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What is Digital Library

Page history last edited by Sukhdev Singh 17 years, 1 month ago

What is a Digital Library?


The term "Digital Library" is being used to mean different things by different people. This situation has been summed up nicely by Borgman, CL [Borgman C.L (1999) What are digital libraries? Competing visions. Information Processing and Management, 35 (3), 227-43]. The term is used in at least two senses:


i. The computer science research community view digital libraries as content collected on behalf of users.


ii. Library practitioner community view digital libraries as institutions providing a range of services in a digital environment.


The NSF/ARPA/NASA Digital Library Initiative, FY 1994 states:

[Digital Library Initiative, FY 1994 (1993) A Joint Initiative of the National Science Foundation, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. U.S. Government document NSF 93-141.]


“Information sources accessed via the Internet are ingredients of a digital library. Today, the network connects some information sources that are a mixture of publicly available (with or without charge) information and private information shared by collaborators. They include reference volumes, books, journals, newspapers, national phone directories, sound and voice recordings, images, video clips, scientific data (raw data streams from instruments and processed information), and private information services such as stock market reports and private newsletters. These information sources, when connected electronically through a network, represent important components of an emerging, universally accessible, digital library.”


This definition asserts inclusion of all network accessible information in the digital libraries. Moreover digital libraries are emerging and universally accessible. However this definition does not tell components of the Digital Library.


According to Gladney H.M, et. al. (Gladney, HM et. al, 1994)

“A digital library service is an assemblage of digital computing, storage, and communications machinery together with the software needed to reproduce, emulate, and extend the services provided by conventional libraries based on paper and other material means of collecting, storing, cataloguing, finding, and disseminating information.”


According to them a digital library is a machine-readable representation of materials, which might be found in conventional library. Along with this representation, organising information is also available to assist users in finding specific information.


Association of Research Libraries (Association of Research Libraries (1995) Definition and Purpose of a Digital Library.) has identified the following five elements in various definitions of the digital libraries:


1. The digital library is not a single entity;


2. The digital library requires technology to link the resources of many


3. The linkages between the many digital libraries and information services are transparent to the end users;


4. Universal access to digital libraries and information services is a goal;


5. Digital library collections are not limited to document surrogates: they extend to digital artefacts that cannot be represented or distributed in printed formats.


This definition introduces the concept of distributed and linked resources. The digital resources are the collections and information services. The digital collections are –digital surrogates, Non-printable objects and digital artifacts that cannot be distributed in print form.


Paul Duguid (1997) has defined the Digital Library as an environment to bring together in support of life cycle of information in addition to digital collection and information management tools.


The concept of a "digital library" is not merely equivalent to a digitized collection with information management tools. It is rather an ENVIRONMENT to bring together collections, services, and people in support of the full life cycle of creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of data, information, and knowledge. (Duguid, Paul (1997) Report of the Santa Fe Planning Workshop on Distributed Knowledge Work Environments).


Another definition is of Deegan, M and Tanner, S (Deegan, M and Tanner S. (2002) Digital Futures: Strategies for the information age, London: Library Association Publishing, 22.) . They has given a set of defining principles that seem unarguable:


- A digital library is a managed collection of digital objects.

- The digital objects are created or collected according to the principles of collection development.

- The digital objects are made available in a cohesive manner, supported by services necessary to allow users to retrieve and exploit the resources just as they would any other library materials.

- The digital objects are treated as long term stable resources and appropriate processes are applied to them to ensure their quality and survivability.


Based on Chowdhury GG and Chowdhury S (Chowdhury GG and Chowdhury S (2003) Introduction to Digital Libraries. London: Facet Publishing, 8-9.) following major characteristics have been jotted down:


- Variety of digital information resources

- Digital Libraries Reduce the need for physical space

- Users at remote

- Users may build their own personal collections by the facilities provided by Digital Library

- Provide access to distributed information resources

- Same information resource can be shared by many at the same time

- Paradigm shift both in use and ownership

- Collection development be based on potential usefulness and appropriate filtering mechanisms be followed to negotiate the problem of plenty

- Ability to handle multilingual content

- Presupposes the absence of human intermediaries

- Should provide better searching and retrieval facilities

- Digital information can be used and viewed differently by different people

- Digital Library breaks the time, space and language barrier




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