This week, there appeared to be four points that most of the articles touched on in their attempt to define digital libraries: 1) There are multiple meanings for the term ‘digital library’ depending on who is defining it (librarians vs. programmers). 2) Programmers see that digital libraries are created for a specific user community as a reflection of user needs, whereas librarians tend to view them as a service that is part of a greater whole. 3) Like “traditional” libraries, digital libraries are constantly evolving (but perhaps at a faster rate due to the nature of technology and the Internet). 4) The expansion of digital libraries ultimately means there are new roles being asked of librarians, which they must be willing to embrace. In addition, there was consensus among the articles that more research is needed to better understand the issues.
I find it interesting that although the readings span a number of years, the debate over what a digital library is (and/or should be) hasn’t changed much besides the development of software for DL implementation. Like others in the class who have posted, I find this kind of disheartening – why is the same debate happening that was going on in the mid-1990s? Is the difference between librarians and computer programmers so great that they will never be able to agree? It would appear that the ongoing debate over the role of digital libraries comes down to a fundamental difference in beliefs of how information is accessed and used.
That being said, although there may be a dispute between library and programming professionals over the definition of digital libraries, it seems they are able to agree on at least one thing: the importance of access to information. Both sides believe in this basic idea, so it seems that there should be a way for them to foster better communication and come up with a definition that will work for both sides. Hopefully there will be meaningful progress towards this goal as digital libraries become more established and user needs are better understood.