past & future
digital libraries and long term access
This page considers 'digital libraries'.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
valuable for identification of writing about imaging of
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
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
authoritative and entertaining, the Research Libraries Group
and the quarterly Initiatives in Digital Information
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:
National Digital Library Program (NDL)
at the Library of Congress.
for Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval (CNIDR).
for Networked Information (CNI)
on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)
Center for Library Initiatives.
for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI)
Libraries Initiative (DLI)
of the US National Science Foundation
Computer Library Center (OCLC)
Preservation Format (UPF),
concerned with the proposed universal preservation format.
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
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.
next page (digitisation