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The digital library as place

Jeffrey Pomerantz (School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Gary Marchionini (School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 31 July 2007




The purpose of this paper is to present a high‐level investigation of the physical‐conceptual continuum occupied by both digital and physical libraries.


A framework is provided for thinking about the notions of place and library. The issue of materials and the ideas they represent is considered. Places for people are considered, including issues of people's sense of place in physical and digital spaces. The issue of physical and digital spaces as places for work, collaboration, and community‐building is considered.


As more digital libraries are built, and as more physical libraries offer electronic access to parts of their collection, two trends are likely to result: the role of the library as a storage space for materials will become decreasingly important; and the role of the library as a space for users, for individual and collaborative work, and as a space for social activity, will become increasingly important.

Research limitations/implications

Digital libraries are unable to fulfill some of the functions of the physical library as physical spaces, but are able to offer functions beyond what the physical library can offer as cognitive spaces.

Practical implications

Areas of likely future development for digital libraries are suggested, as vehicles for enhancing cognitive space by augmenting representations of ideas in materials.


This paper argues that in many ways digital libraries really are places in the conceptual sense, and will continue to broaden and enrich the roles that libraries play in people's lives and in the larger social milieu.



Pomerantz, J. and Marchionini, G. (2007), "The digital library as place", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 No. 4, pp. 505-533.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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