Digital libraries


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LIS 670 – Intro to Technology for Libraries
University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Library & Information Science
Spring 2013

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  • What are digital libraries? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a library is, “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” The library is traditionally viewed as a static building in the community, which contains books and other materials free to the public. However, in the 21st century, this has dramatically changed.Digital libraries are libraries where the collections are stored electronically, or in digital format and are accessed from the internet, a computer or most currently, an eBook device such as a Kindle or iPad.With funding to buy materials, increasing costs for buildings and storage, acidification of materials, pests and other damage factors…digital libraries are now becoming more necessary than ever before.CLASS QUESTION: How many of us here have a tablet, or smart phone or other kind of device with which they access books and other materials either via the Internet or through an application such as Kindle?Do you use it for pleasure or also for studying?So as you can see, just in this small test group, we can see that accessing digitial materials is very popular among our generation.With the influx of this demand for electronic materials, sites such as Amazon and Goodreads have been created and as a result, libraries have had to compete for consumer attention and use.Typically,digital libraries begin as print collections which are then scanned or converted to a digitized format.However, the newest digital libraries, such as the Harvard University Library Digital Initiative, were born digital; meaning that the materials being collected, archived and accessed all began as digital files. Some examples would be Word documents, digital images, digitally created media and art, and even websites.SO - to be concise, a digital library is a library where the collections are all stored and accessed in digital format.
  • The progression of information access via libraries started with printed materials, which gave way to CD-ROMs, then image files and now full-text searchable files (Lesk n.d.). The digital library is a fairly new facet of information technology and open access, although its conception began with Vannevar Bush’s article (which we all read), entitledAs We May Think in which he describes the first digital library concept as a memex, which is “…a device in which an individual stores all his [or her] books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to [the users] memory.” (Bush 1945) Bush’s description of a memex is particularly interesting in that not only does he come up with the concept, but he clearly defines the parameters of how a digital library would function. For example, he discusses how the books (or files) would be organized and accessed; access being an integral part of his vision, he describes that, “If the user wishes to consult a certain book, [they would] tap its code on the keyboard and the title page of the book promptly appear before [the user], projected on [the screens].Bush goes on to describe the convenience of a digital library or memex in that “…any given book [in a] library can thus be called up and consulted with far greater [ease]than if it were taken from a shelf….[the user] can [even]leave one item in position while [they] call up another.”Now, I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a bookmark or OPAC function to me.Inspired by Bush’s original concept and supported by the advances in technology, there were further discoveries and concepts made toward the creation of the digital library.For example, in 1965 an engineering psychologist working at Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. in Cambridge Massachusetts by the name of J.C.R. Licklider compiled a report of research entitled “Libraries of the Future”In this report, he defines the future as the year 2000 and discusses the ways humankind would want their information delivered, eliminating the reliance on older library concepts such as buildings, books and paper and instead relying on technology to deliver information and knowledge to users.His argument was that while paper and books were convenient, easy to read and malleable, the storage and access of these items were cumbersome and the amount of information being delivered to readers was overwhelming.His solution was to make information available with digital computers, and to create a computer, “…which [when typed] acknowledges the question, and presents an answer.” CLASS QUESTION – What does this sound like to you? A search engine? Perhaps Google?This type of computer-human interaction, he deemed a precognitive system. Then, in 1974, Ted Nelsoninvented the concept of the hypertext and coined the phrases hypertext and hyperspace in his publication entitled Computer Lib: You Can and Must Understand Computers Now.A few years later, Nelson was following by F.W. Lancaster who, in 1978 wrote about his concept of the paperless library.Then in 1993, Karen Drabenstott wrote about the virtual library in her text, Analytical Review of the Library of the Future.AND FINALLY - due to the exponential growth of the World Wide Web, the digital library started to become a reality when in 1994, the Digital Libraries Initiative funded by the National Science Foundation, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NASA granted 24.4 million dollars to several different university libraries in order to conduct research on digital libraries.This research led to the development of the electronic catalog, eBooks and the different platforms which we currently use today.
