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At a formal ceremony in the presence of the president and the prime minister, the project for the renewal of the National Library was launched on Sunday.

Under the renewal plan, by 2016 a new building for the National Library will have been built not far from the Knesset.

The project also includes the establishment of a huge digital database covering all the library's treasures, which will be open on the Internet to the public and to researchers.

The budget for the renewal project is estimated at $200 million; $100 million have already been donated by the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv foundation.

According to the estimates, the library will serve 600,000 readers annually, and the computerized databases will serve an additional 10 million Internet users around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony: "For the people of the book this will be the shrine of the One Book and also the other shrine of the book - the National Library, a splendid building in which there will be all the riches and treasures of our culture and our nation."

Library head David Blumberg said the move to the new building "symbolizes the exit from the confines of academia to the masses of Israel and the opening of physical and virtual gates to every individual in this country and around the world."

During the course of the ceremony President Shimon Peres, Netanyahu, Lord Jacob Rothschild and other notables signed the covenant for the renewal of the library.