Howard Besser’s take on “The Past, Present, and Future of Digital Libraries.” Online here.
Summary: Besser discusses both the history and functions of digital libraries. At a minimum, traditional libraries provide access to source material, contextualization, and commentary; digital tools add coordination of multiple archives and facilitation of text analysis and searching to this list. There are four core components that the traditional library provides: a physical space, mission to serve the underserved, a location for continuous education, and a guarantee of public access to collections. Within these components, there are several features that Besser characterizes as part of the traditional ethics of library practice: stewardship, stability, public service, information privacy, equal access, and providing a diversity of information. Digital libraries began as just collections, but are now moving into adding other traditional library services like curation. Besser believes that to be “true” libraries, digital libraries will need to incorporate these ethical standards into their missions as well (key digital issues are connectivity among collections, access/usability, and protecting privacy concerns.) While he has a large focus on traditional library ethics, Besser also discusses the importance of standards for interfaces, best practices, user authentication, and metadata (which he divides into descriptive, discovery/search, structural/navigation, administrative, version identification, and longevity types).
Comments: Good summary of issues, and provides an ethical perspective on the movement to online archiving.
Links to: Cohen & Rosenberg (archiving & preservation issues); Jensen (publishing perspective); Burnard, et al. (TEI/standards)