  • Readers can find books on the following sites. Some of these are consumer based and others allow free downloading of books, or even both.For example, Goodreads is a social networking type digital library which allows users to search, save, and share the books they are currently reading. It’s a great site for readers who want to keep track of all the books they have read, make a wish-list of books they would like to read and share this information with other people.Some of the benefits of this site is the ability to write book reviews, read other’s reviews, find detailed information about the book including cover art, ISBN, format, page numbers, abstract, publication information, where you can find copies of the book online or in print, information about the author, and recommendations for similar books. Although many of the books are linked to vendors who have the book available online, there are also many free eBooks available through Goodreads which can be read on the site directly or downloadable to various devices. You do not need to have an account in order to read the eBooks or use the site. HOWEVER, if you wish to save your books, you will need to create an account.ADDRESS THE CLASS:I am going to pass out a card to each of you which contain a QR code. This code is scannable from your smart device. When you scan it, a free eBook from Goodreads will appear. Enjoy!SO MOVING ON…Amazonis consumer based site which also provides free books and books for sale, which are delivered via Amazon Whispernet to your device. Users must have an account in order to have books delivered wirelessly and will need to have the kindle application downloaded to their device in order to access the material. There are also reader reviews, options for print materials, suggested items, editorial reviews, and detailed information such as cover art, ISBN, publisher information, author, pages and occasionally when available, a preview of selected pages. The California Digital Library, was founded by the University of California in 1997 to take advantage of emerging technologies and have collaborated with the UC librariestoassemble one of the world’s largest digital research. The site provides a central place for users to search for online repositories, digital collections, eBooks, information about web archiving, resource sharing and other useful options specific to academic users.CLASS QUESTION: How many of us have heard of Google Books?Well, the Google Books Library Project’smain goal is to, “…make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn't find any other way such as those that are out of print – while carefully respecting authors' and publishers' copyrights.[Their] ultimate goal is to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages which helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers.”Books without copyright restrictions are offered in full text, PDF, HTML or EPub for free,while newer releases with copyright restrictions are also offered as an eBook which can be purchased through Google Books.The Gutenberg Project, is a free digital library, whose mission is to, “Encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks…making them available online for free.All digitization is completed by volunteers and materials are provided in various formats such as HTML, EPub, Kindle and plain text.AGAIN, all materials are free.Finally, Open Library is a free site whose main goal is to provide “…one web page for every book ever published” It was created 2008, and has since gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions.Books can be searched by Authors, Subject and also by Lists which are created by users. So, for example, if you want some ideas for books for summer reading you can go to Open Library and look for a list created by a user which contains their favorite books for summer reading or their top 100 Books to read before you die.Items are digitized by Open Library and can also be added by users. There are video tutorials, a way to create a personal borrower account, and many public libraries participate in the Open Library eBook lending program.For example, the State of Hawaii is included in the participants for elending.
  • So…now that we know all about the history of digital libraries and what kinds of digital libraries there are available…The question is - HOW do you digitize a book?Read description.START VIDEOThis is the Kirtas APT 2400 Book Scanner. It is used for the Google Books Library Project.They use this machine because it prevents further damage from handling such as smudging and tearing.As you can see, the machine lightly suctions the pages with air, scans, then turns the page.
  • Academic or research based digital libraries provide access to not only books, but also dissertations, theses, course reserves, items from specific collections being housed at the library and even rare books.There are however, limitations to this access as some of the materials such as journals, can only be accessed if the library pays for rights to access that information and the user has an account with the library in which to access the materials.One example of this type of digital library is the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library which offers digital access to collections via an OPAC, but also has a separate digital library entitled, Digital & Digitized Collections which houses items in areas such as rare books, Asia, Hawaii, Pacific and Online Exhibits.A user does not need to log in to gain access to these collections and can view and download information by simply following links on the site.
  • Free/Public digital libraries are those such as Open Library,, Google Books Library Project. The main goal is to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks…” (Hart n.d.) by converting books (without copyright limitation) into a digital format and making them available for free online.
