Digital Libraries: A Sustainable Approach

Digital Libraries: A Sustainable Approach

Dr.Tariq Ashraf (University of Delhi, India) and Ms.Puja Anand Gulati (University of Delhi, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-767-1.ch001
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Abstract

The chapter discusses the concept of digital libraries and their structures. It delves into their role in the virtual learning environment and examines the issue related to preservation and building of sustainable digital libraries. It argues that a sustainable digitization program, needs to be fully integrated into traditional collection development strategies. The assessment of what libraries have achieved so far in this direction can be discerned upon a close examination of key factors common to sustainable collection development, be it of analog, digitized, or born-digital materials. Key factors for achieving financial sustainability are described.
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Introduction

A loosely-defined concept “Digital Libraries” consists of amorphous borders and crossroads and has attracted visionaries and entrepreneurs, lawyers, scientists, technicians, librarians and serves as an umbrella for a great many of diverse activities.

Denoted by terms having slightly different connotations, electronic library, virtual library, library without walls, it has a number of different interpretations given by different communities having a concern with it.

The closest definition matching the approaches taken by the research community is the one given by Lesk (1997) in the first textbook on the topic. It defines a digital library as an organized collection of digital information. The digital representation is made possible due to computers and the structuring and gathering has always been done by librarians.

Arms (2000) in a newer text on digital libraries, also from a research community and technology applications perspective, provides what he calls an informal definition: “a digital library is a managed collection of information, with associated services, where the information is stored in digital formats and accessible over a network.”

After considerable deliberation, Digital Library Federation agreed on a working definition of digital library, “Digital libraries are organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities.”

Borgman (2000) provides a more complex definition of digital libraries, considered as a bridge between the research community definition and practical community definitions: Digital libraries are a set of electronic resources and associated technical capabilities for creating, searching, and using information they are an extension and enhancement of information storage and retrieval systems that manipulate digital data in any medium. The content of digital libraries includes data, [and] metadata. Digital libraries are constructed, collected, and organized, by (and for) a community of users and their functional capabilities support the information needs and uses of that community.

In the light of above definitions and different perspectives, the content may be said to fall into following categories: systems, networks, and technology; collection and resources in various media; representation, organization, and operability; storage and searching; functionality, access and use; institutions and services; and user communities and related applications.

The recent spurt in the growth of digital libraries has essentially come from two forces: recognition of the social and technical trends and availability of substantial funding to address the problems. Issue of the future of libraries as social, cultural and community institutions, along with related questions about the character and treatment of “intellectual property” in our society, form perhaps the most central of the core questions within the discipline of digital libraries.

The emergence of digital libraries with the overcoming of physical barriers in accessing information, has dramatically accelerated scholarly research. The barriers of space and time in the search for knowledge are being eliminated. “Today, students, researchers, information professionals, and the general public can directly access many of the world’s rarest artifacts—from high-quality images of each page of the Gutenberg Bible to a digital likeness of the Mona Lisa—right at the desktop or other Web-enabled device, at any time and from any location. Audio recordings of historic speeches or exotic birdcalls, video clippings from televised news programs, geospatial data, and more are being delivered directly to the desks of students and researchers” (Pasquinelli, 2002).

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