Assignment 7 - Future Scholarship

What impact will digital libraries have on future scholarship?
How will digital libraries impact the humanities?

Digital libraries are sometimes modeled closely after traditional libraries. Based on historic bibliographic conventions, these digital libraries offer little to scholarship over traditional libraries other than expanded access to scholarly materials. Access is a useful advantage over traditional libraries, but only a small aspect of the potential influence available from using a digital medium.

The networking and processing capabilities of digital libraries offer remarkable new opportunities to scholarship. Crane, et al. (2001) describe some of these possibilities in their work with the Perseus Digital Library and other digital libraries for the humanities. They encourage rethinking of current organizational and document models to maximize the technological possibilities while seeking to further serve the needs of scholars.

One area where new possibilities exist is in the area of scholarly publishing. A digital medium provides an ability to distribute massive amounts of rich data in a more dynamic form than previously available at less cost. These publications can also be structured in a way that provides for integration with other publications and develop semantic networks. Places and times can be used to classify and cross reference works, also allowing for restructuring of data sets to create more complete or more meaningful representational models.

Semantic networks are also valuable in translation. This is especially valuable within the humanities where information often crosses domain boundaries. Tools are available within digital libraries that can account for ambiguous domain specific terminology and make the necessary connections. This translation capability can also be used with other languages. By providing scholarly dictionaries and access to computational linguistics, new techniques are being developed to interact with languages. These language tools are particularly valuable to the humanities with respect to languages no longer widely in use.

These are only a few of the impacts digital libraries will have on future scholarship. The technologies already achieved make the possibilities seem endless. By continually rethinking current models and pushing the envelope of the digital media, new technologies will continue to evolve into better tools for scholars.


Crane, G., Chavez, R., Mahoney, A., Milbank, T., Rydberg-Cox, J., Smith, D., & Wulfman, C. (2001). Drudgery and deep thought. Communications of the ACM. 44(5) pp. 35-40.

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