The steady growth of digital information as a component of major research collections has had significant implications for college and research libraries. Libraries are currently burdened by the explosive growth of printed academic documents to digitize and also the great quantity of digital data published over the Internet to deal with. Many libraries have been creating or collecting digital information in a range of standards and the role of librarians has changed to include activities like developing web-based resources and services as well as playing an active role in electronic publication, virtual teaching, and learning.
The creation of digital libraries is dependent on the libraries’ ability to access the growing digitally published information through digital technology. The greatest advantage of this is that digital libraries are available on a 24-hour basis from anywhere in the world, offering flexible arrangements for students and scholars. Though still in infancy, the creation of digital libraries is gaining momentum. In the area of electronic books, efforts have been done to transform books in print into digital form through efforts such as the ‘Gutenberg Project (USA) and the German Project (Deutsche Gutenberg Project). In the case of Germany, the German Research Community (Deutsche Forschung Gemeinschaft) has made it its aim to integrate electronic publication and information service into science and research through retrospective digitization of relevant scientific research literature.
Endres and Fellner have argued that the notion of digital library embraces two related concepts: the digitization of all media, which results in the electronic library and the `virtualization’ of the library service, which leads to virtual libraries. Consequently, they see digital libraries as encompassing three issues namely, storage of text and images in electronic devices (electronic library), provision of library services to remote based customers (virtual library), and integration of library stock and services in an efficient and access through standard methods by use of intelligent systems.
According to Digital Library Federation (DLF): Digital libraries are organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily available for use by defined community or set of communities.
This is a comprehensive working definition because it enables us to understand the different issues encapsulated in the concept. While Digital libraries employ and display a variety of resources, especially the intellectual resources embodied in specialized staff, they need not be organized on the model of conventional libraries. Though the resources that digital libraries require functions similar to those within conventional libraries, they are in many ways different in kind. For example, for storage and retrieval, digital libraries are dependent almost exclusively on computer and electronic network systems, and systems engineering skills, rather than the skills of traditional cataloguers and reference librarians. The notion that digital libraries “preserve the integrity of and ensure the persistence” of digital collections are critical in that these are and subject to the unique constraints and requirements of operating in a rapidly evolving electronic and network environment. The electronic technology is rapidly changing with software and hardware obsolescence, which has implications for organizational models and financial means. While presently there is a tendency to distinguish between collections in terms of their digitalized, the key question today and in the near future is how to integrate collections of materials in digital form with materials in other forms.
The notion of making information “readily and economically available” underlines the need to develop criteria for measuring their performance in an evolving and highly competitive environment. Two ways of measuring the quality of service are to evaluate performance in terms of cost and taking account of how responsively the digital library makes information available to its patron communities. The last part of the definition “use by a defined community or set of communities” revolves around the fact that like other libraries, the digital library is a service organization. Therefore the needs and interests of the communities they serve will ultimately determine the trend of development for digital libraries including the investment they make in content and technology.
In this new era, it is the responsibility of selectors to identify, evaluate, and designate Internet resources-particularly materials of research or of special importance to the local university community either for cataloguing or simply for linking to a library’ s various subject home pages which is of enormous value since home pages provide the academic community with points of reference and departure for finding information.
A major concern amidst today’s rapid technological change is how to make wise IT investments. Administrators, scholars and librarians have a common interest in ensuring that investments result in better access to information and improved services to users. A number of investments have been identified as likely not only to improve services but also lay the foundation for subsequent changes. These include infrastructure and automation, investments in information literacy, collaboration, staff development, and design of collection development policies and procedures.
- Original Reference Article: Tonring, R. A. (2009, September 16). Managing the operating systems of university libraries in Tamilnadu A study. Alagappa University.