Library ScienceLibrary Services

Digital Library Services

Musheer Ahmad Khan (2013)

Digital Library Services: Today we live in a world of instant global communication. Everyone is well known with the technological developments that have come with dazzling rapidity. New techniques for recording and transmitting texts, sound or visual images have proliferated. Digital technology has created prodigious capacities to store, disseminate and retrieve knowledge. This technology provides unprecedented possibilities for communication between people as well as for the development of cultural industries and the exploitation of works all over the world. Electronic resources collection indeed is going to become the essential mainstay of every library’s collection. Digital Library

This change in the information related field particularly in collection, storing, processing and dissemination of information which have resulted into the evolution of digital library services. Now most of the reference books like encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, hand books, etc. are published in electronic form. Similarly about 50% of the accessible secondary resources like abstracting and indexing services are available in electronic form for example, Chemical Abstracts Service, Index Medicus, and Engineering Index. At present most of the digital libraries have been tinted mainly on providing access to diverse digital information resources. It offers new levels of access to broader audiences of users and new opportunities for library and information science field to advance both theory and practice. It has been reported that for the success of information gateways, the effective selection of high-quality content forms the chief rationale for the gateway approach. The content includes selection criteria, technical and policy issues, management, recommended standards and conventions, creation of metadata, provision of browsing and searching. For instance, many libraries developing publicly accessible Web sites where users can visit online exhibitions, search collection databases, access images of collection items, and in some cases create their own digital content. Many internal activities are also facilitated by digital technologies, including collection management, preservation activities, exhibition planning, and record keeping for incoming and outgoing loans.

ICT Enabled Conventional Library Services:

1. Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC):

Now a day’s most libraries have online public access catalogues (OPAC) to make users aware of their collections. An OPAC can be used by a members of the library’s to search the catalogue database in order to see if the library holds a particular work on a particular subject and be informed of the location of those works. Library catalogue is perhaps the most important tool for locating material in the Library. Unfortunately until recently its value has been restricted by its physical form, most commonly a large card catalogue or a set of printed volumes. The advent of computers, with their ability to process large amounts of information and output in a variety of formats has finally brought the library to the customer, wherever he or she may be located, in the form of OPAC. OPAC provides access to the catalogue through a computer terminal. OPAC allows searching the entire catalogue online, conveniently and quickly, using one or more search criteria. One can, for example, search by author, title, keywords, class number or one or more of these combined together. OPAC even shows the current status of a book, whether it is loaned out, available on the shelf or lying elsewhere. Another advantage of OPAC is its ability to display catalogue records in a variety of formats such as AACR2, MARC, etc., and the records can be displayed in a desired order. For example one can display records arranged (sorted) by author, title or call number. Most library management packages offer printing of bibliographies from OPAC either on a printer or on a file. An OPAC terminal should be equipped with search software, which is usually part of library management software such as LibSys, EasyLib, SOUL, Sanjay, etc. Another convenience that OPAC offers is accessibility from outside the library from a computer connected to library Local Area Network (LAN). With modern library systems offering interface to OPAC, it is also possible to provide access from anywhere in the world via Internet. Internet enabled OPAC is called Web OPAC. Web OPAC can be searched using any common browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Apart from searching OPAC, some libraries allow their remote users to avail certain online services like book reservations, loan requests for postal loan, loan renewals, membership application, address change, suggesting books, etc.

2. Reference Service:

Lankes defines digital reference as Internet-based question and answer services that connect users with individuals who possess specialized subject or skill expertise. Digital reference services refer to a network of expertise, intermediation and resources put at the disposal of a user seeking answers in an online/networked environment. Asynchronous tools such as e-mail, subject gateways, FAQs, and electronic libraries and interactive tools like chat rooms, virtual reference desk, and ask-me have replaced the conventional means of post, phone or in-person reference enquiries. Ask-a-Librarian allows the user to click on ask-a-librarian link to send a formated enquiry to the reference librarian. The reference librarian either provides an answer, links to resources or links to a subject expert. Interactive tools now allow a reference interview online.

3. Bibliographic Service:

Compilation of bibliographies, reading lists and state of the art reports is one of the most important aspects of LIS work, particularly in research and academic libraries. Browsing through the manual indexes and abstracts is a tedious and time consuming work, and does not always produce up-to-date result. Availability of databases in electronic form on CD-ROM or Services online, offers convenient, efficient and cost effective information retrieval. Electronic databases also provide unique search features such as searching on multiple criteria (keyword, subject, author, source, classification code, year of publication, Language, etc.), and variety of display formats and styles. Advance features like natural language query, ranking the search results, are also available in many databases. Web-based services facilitate full-text searches and links to full-text documents. Dialog, STN and Silver Platter are some of the popular database companies that offer bibliographic and reference databases on CD-ROM and online platforms.

