- Libraries, the Internet, and Scholarship: Tools and Trends Converging
The idea of creating a single work to describe, analyze, and provide solutions for the multitude of challenges related to just what it means to become a "digital library" would be such an arduous undertaking that it would cause Hercules himself to shake his head in frustration. As editor Charles F. Thomas acknowledges, "Research libraries are in the midst of an identity crisis," stemming in great part from internal and external expectations to become more digital (iii). The million-dollar question is, To what degree are these expectations feasible, and how will this opinion change over time?
Libraries, the Internet, and Scholarship: Tools and Trends Converging is a compilation that may not offer all the answers, but along the way it sheds light on many questions and issues that various libraries will continue to face for years to come. It would be a useful resource for library school students, information professionals, and librarians in any discipline as an aid to understanding the challenges that may arise in balancing the access to information in various formats with the inevitable technological and logistical hurdles that can and do present themselves in the process.
The book is comprised of a collection of essays that are written in a way that would be informative for novices but also useful as fodder for additional discussion to those who are more seasoned in the field. In chapter 1, "Libraries and Digital Preservation: Who Is Providing Electronic Access for Tomorrow?" Kelly Russell discusses how technology and digital preservation of materials can simultaneously offer benefits and unforeseen challenges. Chapter 2 focuses on "the Internet, scholarly communication, and collaborative research," in which author Rosemary L. Meszaros discusses how economics and efficiency are changing the face of scholarly publishing.
In chapter 3, "From Virtual Libraries to Digital Libraries: The Role of Digital Libraries in Information Communities," author David Robins discusses the potential positives and pitfalls inherent in the creation and maintenance of digital libraries. In yet another highly technical section author William Fietzer addresses the concept of integrating metadata frameworks into library description in chapter 4. Authors David P. Atkins and Flora G. Shrode approach the subject of technology's impact on research and publication in the natural sciences in chapter 5.
Chapter 6 concerns electronic text encoding in the humanities, and author Perry Willett addresses issues such as moving from print to digital format and issues that may arise in encoding characters, documents, and literary works. Paula Hardin discusses visual resources collections and technology in chapter 7, offering an interesting example of a digital visual resources project, among other topics. In chapter 8 author Farrell W. Jones provides an introduction to geographic information systems that includes definitions of what a GIS system is and is not as well as an historical overview of how they have evolved over time. In chapter 9 author Wendy L. Thomas discusses social science data and the digital library, including a comprehensive overview of the decades-long application of such materials in this discipline.
The compilation also includes a useful index that is especially helpful in tying concepts to multiple articles and comparing how they are addressed. The lack of a conclusion is not missed, as the preface, albeit brief, clearly frames the issues [End Page 580] to come while providing an assessment of how far libraries have yet to go in this crucial time in the history of the management and storage of information in increasingly digital formats.