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.