4. Audio-visual Service:

Audio-visual materials are important sources of information, education and entertainment. Many libraries particularly media libraries and large academic and public libraries hold audio-visual material such as music, films, pictures and photographs, etc. Old media of LP records and tape slide have long been replaced with audio and video tape. The new multimedia of audio CD, Video CD (VCD), and Digital Video Disks (DVD) have advantage of higher storage capacity, random access and longer life than audio and video tapes and cassettes. Many libraries allow their members to borrow these. Multimedia documents can now be played on standard PCs, stand-alone or networked.

Recent developments in storage media, compression and encryption technology have made it possible to store large amount of multimedia documents on hard disk and disseminate through Internet. Software such as Quick Time Player, Microsoft Media Player, etc. is now freely available to play or see these documents in a browser. You will learn more about various hardware, software and document formats that are used for creation, storage, distribution and use of digital multimedia documents later in this course.

4. ICT based new library services:

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have drastically transformed the way of collection, processing, storage, retrieval and communication of information in libraries and information centers. Particularly, the Internet has completely transformed the traditional method of processing information from collection to communication. It has emerged as the most powerful medium for storage, retrieval and communication of information. “With an unprecedented growth in the quantum of knowledge worldwide and the easy accessibility, Internet has become an unavoidable necessity for every institution of higher learning and research”. (1) The World Wide Web (www), because of its ability to work with multimedia and advance programming languages, is the fastest growing component of the Internet. It is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources that the users are equipped with basic and advanced skills of information gathering. Today information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media, and above all the Internet and WWW and increasingly the information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability. In addition, information is available through multiple media, including graphical, aural, and textual, and these pose new challenges for individuals in evaluating and understanding it. The result of applying new technologies brings new way of proving services. Library develops websites as a gateway to the web enabled services. There are many services which are provided to its users through the library website. It could be as simple as a library web page listing the services with some links to catalogue and subscribed resources or may include advance features like interactive helps and value added services such as subject gateways, e-journal service, e-books and frequently asked questions, and information about the library such as timings, calendar, rules, etc. Apart from the ICT enabled conventional services, Libraries are making use of the potential of Internet and computing power to provide new and innovative services. The web based services are quite popular these days due to the availability of internet which connect the world within one network. In a web enabled environment the new LIS services can be grouped into the three categories mentioned below:

The LIS Services are providing access to:

a) Internet and Internet based services,

b) Web-based resources, and

c) Local or internal information resources in digital form.

4.1 Internet Access: Internet is not only a medium for digital communication but also the world’s largest repository of information. Now a day’s internet becomes the publishing agency as large number of books and journals published only through internet. However, under developed Internet infrastructure in a country like India, poses a serious challenge to the growth of ICT enabled services. Large segments of user groups are still deprived of personal access to Internet facility. Libraries therefore include internet services and provide free access to Internet and e-mail. Depending upon the availability, users can be given time slots for use of Internet facility. Usually a few Internet enabled terminals are provided in the library that can be used by the users for Internet access.

4.2 Access to Web-Based Resources: As already discussed, many types of library materials such as journals, books, patents, newspapers, standards, photographs, pictures, motion pictures or music Services are now available in electronic or digital form through online . From the user’s point of view digital resources hold many advantages such as time and place convenience, timeliness, ability to search directly on text (as against the catalogue records), ability to link to further reading material, and ability to disseminate and share information. From the library’s point of view digital format offers convenience of storage and maintenance, cost advantage, ability to target global users, etc. However, digital resources also pose human, social and technological problems, problems in Internet access and speed, poor infrastructure, lack of sufficient skills to use the digital resources, and perceptional change resulting from right to use rather than physical possession, etc.

4.3 E-Journals: An online journal is a serial publication, often scholarly that is made available in digital format and distributed over the Internet. Online journals are simply serial publications in which the end products are made available in digital format and whose contents may or may not be peer-reviewed. Basically Internet is used for the dissemination of the online journals. It can be used simultaneously by more than one user. It provides timely access. An online journal supports different searching capabilities and saves physical storage. In the era of information explosion libraries have been exploring easy methods to cope with the problems of ever increasing prices of the journals, space requirements and decreasing level of usage as the journals get older. Nevertheless, libraries are required to maintain back issues of the journals, usually in bound form. Electronic journal helps the librarians in addressing these problems to a great extent without significantly affecting the service levels. Electronic journals can be accessed via Internet from any web enabled PC. Depending on the type of subscription, one or more users can access the service simultaneously, either directly from an independent web enabled PC or in a local area network through a proxy server (IP addresses based access). Electronic Journals also offer benefit of full-text searching and downloading of articles. Many publishers of electronic journals offer their journals through consortia of libraries at much lower rates. INDEST (Indian Digital Library of Engineering, Science and Technology), and INFLIBNET’s INFONET are two such consortia operating in India. Access to articles in electronic journals can also be made through aggregator services which offer searchable databases of contents of e-journals from several publishers, and links to journal’s site for full-text. Emerald, OCLC and J-Gate are some of the examples of e-journal aggregator services. The main disadvantage of electronic journal is that libraries cannot physically possess the journals.

