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33 3 DIGITAL LIBRARIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION Derek Law Vision and mission of the digital library Higher Education libraries tend rather thoughtlessly to be considered a necessary, if expensive, part of a university which requires little justification. By extension the same approach often characterizes digital libraries. And yet without a clear understanding of the purpose of such libraries, expensive white elephants can all too easily be built. Visions and missions for digital libraries are quite rare. Partly because, in the absence of any common view of the nature of the digital library in Higher Education, it is then important to clarify why a digital library is being created. A surprisingly large number of digital libraries appear to have neither vision nor mission, at least according to their websites. This may be due to the fact that they are embedded as part of their larger institutional libraries. Imperial College, Cambridge University and Columbia University, for example, are all silent on their large digital library programmes. Others are more forthcoming and usefully illustrate the differences in what is being attempted. Perhaps the most ambitious, but certainly the clearest, mission statement comes from the British Library (2009): “The Digital Library Programme’s mission is to enable the United Kingdom to preserve and use its digital output forever.” The vision is equally crisp: “Our vision is to create a management system for digital objects that will –  ingest, store and preserve any type of digital material in perpetuity –  provide access to this material to users with appropriate permissions –  ensure that the material is easy to find –  ensure the authenticity of the material –  ensure that users can view the material with contemporary applications –  ensure that users can, where possible, experience material with the original lookand -feel” Other definitions are either fairly generic or concerned with process. The Oxford Digital Library (ODL) has Principles and Guidelines which commit it to “build up a significant set of digital resources for local and remote online access. Like traditional collection development, long-term sustainability and permanent availability are major goals for the ODL. Therefore the use of standards in the digital conversion process and for the description of digital resources will be essential for projects funded through and supported by ODL” (Oxford, 2009). Harvard notes that its “Initiative was consciously constructed on a different model: the integration of digital resources into the existing BPDG_opmaak_12072010.indd 33 13/07/10 11:51 Derek Law 34 library structure. Integrated access to the collections, regardless of format, was a key aim of the Library Digital Initiative” (Harvard, 2009). At Hong Kong University Library “more digital projects are being developed to provide continuous access to digital content and services” (Hong Kong, 2009). And finally the Glasgow Digital Library provides “a distributed digital library based in Glasgow which aims to produce a coherent digital learning and information environment for Glasgow’s citizens, through the development and implementation of a common collection development policy and an agreed technical and inter-working infrastructure” (Glasgow, 2009). One of the longest standing digital libraries is the California Digital Library, explored more fully elsewhere in this volume where its origins and mission are fully described. As far as its current public presence on its website goes, however, it “supports the assembly and creative use of the world’s scholarship and knowledge for the University of California libraries and the communities they serve” (California, 2009). In addition, the CDL “provides tools that support the construction of online information services for research, teaching, and learning, including services that enable the UC libraries to effectively share their materials and provide greater access to digital content.” This lengthy set of examples is intended to demonstrate that there remains a degree of vagueness in public statements as to why digital libraries are being created. This is understandable in some cases where these libraries were early explorers and adopters of the digital world. However, after the project and exploration stage there is a real need for clarity of purpose if the case for creating a digital library is to be made and accepted. Even rarer than the sort of vision and mission described above is a link to the institutional strategic plan. And yet if the digital library is to have a context and if it is to have institutional support, it should be obvious that it must be part of delivering the overall aims and objectives of the institution. The business case Interestingly, none of the visions described above considers the business case for investing...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789461660015
Related ISBN
9789058678379
MARC Record
OCLC
715171689
Pages
250
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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