Like Peter, I found Kuny and Cleveland’s polemic the most well-rounded view into the challenges presented by defining, designing, and maintaining digital libraries. The myth-busting, in particular, was effective. One of the great challenges in digital libraries is the assumption that simply making material digital and throwing open the virtual doors to show it means that anyone can access that information, furthering our professional mission as information professionals. And Kuny and Cleveland bust that myth beautifully, I think:
In the future, complex multimedia resources and services may have specialized hardware and software requirements such that only a limited number of workstations can actually access the information. Limits of network bandwidth and slow transmission speeds may make the effective access to information problematic for many users.
Anyone who has launched a website knows that the front-end needs to be tested on multiple types of platforms with multiple browsers to ensure functionality. I wouldn’t even say “in the future,” as certainly this issue is true of the present.
The challenge is to find a way to extend our libraries digitally and collect and preserve information online in an accessible way that will grow as technology changes. I recognize that’s a tough bill of sale for our profession. If we incorporate flexibility now, it’ll give us options in the future.
A final thought: I don’t think we can ever really define what a digital library is or should be, much as we can’t necessarily define what a physical library ought to be. Sure, there are standards everyone should aspire to, but expectations from users, accessibility from commercial content providers, and technological changes are constantly shifting the definition. If we can provide some processes and procedures in a tiered fashion (basic must-haves, some nice-to-haves, open-source modules that libraries can tweak to fit their needs, etc.) perhaps we can at least develop a framework.