4.4 E-Books: E-book has been described as a text analogous to a printed book that is in digital form to be displayed on a computer screen. E-books can be read just like a paper book, using dedicated E-book reader such as Gem Star eBook or on a computer screen after downloading it. There are also some newer technologies developing such as electronic paper, which is much like paper, except that the text can be changed, and talking books in MP3 format. E-book offers advantages like portability, 24 hours access, text search, annotation, linking, and multimedia and self-publishing possibilities. Development of eBooks is still in the infancy stage and issues like compatibility, e-book readers, availability and intellectual property rights are to be addressed before it can be implemented on large scale.

4.5 Electronic Theses and Dissertations: Most of the libraries provide access of online thesis and dissertation to its users produced at universities are important sources of information and knowledge for further research. A large number of universities have converted their theses and dissertations collection into digital libraries and have made it available on Internet for global access. A number of universities have also implemented Electronic Theses and Dissertation programmes, where researchers submit theses in electronic format. Some initiatives such as Networked Digital Library of Dissertation and Theses (NDLTD) (http://www. in development of web-based union catalogues of ETDs submitted over 100 libraries throughout the world are worth mentioning.

4.6 Subject Gateways: A gateway is defined as a facility that allows easier access to network based resources in a given subject area. Gateways provide a simple search facility and a much-enhanced service through a resource database and indexes, which can be searched through a web based interface. Information provided by gateways is catalogued by hand. Gateways cover a wide range of subjects. Preparing subject guides or path finder’s has been an intellectual activity for reference librarians. Such guides are normally prepared in consultation with the subject experts or by a subject librarian, who picks up the sources after careful evaluation. Random surfing of the Internet may be a popular pastime, but is an inefficient use of bandwidth and time. One of the most useful ways to discover quality resources in a particular subject area is use of subject-based Services Internet gateways and directories. A subject gateway thus is a facility that allows easier access to web-based resources in a defined subject area. These are basically dynamic catalogues of pre-dominantly online resources, though some libraries include information on print resources as well. Generally access to subject gateways is provided through library website, designed to help library users discover high-quality information on the Internet in a quick and effective way. A simple subject gateway may list web based or print resources on a given subject with links to the website of the resources and some useful information such as keywords, class number, description and how to access. Advanced subject gateways offer searchable catalogue or even full text search facility on listed sources.

4.7 Digital Archives: Many Libraries traditionally have been repositories of local information and heritage documents such as manuscripts, rare books, maps, photographs and paintings, etc. Archives or record management is also part of LIS function, particularly in business and research organizations. In other cases such as university libraries, documents generated in-house such as dissertations and theses, research reports, etc. represent the intellectual strength of the institution. Libraries are developing digital repositories of such resources, and providing Internet or Intranet access to these. Large public and academic libraries also provide up-to-date local information via Internet. Digital libraries are a natural progression from electronic document sharing. The main benefit of digital library is the ability to provide 24-hour, remote access to high-demand or restricted materials for multiple concurrent users. Setting up a digital library can either be done using ‘off-the-shelf digital library products, document management products or library management products capable of digital library management; or in-house system development using open archives software.

4.8 Institutional Repositories: Institutional repositories are a popular recent development for distributing and communicating research output in cyber infrastructure. They are a useful academic tool for administrating and publishing electronic resources produced by university members in order to increase access to these, both at an institutional and global level. “A university-based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution”.

Libraries are making diverse contributions to the development of many types of digital repositories, particularly those housing locally created digital content including new digital objects or digitized versions of locally held works. In some instances, libraries are managing a repository and its related services entirely on their own, but often they are working closely with other stakeholders at their institutions to jointly develop repository services.

Repository services include services to authors, contributors, and users, particularly of university-created content. Role of librarian in Institutional Repository is an important service in the Digital Knowledge Centre. It helps to archive articles, papers, theses etc. in the digital form. The faculty and students can contribute their intellectual works to the IR system. This service will definitely helpful for research activities in institutions.

The major role of libraries both in the conventional and unconventional arena has been to cater to the requirements of its clientele by providing them the required library services. These services are the life blood of any library, as service is the basic objective and goal, it is required that unhampered access and use is ensured. With the application of copyright in libraries it has become imperative to view the impact it is having on the service provision process in the libraries.

Original Research Article:



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