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Print &
the Book

section heading icon     digital libraries and long term access

This page considers 'digital libraries'.

section marker icon     introduction

The term 'digital library' refers to the creation, storage and networked distribution of information resources that range from digitised archival material (including books, newspapers, journals, maps and other publications) to works that were created specifically for viewing online and have no physical manifestation.

As such it is of increasing interest to publishers, governments, academics and librarians who recognise that the identification of publications accessed over the web (and other parts of the internet) and long-term access to that information is particularly challenging. There is disagreement about specific mechanisms and the 'top-down' rule-making approach advocated by traditional librarians has - unsurprisingly - not gained much support. 

Unlike books & mortar libraries, there are few standards for resource identification and disagreement about how to ensure information's accessible to future generations. The web has been aptly described as a repository in which many of the books and index cards have been shuffled in wild abandon, with pages or chapters removed. A preceding part of this guide highlighted some of the preservation issues: not only what should be preserved but the best techniques for preservation, including standards development and data migration. 

section marker icon     orientations

A starting point for considering resource identification, authorisation and long term access (including preservation) issues is Digital Libraries (Cambridge: MIT Press 00) by William Arms. It is a succinct, authoritative and engaging study that is warmly recommended. 

Michael Lesk's Practical Digital Libraries: Books, Bytes & Bucks (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann 97) is more prosaic - aimed at the practitioner rather than the manager - but a useful second source. Robert Hayes succinct The Economics of Digital Libraries paper questions some of the hype about publishing and access costs.

Neil Beagrie & David Greenstein authored  A Strategic Policy Framework for Creating & Preserving Digital Collections, a 1998 report by the British Library Research & Innovation Centre's Digital Archiving Working Group. The report identifies issues, with a particular emphasis on the responsibilities of collecting institutions such as the British Library and UK university libraries, and supplies recommendations. 

For a sense of practical issues at a more restricted level, turn to Scoping the Future of Oxford's Digital Collections, a report funded by the Mellon Foundation about quickly building a wide-ranging digital library for Oxford University. It identifies impediments and supplies concrete recommendations for a digitisation service targetting specific collections for digitisation and offering on-demand imaging in response to user requests. 

The National Library of Australia has released guidelines  on Safeguarding Australia's Web Resources: Guidelines for Creators & Publishers.

section marker icon     bibliographies and inventories

Bibliographies of digital library activity are proliferating, although most focus on particular areas such as preservation. Like the web, you'll need to do a bit of searching.

The Bibliography on Electronic Library/Digital Library Issues (BEL) by Peter Graham of Rutgers University is a useful starting point, particularly in considering metadata and archiving. It's complemented by Jann Lynn-George's Digitization: Technical Processes, Applications & Issues: A Select Annotated Bibliography (LDB), valuable for identification of writing about imaging of print formats.

Michael Day's 1999 bibliography  on Preservation of electronic information has won acclaim. It complements Steven Ketchpel's Annotated Bibliography of Digital Library Related Sources (ABDLRS) and Ben Gross' much thinner Digital Library Related Information and Resources (DLRIR).

The US Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Digital Initiatives database describes major digital initiatives involving libraries and is useful as an inventory of projects. It includes Katharina Klemperer's Digital Libraries: A Selected Resource Guide. The Berkeley Digital Library SunSite (SunSITE) is a major resource that identifies projects and has information on copyright, metadata, preservation mechanisms, standards, tools and training.

Locally the PADI site hosted by the National Library provides pointers to Australian and overseas digital preservation initiatives. The NLA's PANDORA project aims to provide electronic access to such essential journals as Grilled Pterodactyl.

Among online digital library journals we recommend D-Lib Magazine (DLIB), authoritative and entertaining, the Research Libraries Group DigiNews and the quarterly Initiatives in Digital Information (IDI).

section marker icon     reports and frameworks

Most national libraries and several groupings of university libraries have undertaken major reports on digital library issues (eg copyright), mechanisms (eg metadata) and strategies (eg the digital 'distributed national collection', given that no institution can archive the web).

The Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries (CIDL) is an alliance of Canadian libraries which will promote, coordinate and facilitate the development of Canadian digital collections and services in order to optimise national interoperability and long-term access to Canadian digital library resources.

The US National Digital Library Federation (NDLF) was established in 1995 by major university libraries and the Commission on Preservation & Access (CPA). The 1996 report of its Planning Task Force is of value, as is Preserving Digital Information, the report of the Task Force on Archiving Digital Information.

Other organisations producing significant working papers, reports and guidelines include the:

the National Digital Library Program (NDL) at the Library of Congress.

Center for Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval (CNIDR).

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)

Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Center for Library Initiatives.

Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI)

Digital Libraries Initiative (DLI) of the US National Science Foundation

Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)

Universal Preservation Format (UPF), concerned with the proposed universal preservation format.

section marker icon     electrifying the librarians

As a starting point for considering librarian and community perceptions of libraries in the age of the internet we recommend the Benton Foundation's 1996 report on Buildings, Books & Bytes (with its 1999 online toolkit The Future's In The Balance) and the 1999 study Local Places, Global Communications

Civic Space/Cyberspace: The American Public Library in the Information Age
(Cambridge: MIT Press 1999) by Kathleen Molz & Phyllis Dain and World Libraries on the Information Superhighway (Hershey: Idea 2000) edited by Patricia Fletcher & John Bertot are thought provoking; Molz & Dain are less inward-looking.

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version of May 2002
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