  • Consumer Focused.With the creation and popularity of the eBook, and sites such as Amazon and Google Books, libraries have had to compete for consumer attention and use. These libraries provide detailed information about books such as publication information, author info, cover art and other info. Books under copyright limitations can be purchased through these sites and delivered wirelessly to your device (iPad, Kindle, iPhone) or downloaded to your computer. Social networking is a key feature to these sites. For example, users can create their own reviews, rate books using a star system and share this information with others on various social networking platforms. Books can also be read directly on the site or previewed if only available for purchase.
  • Here is a video about the Google Book Library Project and the process of how they are digitizing books and making them available online.
  • Additionally, there are digital libraries which focus on the Activismof open access such as The Million Book Project whose objective is to “…create a free-to-read, searchable collection of one million books, primarily in the English language, available to everyone on the Internet.” (StClair 2001). The items are scanned and the full text is then indexed using optical character recognition (OCR). Their goal is to “…supplement the formal education system by making knowledge available to anyone who can read and has access.” (StClair 2001).
  • Finally, there are Interactive digital libraries such as those found in Second Life where users can interact with librarians and other patrons in a virtual library. Interactions are parallel to what would occur in a real-life setting, but users can browse the virtual library stacks for materials which are provided via links and live virtual reference librarians are available to answer questions of patrons who need additional assistance.
  • The main goal of digital libraries is to make books and information available to the world through electronic format on the Internet. However, some of the items being made available are also rare books, art which wouldn’t normally be available in a local museum, photographs that may have to stay in dark storage permanently for protection against deterioration and brittle books, of which there are millions. The digital library allows users around the world to be able to view these items from the comfort of a computer, without the need to physically travel to a location to view and handle it. It also provides protection for the objects by limiting the amount of handling of which any amount, even with gloves, can cause damage. Additionally, through the process of high resolution scanning, images, text and minute detail of paper fiber an construction which would be lost to the naked eye, are visible for researchers.
  • The advantages of creating a digital library are great. For example, scanning a book and then placing the physical copy in a depository is more cost effective and gives access to more users all over the world, especially in third world countries where information from a local library would not be as vast as what could be found on a digital library collection. Not only is there better access to materials, but in most cases, access is free. Access is also not just limited to a laptop or desktop computer, but is now reaching smart phones and tablets such as the Kindle and iPad. Finally, digital libraries are already starting to deliver materials that local libraries couldn’t previously afford to obtain.  Although access is a major part of the benefits of digital libraries, digital preservation is what is closest to my heart. With the acidification of paper, mishandling, improper storage and pests, books and other materials available in libraries are decaying at a rapid rate. Large projects such as the Gutenberg Project are helping to preserve and conserve these items. However, public, private and academic libraries also house rare and special items which are being physically and digitally preserved and made available online for future generations.
  • The advantages of technology does not come without its challenges. For example, the cost of maintaining a digital library can be great and many library budgets may not be able to cover the salary for experienced digital archivists. Also, software obsolescence (Lesk n.d.) can become an issue in the future as the rate at which software develops and expands may surpass the ability of the libraries to keep up with these changes. Additionally, images take up more space and the digital storage requirements may exceed what is available for the library to maintain. Once these items are digitally scanned, for preservation purposes, a useable item is made available while another scan is archived. However, this does not guarantee protection against dangers such as bit rot.
  • While digital libraries are still a relatively new facet of information availability, it has rapidly become the face of modern reading.Technology advances are occurring at an incredible, but it continues to hearken back to Bush’s concept of information overload.Now that we have the reality of a digital library, it is relieving the user’s ability to obtain, sore and access knowledge at a higher rate than in a traditional library setting?Are brittle books being preserved better than ever before? The answer is surely, yes, but at what cost?With the ease of creating electronic content, there are new issues such as copyright infringement, safety and protection of children from certain materials on the Internet, bt rot, how to archive digitally born materials, software obsolescence and even quite simply, the loss of the tactile pleasure of turning a page.But, digital libraries are here to stay, and it is my hope that they will be used to make information available and easily accessed for years to come.
