous philanthropic individuals, NGO and UN agencies to help. In exchange we envisage, as long as possible, to keep the price for NGO & humanitarian users in developing countries extremely low (preferably around plastic costs): 6 US$ per CD-ROM for 40 CD-ROMs on + delivery costs.

You can also become an official non-profit distributor node in your country. We are looking for distributors of our CD-ROM libraries in each developing country. Please contact us if you would like to become a non-profit distributor and Library development contact for your region.

There is a sponsor formula for the Humanity Libraries Project. For Western organizations, businesses or individuals we propose a yearly sponsor subscription of 100 to 200 US$. This includes getting all updates and either 5 or 10 discs a year for redistribution through your channels.

You can also help by:

1) sharing your practical information and publications
2) by writing about this project in your newsletter or Internet pages and informing your network associates.
For partners from the North:
3) by financial contribution & acknowledgment and support of this promising project with decision makers.
4) In addition there is a need for a worldwide decentralized PC/ CD-ROM drive funding or sponsoring for developing countries.
5) Universities or individuals can cooperate by correcting good quality electronic pre-translations of 1 to 10 books into their local language: This will serve their country and students on the long term. Please contact us.

Your ideas and feedback are highly appreciated:

1) appropriateness of included books according to different cultures, local situations, needs, requests
2) userfriendliness and directions to follow to enhance this library and make it a flexible knowledge source.
3) (how) do you think this library will be used or how intensively will it be used in developing countries ?
4) which % of the CD is really important for average users in any developing country, what is the real value?
5) evolution to follow towards the 3.000 books, what kind of other specialized CD-ROMs should follow?
6) how to optimize distribution in your country?.
Thank you for your time to answer with your ideas

Please note we cannot fund PC’s and CD-ROM drives.

Please contact local or international NGO, United Nations agencies, embassies and PC importers in your country for help in PC acquisition. The best way is to pool together with 5 to 10 individuals, scientists, organizations, businesses and to buy one low cost PC for 1.200 US$, on which you’ll be able to install this and soon more specialized CD-ROM libraries worth twenty times more in books. International NGO in your country might provide the PC’s and CD drives at import cost for local humanitarian projects. Please contact them.

Conclusion : A massive low cost vaccination campaign against lack of knowledge

We see this project as a massive low cost vaccination campaign against lack of knowledge similar to a universal polio vaccination. The only way to succeed is as a participative project where everyone contributes creatively. Thus many more organizations are invited to join, to inspire themselves from this humanitarian concept, and to share their essential publications for the benefit of many. We are willing to help your organization create similar non-profit libraries and to share our know-how, experiences, low-cost production resources, partner contacts and software. Our role should become that of one node in a network of many positive nodes. So thanks in advance for your participation and logistic contribution.

We’d still like to find main sponsors in the "North" to optimize our humanitarian services and make this project globally useful.


Most sincerely,


Dr Michel Loots, MD
Humanity Libraries Project Director