  • Digital libraries

    2. 2. WHAT WE WILL COVER TODAY • What is a digital library? • Timeline of the digital library • How do you digitize a book? • Types of digital libraries • Digital preservation • Advantages • Challenges
    3. 3. WHAT IS A DIGITAL LIBRARY? Digital libraries are libraries where the collections are stored electronically, or in digital format and are accessed from the internet or a computer. (Greenstein 2002)
    4. 4. BASIC HISTORY OF THE DIGITAL LIBRARY 1945 1990s 2000s CD ROMS & DVDs Bush’s Meme x eBooks & The Internet 1965 Licklider’ s Library of the Future 1974 Nelson’s hypertex t 1978 Lancaste r's Paperles s Library 1965 Drabenstott ’s Virtual Library 1980s Compute r Catalogs
    6. 6. EXAMPLES OF DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Goodreads • Amazon • California Digital Library • Google Books Library Project • Gutenberg Project • Open Library
    7. 7. HOW DO YOU DIGITIZE A BOOK? Books are typically digitized by using an overhead scanner which creates an image of each page, which is then OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition) for full searching, then uploaded and made available on a digital library.
    8. 8. TYPES OF DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Academic • Free/Public • Consumer Focused • Activist Centered • Interactive
    9. 9. ACADEMIC DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Provide open access to materials for research • Academic/Course reserves • Digitized collections • Preservation of rare, medium-rare and born digital items • Some collections require student/faculty log-in, while others are open access.
    10. 10. FREE/PUBLIC DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Access to materials throughout the world for users with Internet access • Selection is limited to items which are not under copyright • Usually created by volunteers as a non-profit organizations • Books/items can be uploaded and edited by individual users • Social networking option is often included.
    11. 11. CONSUMER FOCUSED DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Provides free books • Provides books which are under copyright limitations, but can be purchased • Social networking is a key feature for sharing • Books can be read directly on the site • Wireless delivery • Easily downloadable in various formats
    12. 12. GOOGLE BOOKS
    13. 13. ACTIVISM FOCUSED DIGITAL LIBRARIES • Open access for anyone who can read and has Internet access • Free to search, use and download • Primarily in English, but some collections are in other languages • Supplement formal education
    14. 14. INTERACTIVE DIGITAL LIBRARY • Virtual library such as Second Life • Interactions are similar to a real-life interaction in a library • Great for people with disabilities or who are homebound • Good for users who are familiar and comfortable with Second Life
    15. 15. DIGITAL PRESERVATION • Makes books available for use online or downloadable electronic format • Helps to prevent further damage to damaged books • Protects rare books which cannot be handled regularly without damage • Helps to maintain collection of libraries which have issues with brittle books • Researchers from all over the world can access materials without travel
    17. 17. ADVANTAGES • Cost effective for libraries on a limited budget • Gives more access to users, especially third world countries • Access is usually free • Not limited to just a computer, but also smart phones and tablets • Preserves materials for future generations
    18. 18. CHALLENGES • Maintenance costs can be high • Experienced digital archivist’s salaries may be too high for library budgets • Software obsolescence • Bit Rot
    19. 19. SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER… • Do you think that digital libraries solve Bush’s information overload problem? • What ways do you think digital libraries are helping to preserve information? • Do you prefer reading books digitally or in print? • Why?
    20. 20. RESOURCES Bush, Vannevar. "As We May Think." The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945: 8. Google Books. n.d. (accessed April 8, 2013). Greenstein, Daniel I., Thorin, Suzanne Elizabeth. "The Digital Library: a Biography." Council on Library and Information Resources. December 2002. (accessed April 9, 2013). Hart, Michael. The Gutenberg Project Mission Statement. n.d. (accessed April 8, 2013). Internet Archive. Open Library: One Page for Every Book. n.d. (accessed April 9, 2013). Lesk, Michael. "Why Digital Libraries?" Michael Lesk's Grade Crossing on the Information Superhighway. n.d. (accessed April 9, 2013). St. Clair, Raj Reddy and Gloriana. The Million Book Digital Library Project. December 1, 2001. (accessed April 8, 2013).